Volume 11, Issue 9.5

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hot Topics

The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced last week that it would distribute $133 million in FY 2012 funds through a second round of the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) initiative. Five states – Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin – that had high scores in the first round of RTT-ELC are eligible to apply for up to 50 percent of their requested award amount from last year’s competition. This round of funding – what Education Week has dubbed the “bridesmaids’ round” – is similar to how Race to the Top Round 3 funds were distributed for K-12 education.  Education Week provided a quick look at how these contenders stack up according to our newly released State Preschool Yearbook.  NIEER provided feedback on the original RTT-ELC announcement.

A recent report from America’s Edge calls for increased investments in early care and education programs in Kansas to “increase sales from local business, create jobs and grow the economy,” noting that investing in early learning opportunities would provide short-term gains as well as long-term economic security for the state. While this provides even more evidence for the need to support pre-K, it’s hardly the first report to acknowledge the economic benefits of preschool. In addition to decades of data on the return on investment for pre-K, last month a cost-benefit analysis from NIEER concluded that it would cost Alabama an estimated $2 billion not to support public preschool programs. This week, a Pennsylvania-based group held an economic summit on investing in early childhood education, with a panel that included economists Steve Barnett of NIEER and Tim Bartik of the W.E. Upjohn Institute, and was moderated by Sara Watson of America’s Promise Alliance. Also supporting pre-K at the event was Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley as well as David Lawrence, Jr., chair of The Children’s Movement of Florida whose new video advocates for investing in young children.

New research from Temple University found that teaching first graders just one 20-minute lesson on neuroscience vastly improved their knowledge of how the brain works, including sensory experiences, compared to a control group. Furthermore, this lesson could be taught by any teacher, including those without advanced training about neuroscience. This turns on its head the common wisdom that the complexity of the study of brain functioning requires the higher reasoning skills of teenagers or adults.

This research also builds on past studies by Stanford University professor Carol Dweck, who found that teaching children about how the brain develops and functions influences achievement behavior, including how children learn from failure. Instead of believing that their intelligence level is fixed, children with a cursory understanding of neuroscience persist in learning more and developing their intelligence. Dweck also found the opposite to be true – children as young as age 4 with no learning on brain development were susceptible to helpless responses in the face of failure.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

This blog post provides a brief rundown of media coverage based on the release of the 2011 edition of the State Preschool Yearbook.

With interactive data, NIEER Policy Research Coordinator Megan Carolan examines disparities in access to, as well as the funding and quality of, state pre-K across the United States.

This Saturday marks the beginning of World Immunization Week. NIEER’s Public Information Officer Jen Fitzgerald has more about this important health issue in this blog post.


This UNICEF report paints a picture of children’s lives around the globe on a number of measures, including education, health, nutrition, and demographics, and features interactive data as well as recommendations.

This report from the University of Texas at Austin provides results from a longitudinal study of Texan children finding that children who attended a school-based preschool education program outperformed those who did not on third grade assessments of reading and math skills. The most significant differences were for children from families with low incomes and/or limited English proficiency.

A new report from the New America Foundation explores Illinois’ recent efforts to close achievement gaps by including children in state-funded pre-K in public school outreach for English Language Learners.

New on nieer.org

NIEER’s web site has been re-designed. Come check out the new look at www.nieer.org!

NIEER Activities

NIEER’s Director Steve Barnett spoke with Jane Williams on Bloomberg Radio’s Bloomberg EDU podcast on April 5th, to discuss pre-K education and provide some insights from NIEER’s latest State Preschool Yearbook.

Did you know? NIEER's resident “science lady” Kimberly Brenneman, an assistant research professor who studies early science and mathematics learning, is also an educational adviser to the PBS show Sid the Science Kid.  Dr. Brenneman provides tips to parents and teachers about science in the preschool years via a blog and podcasts available at the PBS web site.


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.

Sunday, June 10, 2012 to Wednesday, 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.

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."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 to Saturday, November 10, 2012

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

Friday, November 16, 2012 to Saturday, November 17, 2012

Melbourne, Australia – The theme for the CEIEC "Honoring the Child, Honoring Equity 12" conference is "Troubling truths: bridging divides for equity."

Early Education News Roundup

Wednesday, April 18, 2012
(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

High-quality pre-k generates benefits far greater than costs by increasing later school success, reducing crime and increasing employment and earnings. That makes pre-k a wise public investment, but in seeking to expand pre-k Georgia undercut the foundation of benefits: good teachers, small classes and sufficient exposure to them.

Monday, April 16, 2012
(Daily Comet, Thibodaux, LA)

Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to coordinate Louisiana's patchwork system of prekindergarten and early childhood education programs neared final legislative passage, with a unanimous House vote today.

Sunday, April 15, 2012
(The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, Wheeling, WV)

State financing of education has been stable in West Virginia for many years. But Ohio's budget crunch, from which state government is just now emerging, has been hard on public education.

Friday, April 13, 2012
(Tulsa World)

After years of leading the nation in access to prekindergarten programs for 4-year-olds, Oklahoma has fallen to second and rolled back its funding levels to what it was a decade ago, according to a national report.

Friday, April 13, 2012

In advance of the Sixth Summit of the Americas to be held this weekend in Cartagena, Colombia, I interviewed international recording artist and philanthropist Shakira, who is a leading champion for early childhood development and universal education. In addition to serving as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Shakira is founder of the Barefoot Foundation and ALAS.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012
(Orlando Sentinel)

Research is inarguable: The best-trained teachers deliver the best results. Needy early learners often already are at least a step behind. By kindergarten, many are so far behind they never catch up — and eventually drop out.  Quality early learning programs produce different results.