Volume 10, Issue 6

February 16, 2011

Hot Topics

There's $350 million to establish the long-sought Early Learning Challenge Fund, $866 million in new money for Head Start and Early Head Start, and a $1.3 billion hike in child care subsidies in President Obama's proposed FY 2012 budget. There's also more money for home visiting, data collection, and Race to the Top. Some question to what extent the president will prevail given that his FY 2011 budget remains un-enacted, the government is running on stop-gap funding measures, and the House is proposing steep cuts that will include education.
Even though the next fiscal year doesn't begin for most states for another six months, 31 of them have released budget proposals for FY 2012 and many contain deep cuts in education and health care says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Collectively, they represent lower levels of spending than in 2008. At least 13 have proposed deep cuts in pre-K and/or K-12 spending with Texas alone accounting for elimination of funding for nearly 100,000 at-risk preschoolers. One driver of the cuts is dwindling funds in the form of emergency fiscal relief from the federal government which states have used to cover about one-third of their budget shortfalls through the current fiscal year. Only about $6 billion of that money is left for FY 2012. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) says the total state shortfall is closer to $125 billion.
The Des Moines Register reports that Governor Terry Branstad unveiled a plan that would require all families to pay something toward state pre-K. It sets aside up to $3,000 per student in state money for vouchers that would enable 4-year-olds to attend up to 10 hours of public or private classes per week. Fees would be on a sliding scale based on federal poverty guidelines and range from $3 a month to $133 a month for a family of four that earns $67,000 a year. It has been reported that the plan would not require certified teachers. The Associated Press erroneously reported that Marci Young, the project director for the Pre-K Now campaign, was critical that Branstad's plan would allow scholarship money to be used to send children to private pre-schools. Young opposes the proposed scholarship system, but would not oppose state subsidies for private pre-school education.
The Star-Ledger reports that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan criticized New Jersey Senate Republicans, saying their proposal to reduce full-day pre-K in urban school districts would harm students. Duncan said we don't need another study to demonstrate the benefits of quality pre-K and he doesn't see how families working two or three jobs to make ends meet could negotiate the obstacles imposed by a half day of pre-K. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declined to comment on the future of full-day pre-K in the Abbott program and said he would address the issue in his budget speech next Tuesday.
Princeton senior Wendy Kopp proposed training high-achieving college grads who hadn't majored in education to teach in high-poverty school districts in 1989. Teach for America, the organization she founded on that idea, turned 20 on Saturday and boasts a corps of 8,200 members and 20,000 alumni. Writing in Time, Andrew Rotherman of Eduwonk addresses five myths that continue to surround the organization.
Many of you have asked if next week's lecture by Jacqueline Jones, senior adviser for early learning to Education Secretary Arne Duncan will be webcast and the answer is "Yes." Sponsored by the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers and NIEER, it takes place Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 3:00 p.m. To view a live webcast, visit http://rutgersdceo.adobeconnect.com/forum. Enter as a guest by typing your name and clicking on "Enter Room." Lectures will be archived at http://policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/curenton.


February 22, 2011

New Brunswick, NJ – Dr. Jacqueline Jones, senior adviser for early learning to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, will talk about the Obama administration’s early childhood agenda.
March 2, 2011 - March 4, 2011
Salt Lake City, UT – Join educators, researchers, policymakers, and administrators for the first annual Early Education and Technology for Children conference.
April 15, 2011 - April 16, 2011
Denver, CO -- This regional conference will offer workshops covering early childhood education topics relevant to teachers, administrators, researchers, health professionals, and policymakers.
May 2, 2011 - May 5, 2011
Greensboro, NC – The National Smart Start Conference is hailed as the nation's largest conference devoted to early education systems and strategies.
July 10, 2011 - July 13, 2011
Orlando, FL – The CAYL Institute will hold its third national conference for elementary school principals in Orlando, Florida.

Early Education News Roundup

February 16, 2011
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
Although the state is not out of the water yet, some focus has to be directed toward this issue as Tennessee approaches a new budget year. In Memphis alone, at least 1,500 more 4-year-olds could be placed in pre-K classes if an adequate number of slots could be funded.
February 14, 2011
Sioux City Journal, Sioux City, IA
At his weekly news conference, [Gov. Terry] Branstad detailed a $43.6 million preschool proposal that would provide $3,000 scholarships to low-income families who enroll their children in public or private schools. The scholarships would be offered on a sliding-scale based on income so that all parents would pay something for early-childhood education.
February 14, 2011
The Star-Ledger
The plan, submitted to Gov. Chris Christie's office by the Senate Republican caucus, calls for funding only half-day preschools in urban districts and diverting the $300 million saved from the cuts to suburban schools. Under the proposal, districts would also qualify for more state funding if they bus students greater distances or have large populations of senior citizens.
February 11, 2011
Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover, NH
It appears statewide kindergarten will remain in New Hampshire after a bill to remove the requirement for school districts was killed by the House Education Committee Thursday.
February 11, 2011
The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, PA
Rigorous studies of quality early learning programs confirm that these programs lay the foundation not only for higher achievement in math and reading, but also for the soft skills that remain so critical. From birth to age 5, children are learning language and numbers, developing creative thinking, problem solving and teamwork skills, and a sense of self.
February 11, 2011
The Times Record, Brunswick, ME
As the governor and legislators grapple with these tough questions, we encourage them to consider something that may not be obvious: greater investments in high-quality early childhood education. Such investments are a fiscally responsible way to reduce deficits long-term and produce big gains for children, our businesses and taxpayers. Lawmakers should have a serious conversation about protecting our current investments and, yes, increasing funding, for early childhood education.
February 9, 2011
The Denver Post
Assessments measuring the effectiveness of the Denver Preschool Program, which provides tuition credits to families and grants to qualifying preschools, show a majority of kids leaving ready for kindergarten. Kids enrolled in DPP facilities made better than average progress in vocabulary, literacy and math during their preschool year, according to a 2010 evaluation, which also included surveys, interviews and focus groups.
February 8, 2011
The Detroit News
A new report released today highlights the importance of early education and care for Michigan's children. While Gov. Rick Snyder already has his hands full in confronting the state deficit, this report underscores the need to spend education dollars more effectively.
February 8, 2011
Las Cruces Sun-News
While all of this investment is aimed at children before they start kindergarten, it has long-lasting positive results. Numerous long-term studies have shown that children who receive high-quality early childhood services do better in school and are more likely to graduate and go to college.
February 7, 2011
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
While pre-k is not in the spotlight as often as HOPE, lawmakers should recognize that early learning is the foundation for a strong, competitive workforce.
February 7, 2011
The Hartford Courant, Hartford, CT
A school superintendents' group says the state should not raise the starting age of kindergarten in Connecticut unless it also provides universal preschool for all low-income children.
February 5, 2011
Anchorage Daily News
An experimental prekindergarten project has produced good results, shining a light on a need for more attention to developmental education, specialists told state lawmakers.


Late preterm infants are more likely than term infants to have mental or physical developmental delays and poorer neurodevelopmental outcomes, according to this article published online Feb. 14 in Pediatrics. The researchers found that late preterm infants had significantly lower mental index scores (MDIs) and psychomotor index scores (PDIs) than term infants. MDIs of lower than 70 were identified in a higher percentage of late preterm infants compared to term infants while the proportion of infants with PDIs lower than 70 was similar in both groups. Late preterm infants were more likely to have mental or physical developmental delays even after controlling for factors such as gestational age or maternal race."Late preterm infants merit closer observation and developmental follow-up. These data support reorganization of services with more resource allocation to late preterm infants," the authors write.
This special issue of Early Childhood Research & Practice focuses on young children's learning related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) Included are a guest editorial by Demetra Evangelou, assistant professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, and articles addressing children's STEM explorations in classrooms and at home. George Forman, University of Massachusetts, provides video clips of learning situations. Veteran early childhood teachers Barbara Gallick and Lisa Lee describe a car wash project and show how finding out about everyday technologies may inspire preschool-age children to engineer their own working models of machinery and electronics.
This article in Young Children magazine discusses how listening to a story read aloud can be a very different experience for children who speak a language other than English and are just learning a second language. It provides vignettes of these situations and teaching strategies English-speaking teachers can use when reading aloud to dual language learners. They are part of the Nuestros Ninos Early Language and Literacy Program that's designed to improve the quality of teaching practices in dual language classrooms.
This article in the current issue of Child Development reviews various lines of research into children's learning from screen media between birth and 6 years of age. The goal is to provide a broader interpretation of past research, and to highlight implications for understanding the impact of screen media in raising healthy children. The authors consider the circumstances in which children do not learn from screen media and what these findings tell us about the importance of social interaction in healthy cognitive development and learning. They also consider the circumstances in which children do learn from screen media in order to provide parents, policy makers, and programmers with information about what makes educational programming effective. Within this framework, social partners typically are viewed as parents, teachers, siblings, or peers within the child's immediate environment. However, the authors say the growing prevalence of screen media in young children's lives suggests technology itself may function as a more advanced partner in scaffolding children's developing abilities and facilitating learning.