Volume 11, Issue 6

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hot Topics

As parents of preschool-age children begin looking ahead to September and enrolling their children in kindergarten, CBS News has been looking at the practice of kindergarten redshirting. This practice involves parents keeping their children out of kindergarten for an extra year even though they meet the relevant cutoff date, and it derives its name from a similar practice used in college athletics. The idea is that when their children do enter kindergarten the following year, they will be maturer and better able to handle the academic rigor of elementary school. CBS's 60 Minutes segment on kindergarten redshirting found that children with certain demographic features (Caucasian, male, and from higher-income families) were more likely than their peers to be held back by their parents from entering kindergarten. Make sure to look out for Samuel Meisels, president of Erikson Institute, and his contributions to this segment. In a 60 Minutes Overtime feature, staff members debated the reasons for and against the practice of kindergarten redshirting. NIEER addressed the issue of kindergarten age cutoffs and academic redshirting back in 2002.

Last week MSNBC news anchor Andrea Mitchell moderated a forum titled "Education Now: Cities at the Forefront of Education Reform," with a panel made up of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Convening at American University in D.C., the panel was expanded about half-way through to include these school districts' superintendents - Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy, New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. The panelists spoke about the successes and challenges of educational reform in these cities, which represent nearly 2.5 million students.

Mitchell opened up the hour-long discussion by noting, "Education is, as we know, at the forefront of all of the problems we face as a nation. Every social and political problem really comes together at the crossroads of our school systems. It's the core of the twin crises of unemployment and lagging behind in global competitiveness." Other participants echoed these sentiments with Mayor Bloomberg stating that "Education is the key to participating in the American dream," and Mayor Villaraigosa declaring, "This is the economic issue of our time, the civil rights issue of our time, and the democracy issue of our time when you look at the issue of education particularly in urban schools."

Beginning at the 38-minute mark, the discussion turned to early childhood education, and Secretary Duncan mentioned a "cradle to career agenda," stating "If we're serious about closing achievement gaps ... we have to look at this continuum. Early childhood is arguably the best investment we can make." Secretary Duncan also noted, "We have children entering kindergarten reading fluently; we have other children entering kindergarten who don't know the front of the book from the back of the book, who haven't been read to. ... We have to get poor children and black and brown children into high-quality programs where their literacy skills and their socialization skills are intact once they enter kindergarten." Chancellor Dennis Walcott also addressed the idea of an educational continuum beginning in early childhood by mentioning the Common Core standards covering pre-K through grade 12.

Backed by research demonstrating that literacy in the early grades is a key step toward academic success, states are increasingly mandating grade retention for those students who are not up to a reading benchmark by the third grade. Such bills have recently been passed in Arizona, Indiana, and Oklahoma, and are being considered in Iowa, New Mexico, and Tennessee. As was noted in a recent editorial in the Arizona Daily Star regarding their new retention law, "Even if resources are devoted to helping children who are behind, waiting until third grade is often too late ... We need to invest now in early literacy education for children under 5 years old to ensure they can read by the time they are in the third grade."

Earlier this week, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber signed into law two education bills, including one designed to consolidate various early childhood education programs for increased oversight and efficiency. The legislation abolishes 36 county-level commissions on children and families, instead concentrating power in the Early Learning Council established by the 2011 legislative session to identify children at risk of not being ready for kindergarten. The bill would also establish regional hubs that report to the Early Learning Council as well as a quality rating system for child care programs.

Meanwhile in Washington, a bill on Governor Chris Gregoire's desk would require that the Washington Department of Early Learning adopt a set of expectations about the core competencies for early care and education teachers. The purpose of the bill is to establish a set of standards that would support professionalism in the field by spelling out what preschool teachers need to know in order to provide high-quality care and education.

Alaska's state Senate Education Committee has passed a proposal allowing state funds for preschool education at the district level. The proposed expansion would cost about $41.8 million per year and serve 4- and 5-year-old kids in optional half-day programs. The bill's sponsors, Senators Bettye Davis and Hollis French, say that the bill would build on the positive results seen in the state's pilot pre-K program, which was profiled for the first time in NIEER's The State of Preschool 2010 and is considered to be a contributing factor to the increased kindergarten readiness scores seen in the results of the state Department of Education & Early Learning's Developmental Profile assessment. The bill now moves to the state Senate Finance Committee for approval.

The Indiana Legislature is considering a bill that would start the process toward offering state-funded preschool. The measure in the state Senate would call for establishing an advisory committee of state legislators to create a template for a statewide preschool education initiative. Indiana is one of only 11 states to not offer a state-funded pre-K program. Furthermore, in the 2009-2010 school year, the state enrolled just barely 15 percent of its 4-year-olds in the federal special education preschool and Head Start programs, with only five states in the nation enrolling fewer children. The state Legislature is also considering a bill that would provide $80 million to fund all-day kindergarten throughout the state, with passage of that bill considered likely.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

NIEER Assistant Research Professor Shannon Ayers provides an overview of assessment in preschool and reviews the new ETS report on state pre-K assessment policies.

In this recent blog post, NIEER Director Steve Barnett reproves the North Carolina Legislature for considering a plan to move the state's high-quality pre-K program to the child care domain.

Resources

This blueprint report from the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign provides ideas for implementing policy reforms to increase student success at every stage of the educational pipeline, starting with universal preschool.

This presentation from Jacques van der Gaag, Senior Fellow at the Center for Universal Education, makes the economic case for investing in early childhood interventions, including education.

This policy brief from Cynthia Rice of the Advocates for Children of New Jersey discusses collaboration amongst public and private preschool providers.

NIEER Activities

After five years of research, development, and pilot testing, the Early Learning Scale (ELS) will soon be available to preschool programs nationwide. This authentic and meaningful assessment was developed by NIEER researchers and provides teachers with a developmentally appropriate system for assessing 3- to 5-year-olds' progress toward meeting early learning expectations — all in a concise, manageable manner. The ELS is focused on standards rather than specific curricula and is designed to help educators become "participant observers" who use rich data to support children's learning and guide instruction. The ELS offers an online system, developed in conjunction with The Center: Resources for Teaching & Learning, for programs interested in using technology to support assessment. The ELS will be available for purchase April 4 through Lakeshore Learning Materials. To learn more, call (800) 421-5354 and ask for Custom Learning Solutions.

NIEER is now on Pinterest, the social media site that allows users to curate collections of resources by "pinning" via images. The idea is that users are able to create virtual bulletin boards that can be shared amongst other Pinterest users. For instance, teachers can pin lesson plans and classroom activities, which are then easily accessible to other teachers and thereby fostering an collaborative environment. NIEER joins the Pinterest community by adding resources related to early childhood education, preschool, kindergarten, child development, special education, and English Language Learners. Come join the conversation!

Calendar

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 to Friday, 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.

Sunday, March 25, 2012 to Tuesday, March 27, 2012

San Diego, CA - This conference draws together national and international participants to discuss issues of relevance to family literacy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 to Saturday, 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.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 to Saturday, 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.

Thursday, April 12, 2012 to Saturday, 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.

Monday, April 16, 2012 to Saturday, 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.

Monday, April 30, 2012 to Thursday, 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.

Thursday, May 17, 2012 to Saturday, May 19, 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.

Monday, May 14, 2012 to Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Chapel Hill, NC – At this conference, participants will learn the latest research findings related to inclusive policy, professional development, and practice.

Monday, June 18, 2012 to Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tallinn, Estonia - This conference will explore research on children's need for undirected time and space for play.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012 to Thursday, June 21, 2012

New York, NY – Join caregivers, teachers, family child care providers, trainers, special educators, librarians, and others for this three-day institute.

Sunday, July 15, 2012 to Wednesday, 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

Thursday, March 8, 2012
(The Connecticut Mirror)

While there is no shortage of anecdotes about preschool playtime turning into a learning experience, there has been little proof that the $220 million that Connecticut has been investing in these programs every year is producing results. "It's astounding," Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said of the state's failure to ever compare the achievement of students who attended preschool to those who did not.

Thursday, March 8, 2012
(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Hundreds of teachers left Georgia's lottery-funded pre-k program after last year's budget cuts, and most aren't expected to rush back on the promise of slightly bigger but still-downsized paychecks. The program, which serves 84,000 students and has long been lauded nationally by advocates of early childhood education, took a hit to its reputation – and, some say, its quality – with last year's cutbacks.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012
(Early Years blog at Education Week)

Parents and educators are grappling all the time with how much young children should be exposed to using technology and interactive media. How appropriate is it for 4-year-olds, for example, to be using applications — even educational ones — on iPads?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012
(The New York Times)

Dentists offer a number of reasons so many preschoolers suffer from such extensive dental decay. Though they are not necessarily new, they have combined to create a growing problem: endless snacking and juice or other sweet drinks at bedtime, parents who choose bottled water rather than fluoridated tap water for their children, and a lack of awareness that infants should, according to pediatric experts, visit a dentist by age 1 to be assessed for future cavity risk, even though they may have only a few teeth.

Monday, March 5, 2012
(Wired)

How can preschool alter the relative contribution of nature and nurture? And why does pre-k education make genetics more important?

Sunday, March 4, 2012
(CBS News 60 Minutes)

Kindergarten redshirting has more than tripled since the 1970s. Boys are twice as likely to be held back as girls, whites more than minorities and rich more than poor.

Thursday, March 1, 2012
(WRAL TV, Raleigh, NC)

Education advocates complained that the change would deny 30,000 children access to pre-K programs, and dozens of parents and teachers let lawmakers know they weren't pleased with the idea.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
(ABC 2 News)

Margaret Williams is the Executive Director of the Maryland Family Network; an organization that works to better train child care providers to help socialize and educate the children they care for. Williams' network is expected to be one of the stewards of the 55 million dollars Maryland won from the feds in last year's Race to the Top application.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
(New America Media)

Too frequently, though, Latino children don't have access to these high-quality programs, due to their high cost, or long waiting lists. Children of migrant families face even greater barriers to accessing such programs, said [Robert] Forbes, of the county's migrant program.

Monday, February 27, 2012
(Lexington Herald-Leader)

But most of all, we know this: Second only to good parenting, the quality of child care has significant impact on a child's development, early learning and propensity to succeed in life. And most of our at-risk children under the age of 6 are already in some kind of child-care setting.

Monday, February 27, 2012
(Education Week)

As Connecticut lawmakers consider sweeping reforms intended to close the achievement gap between wealthy and poor school districts, another gap is growing: the disparity between communities that offer full-day kindergarten and those that don't. But many blue-collar Connecticut communities, onetime farming towns and small suburbs find themselves in a dilemma: Their budgets are too tight to afford full-day kindergarten without cuts elsewhere, yet they're not quite poor enough to qualify for extra state or federal help or to draw support from private foundations.

Friday, February 24, 2012
(Winston-Salem Journal)

A legislative proposal to overhaul North Carolina's pre-K system would completely privatize pre-K classrooms by the summer of 2013, as well as leave fewer families eligible for state tuition assistance.