Volume 12, Issue 5

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hot Topics

Since President Obama discussed investing in preschool last month during his State of the Union address and education speech in Georgia, some progress forward has been made by other players at the federal level. The U.S. Department of Education’s Equity and Excellence Commission released a report on education reforms with the goal of closing the achievement gap. The report, which had been a work in progress for two years, features numerous policy recommendations including the expansion of high-quality early childhood education programs. While the Department is not required to follow through on these recommendations, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted, “The Commission has sounded a powerful and important alarm about the distance we still have to go to improve education for every American child.” Furthermore, Secretary Duncan joined U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to write a blog post supportive of the President’s plan to expand access to preschool education throughout the nation. Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Representative Jared Polis introduced a bill designed to build bonds between elementary schools and early childhood education programs, Senator Patty Murray proposed legislation to promote kindergarten readiness, and Senator Bob Casey is reportedly planning to introduce an act to expand access to preschool.

With the recent flurry of media coverage on early education, sometimes missteps occurred along the way, and inaccuracies were common as pre-K critics took to the airwaves or print columns and disseminated misinformation. NIEER’s W. Steven Barnett helped to set the record straight with a policy report illuminating what the research actually says about preschool and its effectiveness. Meanwhile, W.E. Upjohn Institute economist Timothy J. Bartik has taken individual media pieces to task, breaking down exactly where they deviated from the research base. Specifically, Dr. Bartik addressed misleading information found in Bloomberg News, FactCheck.org, National Public Radio, and The Wall Street Journal. Regarding the latter, HighScope President Larry Schweinhart also wrote an open letter to refute the criticisms made. 

After sequestration went into effect on March 1, many in the early childhood education (ECE) field are left scratching their heads wondering how the sequester will affect ECE programs throughout the nation. The White House has released individual state reports indicating how many Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care slots could be cut as well as reductions in Title I and special education funds. Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker took a look at the rhetoric around Head Start cuts due to the sequester. Education Week also provided a detailed breakdown of what education programs will be affected by the sequester and how.

We’ve written in past editions about governors moving pre-K education forward within their states and with this edition highlight additional progress - and some setbacks. We previously mentioned Governor Cuomo’s support for pre-K in his State of the State; his proposed budget now specifies an increase in preschool to the tune of $25 million. Governors in six other states - Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, and Rhode Island - have proposed increases to pre-K in their budgets as well, with some investments more substantial than others. Meanwhile, three states - Alaska (with additional cuts proposed in the state House of Representatives), California, and Kansas - have seen decreased funding to their pre-K programs in governor’s recent budget proposals, with cuts in some states deeper than others. And, two states - Florida and Ohio - have pre-K programs that remain flat funded in their governors’ proposed budgets, although there is a recommended increase for Ohio’s Early Childhood Education program in fiscal year 2015. Whether all these funding increases and decreases will actually come to pass remains to be seen. 

There are currently numerous bills being considered in the Washington state Legislature concerning various aspects of the state’s early childhood education and care system. The state Department of Early Learning summarizes a handful of these in their most recent blog post. One bill in particular has received some media splash - a bill would tax legalized marijuana with the benefits (up to $182 million per year) paid out to preschool education programs. Several states have employed so-called “sin taxes” in the past, using revenue gained from state lotteries and taxes on items such as beer and tobacco to fund state pre-K, although the practice has its critics. Washington state itself previously tried to tax espresso for preschool’s sake back in 2003, but the measure was defeated with 68 percent of voters opposing it.

In New Jersey, state legislators are considering mandating that school districts offer full-day kindergarten as opposed to the current system of allowing districts to provide either (or both) part-day or full-day programs. (Incidentally, a separate bill introduced in New Jersey may require that K-5th grade students have at least 20 minutes a day of recess time.) In a similar vein, Nevada legislators are examining how to pay for full-day kindergarten - something that has been required by law for many years but yet to be rolled out consistently throughout the state due to lack of funding.

A longitudinal study recently released findings after following 3- to 5-year-old children with ADHD diagnoses from until they reached ages 9 to 12. Based on parent and teacher ratings, the children displayed a decrease in symptoms over the first few years of the study, but then made little progress over the next three years, despite use of medication. The study suggests “more effective ADHD intervention strategies” should be developed for preschoolers and elementary students. Meanwhile, a meta-analysis of studies conducted of children and teens with ADHD diagnoses using alternate therapies produced a mixed bag of results. The authors conclude that more research is needed on some of these treatment plans before their effectiveness can truly be determined.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

This guest post by Larry Schweinhart, president of HighScope Educational Research Foundation, sets the record straight on studies of pre-K’s effectiveness.

NIEER Director Steve Barnett offers practical advice for New York on advancing preschool for all in the state based on lessons learned from other states’ experiences in expanding access to pre-K education.

In response to the National Journal, NIEER Director Steve Barnett opines on how the federal preschool for all proposal could increase the successes of state pre-K. 


This brief from Child Trends examines the current research base on using coaching in early childhood education and care programs to improve quality in these settings. 

This coaching manual from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill describes different types of coaching strategies for professionals serving children and youth with autism spectrum disorders and provides guidelines for using them. 

This research brief from Teachstone Training, LLC examines how the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) can be used effectively in early childhood education programs serving bilingual children. 

This progress report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examines the effectiveness of a decade-old home-based intervention program designed for at-risk children from birth through age 5.

New on nieer.org

NIEER’s latest policy report clears up misunderstanding about preschool’s benefits and the federal early education proposal recently announced by President Obama. A 2-page fact sheet accompanies this report. 

NIEER Activities

Dr. Milagros Nores, NIEER’s Associate Director of Research, was part of a panel of presenters speaking to the U.S. Department of Education on research regarding the AVANCE program. 

CEELO logo

April 24th - CEELO will co-host a webinar focused on the challenges and successes of implementing state early learning guidelines in the context of implementation science and research. Speakers will be Catherine Scott-Little (UNC-Greensboro), Melissa van Dyke (National Implementation Research Network at UNC-Chapel Hill), and Harriet Feldlaufer (Connecticut Department of Education). More details to follow in the upcoming weeks.

May 22nd - The National Association of State Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS-SDE) will be gathering online in their occasional "Reading Corner" to discuss The Pre-K Debates. Additional information about this initiative – this time co-sponsored by CEELO – is posted on www.naecs-sde.org/readingcorner.


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.

Friday, March 15, 2013 - 8:30am

Chicago, IL - This event will feature early childhood education experts speaking on strategies for establishing early learning programs of high quality. 

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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 12:00pm

Washington, DC - This Congressional briefing will feature Riane Eisler, W. Steven Barnett, Sara Meléndez, and Shireen Mitchel discussing the importance of early education investments.

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.

Sunday, April 28, 2013 to Tuesday, April 30, 2013

National Harbor, MD - At this conference, attendees will examine how data can be used to improve program quality and services.

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.

Monday, May 13, 2013 to Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chapel Hill, NC - This conference will examine services for children with special needs in inclusive early childhood education classrooms.

Early Education News Roundup

Wednesday, March 6, 2013
(Capitol Inq blog at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

His proposal aims to provide prekindergarten education with federal money for states that “want to establish, enhance or expand their pre-K programs.” The federal money would match new state spending, [Sen. Bob] Casey said.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013
(The Answer Sheet blog at The Washington Post)

The renewed debate over Head Start’s effectiveness is discouraging for anyone for whom the use of scientific evidence in policy making is paramount.  On the one hand, critics assert that Head Start doesn’t work at all, much less replicate the results that small-scale intensive programs produced in research.  Head Start’s defenders reply that some studies find Head Start produces results nearly as strong as those of the most vaunted intensive programs and long-term gains should be expected despite short-term fade out.  Which side is correct? Neither.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013
(Education Week)

Concepts at the heart of STEM—curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking—are in demand. They also happen to be innate in young children.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013
(The Salt Lake Tribune)

The bill would have sought $10 million from private investors to strengthen and expand high quality preschool programs for at-risk children. The state would have set aside $1 million a year to eventually reimburse investors with interest, but only if the program succeeded in helping kids advance and saving Utah money.

Monday, March 4, 2013
(The Detroit News)

More than 32,000 4-year-olds are enrolled in Michigan's free program. Another 29,000 are eligible but not enrolled because of funding limits since 2006.  The bipartisan promotion of early childhood education gives educators hope Michigan will boost preschool access.

Monday, March 4, 2013
(KSL TV, Salt Lake City, UT)

A bill to fund preschool education for disadvantaged families is receiving mixed feelings from lawmakers and parents. Supporters said it's crucial for kids to enter kindergarten prepared, but opponents said the state can't afford the program.

Friday, March 1, 2013
(Daily News-Miner, Fairbanks, AK)

The cuts propose slashing nearly a fifth of the funding Gov. Sean Parnell had requested for a $2.48 million pre-kindergarten pilot program, as well as an additional $380,000 he also requested for early childhood development programs.

Friday, March 1, 2013
(Twin Cities Daily Planet, Minneapolis, MN)

If preschool and child care are so important, why are they some of the worst-paid jobs you can have? When a worker can make more money as a bank teller ($11.91 an hour average), as a janitor ($11.65 an hour average), in a restaurant, or in the service industry, that contributes to higher turnover and makes it difficult for childcare jobs to attract the highest talent.

Friday, March 1, 2013
(The New York Times)

As two longtime corporate executives who have been engaged in education for decades, we have no doubt about the answer to this question. We have spent most of our careers in business and have come to support quality prekindergarten for all children, especially those whose families cannot afford it, because we know these programs work.

Thursday, February 28, 2013
(Houston Chronicle)

The proposed budget adopted Thursday by the Senate Finance Committee includes $40 million for prekindergarten. That would offer school districts some help after budget-slashing lawmakers two years ago eliminated a $200 million grant program for pre-K.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
(Education Week)

More than a dozen states—including some, such as Hawaii and Mississippi, that have had no state-financed preschool programs in the past—are currently eyeing proposals to launch or expand early education.