Volume 11, Issue 4

February 24, 2012

Hot Topics

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the state of the workforce in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) field based on data from the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Community Survey. Among the findings are that not many of the approximately 1.8 million employed in ECEC are well-educated or well paid. Almost half of all child care teachers and 20 percent of preschool teachers had only a high school diploma. Average annual incomes were low with $11,500 for a child care teacher and $18,000 for a preschool teacher. Indeed, 77 percent of ECEC workers earned less than $22,000 per year, which is slightly below the federal poverty line for a family of four. Paying poverty level wages to those who provide care and education to our youngest children is a recipe for failure on a massive scale.
In related news, the National Academies Press has published a new report, The Early Childhood Care and Education Workforce: Challenges and Opportunities, which examines factors currently surrounding the ECEC field and its workers as well as opportunities to strengthen the profession by resolving challenges and reducing disparities. The report is based on presentations and panel discussions from a 2011 workshop conducted by the Board on Child, Youth, and Families of the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. Among the presenters were NIEER Director Steven Barnett and NIEER Scientific Advisory Board member Margaret Burchinal.
University of Chicago researchers found that 2- to 3-year-old children who engage in puzzle play exhibit better spatial skills by age 4, compared to those who don’t. Spatial skills in turn predict increased math skills later in life. These findings are consistent with what NIEER researchers reported in the policy brief Math and Science in Preschool: Policies and Practice.

Other findings from the University of Chicago study include that boys played with more complicated puzzles, were provided with more spatial language scaffolding from their parents, and performed better in spatial skills tasks at 4 years old. The researchers concluded that further studies are needed to determine if these findings are the result of gender differences or societal expectations.

A new study published in Pediatrics found that intervention programs designed to promote effective parenting also ended up reducing obesity rates. Researchers looked specifically at two programs, ParentCorps and Incredible Years, which were designed to help preschool-age children at high risk of behavioral problems. The programs worked with low-income urban families, giving lessons that did not specifically teach about healthy eating or exercise. However, when researchers followed up with these children as they approached adolescence, intervention participants were significantly less likely to be obese compared to children in a control group.
Parents helping their preschool-age children to identify their emotions can help reduce major depressive symptoms in those children, according to a pilot study from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. Researchers adapted the Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) intervention to include a third module focusing on emotion development. The module coaches parents to help their children identify, understand, and regulate a range of different emotions. Diagnosed children showed more improvement in both emotion regulation and executive function when their parents were part of the module than when their parents received information about emotional development but no coaching. The study’s findings are published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal reports on an analysis out of the University of Manitoba and the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario that finds a link between physical punishment of children and a host of mental health and developmental difficulties, including aggression, alcohol abuse, antisocial behavior, anxiety, cognitive impairment including lower IQ, depression, and drug use. The authors reached these conclusions after examining 20 years of published research reports on the issue, noting that these challenges follow children as they grow into adults.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

NIEER Policy Research Coordinator Megan Carolan breaks down the president's proposed budget with an eye on early education and care programs and initiatives.

New on nieer.org

This NIEER working paper examines school readiness from the parental perspective, examining their efforts and expectations for kindergarten in conjunction with their child's development.



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.
July 15, 2012 - July 18, 2012
Baltimore, MD – The theme of The CAYL Institute's conference is "What Really Works? Impact and Innovation for Young Learners."

Early Education News Roundup

February 22, 2012
News & Record, Greensboro, NC
Gov. Beverly Perdue says she's shifting money to enroll another 2,000 at-risk 4-year-olds in a state program that helps them catch up to their peers before entering kindergarten.
February 21, 2012
The Boston Globe
Preschools have long followed the practice of elementary education and dabbled with bits and pieces of science-based teaching in their everyday learning: Playing with blocks, for example, learning numbers, and coloring are all aspects of engineering, math, and science. But what is happening now is that such lessons are becoming formalized within a preschool curriculum.
February 21, 2012
KHON2, Honolulu, HI
State officials are trying to figure out how to best teach Hawaii's preschool aged residents. On Thursday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee will decide whether to give the administration $500,000 to establish an executive office on early learning.
February 20, 2012
The Telegraph, Nashua, NH
Although kindergarten was recently made part of a required public education, public preschool is not mandated by the state. There is a national push for greater access to early childhood education, but New Hampshire is one of 10 states with no public preschool program, according to a 2010 report by the National Institute for Early Education Research.
February 20, 2012
The News-Press, Fort Myers, FL
Governance of a billion-dollar business is the subject of a heated debate this session, but it's mostly been under the radar – until now, as bills revamping school readiness programs reach the House and Senate floors this week.
February 17, 2012
The New York Times
Children do not all start at the same place, but they all can benefit from building self-control. Though many children develop this ability at home, children of stressed and overwhelmed parents have fewer opportunities to do so and benefit greatly from preschool programs as preparation for later schooling.
February 16, 2012
The Indianapolis Star
Indiana law requires babies to have their hearing screened at birth, but many children do not receive hearing screenings again until they're about to start kindergarten, said Melissa McComb, a registered nurse at Early Head Start.
February 16, 2012
FOX19, Cincinnati, OH
Gov. Steve Beshear is pushing for Kentucky to expand family financial assistance for its early childhood education efforts. The governor called for raising the eligibility level for 4-year-olds in families whose income is at or below 160 percent of poverty level in Fiscal Year 2014 and increasing it to 200 percent by the end of his term.
February 15, 2012
The Washington Times
A D.C. Council committee is vetting a bill Thursday that ensures third-graders are ready for fourth grade, a reflection of efforts across the country to gauge academic progress in the early years of children’s education. The bill also calls on the D.C. Public Schools chancellor to ensure that 3- and 4-year-olds are prepared for kindergarten.
February 14, 2012
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
Scientific evidence gathered by the Memphis-based Urban Child Institute demonstrates that intervention programs targeting the early years of a child's life are far more effective than later remediation. The findings leave some educators wondering why, in a poor community like Memphis more resources are not pouring into early childhood education.
February 13, 2012
Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN
Like states from Iowa to Florida, Minnesota's literacy push is centered on ensuring reading well by third grade -- a critical year when children shift from "learning to read" to "reading to learn."
February 13, 2012
The Journal News, White Plains, NY
The state's Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program began in September 1998 with the intention of offering access to early education for all 4-year-olds in New York within four years. But 14 years later, 66 percent of the roughly 700 school districts in New York participate. About 100,000 children are enrolled in such programs — 43 percent of the approximately 230,000 4-year-olds in the state.
February 13, 2012
The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA
Louisiana students entering kindergarten next year will be expected to possess certain skills before they even attend their first day of school. The expectations are part of the state's implementation of new common core state standards, an initiative that aims to provide educators and parents with an understanding of what students are expected to learn and know at each grade level.
February 12, 2012
The Journal Courier, Jacksonville, IL
With grants drying up at the federal and state level for pre-kindergarten programs, some districts are uncertain what the future of those programs will look like.


This report from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment describes the educational experiences of students obtaining bachelor's degrees in early childhood education and provides recommendations for evaluating the quality of higher education programs in the ECEC field.
This policy report from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) summarizes current state policies regarding assessments of children enrolled in preschool education programs, acknowledging both the benefits and limitations of different approaches to documenting preschoolers' learning outcomes.
This guide from the National Association for the Education of Young children (NAEYC) provides support for states developing and implementing systems for kindergarten readiness assessments.