Volume 11, Issue 20

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hot Topics

The Departments of Education and Health and Humans Services this week released the final requirements and applications for the $133 million Race to The Top - Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), Phase 2. This round of competitive early learning grants is only available to those states scoring 75 percent or more of total points in Phase 1 but who did not receive grants - namely, Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. Applicants are required to address many of the same areas as in their initial applications, though they must detail how they would do so with grants of 50 percent of the original award amount. Applicants are not allowed to introduce new programs in their applications, though they are encouraged to partner with other eligible states or Round 1 grantees to execute their proposals. The Departments noted that interest in another round of RTT-ELC grew after hearing that states that applied but had not receive grants “would strive to implement their plans even without receiving funding.” The Early Years blog over at Education Week has more details on applicant requirements.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently released the report “Education at a Glance 2012,” which provides international comparisons on a number of OECD indicators including educational attainment from preschool through college, spending on educational opportunities, and the outcomes of educational training on employment, life expectancy, and social and civic engagement. Looking at preschool education for 4-year-olds, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Mexico, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Japan, Norway, and Italy enroll the highest percentage of children in public and private settings. In OECD countries on average, slightly more than 80 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in pre-K programs. However, the United States falls below that with fewer than 70 percent of 4-year-olds enrolled, just escaping being in the bottom 10 of OECD countries with the lowest preschool enrollment. When it comes to 3-year-olds and early education services, Belgium, France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden top the charts for enrollment. On average, preschool enrollment in OECD countries has increased since 2005. Additional aspects of preschool education are examined across countries in the report, including staff-child ratios, formal curricula, teacher qualifications, and spending on programs. The OECD report notes that publicly-funded preschool is more likely to be found in Europe than in OECD countries in other regions of the world.

Arts education can help regulate preschoolers emotions and thus prepare them for school success, according to the findings of a study out of the West Chester University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Psychology. This is particularly important amongst children from low-income families, as past studies have found economic disadvantage puts young children at risk for a variety of problems, including poor social-emotional development. Eleanor Brown and Kacey Sax studied emotion regulation in low-income preschoolers in an arts-integrated Head Start program as compared to their peers in a standard Head Start program. Brown and Sax found that the children in arts enrichment program did not differ from their peers at the beginning of the year, but these children exhibited greater growth in regulating both positive and negative emotions by the end of year. Back in 2010, NIEER research coordinator Judi Stevenson-Boyd was part of a panel speaking on the importance of arts education for helping young children’s healthy development.

Despite initially being cut from the California state budget, transitional kindergarten started in 800 California districts this year. The program is designed to provide an early education program for those students who are no longer kindergarten eligible when the state cut-off date was changed. However, the California Charter Schools Association -- the state’s largest charter school organization -- has advised its members that charter schools have the option of offering the grade, but are not required to do so. Reportedly, the association’s legal team determined that if schools do not receive funding for 4-year-olds, they do not have the provide the program; additionally, transitional kindergarten is a requirement for school districts, rather than individual schools. The California Department of Education, however, contends that "...if a school offers kindergarten, it's also obligated to offer transitional kindergarten." Senator Joe Simitian, a champion of the program, was surprised the legislation was being interpreted this way, noting that charters had specifically been included in the law based on direction from the state Department of Finance. At least two charter organizations in the state, however, are currently providing transitional kindergarten or plan to by next year.

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released the report “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011,” with current population statistics on those measures. The 89-page document is a treasure trove for data wonks, especially those working on social policy issues. As eloquently noted in a Huffington Post op-ed by Hannah Matthews, the director of child care and early education at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), the percent of young children living in poverty remains startlingly high at nearly 25 percent and will remain there if public policy does not address these issues, especially with the possibility of sequestration looming. Matthews called for increased investment in quality services for young children, including initiatives like the federal Head Start program. Putting the spotlight on poverty this month gives us all time to prepare for next month when the United Nations will recognize the 19th annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

New research from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences provides additional insight into how infants process and understand language. Using electroencephalography (EEG) to capture brain activity as subjects listened to the spoken language, the study found that infants -- some as young as three months of age -- were able to automatically detect violations of syllable dependencies whereas as adults only did so when explicitly asked to pay attention to dependencies between syllables. “These findings not only help understand how children manage to learn language so quickly during early development, but also point to a strong link between very basic auditory skills and sophisticated rule learning abilities,” notes a written statement from Max Planck. The brain is indeed a complex organ, capable of processing and synthesizing large amounts of information, even in the youngest of children, as NIEER explains in a policy brief on neurobiological development.

A study out of the University of Illinois and Duke University set out to answer that question, examining whether child care center regulations met recommended standards on oral health and nutrition as laid out in the report Caring for Our Children from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. On average, child care regulations for 50 states and the District of Columbia addressed fewer than half of the dental standards and approximately half of the nutritional ones. Findings from the study can be read in an article in Pediatric Dentistry.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

Using data from The State of Preschool 2011, this blog post examines preschoolers’ access to full- versus part-day programs.

In this blog post, NIEER researchers Megan Carolan and Jen Fitzgerald look at the availability of half- and full-day classes for incoming kindergarteners.


This brief from ReadyNation looks at the return on investment for preschool education programs, pointing out that the monetary benefits not only continue to be reaped over the years but are available in the near future as well.

This report from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids examines the costs - and significantly, the benefits - of investing in preschool education, recommending that the state of Nebraska begin providing more funding for high-quality early childhood education services as a means to curb crime rates in addition to other societal benefits.

This database from the New America Foundation was recently expanded to include publicly funded early education programs at the state and school district levels, providing a centralized location for data on pre-K funding and enrollment.

In an accompanying issue brief, the New America Foundation examines the lack of availability of district-level data on preschool education and kindergarten programs.

NIEER Activities

NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett spent some time in Texas this week discussing the benefits of investing in pre-K. In San Antonio, he spoke with Texas Public Radio about the proposed plan for pre-K expansion in the city, known as the Pre-K 4 SA initiative. The Pre-K 4 SA initiative has picked up a considerable amount of press, including an op-ed by Dr. Barnett in the San Antonio Express-News and an editorial in The Economist that examines Texas’s state pre-K program using statistics from NIEER’s State Preschool Yearbook.

Last week, NIEER Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Robert Pianta spoke on preschool classroom practices for a webinar sponsored by Hatch. The webinar was recorded and may be viewed online here.


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.

Saturday, October 6, 2012 to Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fort Lauderdale, FL – The theme for this year's National Black Child Development Institute conference is “Fulfilling the Promise:  Our Children Deserve the Best.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 3:00pm

This webinar will examine how observational tools are used to improve teacher effectiveness in pre-K through third grade classrooms.

Sunday, October 28, 2012 to Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Portland, OR - At this conference, participants will learn about evidence-based best practices in the education field.

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.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 3:00pm

This webinar will explore issues related to child assessments in preschool through third grade, including case studies from schools and districts with comprehensive assessment systems.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 3:00pm

This webinar examines the preschool through third grade approach and how to build a comprehensive infrastructure to support that continuum.

Friday, March 1, 2013 to Saturday, March 2, 2013

Denver, CO - This conference will explore a variety of issues related to early childhood education and care.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 to Saturday, March 23, 2013

Clearwater, FL - At this conference, attendees will participate in workshops providing information on best practices for supporting children's social-emotional development.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 to Friday, April 19, 2013

New York, NY - The 10th annual Young Child Expo & Conference will bring together early childhood professionals and parents to learn the latest information about early childhood development.

Monday, April 29, 2013 to Thursday, May 2, 2013

Greensboro, NC - At this conference, early childhood leaders will learn and share strategies for accelerating outcomes for children, families and communities.

Early Education News Roundup

Saturday, September 22, 2012
(The Economist)

According to a recent analysis from the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, just 48% of children born into poor families are ready for school by the time they start kindergarten. Among children from middle-class and rich families, 75% are.

Thursday, September 20, 2012
(Early Years blog at Education Week)

A new review of social and emotional learning programs for schools looked at dozens of programs for pre-K and elementary students, highlighting 23 that promote students' self-control, relationship building, and problem solving, among other skills.

Thursday, September 20, 2012
(The Charleston Gazette)

Across the state, about 16,000 children are enrolled in more than 1,000 West Virginia Universal pre-kindergarten classrooms that partner with groups like Head Start and private childcare providers.

Thursday, September 20, 2012
(Northeast Mississippi Daily News)

The best way to get more students on a college-bound track, [Steve] Suitts said, is to equip them with high-quality learning during the first five years of their life, a period experts say is a critical one to brain development.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
(WLBT TV, Jackson, MS)

Also in the budget request is an additional $2.5 million to be used for an early childhood education pilot program. [Interim state superintendent Dr. Lynn] House says the pre-K pilot would be placed in areas stricken by poverty.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
(The Indianapolis Star)

Indiana is one of only 11 states that haven't seen fit to invest state money in early childhood education programs. It's the most important educational tool available to those seeking to close the brutal achievement gap that exists between children of poverty and children of means, but it's also the educational tool that state policymakers have ignored and neglected the most.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
(The Salt Lake Tribune)

Many conservative Utah lawmakers have long resisted the idea of state-funded preschool for financial, ideological and social reasons. But one Republican lawmaker plans to challenge that attitude this coming legislative session with plans to run a bill to create a preschool program aimed at students at risk of academic failure.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012
(Smoky Mountain News, Waynesville, NC)

The fate of state subsidized preschool for low-income children now hangs in the balance. The next set of legislators elected to the General Assembly this fall will face a critical decision: whether to continue limiting the program or expand it to serve all those who qualify.

Monday, September 17, 2012
(The Virginian-Pilot)

Smart Beginnings has planned its next steps: institute a statewide pilot study to identify gaps in kindergarten readiness and get the state Department of Education on board. Then find ways to address the holes and lobby legislators for policies and funding. Rally public support.

Monday, September 17, 2012
(The Reporter, Vacaville, CA)

A California law requires public schools to add a grade level this fall designed to give the very youngest students a boost when they enroll in kindergarten, but charter schools say the law does not apply to them, pitting them against the state Department of Education. The education department says the 2010 Kindergarten Readiness Act requiring transitional kindergarten programs applies to all public schools, including charters.

Monday, September 17, 2012
(The Journal News, White Plains, NY)

Such limits on quality care and educational enrichment for the youngest children can often reverberate way beyond their impact on their families’ pocketbooks. There’s a steep societal cost as well.

Sunday, September 16, 2012
(Journal Star, Peoria, IL)

Indeed, state funding for pre-kindergarten more than doubled during the 2000s, to nearly $5.5 billion in 2010. Illinois spent almost $300 million on pre-K in the 2010-2011 school year.  With this type of investment, lawmakers and the public want to see evidence that current programs in Illinois are effective.

Sunday, September 16, 2012
(The State, Columbia, SC)

Lawyers for the state are adamant in seeking dismissal of the latest appeal, countering that, after funding early childhood programs in high-poverty districts, the General Assembly has met the financial and educational obligations established by the state Constitution and the court.

Saturday, September 15, 2012
(The Indianapolis Star)

Indiana is trying to reform its education system by offering parents more school choices, improving teaching and even taking over schools that fail. Still, there's a sense among many educators that the state is failing in an important way:  Preparing children for kindergarten and first grade.

Friday, September 14, 2012
(The Sentinel, Fairmont, MN)

Giving kids the tools they need to make it in school is the goal behind Tri Valley Opportunity Council's Head Start for migrant seasonal workers at Winnebago.

Thursday, September 13, 2012
(The Tennessean)

Parents and policy-makers share two broad concerns when it comes to young children from infancy to age 5. The first is the care and nurturing of the children, ensuring their health and well-being. The second has to do with developing their minds and preparing children for kindergarten and elementary school.

Thursday, September 13, 2012
(The Answer Sheet blog at The Washington Post)

There has not been time to reflect on how this cascading influx of technology is affecting us all or to study the potentially far ranging influence it is having on our children. While electronic games for young children are flooding the market (72 percent of iTunes’ top-selling “education” apps are designed for preschoolers and elementary school children), the research on their impact is scant.

Thursday, September 13, 2012
(The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, IA)

The Iowa Department of Human Services has failed to adequately guard against fraud in a state-run child care program for the poor, according to a new report from federal authorities. The state agency’s process of paying claims associated with the program has left it vulnerable to fraud, waste, and abuse, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report issued Monday.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012
(The Montana Standard)

Business owners who say early childhood education is a great investment in the state’s economic future are calling on Montana’s congressional delegates to continue funding for education programs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
(Dothan Eagle, Dothan, AL)

Early childhood education advocates visited local business leaders on Tuesday to drum up local support for efforts to extend state pre-K programs to all four-year-olds in the state.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
(Education Week)

The United States lags behind most of the world’s leading economies when it comes to providing early-childhood education opportunities to young children despite improvements in recent years, according to a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
(Times-Standard, Eureka, CA)

[Cindi] Kaup said the assessment was prompted by a new statewide transitional kindergarten program -- a post-preschool, pre-kindergarten extra year of free public education -- as well as by a growing demand for data on early education. Data on the educational growth of children in each of the county's 32 school districts has not previously been collected until the third grade, when children take the statewide STAR test.

Monday, September 10, 2012
(Victoria Advocate, Victoria, TX)

As parents and teachers, it is important that we make informed decisions about the ways in which our children interact with technology. Make sure that technology is supporting your child's future and not just occupying time in the present.

Monday, September 10, 2012
(U.S. News & World Report)

This is one of the findings emerging from Amy Parks’ ongoing research of young children in a public school setting:  that children lose valuable learning opportunities when unstructured play is reduced or eliminated in favor of more time in the classroom. She is following the same group of 14 young minority children for three years, starting in pre-school, to see how they learn mathematics, both in the formal classroom setting as well as informally in school, and at home.

Sunday, September 9, 2012
(San Antonio Express-News)

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro knows this and has taken important steps to correct it. His Brainpower Initiative Task Force, headed by H-E-B Chairman Charles Butt and USAA CEO Joe Robles, spent more than a year examining these issues and found the best investment the city can make is to focus on raising the quality of preschool education and ensuring that more kids attend.

Saturday, September 8, 2012
(The Seattle Times)

Two objectives are critical to the future of education: lowering the high-school dropout rate and preparing more students for college and careers. Key to success in both is educating children earlier.