Volume 11, Issue 13

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hot Topics

The implementation of quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) has been a hot issue in early childhood education over the past few years, particularly with the inclusion of QRIS as a part of the competition for Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants. Joining the states that already have QRIS in place, Connecticut recently committed to establishing a tiered quality rating system for early childhood education and care centers, according to The Associated Press. Meanwhile, in Missouri, a new law bans the use of QRIS in that state, as outlined in an article from the Columbia Daily Tribune. As we commented when the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge program was announced, NIEER cautions that QRIS development and use should be carefully evaluated with realistic expectations as there is limited research on their effectiveness for various purposes and results have not always been positive.  In particular, success depends on ensuring that sufficient resources are available to produce the desired quality improvements.

The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services proposed requirements for the second round of RTT-ELC, making $133 million available to the five highest-scoring states (Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin) that did not receive funding in the first round. States are eligible for only 50 percent of their proposed grant amount and so must scale back original application plans while still maintaining the goals of the program. In the first round, in which nine states won grants, the lowest award amount was $44.8 million to Minnesota while in this round, the largest available award is $34.8 million for Illinois. These significant funding reductions will prove challenging for state plans, though the Departments believe this funding can “build on the momentum from the FY 2011 RTT-ELC competition and engage more States to transform the patchwork of disconnected early childhood programs into a coordinated and high-quality system.” Interested parties can comment on the regulations for 30 days after their publication in the Federal Register, though a date has not yet been set for this publication.

A Colorado court case known as Lobato v. State recently concluded that the state was underfunding special education services, as explained by the Education Law Center (ELC). According to ELC’s reporting, Colorado serves fewer special needs students than most other states, ranks last among 50 states for funding services for those students, and evidences an increasing achievement gap between children with disabilities and those without disabilities. With local school districts paying the bulk of the costs associated with special education, many school districts are forced to “ration” by offering only affordable services rather than all the services children with disabilities need. The trial court found that the current special education financing system violates Colorado’s state constitution, and legislators are now tasked with establishing a new system meeting constitutional standards.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina the long-running case of Leandro v. State continues with the state’s Court of Appeals hearing arguments this month about whether recent cuts and other changes to state prekindergarten violate North Carolina’s constitution, which guarantees a sound basic education to all children. In the past, Superior Court Judge E. Howard Manning, Jr. ruled that at-risk children are entitled to pre-K as a part of this constitutional right. A bill passed by the North Carolina legislature last week makes some changes to the state’s pre-K program in order to comply with the judge’s ruling. The bill awaits the governor’s signature.

The newest trend in high-stakes assessments might not be a top-down approach. Rather, some states are piloting the use of surveys that require students to rate how effective their teachers are at educating them. In May, The Washington Post reported that Georgia was implementing these surveys on a pilot basis across the state, getting feedback from students in the K-12 education system. The Post also reported that while such evaluations are being piloted by individual schools elsewhere, Georgia is the only state to attempt a statewide implementation. However, this month the Honolulu Star-Advertiser noted that Hawaii is also piloting teacher evaluation surveys across the state’s K-12 schools. Without any data released from either state’s pilot program yet, many questions hang in the air regarding these teacher ratings from students, including if and how they will be used as part of schools’ official evaluations of teacher performance.  Expect “ice cream and candy day” to coincide with teacher evaluation day in the nation’s kindergartens despite possible consequences for the obesity problem.

While it’s still one of a minority of states without state-funded pre-K, Indiana has been making strides in early education. Beginning this fall, Indiana will be offering full-day kindergarten throughout the state for the first time. Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, lawmakers appear to be on track to roll out full-day kindergarten in four districts, starting with the 2013-2014 school year. The legislation would help Rhode Island, a state with only a modest pre-K program, expand the availability of full-day kindergarten classes throughout the state. The Children’s Defense Fund has a color-coded map showing the status of full-day kindergarten throughout the U.S.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

NIEER’s Jim Squires writes about the administrators who are responsible for overseeing early education at the state level.


This policy report from the Center for American Progress discusses the current federal role in early education funding and policies and suggests 10 ways to streamline those processes.

This report from Child Care Aware of America (formerly NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies) is an update of a 2010 report ranking state regulations for small family child care homes. Using 16 quality standards for a maximum score of 150 points, the 2012 update found that 16 states scored zero and the remaining 34 states along with the District of Columbia and the Department of Defense averaged only 69 points.

This video provides an inside look at an early childhood education program serving both typically developing and special needs children alongside each other. The video is part of the Desired Results access Project’s video library initiative, designed to be a professional development support for early education teachers and administrators.

First Things First offers a series of infographics designed to succinctly and visually explain the science behind early learning to the public.

New on nieer.org

NIEER is seeking graduate and undergraduate research assistants for the summer to work on a range of research and policy projects. Applicants should be enrolled in child development, economics, education, psychology, public policy, statistics, or a related field. Basic quantitative analysis skills and experience with early childhood practice, research, or policy are desired. The position is available immediately with salary dependent on qualifications and experience. More details and how to apply can be found at http://www.nieer.org/about/jobs.

NIEER Activities

NIEER Director Steven Barnett gave a presentation on the benefits of high-quality early childhood education and care programs at the inaugural meeting of the Work and Family Researchers Network.


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.

Monday, June 18, 2012 - 1:00pm

This webinar offers journalists the opportunity to learn about the What Works Clearinghouse and how to use its resources for reporting on education matters.

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, September 19, 2012 to Friday, September 21, 2012

Panama City Beach, FL - This conference will explore how workforce data can inform the early childhood education field to improve policies and practices for serving young children.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 to Friday, November 9, 2012

St. Louis, MO - This international Parents as Teachers conference provides participants with the opportunity to network with each other and learn from workshops and presentations.

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."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 to Saturday, December 1, 2012

Los Angeles, CA - This training institute will provide attendees with the latest information on early childhood policy, practice, and science.

Early Education News Roundup

Friday, June 15, 2012
(U-T San Diego)

Imagine telling a working low-income parent that quitting a job to qualify for welfare might be the best option for their kid’s future.  Sounds ludicrous, but that’s exactly what Gov. Jerry Brown proposes by forcing up to 30,000 of California’s poorest children out of state-subsidized educational preschool programs designed to prepare kids for K-12 while still allowing parents to work.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
(The Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY)

Our leaders are coming around to the notion that education policy and economic development policy go hand-in-hand. Employers need capable workers, and our schools must be able to provide them. Yet universal pre-k is not fully funded, and kindergarten is not mandatory (though it is available in every district in the state).

Monday, June 11, 2012
(Columbia Missourian)

Lawmakers cut state funding for Early Head Start programs nearly in half, from $5.67 million to $2.65 million, as part of the state's budget battle. The agencies that distribute the state's Early Head Start funds will be deciding in the next few days which people will get to keep their spots in the free programs beginning July 1.

Monday, June 11, 2012
(The Seattle Times)

We must educate our children earlier and do it much better by focusing more attention and resources on quality early learning.

Friday, June 8, 2012
(The Indianapolis Star)

Full-day kindergarten will better prepare thousands of children as they progress through the higher grades. Indianapolis Public Schools has adopted this policy, as has the State of Indiana. The move is welcome, but it is the first of two steps that must be taken to advance the prospects of our youngest students. The second would extend K-12 education to include pre-kindergarten.

Thursday, June 7, 2012
(Education Week)

In a city where 90 percent of public school students are Latino, and 61 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, Perth Amboy has achieved something few communities with a majority-Hispanic student population have: a nearly perfect record for enrolling every eligible 4-year-old and many 3-year-olds in one of its preschool classrooms. In 2011-12, nearly 1,500 children took part in the 10,500-student school system's early-childhood program.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012
(Kingsport Times-News, Kingsport, TN)

Another service [Linda O'Neal] believes has long-term prevention aspects is the state's public pre-kindergarten program. The report said Tennessee has made improvements in the proportion of children graduating from high school, and cited pre-K as a factor for continual progress.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012
(Winston-Salem Journal)

The N.C. Court of Appeals will hear arguments Tuesday in a case that could shape the future of the state’s pre-kindergarten education for poor children.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012
(The New York Times)

New York City is paying private contractors more than $1 billion this year to operate a little-known special education program for 3- and 4-year-olds, nearly double the amount it paid six years ago.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The younger siblings of kids who went through a preschool education program that included home visits and day care didn't do any better on measures of intelligence or behavioral problems as teenagers, according to a new study.