Volume 12, Issue 6

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hot Topics

Since President Obama highlighted preschool in his State of the Union address, Congress has introduced several bills focused on improving and expanding high-quality early education opportunities. The Prepare All Kids Act and Ready to Learn Act have been introduced in the Senate, while the Providing Resources Early for Kids Act of 2013 (PRE-K Act) has been introduced in both the House and the Senate. Alyson Klein at Education Week offers a quick look at the major components of each bill though all of the bills are still in committee. Laura Bornfreund and Kristin Blagg at the New America Foundation looked at these and other education bills, but warned that “most of these bills first appeared in previous Congressional sessions, and it will remain difficult for them to attract the bipartisan support they need to reach the president’s desk.” NIEER’s Megan Carolan provides further analysis of the content of these bills in a recent blog post.

This week, NIEER released an update to its Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study (APPLES), which found that children in low-income districts who participated in the state-funded pre-K program make significant gains in literacy, language, math and science through fourth and fifth grade. New Jersey Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said he was "energized" by the study’s results at a time when Governor Chris Christie is proposing a $14.4 million increase in state pre-K funding. The lesson of this report is not limited only to the Garden State. In a Boston Globe op-ed, NIEER Director Steve Barnett writes that “[a]s some other approaches to pre-K, including much more targeted programs, have failed to deliver these kinds of long-term gains, Massachusetts policymakers should take a hard look at the New Jersey model” while considering Governor Deval’s proposal to expand pre-K. The New Jersey approach was also held up as a model in a hearing on early education at the Massachusetts State House, where representatives from both Advocates for Children New Jersey and the Education Law Center spoke of the program’s high-quality offerings. The hearing was organized by Strategies for Children, who offer some important thoughts on why New Jersey’s program works so well. The Frank Porter Graham Institute also released an evaluation of Georgia’s Pre-K Program that found generally positive impacts of the program. Both of these studies are important additions to the already large research base supporting the success of early education programs.

In other news, new legislation was introduced in the New Jersey state assembly to require that school districts offer full-day kindergarten classrooms. Reactions to the proposal have been largely positive so far, as reported by media outlets such as The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Star-Ledger. Over in Minnesota, lawmakers are also considering how that state could move forward with funding full-day kindergarten. As the Children’s Defense Fund illustrates, many states do not currently require full-day kindergarten - or indeed, mandate kindergarten attendance at all.

Meanwhile, in the District of Columbia Councilmember Marion Barry has put forward proposed legislation that would move the compulsory school age from 5 to 3. This would be by far the youngest mandatory school age in the country. (As we noted above, many states do not even require kindergarten attendance, let alone preschool attendance.) In D.C., many 3- and 4-year-old children already attend preschool education programs, confirming NIEER Director Steven Barnett’s assertion that “if you make pre-K programs of high enough quality, you don’t need to mandate them.”

In New Mexico a bill has been introduced to include early childhood education in that state’s constitution, a move that would help protect funding for programs serving children younger than kindergarten age. However, media reports indicate the bill may not be able to muster the votes needed to pass. If it were to pass, New Mexico would join a small cadre of states with constitutional commitments to preschool education - Wisconsin included early education in its state constitution back in 1848 and Florida residents added a constitutional amendment for voluntary pre-K in 2002. While early childhood education is not explicitly mentioned in its constitution, a North Carolina judge recently ruled that pre-K was a necessary part of the state’s constitutional commitment to provide a sound and basic education. In a similar ruling in the early 2000s, pre-K was established in certain districts throughout South Carolina to fulfill the state’s constitutional obligation to provide an adequate education for its children. 

A recent debate held at the Fordham Institute featured Sara Mead of Bellwether Education and Grover “Russ” Whitehurst of Brookings Institution discussing the benefits and perceived pitfalls of preschool education, particularly as regards the idea of expanding pre-K access to all children. The conversation caused quite a twitter in the early education field as it took place, and others chimed in after the event, as was the case with the New America Foundation’s Lisa Guernsey in a detailed blog response. After the event, Sara Mead concluded that “however dimly political insiders may view the prospects for the President's proposal in the near term, over the long term it's virtually inevitable that we'll see expanded public spending on pre-k, leading ultimately to universal preschool access.” Several NIEER publications have considered the pros and cons of voluntary universal preschool programs including The Pre-K Debates book edited by Edward Zigler, Walter Gilliam and Steve Barnett which includes Dr. Barnett’s article on four reasons why the United States should offer pre-K to all children.

In our last update, we wrote about the sequester’s potential effects on early childhood education programs. This week, Congress passed a resolution to soften the sequester’s blow. According to The Washington Post, this resolution “didn’t reverse sequestration – which cuts defense discretionary spending by 8 percent and non-defense by 5-6 percent – [but] it did raise the baseline funding for programs ranging from Head Start to cancer research. That gives these programs more of a cushion when the automatic spending reductions do take effect over the course of the year.” The New America Foundation adds that most of the funding back-filled for Head Start will be used for the re-competition process in progress. Meanwhile, The Huffington Post reports on-the-ground reactions at individual Head Start programs to the impacts of sequestration. Regarding other early childhood programs, New America Foundation also reports that the resolution will restore some funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant but not for Title I or IDEA Part B. 

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

In response to The New York Times’s debate question “Is Public Preschool a Smart Investment?”, NIEER Associate Director of Research Milagros Nores resoundingly says yes.

NIEER Policy Research Coordinator Megan Carolan does a side-by-side comparison of recent Congressional efforts to support early learning. 


This brief from ReadyNation examines how STEM subjects can be addressed in early childhood education programs to promote this type of learning and what business can do to support quality education that encompasses STEM. 

This fact sheet from the National Women’s Law Center provides links to all governors’ State of the State speeches and notes those that reference early childhood education. 

This policy report from ACT notes how strong early childhood education programs can set the stage of later school success. 

This policy brief from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) offers recommendations for promoting strong leadership in the nation’s principals from pre-K through 12th grade. 

New on nieer.org

The latest report in the multi-year study of New Jersey’s Abbott Preschool Program shows that children in the state’s most disadvantaged communities who participate in the pre-K program make significant gains in literacy, language, math and science through fourth and fifth grade.

NIEER Activities

This upcoming Monday (March 25) NIEER Director Steven Barnett will be moderating a panel of New Jersey education experts at an event held at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Sponsored by the Education Law Center and Advocates for children of New Jersey, the event will also feature a presentation by David L. Kirp regarding his recent book on the Union City school district in New Jersey. 

NIEER Director Steven Barnett was one of the presenters at a Congressional briefing this week on the importance of investing in early childhood education. Dr. Barnett presented on the research findings regarding pre-K education’s outcomes, including NIEER’s most recent study on the New Jersey’s Abbott Preschool Program.

NIEER researcher Judith Alexandre coordinated a two-day meeting on preschool education concluding today. The event, held in Irvington, New Jersey, brings together a diverse set of stakeholders from parents to educators to policymakers for discussions on long-term educational strategies, including early childhood education. “Nothing is more important to society's future than the proper early education of our children.” said Mayor Wayne Smith, one of the event’s attendees.

NIEER Associate Director of Research Milagros Nores part of a panel at a Loyola University symposium discussing the educational, social and economic benefits of preschool education along with Sara Mead of Bellwether Education and Patte Barth of the National School Boards Association. Dr. Nores’ presentation focused on the long-term economic returns of investing in pre-K programs as well as other positive outcomes.

CEELO logo

Co-hosted by the Early Childhood Education Research Alliance (ECEA) and the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO), a webinar entitled “State Early learning Standards: Lessons from Applying Implementation Research” will discuss the research base and activities that states are drawing on to develop and implement early learning standards. Scheduled for April 24, the webinar will also feature a state-level perspective on revising and implementing statewide early learning standards, including successes and challenges of implementation. Register today by completing the online registration.

Meanwhile, on May 20, the Reading Corner will focus on discussing the book The Pre-K Debates: Current Controversies and Issues. The Reading Corner is a project of the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS-SDE) in which state specialists read literature pertinent to their work in early childhood development and education. They gather in web conferences to discuss recently published books, joining in facilitated discussion of their readings with each other and invited guests. The May reading is co-sponsored by CEELO and registration is now open.


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.

Monday, March 25, 2013 - 10:00am

New Brunswick, NJ - A presentation and a panel discussion will examine issues related to successful educational systems from pre-K onwards.

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 18, 2013 to Saturday, April 20, 2013

Seattle, WA - This professional development opportunity allows participants to network with colleagues from around the globe to discuss research on child 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.

Saturday, April 27, 2013 to Wednesday, May 1, 2013

San Francisco, CA - This conference will feature innovative sessions to discuss educational issues, particularly as they relate to poverty.

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.

Early Education News Roundup

Thursday, March 21, 2013
(The Jamestown Sun, Jamestown, ND)

Supporters of early childhood education urged a House Committee on Wednesday to provide state funding for grants that will support and create preschool programs around the state.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
(The Star-Ledger)

Preschoolers who attended state-funded pre-K classes in New Jersey's former Abbott districts made "significant gains" in literacy, language, math and science through fourth and fifth grade, a new study has found.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
(The Charlotte Observer)

[Gov. Pat] McCrory’s plan would spend $52.4 million over the next two years to add 5,000 slots for at-risk children in the state’s pre-kindergarten program. It would add 1,800 full-time teachers, while cutting funding for teacher assistants except in kindergarten and first grade. At the same time, the ratio of teacher assistants to students would improve in the classrooms of the youngest learners.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013
(The Boston Globe)

Now, while the Massachusetts Legislature considers Governor Patrick’s bold proposal to dramatically increase young children’s access to high-quality early education, leaders from New Jersey travel to the State House on Wednesday to deliver a strong message. Early education works.

Monday, March 18, 2013
(The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, IN)

Indiana seems on the verge of broadening – some might say “cluttering up” – its school voucher efforts with a pilot preschool education program. The plan being considered by both House and Senate committees would spend $7 million a year to send 1,000 students from five counties to preschool.

Sunday, March 17, 2013
(Niagara Gazette, Niagara Falls, NY)

Educators say a district's youngest students are often among those with the worst attendance, in many cases because public preschool is not mandatory and parents regard it as little more than babysitting.

Friday, March 15, 2013
(The Hartford Courant)

Connecticut has a proposal to reshape its early childhood system with a new early childhood office. To avoid being just more talk, this office must be focused on reforming the current system so Connecticut makes the kinds of investments that increase access and positively change the educational trajectories of children.

Thursday, March 14, 2013
(The Tennessean)

Critics argue that the long-term benefits of preschool remain unproven and that preschool programs have no lasting effects. This debate has played out in our own state over Tennessee’s voluntary pre-K program and the question of whether to expand it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013
(Hawaii News Now)

More than 1,200 children and their families, as well as early education organizations celebrated a day of advancement at the State Capitol rotunda and lawn early Thursday morning to support the bills for early childhood education.

Thursday, March 14, 2013
(Medill Reports, Chicago, IL)

Language services are already offered in grades K-12, but now the Illinois State Board of Education is working to prevent this from happening to current preschoolers with a mandate for 2014 implementation. But despite growing efforts to provide students with language assistance a learning gap persists.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
(The Washington Post)

An expert panel created by Congress to develop a strategy to improve public education studied the issue for two years and made five recommendations last month, including providing universal access to early childhood education so that poor children are as prepared as their affluent peers to learn when they reach kindergarten.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013
(Morning Sentinel, Waterville, ME)

Business advocates for early childhood education want to see government spending directed toward programs such as Early Head Start, public preschool and home visiting. Some of Maine's top business leaders also are committing their own money, so confident are they in the benefits of expanding access and improving the quality of early education in the state.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013
(WOWT TV, Omaha, NE)

Lawmakers approved the bill Monday, which would make 4-year-olds in the program subject to compulsory attendance rules.  The bill would not lower the mandatory attendance age, and parents could choose to withdraw their children from the classes.

Monday, March 11, 2013
(WUWM News, Milwaukee Public Radio)

While the rate of three-year-olds attending public programs here continues to hover at one percent, the number of four-year-olds has steadily increased. During the 2010-2011 school year, nearly 60 percent enrolled – almost twice the national average. Funding is a mix of federal Head Start money, along with local and state dollars.

Sunday, March 10, 2013
(Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN)

Citing research that suggests huge economic returns, lawmakers and advocates have declared that quality preschool is “the most important investment we can make.”  But now that the issue is getting its turn in the spotlight, critics are questioning whether a good preschool alone is enough for a disadvantaged child to succeed long-term.

Saturday, March 9, 2013
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

A growing body of evidence and growing political will have coalesced around the idea that investing in children early, in high-quality preschool programs, is the best solution. In Missouri, lawmakers are considering a pair of bills sponsored by Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, that would help the Show-Me State do a better job of embracing that philosophy.

Friday, March 8, 2013
(The Numbers Guy blog at The Wall Street Journal)

Advocates of preschool expansion also point out that the studies of economic benefit get a boost from brain studies showing the preschool years are the most fruitful for development, and from studies showing students coming out of preschool are better prepared than their peers.