Volume 11, Issue 24

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hot Topics

While most eyes were focused on the presidential election results last Tuesday, early education advocates across the country were also watching several state and local races. In perhaps the most well-publicized early education race of the year, voters in San Antonio, Texas approved a ⅛ cent sales tax increase to provide about $31 million for public pre-K. Pre-K For San Antonio was strongly supported by Mayor Julian Castro who noted that “San Antonioans could see that in order to have economic prosperity … it made a lot of sense to invest this small amount for a big reward in the future.” In St. Paul, Minnesota, voters approved $39 million for the city’s schools in the form of an excess levy. Of this amount, $9 million will support technological upgrades while the remainder will fund preschool programs and all-day kindergarten.

On the other hand, a ballot initiative to the raise sales tax in Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee -- half of which was proposed to go to early education -- failed, although the tax hike may be reconsidered in a special election next year. Likewise, early childhood education did not fare well in Indiana with the defeat of a district-wide ballot initiative to provide prekindergarten. Several other local and state elections affected public pre-K either directly or indirectly, as can be seen in this helpful map of key early education races compiled by the New America Foundation’s Early Ed Watch team.

A new study examined Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), an early intervention method for young children with autism, finding that the interventions decreased children’s autistic symptoms and improved their social skills. Furthermore, the study found that ESDM normalized the brain activity of children with autism. This is in addition to a previous study finding that this particular intervention model was effective for increasing children’s cognitive and linguistic skills. ESDM is an intervention method developed by Sally Rogers (an author on this new study) and Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for Autism Speaks. The model employs a relationship-based approach using the teaching methods of applied behavioral analysis.

The study participants included 48 autistic infants and toddlers in addition to a control group of children without autism. Half of the autistic children were randomly assigned to receive ESDM intervention for 20 hours a week over a two-year period while the other half of the experimental group received similar amounts of other types of interventions. Children who received early interventions using ESDM for two years had greater brain activity, as assessed by using electroencephalograms (EEGs), when viewing social stimuli such as faces than when seeing non-social stimuli like toys, a response in line with the typically developing children. Children who received the ESDM intervention were more likely to exhibit this type of brain activity than children whose therapy included other interventions, with 73 percent of the ESDM group showing this activation while only 5 percent of the other interventions group did. The study was funded through the National Institute of Mental Health as well as Autism Speaks, and its results can be found in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Meanwhile, an ongoing study in Canada also involves infants and toddlers who have autism - or who show autistic symptoms but have not been officially diagnosed yet - and early interventions. This study is examining the use of a parent-coaching intervention model known as Social ABCs, which focuses on techniques based on applied behavior analysis. Funded by Autism Speaks Canada and the Sinneave Family Foundation, this study will compare children who receive the intervention earlier to a group of children who receive it six months later. Preliminary results have been promising about the effectiveness of the Social ABCs intervention model.

Two recent TEDx events focused on the return of investment for pre-K education. Tim Bartik, senior economist from the Upjohn Institute, spoke on the role of preschool in state economic development, noting how children who attend preschool grow up to become a more highly skilled workforce, which results in a community having more and better jobs, thereby raising the per capita income in the state. He concluded of pre-K: “the research evidence is compelling and the logic behind it is compelling.” In a separate talk, Larry Schweinhart, the president of HighScope and a member of NIEER’s Scientific Advisory Board, discussed the Perry Preschool Study and its findings. Specifically, Schweinhart looked at the “extraordinary” return on investment of pre-K, asking “Why are we not doing this?” when we know the returns are high. However, he also pointed out that we “can’t compromise” on the elements of high quality if programs are to be highly effective and thus have the long-term effects seen in the Perry Preschool Program including higher educational attainment and reductions in crime.

Resources

This web page from Child Care Aware (formerly the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies) contains a number of resources to help families with young children as well as service providers cope with disasters, both emotionally and with an eye toward assistance programs related to child care.

This video from the Colorado Department of Education’s Results Matter project explains how one school was able to use technology to create an inclusive pre-K environment for a young girl whose physical limitations did not allow her to take part in a center-based preschool education, documenting this process so that others may learn valuable lessons from their experience. 

This policy paper from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) examines state child care assistance programs’ efforts to serve children from families with limited English proficiency, finding that the most common supports include bilingual staff or translators, information provided in multiple languages, and state early learning guidelines that address the needs of English language learners.

This fact sheet from Zero to Three provides a national overview of the variety of elements that influence the youngest children’s development and how these factor into assistance programs such as early childhood education and care.

NIEER Activities

For a school finance lawsuit in Texas, NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett was an expert witness presenting data on that state’s educational problems, current efforts with regard to preschool, and the potential for an expansion of high-quality, intensive preschool education beginning to substantially reduce educational inequity and failure while reducing the costs of failure to the state. Texas serves a relatively large percentage of its 4-year-olds in state-funded pre-K, but does not provide enough resources for the public preschool program to be of high quality. Dr. Barnett noted in his testimony that, “You are lucky to get what you pay for; you certainly don't get what you don't pay for … If we don't change the early childhood learning experience, we won't close the achievement gaps.”

NIEER Assistant Research Professors Kimberly Brenneman and Alissa Lange received $397,531 in funding from the Heising-Simons Foundation to design and test an early mathematics intervention that engages preschool children, their teachers, and their parents in interactive math game play. The specific math games that will be used have been shown to increase numerical skills and understanding in low-income young children. 

In addition, Dr. Brenneman is part of an inter-university team that was recently awarded $1,419,047 from the National Science Foundation. The project, Partnerships for Early Childhood Curriculum Development: Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE), aims to improve school readiness for dual language learners by designing and testing resources for preschool teachers to strengthen connections between home and school and to foster positive approaches to learning through hands-on science, technology, and engineering content.

Last week the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) held its annual conference and expo. NIEER staffers contributed to the success of the event in a myriad of roles. NIEER Assistant Research Professor Kimberly Brenneman joined a diverse group of researchers to discuss a preschool curriculum known as Connect4Learning, which integrates research-based approaches to math, science, literacy, and social-emotional learning. Senior Research Fellow Jim Squires moderated a panel celebrating the 20th anniversary of Georgia’s Bright from the State public pre-K program. Dr. Squires was joined on the panel by Bobby Cagle (Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning), Bridgit Hamre (University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education), Sharon Lynn Kagan (National Center for Children & Families), Samuel J. Meisels (University of Nebraska’s Buffett Early Childhood Institute), and Pam Willis (Voices for Georgia’s Children). And, Assistant Research Professor Shannon Riley-Ayers presented along with Research Project Coordinator Judi Stevenson-Garcia on pre-K student portfolios. Dr. Riley-Ayers and Stevenson-Garcia discussed how student work collected in portfolios can be used to inform instruction, communicate children’s progress to parents, and represent children’s accomplishments in achieving learning goals. This presentation drew from the Early Learning Scale, the preschool assessment system developed by NIEER.

Calendar

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.

Saturday, December 1, 2012 to Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dallas, TX - This conference provides best practices and resources to Head Start parents and those who work on parent involvement.

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.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 to Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gloucester, England - This conference aims to explore the philosophical tenets of play as well as building a bridge to practices in play.

Friday, April 12, 2013 - 8:00am

Somerset, NJ - This one-day conference offers participants an opportunity to hear from national literacy experts and authors of noted children's books.

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.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 to Thursday, June 27, 2013

For the first time, the Birth to Three institute will be offered as a virtual professional development experience rather than a physical conference.

Early Education News Roundup

Friday, November 16, 2012
(The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, IA)

A proposal to require all 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool to take the same test would allow the state to better track the progress of its youngest learners, according to a plan the Legislature will consider next year.

Monday, November 12, 2012
(San Antonio Express-News)

The current school finance system only covers the cost of half-day pre-k for eligible students. In San Antonio, several school districts cobble together local and federal money to make their programs full-day.  The Legislature last year cut $5.4 billion in public education money, including $200 million in state pre-k grants.

Sunday, November 11, 2012
(The Anniston Star, Anniston, AL)

The Alabama Board of Education last week voted to ask legislators for an additional $5 million to supplement the $19 million per year the state already pays for pre-K.

Friday, November 9, 2012
(The Journal News, White Plains, NY)

To prepare young children for elementary school, it is not just about learning the numbers and ABCs. This early learning must encourage curiosity, self-motivated learning, social skills, creative thinking, imagination, love of learning, and problem solving, which are skills that naturally emerge during the course of a child’s natural play.

Friday, November 9, 2012
(Times Union, Albany, NY)

Early learning is likely to be one of the few bright areas in the 2013 state budget after years of retreat.  Early education is increasingly seen as essential to the learning process of a child and the State Education Department is gearing up to increase its investment in pre-kindergarten programs.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
(KSAT TV, San Antonio, TX)

Despite a close early vote, San Antonio residents ultimately approved Mayor Julian Castro's Pre-K 4 SA initiative.  The measure passed with a 53 to 46 percent vote with all precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, according to the Bexar County elections website.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
(The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN)

Voters in Memphis and unincorporated Shelby County Tuesday rejected a countywide half-cent sales tax increase which was expected to raise about $60 million, including $30 million for schools.  With 97 percent of the precincts reporting, 69 percent of voters were opposed to paying another half cent on a dollar in sales tax, with 31 percent voting in favor of the hike.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
(Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN)

Two out of three St. Paul voters on Tuesday agreed to send $39 million to city schools, continuing an excess levy for new technology and early childhood education including all-day kindergarten.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012
(STLtoday.com / Suburban Journals, Town and Country, MO)

Cutting a piece of paper with scissors. Catching a ball or hopping in the air. The way words are formed and sound. Knowing the names of colors.  These are simple actions for many children of pre-kindergarten age. However, some might have trouble with them, indicating developmental problems.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012
(San Antonio Express-News)

An early childhood education expert testified Tuesday that Texas is not doing a good job preparing low-income youngsters for school.  High-quality pre-K programs help close the achievement gap and put low-income students “in the game. You give them a shot,” W. Steven Barnett testified in the school funding lawsuit against Texas.

Monday, November 5, 2012
(The Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI)

A $130 million initiative for pre-kindergarten education is in the early stages of development, according to the Michigan Department of Education, and a local early childhood expert is calling it one of the wisest investments the community can make for children.

Sunday, November 4, 2012
(Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, CO)

“Gus the Bus” is a partnership between the Garfield School District Re-2 and the Aspen Community Foundation (ACF) to bring preschool to children right in their own neighborhoods.  The classroom on wheels delivers free preschool education to children ages 3-5 from low-income families who do not otherwise have access to preschool programs.