Volume 11, Issue 26

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hot Topics

At this time of year, we’d like to wish everyone a happy holiday season and best wishes for the new year. NIEER offices will be closed from December 24th until January 2nd, and the next issue of our online newsletter will come out in 2013.

As many of you know, pre-K advocates aren’t all teachers and educational researchers -- preschool education has wide support from other areas including the business community, economists, military leaders, and more. Lately, some high-profile supporters have been making waves in the media with their advocacy for preschool. These include: volunteers for the NAACP lobbying at state and local levels for improved pre-K services in addition to other educational reforms; TD Bank’s chief economist speaking on the economic benefits of pre-K investments; and a retired Air Force Lt. General writing an op-ed about early education’s importance. But while big names tend to make a bigger splash, everyone’s support helps to improve pre-K access and quality. To that end, NIEER introduced a collaborative Pinterest board filled with resources to help advocates make the case for supporting preschool education.

Over the past couple of months, NIEER released a two-part blog series “Preschool for Y’All” looking at the distinctly higher rate of state-funded pre-K access and enrollment in the South as well as possible historical occurrences contributing to growth. Last week, American Prospect published an in-depth look at pre-K in Oklahoma, tracking how the program evolved from the dream of one education policymaker into a widely embraced integral part of education in the Sooner State. State-funded pre-K varies in its features from state to state, but our State of Preschool Yearbook finds that significant disparities exist in access, quality, and spending across states, including those “no program” states, which lack these programs completely.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the 132 Head Start grantees who are currently up for recompetition will have to wait until spring to learn the outcome, rather than the original December deadline. HHS has largely been mum on the topic of recompetition, though Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did reveal that more than 500 applications were submitted for the grant. More than 1,300 individuals applied to judge the applications, ultimately resulting in “a cadre of approximately 460 qualified, nonfederal reviewers.” The announcement comes on the heels of the release of an HHS report offering recommendations for improving Head Start, mentioned in our last newsletter. Recompetition has been controversial since it was included in the 2007 program reauthorization. The New America Foundation released a brief this week delving into what is known about recompetition so far, and what it means for Head Start’s future.

A new study of the Texas School Public Prekindergarten Program is out from the Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER). The study used individual child-level data collected by the state and found that children who had participated in the state-funded pre-K program performed better on third grade math and reading standardized test scores compared to those who did not; they also had lower rates of grade retention and special education services. All of these outcomes have been demonstrated before in intensive studies of small-scale, high-quality pre-K programs, but these results are notable considering that the Texas program is the largest state-funded program in the country and meets few of NIEER’s quality standards benchmarks. Sara Mead provides detailed analysis of what these results means for those who continue to contend that evidence of pre-K’s effectiveness is unclear while Tim Bartik explores the even larger impact the Texas program could have if it was higher quality. Note that the estimated effects are quite small at third grade, about 5 percent of a standard deviation on achievement.  It is also noteworthy that the dissertation that led to this work, which was published in 2008, found that two years of preschool had larger effects than one year, and that better teacher-child ratios produced better results for English language learners in particular.

Congratulations are in order for Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin, the states that have been awarded grants through the second round of the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC). These fives states were high scorers in the first round announced last year and were able to resubmit revised applications to compete for half of their initial grant amounts. These states join the nine states that had already received grants and will receive their awards over a four-year grant period. The second round had raised concerns that reduced funding could constrain state plans and that by inviting only these five states to apply, RTT-ELC was losing some of the incentive to achieve intended in this competition. The U.S. Department of Education also announced 16 recipients of district-level Race to the Top grants, although this competition was not specific to early childhood education.


This fact sheet from the National Center for Children in Poverty discusses the variety of factors that put children at risk for school failure, providing data on the prevalence of these risk factors at the state and national level.

Intended for policymakers and other decision-makers, this issue brief from Mathematica Policy Research’s Center for Improving Research Evidence explains how to sift through and make sense of the research on a given topic in order to make informed, evidence-based choices.

This paper from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) provides a framework for discussing early learning standards and their potential alignment with standards for K-12 education, particularly in light of the adoption of the Common Core standards by a majority of states.

From the Alliance for a Better Community and the National Council of La Raza comes this report on teachers’ role in serving bilingual preschoolers, with a particular focus on the competencies outlined for the California early childhood education workforce in the areas of social-emotional development and literacy and language development.

This series of fact sheets from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education provides policymakers and other decision-makers in the education field with research and recommendations on a variety of issues related to children’s literacy development.

New on nieer.org

This working paper by NIEER Director Steve Barnett and NIEER Associate Director of Research Milagros Nores estimates participation in early childhood education programs by child’s age, program setting, family income level, and child’s household language. By combining data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), the National Household Education Survey (NHES), and information collected by NIEER for the State of Preschool Yearbook, their estimates provide a detailed look at primary and secondary care arrangements for children ages 2 to 4 in 2010.


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, April 30, 2013 to Friday, May 3, 2013

Washington, DC - This early childhood education conference offers hundreds of presentations and exhibits to the tens of thousands of educators that attend.

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012
(The Montclair Times, Montclair, NJ)

Like any other Pre-K classroom, Salon Trece is decorated with numbers and vocabulary words. Except in this case they are in both English and Spanish, as are the posters, books, song lyrics, labels, audio tapes and other instructional materials.

Thursday, December 13, 2012
(Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, IN)

All of our neighboring states publicly fund pre-kindergarten to some degree. The concept is not cheap, and its implementation would be complex, given the existing network of private and faith-based preschools, as well as the federally funded Head Start program. Still, the long-term benefits would offset the up-front costs and the logistical hurdles.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
(The Times-Picayune)

In a move to encourage schools to offer pre-kindergarten in the underserved New Orleans market, the Recovery School District is allowing elementary schools to enroll pre-K students directly into kindergarten, rather than requiring them to apply through the new common enrollment system called "OneApp." Schools are currently deciding whether or not to apply for the exemption.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
(Times Union, Albany, NY)

One rather simple solution is to mandate and fully fund universal pre-kindergarten. Data show that participation in pre-K is a significant predictor of readiness, and results are demonstrably better for children starting at age 3 than those starting at age 4.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012
(Early Years blog at Education Week)

Mexican-American preschoolers lag behind their white peers when it comes to early language and literacy development, but their social-emotional skills are just as strong, according to new findings from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Monday, December 10, 2012
(The Philadelphia Inquirer)

So what do early-childhood experiences, exposures, and speech have to do with health? Several studies have shown that early exposure to words, especially novel words spoken with kindness, improves academic success. That, in turn, promotes a lifetime of improved health. Better health leads back to academic success, which fuels the next generation. The spoken word resonates.

Monday, December 10, 2012
(Early Years blog at Education Week)

Score one for Florida's early-learning coalitions, which have won a battle over how the state allocates funding to those regional agencies.  The 31 regional coalitions had protested a new funding formula implemented in July that accounted for population shifts in the state, and resulted in huge cuts for some coalitions and more money for others.

Monday, December 10, 2012
(Wausau Daily Herald, Wausau, WI)

YoungStar got a big boost last week when Wisconsin won a $22.7 million grant in federal Race to the Top funding to be spent in the next four years on expanding the program and improving its data collection system.

Friday, December 7, 2012
(The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA)

Despite concerns about adequate funding, a committee of Louisiana’s top school board Tuesday approved plans to overhaul the state’s often-criticized pre-kindergarten system.  The plan, which sparked mostly positive comments from child-care leaders, was endorsed by a committee of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education without dissent.

Friday, December 7, 2012
(Statesman Journal, Salem, OR)

A $20 million Race to the Top grant will help parents better determine quality preschool and childcare programs while offering providers a pathway to improve.  Oregon will use the money to develop a rating system that evaluates preschool and daycare programs on a scale of one through five based on criteria including staff training.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
(Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh, PA)

By making play more purposeful, preschool teachers are trying to meet standards adopted six years ago by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  As a result, preschool or early childhood education has become more academic, teachers and administrators say.

Monday, December 3, 2012
(The Journal News, White Plains, NY)

Kindergarten has landed in the budget-cutting crosshairs in at least two local districts, and amid the continued squeeze of the state’s tax cap and a post-recession economy, more school boards could target the non-mandated grade. The threat to kindergarten comes as the state ramps up educational accountability — by adopting tougher Common Core curriculum standards and new teacher evaluations that measure educators based partly on student performance.

Sunday, December 2, 2012
(The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN)

Is Indiana ready for state-sponsored pre-kindergarten programs?  That’s precisely the question Indiana University education experts asked in a policy brief more than six years ago. The answer, of course, was “no” – Indiana today remains one of just 11 states that spends no money on preschool.