Volume 12, Issue 21

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hot Topics

This week marked the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, which ran from September 15 - October 15. The month is meant to “recognize the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate the group's heritage and culture” and provides an important opportunity to examine the needs of Hispanic children during the early childhood years. The advocacy group First Focus recently released a brief calling for increased access to quality early childhood education programs for Hispanic children, noting that Hispanic children have the lowest access of any racial group. NIEER has frequently highlighted the needs of Hispanic students, particularly Dual Language Learners, in early childhood settings, in a recent policy brief, and in a webinar on equity and access by NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett and Associate Research Director Milagros Nores. The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) also provides guidance on the particular needs of English Language Learners who also have disabilities. Expanding beyond U.S. borders, the Inter-American Development Bank recently blogged on early education discussions that took place at its Regional Policy Dialogue focusing on Latin America and the Carribean. The blog is available in both English and Spanish.

An Oregon researcher has received a grant to explore the connection between signs of  executive function in playground games and increased likelihood of academic success in later years. Megan McClelland, Ph.D., has used a modified version of the classic “Head, Shoulders, Knee, and Toes” game in which children must do the opposite of the command given. She notes that while Common Core State Standards are being adopted, there are layers of complexity to playground games that may reflect children’s ability to do well in school. Additional information on the tool, as well as its availability in other languages, is available through the University of Virginia’s Social Development Lab. NIEER has used this “game” as a tool for measuring executive function, including in the aeioTU study, which Principal Investigator Milagros Nores recently discussed in Rutgers Magazine, as well as in other current studies.

Last newsletter we reported on some of the impact of the government shutdown on children in early childhood programs. CLASP released a detailed memo outlining potential effects of the shutdown on a range of program funding streams. In a Q&A updated October 10th, they explored continuing challenges in funding.

Head Start was destined to close for about 19,000 children, until philanthropists John and Laura Arnold stepped in with a $10 million loan to keep programs in six states open, at least through October. A New York Times article describes their generosity, and quotes them: “Our representatives’ inability to resolve their differences has caused severe disruptions in the lives of many low-income Americans,” they said. “We believe that it is especially unfair that young children from underprivileged communities and working families pay the price for the legislature’s collective failures.” Even they note, however, that “private dollars cannot in the long term replace government commitments.” The Atlantic asserts that “The Arnold's decision will make people who are already wary about private money's influence on government and education even more nervous.” And NPR’s Marketplace reports that while these funds are a useful stop-gap measure, private funds could not continue to sustain such programs. While the shutdown was ended before child care programs had to close, children and families still feel its impact; according to USA Today, the shutdown costs between $12-24 billion, which, the National Women’s Law Center blog notes, could have funded numerous social programs.

October 4th, in Washington, DC, the Business Roundtable released a report at the Education Nation Summit, on improving education and workforce training. One of their top five recommendations (others included adopting and implementing Common Core State Standards and developing more effective teachers) was to “Expand access to high quality early learning programs.” They highlight six policy recommendations to encourage increased access and effectiveness:

  • Increase and expand access to pre-kindergarten programs.
  • Encourage family engagement.
  • Require early screening of children to identify developmental delays.
  • Target funding to increase effectiveness.
  • Encourage data sharing between early childhood and K-12 programs.
  • Improve reading proficiency in young children.

Recently released data indicates that one in four American children lives in poverty (defined in 2012 as an income of $23,283 for a family of four.)  In Spain and Greece, about one in six children live in poverty; in Australia, Britain and Canada, more than one in 10, according to a recent New York Times article. Among American children, Children’s Defense Fund reports that children who are Black, Hispanic, and under 6 years old are most likely to live in poverty.  New Hampshire experienced the largest increase in child poverty this year, due to some changes in state policy reported here. Terry Smith, director of the state's Division of Family Assistance, is quoted saying "Poverty is one of the stressors that impact cognitive functioning long term, especially for younger children. The other stressors, like abuse of children and homelessness, those things increase in parallel with an increase in poverty."

Poverty is rising in other states as well, including Mississippi and California. Geographic cost of living differences matter; Stanford University released an poverty index that takes into account California’s unique considerations when evaluating poverty, and indicated that benefits provided to families are making a positive difference.

The Knight Foundation offers a long-term perspective on ways to address entrenched poverty in families, including a multi-generational, and multi-faceted look at decisions families have to make about benefits and earnings. In a blog post, Greg Kaufman outlines other ways to address poverty, including investing in programs for children. He cites Melissa Boteach, director of Half in Ten, a campaign to cut poverty in half in ten years, saying  that “toxic stress associated with persistent poverty affects brain development in children, and leads to adverse outcomes in education, health and worker productivity when those children reach adulthood.” NIEER wrote about the impacts of such toxic stress in a recent newsletter. Citing a report from First Focus she notes that sequestration is already cutting  “$4.2 billion of funding for children concentrated in the areas of education, early learning, and housing.” That was before the shutdown.

On Monday morning, LAUP will be releasing its new website http://preschoolnation.org/ There will be a Tweet chat at 1 PM ET using the Hashtag #PreschoolNation. Please join the discussion, and visit Preschool Nation’s website now or later to share your stories about the value of preschool.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

In this blog, CEELO staff and NIEER Senior Research Fellow Jim Squires and CEELO and NIEER Research Assistant Michelle Horowitz explore the varying levels of local control in state-funded pre-K programs across states.


Invest in Us, a project of the First Five Years Fund, have developed this interactive tour of an early education classroom to demonstrate what makes a learning environment “high quality.”

This report, from the Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) and the Foundation for Child Development (FCD), reviews rigorous evidence on why early skills matter, which children benefit from preschool, the short- and long-term effects of preschool programs on children’s school readiness and life outcomes, the importance of program quality, and the costs versus benefits of preschool education.

This guide, created by The Global Private-Public Partnership for Handwashing for Global Handwashing day on October 15,  highlights outreach to particular communities, specifying that the “handwashing habits [teachers] teach in school will last a lifetime.”

The National Women's Law Center provided this fact sheet exploring the implications of proposed changes to the Child Care and Development Block Grant

This booklet, released by the National Women’s Law Center as part of their early childhood education advocacy efforts, includes firsthand perspectives from teachers, parents, home visitors, and business leaders on the importance of child care and early education.

NIEER Activities

Milagros Nores, NIEER’s Associate Director of Research and a CEELO staff member, was interviewed in the most recent Rutgers Magazine about her research on the aeioTu program in Colombia. Go to page 66 to hear about this exciting international project!


NIEER Director and CEELO Principal Investigator Steve Barnett participated at the Brown Bag Lunch Lecture series at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, discussing whether the United States should have universal pre-K. Video of the event can be found on the GSE’s YouTube channel.

CEELO Update

NIEER Director Steven Barnett and Senior Research Fellow Jim Squires are joined by CEELO colleague Tom Schultz from the Council of Chief State School Officers in providing assistance to the Mississippi Department of Education as it prepares to initiate its state-funded pre-K program. Mississippi enacted the Early Learning Collaboration Act during its last legislative session to phase in high quality pre-K for 4-year-olds. MDE recently issued a Request for Proposals to solicit applications from early learning collaboratives involving two or more parties for the competitive program scheduled to begin later this program year.



A Governor’s Guide to Early Literacy: Getting All Students Reading by Third Grade, is a new publication from the National Governor’s Association. The report discusses the importance of ensuring literacy by the third grade; outlines policy recommendations, and provides leadership suggestions to promote a successful B-3rd grade literacy agenda.

The Federal Education Budget Project (FEBP) from the New America Foundation was recently updated to include pre-K enrollment data from the 2011-2012 year. In addition to utilizing NIEER’s data on state-funded enrollment, FEBP explores district- and state-level enrollment and spending in pre-K, special education, and K-12.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 12:00pm

The University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) and Curry School of Education will be offering a free, 4-week, online course on Effective Classroom Interactions. This course will focus on supporting early childhood teachers to offer emotionally supportive classroom interactions. It builds from the successful work of CASTL in developing and testing professional development models that promote positive changes in teachers’ practice.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 -
3:00pm to 4:00pm

At this webinar, you'll get a preview of a new Child Trends research report examining the data supporting each of the Alliance’s policy options for the State Policy Framework. You will discover the importance of health, family support, and learning policies in promoting the development of young children birth through age 8. You'll hear about how you can use this document to help communicate your work with policymakers, funders, and other stakeholders. And, you'll participate in a Q&A with the research team at Child Trends. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 to Saturday, November 23, 2013

Washington, DC - Attendees of this conference will be given opportunities to examine best practices in early childhood education, learn the latest research findings, and network with their peers.

Early Education News Roundup

Thursday, October 17, 2013
(The Maui News)

Hawaii education and early learning officials are emphasizing an upcoming change in the age children can enter kindergarten as an opportunity for late-born students to receive an extra year to prepare for school....Hawaii is one of 10 states with no state-funded pre-kindergarten program, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. It's a situation that has many affected families worried about how to afford another year of preschool.

Thursday, October 17, 2013
(The Baltimore Sun)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Del. Heather Mizeur rolled out a plan Thursday that would expand pre-kindergarten to 3-year-olds and overhaul the state's income eligibility requirements for child care subsidies.

"I'm proud of our schools for being rated first in the nation," the Montgomery County delegate said to a group gathered at Downtown Baltimore Child Care Inc. "But the title loses some of its distinction when we take a look at diversity and income achievement gaps. Closing the gaps will be a major priority of my administration, and the only way to truly level the playing field is to start with early childhood education."

Thursday, October 17, 2013
(US News & World Report)

Despite the fact that many programs vary in quality, public preschool programs have been shown to benefit students from all economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds, according to a research brief funded by the Foundation for Child Development.

The brief, conducted by 10 researchers from universities around the country, analyzed previous studies on the effectiveness of preschool on children's achievement later in life...Overall, the brief concluded that public preschool programs provide an average gain of a third of a year of academic growth, and some programs in cities such as Boston as well as Tulsa, Okla., have seen even larger gains of up to a full year of additional learning.

Thursday, October 17, 2013
(Motherlode blog at The New York Times)

At last count, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research, 41 percent of 4-year-olds and 14 percent of 3-year-olds in the United States are enrolled in publicly funded state and federal pre-K programs. Millions of children, especially from lower-income homes, find themselves shut out due to a shortage of spaces. Lack of access, however, is only part of the story. As the research brief notes, “only a minority of preschool programs are observed to provide excellent quality, and levels of instructional support are especially low.”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The research brief "Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education," authored by an interdisciplinary group of early childhood experts, reviews rigorous evidence on why early skills matter, which children benefit from preschool, the short- and long-term effects of preschool programs on children's school readiness and life outcomes, the importance of program quality, and the costs versus benefits of preschool education.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and other D.A.s in the area are scheduled to gather outside the state prison in Chester to urge state and federal officials to expand preschool education. Their demand: Spend money now on high-quality preschool or spend even more money later for prisons.

The district attorneys, members of the Pennsylvania chapter of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids (FCIK), will issue a report called "I'm the Guy You Pay Later." 

"There's a new paradigm of what it means to be an American prosecutor," Williams said yesterday. It used to be, a prosecutor was all about building more jails and putting more people in those jails, he said. "But what we've learned is that for every $100 invested in early childhood education, we can save $700 on prison costs," said Williams, an FCIK board member.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013
(Roll Call)

Take a look at the criminal records of the almost 2 million people incarcerated in the U.S. and you’ll probably assume their troubles began when they committed their crimes. As sheriffs who manage facilities housing tens of thousands of inmates each year, we know for many the journey to jail begins much earlier. Nationwide, 7 out of 10 people locked up in state prisons don’t have a high-school diploma. In getting to the root of the problem, it all boils down to a strong foundation for success provided by high-quality preschool and early education programs. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
(WRAL.com (North Carolina))

Advocates for poor school districts across North Carolina said Tuesday that state officials cannot ignore a promise they made nine years ago to provide pre-kindergarten classes to at-risk students statewide.

The plea came during oral arguments before the North Carolina Supreme Court in a case that could require the state to open up its NC Pre-K program to every needy 4-year-old who applies, which some have estimated could cost the state $300 million a year – more than double what it now spends.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013
(newsobserver.com (North Carolina))

North Carolina’s highest court heard arguments Tuesday about the state’s promise of prekindergarten for tens of thousands of children living in poverty. At issue is whether legislative cuts to the publicly funded pre-K program ran afoul of the state’s previous commitment to provide preschool for children at risk of failure in school. The pre-K program, previously known as More at Four, was created in 2004 as a state response to court rulings in the long-running Leandro school quality lawsuit brought by poor counties. In the 19-year-old case, courts found that there is a constitutional right for all children to have a “sound, basic education.”

Monday, October 14, 2013

Increasingly, educators are looking to research about how kids learn to influence teaching practices and tools. What seemed like on-the-fringe experiments, like game-based learning, have turned into real trends, and have gradually made their way into many (though certainly not most) classrooms. Many educators are using researchers’ insights into how children best learn to inform their teaching practices. Stanford professor Carol Dweck’s research on encouraging children to develop a growth-mindset continues to grow in popularity, as educators try to praise effort, not outcomes. Dweck writes that if children believe their abilities are fixed — that either that they’re smart or they’re not — they approach the world in different ways and aren’t as able to face adversity. When they believe skills and abilities can grow throughout one’s lifetime, they’re better able to rise to challenges.

Saturday, October 12, 2013
(YumaSun.com (Arizona))

The first five years of life are a critical time for children as 90 percent of their critical brain development occurs by age five, said First Things First regional director Rudy Ortiz. Studies from the National Institute for Early Education Research show that children who have gone through quality preschool programs have shown to have better reading skills, richer and higher vocabularies, and stronger math skills.

Thursday, October 10, 2013
(ColumbusTelegram.com (Nebraska))

A lack of education for children during the first five years of their lives is having a negative impact on the nation's work force. That is what a group of about 40 educators and community members were told Wednesday by representatives with Nebraska’s Early Childhood Business Roundtable, a group that is stressing the importance of early education to business leaders across the state.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Twenty local organizations have won a collective $1.1 million in grants to add 240 additional preschool seats for kids in high-poverty areas. In all, $10 million was awarded statewide to fund 2,450 seats. The money was made available by a $10 million bump in preschool spending contained in Ohio’s most recent budget bill. The Ohio Department of Education announced the winners Wednesday. Grants were targeted to high-quality preschools located in high-needs parts of the state.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013
(Education Week)

San Francisco is one of a growing number of cities to offer city-run pre-K programs, along with Boston, Miami, San Antonio, and Seattle, among others, according to W. Steven Barnett, the director of the New Brunswick, N.J.-based National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

In 2004, San Francisco voters agreed to channel $20 million annually to Preschool for All with the intent of offering half-day pre-K to any child who was 4 years old and lived in the city.

Monday, October 7, 2013
(Times-News (North Carolina))

The federal government shutdown has placed future child-care development funds distributed through the Alamance County Department of Social Services in jeopardy. County DSS Director Susan Osborne notified the Alamance County Board of Commissioners on Monday during a board meeting that letters would be sent out this week to 48 child day-care providers in the county and to 15 child day-care providers outside the county to notify them that federal funds used to subsidize low-income families’ child care will not be available during the government shutdown, affecting 479 school-aged children who receive before- and after-school care.

Monday, October 7, 2013
(Hunterdon County Democrat (New Jersey))

New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher visited Millhill Child and Family Development in Trenton today to announce the awarding of Team Nutrition Training mini-grants to eight childcare centers and 11 elementary and middle schools in the state with the goal of helping children make healthier food choices and improve their overall health. Millhill is one of the recipients of the grant program, which was expanded for the 2012-2013 cycle to include for the first time early childhood centers. “By expanding this valuable program to child care centers, we are reaching children younger and helping them to form healthy life habits by teaching them about eating well and exercising,” Secretary Fisher said. “We have seen over and over again the positive impact of school gardens on the students, teachers and staff, as well as the community at large.”

Monday, October 7, 2013
(The Atlantic)

One of the many casualties of the government shutdown has been Head Start, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services program that provides early childhood education services to low-income families. As of Friday, five Head Start chapters across the country had closed, affecting more than 5,000 children. Today, the John and Laura Arnold Foundation--founded John Arnold, a former hedge-fund manager who first made his fortune working for Enron--announced it would donate $10 million to ensure Head Start programs stay open during the shutdown.

Monday, October 7, 2013
(Early Ed Watch Blog at the New America Foundation)

Detroit may be bankrupt, but it is also home to an early learning model that was promising enough to win a Social Innovation Fund grant in 2011 to figure out just how effective it is. It began five years ago, when the United Way for Southeastern Michigan started building its Early Learning Communities platform. The intent was to nearly double the percentage of low-income children ready for kindergarten in Detroit. But the effort had been slowed by challenges documenting which parts worked and by a lack of money to pay for expansion.

Monday, October 7, 2013
(HuffPost Impact Blog)

In the coming months, leaders from across the world will agree on a new set of global development goals  that will set the agenda for United Nations (U.N) member countries through 2030. To achieve the long term benefits envisioned by Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, these goals must include a focus on early childhood development. . . . Children's experiences in their early years have a profound influence on their subsequent academic achievement and lifelong economic productivity. Investing in early childhood development therefore represents an extraordinary value. 

Monday, October 7, 2013
(Idaho Statesman (Opinion))

The prosperity of Idaho’s businesses depends largely upon the preparation we provide to our children. All of our children need access to learning opportunities that will help them become good citizens with strong minds. And we must start in the early years. . . . Because quality early childhood education is critical to the development of our children, it is also a critical investment in the future of our state and our country. To remain globally competitive, we must have a highly educated, skilled labor force. As Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke stated, “No economy can succeed without a high-quality workforce, particularly in an age of globalization and technical change ... formal K-12 and post-secondary education, as important as they are, do not alone build better workforces.

Saturday, October 5, 2013
(WCAX.xom (Vermont))

Spin the arrow and hop the boxes. Maybe even climb a few ladders. You may remember the game chutes and ladders from your childhood. Well now, it's life size. Saturday, kids became the board pieces at the statehouse, representing the need for affordable, early learning opportunities in Vermont. "With early childhood investment the children can climb the ladders and then we have big starbursts of things that will happen when they climb the ladders. And with lack of investment they'll fall down the chute and they slide into the abyss," said event organizer, Courtney Stout.

Saturday, October 5, 2013
(The Times-Picayune)

Offering universal preschool is a key goal for the East Baton Rouge Parish School System, board members agreed Saturday....The school system currently provides preschool education to about 2,500 students in 146 classrooms. But there are another approximately 1,100 students who entered kindergarten this year without going through any kind of quality preschool program, whether public or private. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

The quality of pre-k education in those classrooms will be among the nation's highest. That's according to the National Early Education Research Institute, which says Alabama is one of just four states with "10-out-of-10" high-quality pre-k. The initiative is backed by results, too – students in a southeastern Alabama town have shown remarkable results after graduating from a pre-k program.

Thursday, October 3, 2013
(Huffington Post Politics)

Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady, early Thursday posted an op-ed to the website of Too Small To Fail, an advocacy campaign coordinated by former Clinton staffer Ann O'Leary. The campaign, Clinton wrote, will help educate parents and push for more workplace flexibility. Clinton is framing the expansion of early childhood education as a question of equity, playing off profound "word gaps" between rich and poor children before they even start school. According to this research, by the time they turn four, kids growing up in upper- and middle-class homes hear 30 million more words than tots whose families are on welfare. "Coming to school without words is like coming to school without food or adequate health care," Clinton wrote. "It makes it harder for kids to develop their creativity and imagination, to learn, excel, and live up to their full potential. It should spur us to action just like child hunger and child poverty." The op-ed accompanies the release of a report Too Small calls a "roadmap" laying out the research behind and campaign for early childhood education improvements.