Volume 12, Issue 2

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hot Topics

The Administration for Children and Families last week announced that 122 current Head Start grantees are in the second round of recompetition. The grantees, who were chosen for failing to meet certain quality standards, will have to compete for continued funding against new applicants and include programs operated by both school districts and private agencies. These providers join 132 grantees who were announced in the first round of recompetition in December 2011 but have not yet received a decision on their funding, as that announcement has been delayed until spring of this year.

Does pre-K matter as much for middle-income students as it does for low-income students? That question was explored in a recent Slate piece asserting that the research base stresses pre-K’s benefits only for low-income children. The early education world was quick to respond: Tim Bartik explains his Tulsa pre-K study found positive test score benefits for both low- and middle-income families, while Sara Mead notes that most of the research has been conducted on early education programs focused on low-income students only. In a recent blog, Susan Ochshorn addresses recent backsliding in the movement toward early education, calls for a reality check, and points out that the vast majority of Americans (one might say 99%) don’t live in the rarified world of wealthy New Yorkers competing for the best available preschools. This conversation comes at time when the federal government is rumored to be considering a plan to provide pre-K to all children below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, moving beyond just serving the neediest children in Head Start, though Lisa Guernsey of the New America Foundation has warned against reading into the Obama administration’s second term early education plans too early. 

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick made headlines earlier this month when he proposed spending up to $1 billion over the next four years for educational initiatives, including universal preschool. Specifically, the governor plans to offer $350 million in funding for early childhood education and care during that time, beginning with $131 million in fiscal year 2014. Besides expanding access, this new funding is intended to increase quality in early education programs through the state’s quality rating and improvement system, as well as contribute to additional family engagement initiatives and comprehensive support services. In Gov. Patrick’s prepared remarks for his address, he said, “We must ensure that every child in Massachusetts has access to high quality learning opportunities in their earliest years, when achievement gaps begin to form. We know from academic research, from years of public policy and from our own experience as parents that investing in our children at a young age pays huge dividends for them and for our community as a whole.  To those who say we cannot afford this, I challenge you to show me which 4-year old you think we should not invest in.”

Governor Patrick is not alone in expressing support for increased investment in early childhood education (ECE) for fiscal year 2014. Governors in several other states have recently expressed support for ECE in their locale, such as New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, as we reported in our last edition. Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon has said he will include additional funding for preschool in the budget he will present later this month, but no specifics are available yet. Likewise, Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan noted in his State of the State address that he will support Michigan’s state-funded pre-K program in his fiscal year 2014 budget due out next month but did not offer details at this time. A spokesperson for Alabama’s Governor Robert Bentley stated that the governor would be interested in expanding preschool access but his official budget proposal will not be available until next month.

Meanwhile, Oregon’s Governor John Kitzhaber’s “education first” biennium budget has much to say about building a birth through college educational system, including funding for education generally and aligning ECE services with K-12 education and beyond. This is all part of the governor’s 10-year goal that “Every Oregonian has the knowledge, skills, and credentials to succeed in life.” In her fiscal year 2014 budget recommendation, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez proposed more funding for several early learning and care initiatives - a $2.7 million boost to state pre-K funding to provide access for an added 750 to 800 students, a $7 million expansion for child care assistance to reach 1,600 more children, a $.5 million increase for the K-3 Plus intervention, and an additional $4.8 million for reading initiatives in the early elementary years. Also looking at the early elementary years, Nevada’s Governor Brian Sandoval said in his State of the State address that he plans to invest $20 million for a full-day kindergarten program and another $14 million for English language learners in kindergarten through third grade.

Governors are not the only ones making plans for pre-K and early education - state legislators are picking up the clarion call also. In Missouri, state Senator Joseph Keaveny introduced two bills with different funding plans - one targeted and one universal - for preschool education, although his colleagues expressed hesitation about the costs. Maryland state Senator Bill Ferguson plans to file a bill dedicating some of the state’s gambling revenue to increase access to early education programs for approximately 1,000 preschoolers a year, to the tune of $52 million each year. Meanwhile, Alabama state Representative Jay Love is hoping to increase funding for the state’s pre-K program by $12 million in fiscal year 2014 as part of a process to move toward statewide preschool availability in 10 years. Florida state Representative Erik Fresen is also focusing on pre-K funding - but rather than adding or detracting to the current funding, he’s interested in sponsoring legislation to address the state’s funding formula, as well as to establish administrative authority for ECE programs under the state’s Department of Education. In Indiana, one of 11 states without a state-funded pre-K program, state Representative Brian Bosma and other legislators plan to pilot preschool scholarships for low-income families, investing $7 million a year over two years. And, in Minnesota, among the first bills filed during the 2013 legislative session was one to provide funding - specifically $170 million annually - for full-day kindergarten programs.

Earlier this month, D.C. council member Vincent Orange sponsored a bill requiring that children in kindergarten through third grade be assessed for their literacy skills; if by the end of third grade students are not scoring as proficient, they would be held back from fourth grade. This proposed legislation in the nation’s capital follows suit as other states consider or enact third grade remediation mandates based on reading proficiency. In Ohio, a similar requirement is being piloted this year and will be fully implemented by the 2013-2014 school year; policymakers in both Kansas and New Mexico are weighing the idea of establishing mandates in the same vein.

In Tennessee's largest city, lawmakers are considering a tax hike to benefit pre-K education, as reported in The Commercial Appeal and The Daily News. City council members Jim Strickland and Shea Flinn have a proposal to raise sales taxes in Memphis by one-half cent, garnering an estimated $47 million in revenue for the city. Their proposal includes that $27 million of the generated funds be used to support public preschool programs while the remaining $20 million be employed in reducing the city’s property tax rate. Pending approval from the council, this proposal will be on the ballots as a referendum, which voters can approve - or not - as early as August.

Researchers from The Pennsylvania State University and the University of California, Irvine examined data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) with the question in mind of whether minority children were disproportionately represented in early intervention/special education services. Amongst this dataset of nearly 8,000 4-year-olds, they found that white children represented 56 percent of the total population but made up 70 percent of those receiving special services. Meanwhile, black children represented 15 percent of the total population but only 7 percent of children in special education. Hispanic and Asian children made up 23 and 3 percent of the total while only 17 and 1 percent of the special needs population, respectively. An important takeaway point is that these figures do not take into account confounding factors. When the study’s authors controlled for other factors, they still found that non-white children were less likely to be diagnosed with a learning problem. The authors also determined that children from the lowest three socioeconomic quintiles were less likely to be diagnosed than their peers from the highest socioeconomic quintile. The researchers based their analysis on parental reports, children’s scores on assessments of numeracy and receptive language, and key family demographics. Before any strong conclusions can be made, further study must be done to determine what elements might be causing these disparities.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

This resource from Teach.com lists top blogs in the education sphere, ranking them by authority, frequency of posting, and impact on social media. NIEER’s very own Preschool Matters … Today! currently ranks as #75.

Resources

This report from The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading examines the current offerings of educational apps and children’s e-books, specifically looking at how well those designed to encourage literacy skills actually do so.

This teaching case study from the Ounce of Prevention Fund and the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute examines best practices for establishing professional learning communities that bring together a wide variety of educational stakeholders to collaborate on preparing students for college starting at the earliest ages.

This research brief from the RAND Corporation examines research-based strategies for implementing pre-K child assessments into quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) and other initiatives designed to improve the quality of early childhood education and care programs.

In this working paper from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the authors explore the research on how healthy brain development is affected by early childhood neglect and offer policy implications as well as models of early interventions that have been successful in the past.

Calendar

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 12:00pm

Designed for policymakers and administrators, this webinar aims to explain how systematic reviews can be used to make informed decisions.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 2:00pm

In this webinar, attendees will learn about how family engagement policies can boost quality in early child education and care programs.

Saturday, February 9, 2013 to Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Washington, DC - This conference will feature a plethora of sessions covering a wide breadth of issues related to maternal and child health programs.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 to Thursday, February 14, 2013

Washington, DC - This conference is designed for attendees to share latest research on and best practices for home-visiting services.

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 13, 2013 to Friday, March 15, 2013

San Diego, CA - This conference is designed to explore best practices and issues related to inclusive classrooms.

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.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 2:00pm

This webinar will examine research on young children's social-emotional development and how it is related to kindergarten readiness and success in school.

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.

Early Education News Roundup

Thursday, January 24, 2013
(Florida Today)

After the 2012 legislative session, unresolved questions of funding and governance for Florida’s early-learning programs are shaping up as major issues again this year, with a key change — better collaboration by the once-sparring stakeholders of the billion-dollar industry.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
(Coeur d'Alene Press, Coeur d'Alene, ID)

The debate over Idaho education reform has covered a variety of topics considered essential for quality education, except early childhood education. This topic has the potential to give every child equal footing when they start school, improve third-grade reading scores, increase graduation rates, and reduce public spending on grade repetition and special education.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
(The Anniston Star, Anniston, AL)

Alabama could take the first step this year toward providing free pre-kindergarten education for all the state’s four-year-olds — if legislators can find the money.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
(EdSource Today, Oakland, CA)

Through a concerted effort over the past five years, California is on track to meet a national requirement that 50 percent of Head Start lead classroom teachers hold a bachelor’s degree by the end of September. While only 27 percent of Head Start lead teachers held a bachelor’s degree in the 2007-08 school year, 48 percent now hold one, and an additional 11 percent are enrolled in a baccalaureate program.

Sunday, January 20, 2013
(The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA)

The East Baton Rouge school system is scrapping the lottery system it had been using to register children for pre-K classes in favor of a new screening process designed to give children who may not be adequately prepared for kindergarten a better shot at getting into the program for the 2013-2014 school year, school officials said.

Saturday, January 19, 2013
(Reno Gazette-Journal, Reno, NV)

[Gov. Brian Sandoval] goes one step further in boosting Nevada’s early childhood education system, proposing $14 million for an “English language learners’ initiative” that would be used to help children in kindergarten through third grade who don’t speak English at home or don’t use English as their preferred language.

Friday, January 18, 2013
(The Huffington Post)

According to sources close to the administration, [U.S. Secretary of Education Arne] Duncan and the Department of Health and Human Services are outlining a plan to create universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds from low- and some middle-income families -- approximately 1.85 million children. The plan, which is projected to cost as much as $10 billion to implement in full, is still under review by the White House, but sources said that last Tuesday, Linda Smith, an HHS official, discussed the proposal at a meeting of early childhood advocates.

Friday, January 18, 2013
(MLive.com / Bridge Magazine)

[Michigan Gov. Rick] Snyder noted that 29,000 children are eligible for the state's Great Start Readiness Program, but can't get in because there aren't enough slots due to limited funding. He said he will seek to reduce that number with his fiscal 2014 budget, which would run from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014.

Thursday, January 17, 2013
(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

A first-of-its kind study of Georgia pre-kindergarten program is nearly complete, and early reports indicate it shows largely good news about the program that has enrolled about 1.2 million youngsters in 20 years.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
(North Andover Citizen, Danvers, MA)

The plan calls call for the state to deliver on its promise of universal access to early education by eliminating wait lists for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, and making Chapter 70 funding available for the first time to districts for pre-school for four-year-olds.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013
(The Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Philadelphia School District's plans to farm out its early childhood programs must ensure children continue to get the learning they need to succeed in upper grades.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
(The Indianapolis Star)

A plan to enroll 1,400 4-year-olds who live in Indianapolis Public Schools in free preschool is on hold.  The School Board voted Monday to send the program back to a committee to be revised next month. Board members gave the OK for enrollment to begin Saturday but said they envisioned a smaller program.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
(Minnesota Public Radio)

Despite a projected billion-dollar state budget deficit, early childhood education advocates are pushing for a major investment in programs that help prepare disadvantaged children for school.

Monday, January 14, 2013
(KHAS TV, Hastings, NE)

As Nebraska lawmakers return to the capitol for the 103rd legislative session, one of the big issues they'll have to tackle is the budget.  But it's a better scenario than they faced two years ago.  Which means the Legislature is expected to look to expand or create new state programs. One of those efforts could be in early childhood education.