Volume 11, Issue 3

February 10, 2012

Hot Topics

With results that are not surprising to anyone in the early education field, a year-long study concluded that children in central Texas evidence an achievement gap as early as age 3. While 52 percent of children overall were considered ready for kindergarten, in low-income areas that number dropped to as low as 12 percent. Researchers from UCLA looked at a range of factors - including communication skills, cognitive development, emotional maturity, fine motor skills, language development, and problem solving - and found that children from low-income families fared worse than their peers in financially better-off families.
In other news, a study published in American Behavioral Scientist suggests that students' focus - or lack thereof - is a bigger predictor of their school performance than family income. Researchers from Columbia University and Mathematica examined the reading and math scores of kindergarten students from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, with a special focus on the children's attention problems and aggressive behavior in addition to the usual demographics of gender, race, and socioeconomic status. Children exhibiting attention difficulties were the most likely to have low scores on measures of math and reading, even more so than children from any income bracket or race. Furthermore, when classrooms had children with attention problems present, the other children in the class were also likely to have lower scores. Aggressive behavior alone did not appear to affect a child's own achievement scores as much.
A longitudinal study out of Texas A&M University has been looking at students’ achievement from when they entered first grade in 2000, finding that a supportive relationship with a teacher could help boost achievement. Specifically, having a nurturing teacher had the biggest effect on children with poor self-regulation skills. Furthermore, these effective teachers could boost children’s achievement not only while they were in their classrooms but well into the later school years, following the students from first grade to sixth grade.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, found that when mothers provided support to help their 3- to 6-year-old children regulate their emotions during an experimental trial, this was predictive of larger hippocampal volumes when the children reached school age. Hippocampal volumes measure the area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is connected to memory and stress regulation - both key components to learning. Study results are published in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, while HealthDay provides a layman’s overview of the experiment and its findings.
A 2004 case, Moore vs. Alaska, was finally settled late in January with the agreement that the state will provide an additional $18 million for rural districts. Specifically, the funding will go to the state’s 40 lowest-performing schools in order for the state to meet its constitutional obligation for public education. Of the $18 million, $6 million is set aside to design and implement two-year kindergarten literacy programs. This case is by no means a stand-alone incident - several states, such as New Jersey and South Carolina, have seen early education programs blossom from court decisions.
Whether it’s at home or at the state level, budgets are never a fun time for anyone. But California’s proposed budget has particularly bad news for the state’s youngest citizens. Child care, state-funded preschool, and the new transitional kindergarten program (so new it has not even been implemented yet) are all slated for cuts. These proposed cuts have met with opposition from many, including preschool advocates and newspaper editorial boards, and threaten to add to the economic recession’s toll on women and children.
The Office of Head Start is seeking non-federal reviewers who will be available on a part-time basis over the summer to critically evaluate grant applications for Head Start and Early Head Start programs. These grant reviewers will work in an online environment, serving on four-person review panels via conference calls, to evaluate applications against established objective criteria. Detailed descriptions of the position information and qualifications, as well as an application, can be found on the web site for the Office of Head Start.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

In this post, NIEER Director Steve Barnett continues his analysis of issues from the new book The Pre-K Debates with a discussion on the intersection between high-quality preschool classrooms and teacher education and wages.

Calendar

 

 
February 15, 2012 - February 16, 2012
Washington, DC - At this second summit on home-visiting programs, participants will explore the policy and practice behind the topic.
March 10, 2012 - March 10, 2012
New York, NY - This event will feature workshops and speakers discussing the developmental needs of children and how educators can effectively teach the youngest learners.
March 14, 2012 - March 16, 2012
Salt Lake City, UT - At this conference, participants will learn about and discuss research and best practices involving the use of technology in early childhood education.
March 25, 2012 - March 27, 2012
San Diego, CA - This conference draws together national and international participants to discuss issues of relevance to family literacy.
March 28, 2012 - March 31, 2012
Washington, DC - This conference will challenge attendees to consider how to provide a positive childhood experience for the youth of the world.
March 28, 2012 - March 31, 2012
Clearwater Beach, FL - This event brings together experts from around the country who present workshops offering practical information on social-emotional development.
April 12, 2012 - April 14, 2012
Dublin, Ireland - This conference will provide participants with the opportunity to engage in an interdisciplinary discussion about the development of Froebel's educational philosophy.
April 16, 2012 - April 21, 2012
Nashville, TN - This annual conference will feature valuable sessions for all those who work to ensure vulnerable children and families have what they need to succeed in school and life.
April 30, 2012 - May 3, 2012
Greensboro, NC - This conference provides professional development for early care and education leaders dedicated to improving access to and the quality of early childhood programs.
May 10, 2012 - May 12, 2012
Wheeling, IL - This conference provides professional development for early childhood leaders, offering opportunities to validate their work and also explore new and innovative ways to lead successfully.
May 14, 2012 - May 16, 2012
Chapel Hill, NC – At this conference, participants will learn the latest research findings related to inclusive policy, professional development, and practice.
June 10, 2012 - June 13, 2012
Indianapolis, IN - The goal of this conference is to deepen participants' understanding of the expanding early childhood knowledge base and develop skills that improve professional practice.
June 18, 2012 - June 19, 2012
Tallinn, Estonia - This conference will explore research on children's need for undirected time and space for play.
November 7, 2012 - November 10, 2012
Atlanta, GA - This early childhood education conference offers hundreds of presentations and exhibits to the tens of thousand of educators that attend.

Early Education News Roundup

February 10, 2012
The Burlington Free Press, Burlington, VT
If we are to be serious about reducing the dropout rate in this country we have to begin much earlier. Many low income and children with special needs fall behind their classmates as early as kindergarten.
February 9, 2012
Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, Howell, MI
Literacy experts agree that reading aloud to your child from an early age is the single best way to prepare him or her to learn to read. Those good reading skills will provide the foundation for acquiring other knowledge later on.
February 8, 2012
Los Angeles Times
Transitional kindergarten, a new grade level scheduled to start in most California school districts this fall, is being touted by educators as a means to boost children's future academic achievement and help level the playing field for low-income and disadvantaged students by giving them an extra year of preparation.
February 7, 2012
Albuquerque Journal
A coalition of educational, religious and labor groups wants to increase the annual distribution from the $10 billion fund over the course of a decade – from budget year 2014 to 2023 – and use that money for early childhood education programs operated by the state.
February 7, 2012
Athens Banner-Herald, Athens, GA
The state should re-institute income limits on the HOPE Scholarship and put more lottery money into the pre-K program in order to save the threatened programs, according to an Atlanta-based think tank.
February 7, 2012
Times Union, Albany, NY
Early education is at risk across New York. School aid cuts have meant the slashing of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs around the state, according to a report released Tuesday by a coalition of education advocacy groups.
February 7, 2012
Sun Sentinel. Fort Lauderdale, FL
Preschool is an appropriate time to begin teaching children the importance of healthy eating habits to encourage a lifetime of good health and prevent obesity.
February 7, 2012
Early Ed Watch blog (New America Foundation)
When the Obama Administration unveiled its priorities for the early childhood version of Race to the Top, two focus areas were apparent at the start: improving access to high-quality early learning programs for high-need children and creating coordinated systems of early education, birth through pre-kindergarten. To do both, the administration designed the competition to favor states with big plans for rating the quality of childcare and pre-K programs and using those ratings to prompt improvements.
February 6, 2012
The Gazette. Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Developmental psychologist and bestselling author Dr. Gordon Neufeld has thoughts about early childhood education that may come as an unwelcome surprise to parents of preschoolers and education policy-makers. Neufeld is against four-year-old kindergarten. He's also against five year-old kindergarten. And possibly even six-year-old kindergarten. Unless, of course, kindergarten is all about play and not at all about results.
February 5, 2012
The Star-Advertiser, Honolulu, HI
The elimination of junior kindergarten in 2013 would be delayed by a year to give officials more time to develop a statewide preschool program, under a plan supported by legislators.
February 5, 2012
The Oregonian
Gov. John Kitzhaber wants sweeping changes in early childhood programs in Oregon to make them better coordinated, easier for the neediest families to access and more focused on preparing youngsters for kindergarten.
February 2, 2012
Winston-Salem Journal
Good preschool education for at-risk youngsters leads to better performance in school and, in adult life, less need for expensive social assistance, less criminal activity and more economic production.
February 2, 2012
Hartford Courant
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed a $12 million investment Thursday to improve and expand access to state preschool programs, an area he has identified as a priority for the upcoming legislative session that he wants to see focused largely on education reform.
January 31, 2012
Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT
UPSTART, an in-home pilot program geared toward 4-year-olds, was created by the Legislature in 2009. It hinges on software developed by Salt Lake City's Waterford Institute and focuses on literacy and math, helping to lay foundations for learning before kids enter school.
January 30, 2012
Reno Gazette-Journal
One measurement that reflects the state's sagging grade of D in school financing is the C- in early education. State schools superintendent Keith Rheault said comprehensive prekindergarten education is a fiscal issue.
January 30, 2012
The Detroit News
In September, public schools must offer all-day kindergarten to receive full funding for each kindergarten pupil, under rules approved last year by the Legislature. Districts still can offer half-day programs but will lose half of their per-pupil funding for each student.
January 29, 2012
The Blade, Toledo, OH
[Steven] Barnett, who is also a professor of education, economics, and policy at Rutgers, said that although there is a great deal of monitoring and regulation of Head Start by the federal government, there is little focus on how much children learn.
January 28, 2012
The Cincinnati Enquirer
In the past decade, Ohio and Kentucky joined a majority of states in dramatically increasing what they spend on early learning. The recession and state budget cuts, however, slashed early learning spending in both states since.

Resources

This report from the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative highlights data from the early childhood education and care initiatives of the 37 states that applied for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, noting progress already made and reforms that could be initiated based on the states’ plans put forth in their applications.
In a report released this week, Winning Beginning NY describes cuts to New York’s state-funded pre-K program since 2007 and calls for additional funding for early childhood education programs in the 2012-2013 budget.
This report from the National Children’s Bureau Research Centre gives the results of an 18-month study of 581 English childminders, which examined their views and understanding of children’s learning and development and how these ideas were put into practice.