Volume 11, Issue 15

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hot Topics

A federal judge upheld the process for determining which Head Start grantees must re-compete for funding as determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Four nonprofit community groups, which included the Ohio Head Start Association, filed suit on the grounds that the “single deficiency trigger” is retroactive, without due process, and arbitrary and capricious, all of which was rejected by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. Those grantees who have already been designated for re-competition will go ahead as planned, including several plaintiffs in this case. Grantees have until July 18 to apply for grants designated as up for competition in this first round.

Hawaii, one of only eleven states without a state-funded preschool program, is about to reverse course. The Associated Press reports that new legislation signed into law by the governor will start the state on the course to establish an early childhood education program. This legislation creates a new office on early learning, which will aid in the development of a plan by 2013 for an early childhood education program with universal access for the state’s 4-year-olds. The state will also be phasing out its current junior kindergarten initiative and requiring that students be at least 5 years old on July 31st to enter kindergarten.

The Washington Department of Early Learning recently announced a statewide initiative to implement a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) for the state’s early childhood education and care programs. Dubbed “Early Achievers,” the QRIS will reach about 57 percent of the state’s child care programs in the first phase launched in July 2012 and will be fully implemented statewide by July 2013. Funding for the QRIS comes from the state’s grant from Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge as well as from the federal Child Care Development Fund.

While there is some debate about the effectiveness of QRIS in general, a special report from the American Enterprise Institute indicates that parents do not know what high-quality early childhood education and care programs look like. Furthermore, even when parents do know what a quality program looks like, they often do not have the resources to find such a program in their local area. The report’s author argues that QRIS could help remedy the situation.

A kerfuffle arose when a New Hampshire state representative remarked that kindergarten results in criminal activity after his research found a link between crime rates and access to kindergarten in communities throughout the state. But as any good social science student knows, correlation does not equal causation. Neuroscience journalist Maia Szalavitz worked on setting the record straight in a Time article detailing some rigorous studies of early education’s effects and explaining some research basics, such as the aforementioned axiom about correlation. Back in 2007, NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett wrote a paper providing insights on how to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of five types of research commonly used to study early childhood education.

Autism may be spotted early with the use of electroencephalogram tests (EEGs) in children as young as age 2, according to researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School who wrote about their findings in a study published in BMC Medicine. The researchers found that EEG readings for children with autism differed from those for children without autism, particularly in regards to parts of the brain controlling language. Their findings suggest that EEG tests could help diagnose autistic children earlier and more accurately in the future.

For children already diagnosed with autism, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers have good news. These researchers studied a 30-hour per week preschool intervention for autistic children that resulted in increased language skills, including vocabulary development, by age 8. This therapy involved adults directing 3- and 4-year-old autistic children’s attention by pointing and using other gestures and actively engaging the children in sharing and play during the preschool program. The findings are published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Scandinavian countries lead the world on preschool education benchmarks, says a report conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and commissioned by the Lien Foundation. The “Starting Well” index ranks 45 countries on policies and practices related to early childhood education and care, with Finland, Sweden, and Norway picking up the top three spots. The U.K., Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Korea round out the top 10. The U.S. ties with U.A.E. for 24th in the rankings. EIU researchers saw a strong correlation between the wealth of a country and its rankings, but they also found that this was not the only factor, with some wealthy countries ranking relatively low. In several wealthy countries, including the U.S., scores were low because preschool access and quality vary too much from one area of the country to another. This is a problem that NIEER has noted in the past regarding state-funded preschool in the U.S.

With childhood obesity rapidly becoming an increasing problem, a special issue of the journal Early Child Development and Care is dedicated to the topic “Parental influences of childhood obesity.” The issue includes a number of studies regarding parent-child interactions that affect children’s health and weight, such as feeding routines, nutrition knowledge, parenting styles, and active play activities. These last two are the subjects of two studies related to preschool children’s sedentary behaviors, which is associated with higher levels of early childhood obesity.

Meanwhile, the British Medical Journal also recently published research related to early interventions of childhood obesity, showcasing findings from a study in Australia involving nurse-family partnerships with approximately 500 first-time mothers and their infants. Initial home visits were scheduled when women were pregnant and then seven more followed during the children’s first two years of life. Compared to a control group, those children who participated in the home-based intervention had lower body mass index (BMI) ranges at age 2. In addition, other factors linked with obesity saw improvement - TV viewing times were reduced while infant feeding practices were healthier.


This issue brief from the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) discusses the results of a study of home-based child care in which the majority of providers were of low or moderate quality, although 12 percent rated as having above moderate quality. The authors examine the characteristics of each quality grouping in an effort to target and guide content for professional development.

This report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) provides information gleaned from interviews with 48 child care directors in eight states discussing issues related to the benefits and challenges of using statewide quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS).

This journal article presents findings from a study on the effects of federal child care subsidies on the quality of such care, with the researchers finding that subsidy recipients use higher quality programs compared to those who do not use publicly funded child care, but use lower quality programs compared to non-recipients who rely on Head Start or public pre-K.

Although quality is an important component of effective early childhood education programs, the field lacks a standard definition of quality and what it entails. This literature review examines how the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-R) has been used in various studies as a measure of quality in the early childhood education classroom.

This fact sheet from the First Five Years Fund’s Invest in US project provides an overview of the characteristics of a high-quality early childhood education program.

NIEER Activities

This week Jumpstart, a national organization dedicated to improving school readiness outcomes for low-income children, announced its newly established National Early Education Council (NEEC). NEEC is designed to advise Jumpstart’s strategy and brings together key players in the early childhood education field. Amongst its inaugural members are NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett, NIEER Scientific Advisory Board members Robert C. Pianta and Deborah Stipek, and NIEER senior research fellow Deborah J. Leong.


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, July 13, 2012
(Tulsa World)

A growing body of research has shown young children who participation in high-quality pre-K programs enter school more ready to learn and often score higher on math and reading tests later.  Oklahoma has been a national model for early childhood education and was ranked first in the country for access to prekindergarten education for seven consecutive years.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
(The Milford Daily News, Milford, MA)

Proponents of a measure on Beacon Hill to foster more guidance for early childhood teaching practices hope the measure will pass the House as soon as today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012
(Poughkeepsie Journal, Poughkeepsie, NY)

Several panelists discussed supporting early childhood education, particularly making prekindergarten more accessible statewide and having more full-day pre-K programs. Some districts offer only 2 1/2-hour per day pre-K programs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
(Hartford Courant)

Thirty-eight cities and towns will be able to offer state-funded preschool to more children from low-income families this fall as a result of education reform legislation passed in May.  On Tuesday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a strong proponent of improved preschool access, released a list of where the 1,000 new preschool slots — funded at $6.77 million — will be.

Monday, July 9, 2012
(The Grand Rapids Press, Grand Rapids, MI)

While a new Michigan law will keep many “fall babies” home for from school for another year, California districts are creating a new grade for them. Michigan lawmakers heard similar concerns from teachers about the younger students, but opted to change the starting date without adding the extra grade.

Saturday, July 7, 2012
(San Antonio Express-News)

After more than a year examining these issues, Castro's Brainpower Initiative Task Force came back with its findings last month. Yes, the panel said, the city can make a difference. The best way to do so, it found, was to focus on pre-kindergarten education. While the public needs greater clarity on some details, the case they make is compelling.

Thursday, July 5, 2012
(Green Bay Press-Gazette)

For every dollar invested in a school-age child, only 25 cents are invested in a preschool-aged child and only 6 cents are invested in an infant or toddler. Enhancement and prevention through quality early childhood development are more life- and cost-effective than attempting to intervene after problems, delays and crises occur.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
(Santa Fe New Mexican)

We recently met with state Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera to thank her for the increased funding for early learning programs that was in the budget signed by Gov. Susana Martinez. This is a huge step in the right direction, and we need to continue to prioritize these programs because 62 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds are not yet served by a public pre-K program.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012
(The Virginian-Pilot)

University of Virginia researchers are working to develop a way to help preschool teachers address students with challenging behaviors. Their work will be piloted with teachers in two Head Start programs serving at-risk preschoolers — one in Charlottesville and another in Miami.

Monday, July 2, 2012
(Austin American-Statesman)

Pre-kindergarten programs, which have fewer requirements related to class sizes and length of day, are one place districts cut when trying to balance their budgets. A study released this year by the group Children at Risk, citing Texas Education Agency data, said that since the state cuts, school districts statewide have eliminated more than 1,100 pre-K teaching positions.

Sunday, July 1, 2012
(American School Board Journal)

Yes, enrollments have increased at state-supported preschools, but that was barely enough to keep up with population increases -- and the thousands of children falling into poverty. “You’re just talking about doing less with more kids,” says W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University.