Volume 11, Issue 11

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hot Topics

This month, California Governor Jerry Brown released a revision to his January budget proposal, which continues to call for millions of dollars worth of cuts to that state’s child care and preschool programs, including the proposed elimination of the transitional kindergarten program. Meanwhile, in Missouri, $11.8 million in state preschool funding had been on the line in proposed budget cuts but legislators recently restored $8.3 million to the Missouri Preschool Project. However, this funding does not come without strings attached - the public preschool program will be moved from the administrative authority of the Department of Education to the Office of Administration instead and there’s a ban on using quality rating and improvement systems to measure progress in the program. Neither state can afford to play politics with its pre-K program -- according to The State of Preschool 2011, Missouri ranks 34th for access and 32nd for state spending out of 39 states with state pre-K programs while California meets only three of 10 quality standards benchmarks, one of the lowest scores in the country.

Earlier this month, results were released from a University of Utah study on the influence of early literacy outreach for low-income Latino families, finding that young English language learners (ELLs) were more proficient on reading measures prior to and after kindergarten when their mothers began reading to them when they were 6 months old. Low-income mothers who participated in the outreach program were more likely to read to their children than those that did not - 59 percent compared to 36 percent.

Meanwhile, the National Center for Education Statistics recently released longitudinal data finding that the more educated their mothers, the more likely ELL children were to be proficient in speaking English by the time they were in kindergarten. Roughly 59 percent of ELLs were not proficient in English by the spring of kindergarten when mothers had less than a high school diploma, while only 3 percent were not proficient if their mothers had a bachelor’s degree or higher. ELLs who were proficient in English by kindergarten and whose mothers had at least a bachelor’s degree scored higher than their non-proficient peers on reading, mathematics, and science assessments in eighth grade, although native English speakers were still outpacing ELLs on these measures.

In addition, the latest study from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) examined children who were “linguistically isolated” (children who hear little or no English in their home environments), a group that is generally not served in center-based early childhood education. But, PPIC researchers found that when these children did attend public preschool, their early reading skills significantly improved.

Taken together, these various findings suggest that short of educating the mothers of ELLs, the best intervention is an early one. But NIEER’s research suggests that preschool programs do not reach enough young ELLs, particularly those of Hispanic origin.

The New York Times recently profiled Dr. Elizabeth Spelke, a developmental psychologist who researches infants and their knowledge base. Tracking the eye movements of infants allows Dr. Spelke to draw conclusions about what babies inherently know and understand as well as what they learn in the first months of life. Amongst other things, she finds that infants understand object permanence in addition to number and other basic math concepts (see NIEER’s policy brief on preschool math for more on this), and that babies show a preference for people who speak the same language as they do, regardless of the other person’s race. She also concludes that young children are not adept at using landmarks or colors as visual cues in searching until around age 5 or 6. Continued insights into young children’s minds such as these should be used to inform early childhood education and care policies.

Save the Children recently released The 2012 State of the World’s Mothers, their 13th annual report ranking countries on their favorable conditions for moms as determined by factors encompassing health, educational, economic, and political status. Specifically, rankings are based upon a mothers’ index comprised of measures from both a women’s index and a children’s index. Amongst other factors, the women’s index measures include lifetime risk of maternal death, number of years of formal schooling available to female students, and maternity leave benefits. The children’s index is determined by the mortality rate for children under age 5 and the percent of children enrolled in pre-primary and secondary school.

Norway ranks first across the globe for both the mothers’ index and the women’s index, while Iceland ranks first for the children’s index. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Niger ranks 165th on the mothers’ index, with Afghanistan, Yemen, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Eritrea, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo also in the bottom 10.

The United States ranks 25th on the mothers’ index, 19th on the women’s index, and 31st on the children’s index. This marks an improvement for the U.S., which ranked 31st in the mothers’ index in the 2011 report. However, the U.S. still has high rates of maternal and child mortality and is the only developed country without guaranteed paid maternal leave. The report specifically calls out the U.S. for “lagging behind with regard to preschool education and the political status of women. Performance in both areas places it among the bottom 10 in the developed world.”

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

In this blog post, NIEER’s Megan Carolan and Steve Barnett discuss policies on teacher education and training based on data from The State of Preschool 2011.

NIEER Senior Research Fellow Jim Squires examines pre-K in the four states with the highest enrollments - California, Florida, New York, and Texas - in this blog post.


The National League of Cities presents case studies of five cities - Boston, Hartford, San Antonio, San Jose, and Seattle - working to align their early childhood education and care systems with K-12 schooling, particularly focusing on the P-3 pipeline.

This policy brief from The Foundation for Child Development provides recommendations on the federal role in assisting states to develop longitudinal data systems covering students’ progress from preschool to the end of high school. A key recommendation is establishing a national advisory group, which in turn should produce guidelines for such data systems at the state level.

This report from the Center for American Progress includes key points from the literature on teaching English as a second language to suggest best practices that general education teachers can use when working with English language learners in any classroom or subject.


Sunday, June 10, 2012 to Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Indianapolis, IN - The goal of this conference is to deepen participants' understanding of the expanding early childhood knowledge base and develop skills that improve professional practice.

Monday, June 18, 2012 to Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tallinn, Estonia - This conference will explore research on children's need for undirected time and space for play.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 to Thursday, June 21, 2012

New York, NY – Join caregivers, teachers, family child care providers, trainers, special educators, librarians, and others for this three-day institute.

Sunday, July 1, 2012 to Tuesday, July 3, 2012

St. Louis, MO – Featuring researched-based, classroom-proven approaches, this conference will cover hot topics in education including response to intervention, implementing Common Core, and bullying prevention.

Friday, July 13, 2012 - 10:00am

Canterbury, England - This conference provides participants with an opportunity to examine and reflect on current provisions for infants in child care. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012 to Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baltimore, MD – The theme of The CAYL Institute's conference is "What Really Works? Impact and Innovation for Young Learners."

Monday, July 16, 2012 to Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ann Arbor, MI - This data workshop will focus on large national studies and how these datasets can be used to influence research and policy in the early childhood education field.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 to Saturday, November 10, 2012

Atlanta, GA - This early childhood education conference offers hundreds of presentations and exhibits to the tens of thousands of educators that attend.

Friday, November 16, 2012 to Saturday, November 17, 2012

Melbourne, Australia – The theme for the CEIEC "Honoring the Child, Honoring Equity 12" conference is "Troubling truths: bridging divides for equity."

Early Education News Roundup

Friday, May 18, 2012
(The Boston Globe)

Although Massachusetts ranks first on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, half of the commonwealth’s fourth graders scored below proficient in reading. Massachusetts also has a large achievement gap. One key to a happy ending is to support preschoolers and early education.

Thursday, May 17, 2012
(Bradenton Herald, Bradenton, FL)

While some teachers and parents objected to the level of assessment their students face, a state Department of Education official said Wednesday that more assessments are likely coming for pre-kindergarten students.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
(The Seattle Times)

The notion that investing in quality child care and early learning now saves precious education dollars down the road has kept Washington lawmakers protective of the Department of Early Learning, even in tough budget times.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012
(Sun Journal, Lewiston, ME)

A supplemental budget under consideration when the Legislature convenes for a special session Tuesday would cut $2 million of the General Fund's $2.4 million to Head Start. Statewide, that puts $8 million in matching federal funds in question.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012
(The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, PA)

Early learning costs money, but if we don’t make the investment while children are young, the costs become much greater later on. The same research showing the academic benefits of quality early childhood education also shows that a lack of early learning increases the likelihood of academic failure, dropping out of high school and teen pregnancy.

Monday, May 14, 2012
(San Antonio Express-News)

San Antonio voters on Saturday overwhelmingly approved the largest bond program in city history, and now Mayor Julián Castro wants to harness that momentum as he begins a campaign to increase the city's sales tax to fund an early-childhood education initiative that he says would change the future of the city.

Saturday, May 12, 2012
(Burlington Free Press, Burlington, VT)

Based on research conducted over the past decade on state preschool programs, Vermont ranked first in the nation in percentage of 3- and 4-year-old children participating in state-supported early education programs in 2010-2011. Given the abundant research supporting long-term academic and social benefits of early education (though critics will cherry-pick inconclusive studies trying to convince the public otherwise) and subsequent savings to taxpayers, the quality of life for Vermonters is well-positioned for the future with educated students, a strong and motivated work force, and safe communities.

Friday, May 11, 2012
(News-Leader, Springfield, MO)

While the legislators were able to pass a balanced budget, some Ozarks community groups and educators are worried that programs aimed at helping children may come out on the losing end.

Thursday, May 10, 2012
(The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA)

Early childhood education, such as Louisiana’s LA4 program, can lower the chances that students will be held back or placed in special education while increasing the chances that they will stay in school or attend college, two experts said Wednesday.

Thursday, May 10, 2012
(The News-Times, Danbury, CT)

There will be up to 1,000 new preschool slots, 20 more school-based health clinics and 20 minutes of mandated school recess under the education reform package passed by the Legislature. Also in the reform package, there will be a new focus on getting students to learn to read by the time they leave third grade, and money will be spent to open 10 new family resource centers designed to provide parent education and training.

Sunday, May 6, 2012
(Lansing State Journal, Lansing, MI)

High-quality early care and education programs are economically viable and realize an immediate infusion to the economy. In Michigan, quality early learning produces $2.11 for every dollar spent – a better rate of return than investments in construction, transportation or manufacturing.

Sunday, May 6, 2012
(The Birmingham News)

Alabama's state-funded pre-K program – aptly named First Class – has the potential to not only propel our children toward a lifetime of success, but also help alleviate many of the social and economic concerns in our state.

Saturday, May 5, 2012
(The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS)

While [Monroe County] pushes ahead, state support for preschool education reform appears stalled after Gov. Phil Bryant's modest proposals were defeated in the Legislature.  Mississippi is one of 11 states without a state-funded preschool program. Advocates have been struggling to expand such programs in the state for more than two decades.

Friday, May 4, 2012
(The Huffington Post blog)

For the second straight year, many states have reduced preschool funding, access and quality for the nation's 3-and 4-year-old children, according to data in the "2011 State of Preschool Yearbook," released today by the National Institute for Early Education Research.