Volume 11, Issue 14

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hot Topics

A University of Chicago study found that young children who are skilled at spatial learning, such as working out puzzles, are more likely to excel at basic math problems than their peers. These findings were held consistent even when the children were studied over a period of three years. In a press release, study co-author Susan Levine said, “These results suggest that improving children’s spatial thinking at a young age may not only help foster skills specific to spatial reasoning but also improve symbolic numerical representations.” (Incidentally, a separate study found that preschool-age children who take naps are more likely to succeed at spatial learning tasks.)

Meanwhile, a new study based on data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort has found that obese children in grades first through fifth were less likely than their classmates to perform well on math tests. Childhood obesity was also associated with increased feelings of saddest, loneliest, and anxiety, leading researchers to surmise that this lack of emotional well-being might be contributing to poorer academic performance in mathematics. The study’s findings are published in Child Development.

A Wilder Research study of Detroit’s early childhood education program pegged the economic value of investing in one at-risk child at $100,000 based on factors such as the decreased rates of crime, high school dropout, and poverty. In a written statement, the director of Michigan’s Office of Great Start said, “[T]his study for the first time measures our work in a more understandable way: one child at a time … Governor Snyder and I am committed to ensuring every child in Detroit and every child throughout the state of Michigan has the tools to succeed in school and in life.” Meanwhile, results were also recently released from a 14-year study of 338 Michigan children in the state’s pre-K program. The longitudinal study found that children who participated in the state-funded Great Start Readiness Program showed positive achievements on various measures including teacher evaluations, grade promotion, and standardized tests throughout their school career.

Louisiana also released the results of an evaluation of the Nonpublic Schools Early Childhood Development (NSECD) program, conducted by the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The NSECD program provides early learning to at-risk 4-year-olds in a nonpublic school setting as well as comprehensive services. Students who enrolled in the program were found to make significant gains during the year in math and literacy skills and have higher test scores than the national average. The evaluation also found significant gains from pre-test to post-test in minority students. In a press release, the program’s director praised NSECD as a program that “promotes a sense of motivation and ownership to the choices and ultimate success of a child’s academic experience.”

The new Children’s Budget 2012 report from First Focus examines how children under the age of 18 fare across a wide range of federal programs in the 2010 fiscal year. Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, stresses the need for increased support and advocacy for programs for kids, noting that “children now receive less than 8 percent of federal funding. Defense spending is triple the investment in our nation’s children.” The report found that early childhood spending at the federal level increased by 2.8 percent in inflation-adjusted spending from 2008 to 2012, most of which came from a $700 million increase in Head Start from 2010 to 2012. The report notes that the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants offered by the Department of Education in FY 2011 infused $500 million in additional federal funds into this field, though it is not counted in this figure. Despite this growth, early childhood spending still comprised only about 0.4 percent of the total federal budget in 2012.

New findings from a Head Start study suggest that the federal early childhood education program helps fathers connect with their preschool-age children. Examining data from the Head Start Impact Study, researchers from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found that compared to a control group of families who could not gain access to Head Start, fathers who did not live with their children spent more days visiting them when the family participated in the Head Start program and this effect carried on beyond the children’s enrollment in the program. Both fathers and mothers whose children were in Head Start were more likely to engage their children in literacy, mathematics, and cultural activities, such as reading frequently and visiting museums.

Meanwhile, the number of stay-at-home fathers has more than doubled between 2001 and 2011, as reported by Fox News. While the recession may be the cause of some fathers staying home with children, many report that it was a conscious decision, with one father interviewed by Fox News remarking that his background in early childhood development made him a more appropriate fit to stay home with his children.

The state of Delaware is seeking applicants for two management team openings at the Office of Early Learning, which has responsibility for leading the state’s work with its Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant. The available positions are for education associates, with one focusing on kindergarten readiness and the other focusing on STARS and workforce development. More information about the available positions and application procedures are available at the Delaware Department of Education’s website.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

NIEER Policy Research Coordinator Megan Carolan writes about how preschool education can further military careers.


This paper from the Ounce of Prevention Fund discusses how states are using the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge federal grants to encourage an educational continuum between early childhood education programs and K-12 schooling.

This report from the Baltimore Education Research Consortium shows that chronic absenteeism in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten persists even when those children progress to the later elementary school years and that unless this pattern of chronic absenteeism changes, these children will have lower academic outcomes than those who do not miss so many days of school.

This working paper from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child examines how executive function skills, such as self-regulation, develop during the early childhood years and continue to benefit children throughout their academic careers and lives. The paper is accompanied by a 5-minute video providing an overview of scientific findings about executive function skills.

This report from the National Council for Research on Women examines the effect of federal funding on child care - particularly, access to affordable, high-quality child care for the children of low-income women - based on case studies in Georgia and Tennessee and provides recommendations for the nation’s child care care system.

New on nieer.org

NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett is one of three guest co-editors for a special issue on Early Childhood Research Quarterly on quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS). A call for papers is currently out until November 1, 2012 for manuscripts discussing a wide range of topics regardings QRIS. Visit our website for more details on how to submit.

NIEER Activities

At Head Start’s 11th National Research Conference, several NIEER researchers presented on a variety of topics, including Director Steve Barnett’s presentation on language instruction in preschool classrooms.

NIEER’s Steven Barnett joined HighScope’s Larry Schweinhardt for the most recent ReadyNation Invest in Kids webinar to discuss the economic benefits and other positive outcomes of early childhood education programs. The webinar was recorded and can be heard online at ReadyNation’s website.

Jim Squires, a NIEER senior research fellow, gave the keynote address at GeorgiaForward’s Education Summit, an event which had the theme of “Thinking Big and Moving the Needle: Early Childhood Education and Teacher Quality and Retention.”


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 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.

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.

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 29, 2012
(Education Week)

Months of uncertainty over the fate of transitional kindergarten in California have ended now that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed new state budget for the next fiscal year. That means school districts can continue with plans to implement the program this fall, providing an additional year of kindergarten for those kids who would no longer be eligible for regular kindergarten under a 2010 law.

Thursday, June 28, 2012
(The New York Times)

Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio is asking voters for a sales tax increase of one-eighth of a cent that would finance full-day pre-K, primarily for low-income 4-year-olds in the city. “The need for this type of investment has been there for a long period of time, but the severe cuts in 2011 made it even more urgent,” he said.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
(The Seattle Times)

Head Start is a good place for parents to get an education. Children are at its center, but if you want to help children thrive, it's best to have engaged knowledgeable parents.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012
(The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA)

The academic achievement gap among children based on economic class has widened significantly in the U.S. even as the gap between white and black children has narrowed, an education professor [Greg Duncan] told a packed ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel on Tuesday. Improving early childhood is one of the most promising strategies for improving the future of poor children, Duncan said, but not all pre-K programs are of equal quality and too often good work done at the in pre-K level is squandered when kids get older.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012
(The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT)

The program has given preschoolers such a leg up that by the end of third grade, they're performing on par in math and English with peers not affected by poverty, according to an evaluation by Utah State University early childhood education researchers. The question remains, as the population changes, will there be money and political will to implement these or similar programs, or will an achievement gap widen?

Friday, June 22, 2012
(The New York Times)

State lawmakers in Albany voted this week to make kindergarten mandatory for all 5-year-olds in New York City, lowering the required age for schooling by one year. Proponents of the measure, which awaits the governor's approval, praised the move as a triumph for thousands for 5-year-olds who are from poor and minority families or have disabilities.

Friday, June 22, 2012
(Ventura County Star)

Maintaining a stable economy doesn't begin by watching the daily stock quotes but in a prekindergarten classroom. While children learn their colors, sing songs and develop key social skills in early childhood programs,they also form the building blocks to become productive future members of the local workforce, said Timothy Bartik.

Friday, June 22, 2012
(The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA)

Some students attending pre-kindegarten classes in private and parochial schools scored better than the national average, according to a report issued Thursday.  The study … focused on 1,312 students statewide who took part during the 2010-11 school year in the Nonpublic Schools Early Childhood Development program, which is one of more than half a dozen such programs in Louisiana.

Thursday, June 21, 2012
(KPIC TV, Roseburg, OR)

Researchers at Oregon State University have confirmed what we knew all along - children in this country are increasingly sedentary, spending too much time sitting and looking at electronic screens. More disturbing to lead author David Schary - all of the children ages 2 to 4 were sitting more than several hours per day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012
(The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, PA)

It is hard to fathom a child starting school at age 8 and even more difficult to imagine her not ever attending kindergarten. Yet in Pennsylvania, there is no requirement for children to begin school until age 8 and even worse, there is no mandate that a district must provide kindergarten.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012
(Press-Register, Mobile, AL)

The good and bad news is that Alabama has some high-quality pre-K programs — but not nearly enough of them. Some are rated First Class, an impressive benchmark. But only 6 percent of 4-year-olds in the state have access to them, though 16 percent qualify for federal Head Start, according to the Birmingham News.

Monday, June 18, 2012
(The State, Columbia, SC)

House lawmakers had included a provision in the state’s $6.7 billion general fund budget that would have banned public school districts from charging tuition for 4-year-old preschool programs. The Senate removed that provision, and Monday a committee of three House members and three Senators voted to eliminate the provision for good.

Monday, June 18, 2012
(San Antonio Express-News)

A blue-ribbon education task force will recommend to the City Council on Wednesday that San Antonio adopt a one-eighth-cent sales tax to fund an early-childhood education initiative targeting 4-year-old children to better prepare them for their academic pursuits and strengthen the city's workforce.