Volume 11, Issue 18

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hot Topics

It’s not top secret that quality early childhood education can put children on the right path for career success, including serving in the military. However, high-quality child care and early education plays an important role supporting U.S. military personnel who are currently serving. As Maggie Severns of the New America Foundation recently wrote, the military child care system offers a model that the civilian sector should consider: it provides universal access for all families, tuition based on family income, well-trained accountable staff compensated in line with their levels of training, and quarterly inspections. Quality civilian child care often is unavailable or unaffordable, and wages for child care workers are abysmal. In 2007, Debra Ackerman, then a NIEER researcher, wrote about professional development for early childhood education teachers in military child care centers and take away lessons for the private sector.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education opened a $400 million round of Race to the Top for school districts, breaking from the state-level requirements seen in earlier rounds. Grants will range from $5 to $40 million, and 15 to 25 grants will be awarded to districts with at least 2,000 students where 40 percent of more students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. Districts should signal their intent to apply by the end of the month; applications must be submitted by October 30, and winners will be announced by the end of 2012. The Department of Education has taken care to ensure that winners will come from both rural and urban school districts, as well as not only from states that have previously won Race to the Top grants, as is detailed in this Education Week blog. As noted by Paul Nyhan at Thrive By Five Washington, school districts are usually centered only on K-12, though Child Care Aware provides guidance on how applicants can address early learning at the district level.

A new report from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) examines funding for comprehensive services in the early childhood field, including health screenings and referrals, family support, and nutrition. Comprehensive services address the needs of the whole child and are an important component of early childhood education and care policy. CLASP’s report, “Putting It Together: A Guide to Funding Comprehensive Services in Child Care and Early Education,” suggests various financing streams to support these services and contains case studies from several states. Last year, NIEER released a policy brief that similarly looked at the available funding streams for early learning programs.

A study following 7,000 6-month-old infants longitudinally to age 8 found that those who ate healthy meals during their first two years of life continued to reap the benefits of this, as indicated on IQ measures. Compared to their peers who ate unhealthy foods as infants and toddlers, these children measured one to two points higher on IQ exams. The study was conducted by the University of Adelaide in Australia and led by Dr. Lisa Smithers who said in a news release, “Diet supplies the nutrients needed for the development of brain tissues in the first two years of life … It is important that we consider the longer-term impact of the foods we feed our children.” This study reinforces what NIEER has said in the past: “Healthy brain development begins with good maternal and child health and nutrition.”

E-books may hinder children’s learning to read, according to a new study out of the University of Akron, but they also have the potential to aid preschoolers’ emerging literacy skills, given the right circumstances. It all depends on whether or not the extras found in e-books distract youngsters too much from the story and the words on the page in front of them. Some features of e-books that promote preschool-age children’s literacy skills include: containing a cohesive plot, the ability to pause narration, animations that function like traditional illustrations highlighting the text (rather than animations that are unrelated to the story), and puzzles or games that also embellish the text rather than distracting from it. These findings were results of a three-year project, called Akron Ready Steps, which aimed to encourage early literacy in Head Start classrooms and studied how traditional print media, e-books, and classroom instruction contribute to 4-year-olds knowledge of literacy concepts.

Another interesting finding related to e-books included that children, particularly those with behavioral issues, attend to e-books for longer periods of time compared to print books. The findings have yet to be published but researchers involved in the study describe some of their results to The Beacon Journal. Studies like this are particularly important because newer technologies such as electronic books are being implemented in early childhood programs with little or no research evidence regarding their effectiveness.

In Mississippi (one of 11 states not funding pre-K), recent coverage by the Clarion-Ledger has drawn attention to the need for early childhood education in the state. A special section in print, as well as an online page including articles and videos, explored the need for early education to improve educational outcomes in the state as well as increase economic benefits. Education in Mississippi has also been getting attention from the national Hechinger Report, whose “Mississippi Learning” series looks at the barriers to education in the state, beginning with the lack of pre-K.

Resources

This new web site from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offers tips to parents and caregivers on finding a quality preschool program, understanding child development, and encouraging early literacy and math activities at home.

This research brief from the Tots-n-Tech Institute examines the findings from 29 studies to determine if and how the beliefs of preschool teachers and caregivers affects the use of research-based practices in the classroom.

This toolkit from Attendance Works provides tips for explaining the importance of regularly attending school, even for children in pre-K and kindergarten, to combat chronic absenteeism.

This report from Child Care Aware examines the costs associated with child care centers in every state, finding that fees continue to increase with the current average annual cost of care for an infant higher than the annual cost of tuition at a four-year public college.

This White House report points to a drop in the number of American teachers due to the recession as well as cuts to program availability for both pre-K and kindergarten as districts turn to drastic cost-cutting measures.

New on nieer.org

NIEER has a new home page for our wide variety of publications, including policy briefs, videos, and presentations, to name a few. We also have an online version of our publication order form, which you can use to request complimentary copies of various publications.

Calendar

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.

Friday, October 5, 2012 - 8:00am

Dearborn, MI - This conference will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Perry Preschool Study and provide attendees with opportunities to learn more about pre-K evaluations.

Sunday, November 4, 2012 to Wednesday, November 7, 2012

State College, PA - This conference examines theories behind early childhood education, focusing on a wide range of underpinning concepts, including those that are frequently marginalized in the 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.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
(The New York Times)

Confronting reports of skyrocketing costs and outright fraud in New York State’s preschool special education system, a group of companies that provide services to children with disabilities is calling for mandatory new audits, clearer regulations and a strict code of conduct with tough penalties for violators.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
(The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, SC)

About half of 4-year-olds in South Carolina get some sort of early childhood education, delivered through a hodgepodge of state and federal programs. It’s time to increase that to cover all of the state’s 4-year-olds.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
(Journal Tribune, Biddeford, ME)

Unfortunately, low-income families suffer from a lack of means to send their children to private pre-school programs, and some parents cannot spend the time necessary with their children for proper development due to work obligations and other constraints. Head Start steps in to assist those parents and families with early education and health care.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
(Houston Chronicle)

Education is a prerequisite for economic growth, and investing in quality education at all levels ought to be a core tenet of economic development and a moral imperative. And it all starts with early childhood education.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
(The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC)

A Wake County judge was within legal bounds, according to the State Court of Appeals, when he ruled that 2011 legislative changes to the state’s pre-kindergarten program violate the constitutional right to a sound, basic education for all North Carolina schoolchildren.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
(The Sun, San Bernardino, CA)

The new grade was created by the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010. The new law will gradually push the date kindergartners must be born before in order to start kindergarten in a given year back from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1. This year, the class includes students born between Nov. 1 and Dec. 2.

Monday, August 20, 2012
(Early Years blog at Education Week)

By last week, the roughly 130 agencies that were slated to vie to keep their federal Head Start dollars had to submit lengthy applications. Now it's up to a panel of experts to decide if those agencies will keep some or all of the funding, or if the grants will be awarded to new applicants.

Saturday, August 18, 2012
(The Palm Beach Post)

Florida is having great success getting children into early learning classrooms. Then the state is squandering that opportunity. Money invested in quality education prior to kindergarten would pay off during the next 13 years, and then on into higher education. Such an investment could transform the state from an education also-ran into a leader.

Friday, August 17, 2012
(Hattiesburg American, Hattiesburg, MS)

Mississippi remains the only state in the South without a state-funded early children education program. Only eight states nationwide do not invest in some form of early childhood education and only 11 states don't have a state-funded pre-kindergarten program.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012
(Statesman Journal, Salem, OR)

This year, Oregon will set a benchmark for school readiness and pilot a test that tracks how many students walk-in-the-door ready for school.

Sunday, August 12, 2012
(The Tennessean)

The state has moved to the center of the debate over the value of publicly funded pre-K education, with enthusiasm for a program that promises to improve test scores, raise graduation rates and lower crime colliding with skepticism that it is little more than a free day care service for children who are better off staying at home.

Saturday, August 11, 2012
(New Hampshire Union Leader)

Sometimes known as an “all-weather school,” the nature preschool model was popularized in Scandinavia in the late 1960s with the aim of getting kids outside and keeping them there to learn their letters, numbers, science and motor skills, among other things.