Volume 12, Issue 7

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hot Topics

Headlines were made in the early childhood education field when the President proposed preschool for all 4-year-olds in his State of the Union speech in February. Details on the plan have been relatively slim since then, although the White House did release a fact sheet on early learning. Pre-K advocates and other concerned parties have been eagerly awaiting the president’s budget to be released on April 10 for more news on how the preschool expansion will be funded. Today, The New York Times reported on early details from the president’s budget plan, which “will propose other spending and tax credit initiatives, including aid for states to make free prekindergarten education available nationwide ... [and] will propose to pay for it by raising federal taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.” So-called “sin taxes” are not uncommon ways to pay for public preschool programs, although the practice is not without its critics. Following The New York Times article, Education Week explored what this possibility could mean for pre-K education and what details still need to be filled in by the Obama administration.

Earlier this week, a group of pre-K advocates, school superintendents, and one state legislator met in Sacramento, California to coalesce around the need for public pre-K. Specifically, the group seeks to support President Obama’s recent proposal to expand state-funded preschool throughout the nation and are thus dubbed “Californians for President Obama’s Early Learning Plan.” As part of their campaign, an open letter to the president was released with the signatures of 39 school superintendents and a second open letter was signed by six county superintendents. In addition, other letters were endorsed by the California Preschool Business Advisory Council and by 18 pre-K students themselves.

The group also intends to advocate for California’s early learning system and keep the state “on track to compete for federal preschool funding should it become available,” according to EdSource. Susan Bonilla, the legislator in the group, has introduced a resolution in the state Assembly to indicate the Legislature’s support for state pre-K, in hopes that state legislative approval will ensure support for preschool from California’s members in the U.S. Congress.

In our last edition, we examined some of the current legislation introduced on Capitol Hill to expand public preschool education. In addition to these bills, there is also proposed legislation with more of a focus on private child care. As noted in a recent blog post by Thread Alaska, U.S. Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) has introduced several bills regarding early education and care, including one to increase the child care tax credit and one to offer loan forgiveness for students receiving college degrees in early childhood education. 

Over the past few months, debate over funding public pre-K has been ongoing in a handful of the states that don’t currently offer state preschool. We previously reported that Mississippi’s state House and Senate each introduced proposals to establish a state-funded prekindergarten program, with these bills moving out of committee to the full chambers for approval. Earlier this week, The Associated Press reported that Senate Bill 2395 passed in the Legislature and now only requires the governor’s signature. Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant expressed approval for the bill in the past. The legislation calls for a pre-K program beginning in September 2014 and serving 1,325 4-year-olds with $3 million in state appropriations along with matching funds from other sources. Meanwhile, a state Senate committee in Hawaii is exploring the possibility of fully funding the governor’s proposal for public pre-K. Previously, Hawaii’s House of Representatives released a budget that did not include preschool education.

On the other hand, in Indiana a bill previously passed in the House and intended to set up a pilot pre-K program in that state was heavily revised in the Senate so that the pilot was written out. Instead, the bill now provides for the introduction of a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) for private preschool providers, particularly focusing on evaluating the kindergarten readiness of pre-K students. According to Indiana Public Media, “Legislators have suggested a future amendment to the bill that would provide state funding to centers that earn a three or four” on the QRIS. The bill passed out of committee and goes to the full state Senate next.

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) recently released the list of 160 Head Start grantees who will receive funds under the “designation renewal process” that had Head Start grantees recompeting for their funds for program deficiencies. As Sara Mead at Education Week explains the outcome: “most Head Start grantees identified for designation renewal will wind up keeping their grants. ACF reports that, of 125 providers require to compete for funding, 80 were able to retain their grants. 25 previous grantees lost their grants to new applicants. And 14 existing grantees will see their previous awards split up--the existing grantees will continue to receive some Head Start funds and serve children, but the grant will be divided and some funds will now go to other organizations that are new Head Start grantees.” Head Start has recently been impacted by sequestration of the federal budget, so it is unclear how this may complicate funding as grantees finalize their contracts with ACF. Additionally, ACF highlighted that round two of recompetition, announced in January, will be open this spring.

Resources

This paper, written by Thrive by Five Washington’s Paul Nyhan and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, examines the experiences of three Washington state school districts working together to enact a pre-K through third grade continuum of learning. 

This case study from the Foundation for Child Development provides information on a New Jersey school district’s success with educating young English language learners. 

This report from the Education Commission of the States examines policies - including availability, funding, length of day, quality of instruction, standards and curriculum, and student assessment - on kindergarten programs in all 50 states.

This fact sheet from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child summarizes what is known about mental health (and subsequently, mental illness) in very young children and describes the policy implications of this research.

New on nieer.org

NIEER's latest policy brief addresses issues of preschool access and quality that are specific to Hispanic children but which can also apply to some other largely disadvantaged and immigrant groups.

NIEER Activities

The latest edition of NIEER’s State Preschool Yearbook annual report is due out later this month. Stay tuned for more details in our next edition of the NIEER Online News. In the meantime, follow us on our Facebook and Twitter pages for breaking updates and highlights from the report. Feel free to leave us your comments on either platform; for our readers on Twitter, join the conversation about The State of Preschool 2012 by using the hashtag #prekYB.

NIEER Assistant Research Professor Shannon Riley-Ayers recently spoke at a conference in Leipzig, Germany regarding early literacy development, summarizing research on the topic and providing policy and practice recommendations. 

CEELO Update

CEELO logo

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) is happy to announce the launch of the CEELO website. As one of 22 Comprehensive Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, CEELO is focused on providing technical assistance to state education agencies (SEAs) to build SEA capacity and improve early childhood outcomes. The Center’s goal areas include improving states’ knowledge and use of early childhood comprehensive assessment systems, improving program quality and skills of the early learning workforce, strengthening the alignment of birth through 3rd grade educational policies and systems, and increasing resource and policy coordination across statewide systems. Visit the CEELO website for more information on the Center, useful early learning resources, upcoming CEELO events, and ways to stay connected!

CEELO Project Director Lori Connors-Tadros spoke at the U.S. Department of Education's Equity Assistance Centers Directors meeting on March 19.  The presentation was particularly timely as The Equity and Excellence Commission report to the Secretary of Education, "For Each and Every Child: A Strategy for Education Equity and Excellence," called for universal access to high-quality program as a national priority, especially for children in low-income communities. Dr. Connors-Tadros shared data on the disparity of access to state-funded preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-old children across the nation and discussed opportunities to work collaboratively with state and local education agencies to ensure children of racial and ethnic minorities and other vulnerable children get the support they need to be thrive in school.

State Education Agencies (SEAs) are implementing new systems and practices to transform their organizations to improve the performance of schools and students. Technical assistance providers therefore need new tools to assist SEAs in this mission-driven work. CEELO Project Director Lori Connors-Tadros attended a two-day training in March held by the Building State Capacity and Productivity Center. At the training, Dr. Connors-Tadros learned about "collaborative benchmarking," an SEA-driven approach to identify best practices and industry standards to improve policy or practice and other technical assistance resources to assist SEAs in meeting goals to improve performance. CEELO plans to use these resources in delivering technical assistance to early childhood leaders as they implement system reforms for children birth through third grade. Materials from the training are available online

Teams of early education specialists, K-12 administrators, and state policy advisors from 28 states and territories convened in Philadelphia on March 14-15 for this conference sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, stressed the importance of addressing all domains of human development, particularly the role of social-emotional development in learning standards. Fueled by additional presentations from Drs. Kristie Kauerz, Sharon Lynn Kagan and others on early mathematics, literacy, “non-cognitive” skills, implementation strategies, communication and community engagement, professional development, assessment and curriculum frameworks, and addressing the needs of dual language learners and children with special needs, state teams rolled up their sleeves to identify specific issues and strategies to address upon their return home. Materials from the conference have been made available online. CEELO Co-directors Lori Connors-Tadros and Jana Martella, along with team leaders CCSSO's Tom Schultz and NIEER’s Jim Squires, introduced CEELO as a resource to assist state education agencies with the alignment and implementation of birth–3rd grade learning standards in partnership with other federally and privately funded technical assistance providers.

Calendar

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.

Monday, April 15, 2013 - 10:00am

Washington, DC - The release of a new report on equitable education will be the focus of this event, which will include discussion on the report's findings and recommendations.

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.

Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 8:30am

Ellicott City, MD - This symposium will feature speakers Michael Levine and Lisa Guernsey as part of a larger question about the role of digital learning in young children's education and development.

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.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 2:00pm

Washington, DC - At this event, participants will learn about policy and research related to dual language learners in early childhood education and care programs.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 to Thursday, June 27, 2013

For the first time, the Birth to Three institute will be offered as a virtual professional development experience rather than a physical conference.

Early Education News Roundup

Thursday, April 4, 2013
(Daily Camera, Boulder, CO)

In addition to improving existing preschools, governments at every level should push to create more of them. Good preschools not only help children get ready for school but also attract business.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013
(The New York Times)

Child care costs have nearly doubled since the mid-1980s, but the portion of families paying for care has dropped, according to a new Census Bureau. The report suggested that more families appear to be availing themselves of alternatives, including care provided by relatives and after-school programs.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013
(The Associated Press)

The state would create a preschool program that could serve 1,325 4-year-olds in its first year, using a $3 million appropriation. Groups of preschool providers would have to apply for grants and would use private donations, federal money or other funds to match the state money.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
(The Star-Ledger)

So the real question here isn’t whether to invest in preschool. It’s what kind of preschool it is: Quality matters.