Volume 13, Issue 1

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hot Topics

New York City’s recently inaugurated mayor Bill de Blasio made pre-K a central point of his campaign and has continued to push on this effort since taking office, including the appointment of Carmen Fariña, a veteran educator who supports early childhood education, as Schools Chancellor. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had voiced support for the goal of pre-k but was resistant to de Blasio’s suggested tax increase on those earning over $500,000. Governor Cuomo this week again indicated his interest in funding pre-K through a means other than a tax increase, though NIEER Director Steven Barnett, speaking in The New York Times, stressed the need for pre-K as a stable part of the state’s budget: “If you’re 7 years old, you get to go to school. It doesn’t matter how tight the budget is. Prekindergarten would not enjoy the same immunity.” New York City is the largest of a wave of U.S. cities pursuing large-scale locally administered pre-K programs, including Seattle and San Antonio. On the west coast, California lawmakers this week announced a proposal to expand the state’s “transitional kindergarten” program to all 4-year-olds. The transitional kindergarten program, which is separate from California’s State Preschool Program, was created through a 2010 bill to provide a new grade for 4-year-old students who have birthdays that fall too late in the calendar year to be eligible for kindergarten, and is currently in its first year of operation. California lawmakers are considering the proposal in light of a budget surplus; NIEER’s Steven Barnett notes, “If you can figure out a way to pay for it, it certainly makes a lot of sense. As the economy comes back, I do think you’ll see more cities and states doing this.” Early Edge California is closely following the progress of early education in the Governor’s recently released budget proposal. California has a legacy of past success in early care and education, dating back to the federal Lanham Act of the 1940s, as explored by Arizona State University researcher Chris Herbst in a new paper.

In view of the rising interest in expanding pre-K and debates over how to pay for it, NIEER’s new working paper on evidence regarding municipal, state, and federal proposals to expand access to quality pre-K is timely. A brief summary is available here. The paper addresses questions about the overall effectiveness of public universal preschool, the effectiveness of Head Start, and recent studies on improvements in state program outcomes. In addition, we estimate the fiscal impacts of new federal proposals on state education budgets. NIEER projects that every state but one would spend less on education from pre-K through grade 12 if they provided quality, full school day pre-K to all children under 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). Once former preschoolers reach 12th grade, the annual cost savings to the public school budget from reduced grade repetition and special education across all the grades more than offset the annual cost of pre-K. It follows that the need for added revenue to reach all children under 200 percent of the FPL is only temporary in nearly every state, including California and New York. Any proposal for a dedicated revenue stream could reasonably have a sunset clause, and the same logic underlies Social Impact Bonds

On December 19th, 6 states were announced as winners of $280M in federal grants for improving early learning programs for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers: Georgia ($51.7M), Kentucky ($44.3M), Michigan $(52M), New Jersey ($44.3), Pennsylvania ($51.7M) and Vermont ($37M), join 14  states previously awarded grants. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, joined state governors and other on a call to discuss the grants, which you can listen to here (it starts about 15 minutes in). A recent blog by Libby Doggett, the deputy assistant secretary for policy and early learning at the U.S. Department of Education, and Linda Smith, the deputy assistant secretary and inter-departmental liaison for early childhood development at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pushes for early childhood education, noting that “RTT-ELC is only a down payment on early learning–strong systems are not enough.” 


This report, from Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, examines a nationally representative portrait of early childhood teachers and caregivers in both home- and center-based settings.

This fact sheet, produced by CLASP and the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), reports the percentages of young children in each state experiencing risks related to poor educational outcomes as well as exploring trends in federal and state investments in early care and education programs.

This paper from researchers at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at UNC, published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, reviewers research on the impact of pre-K and Head Start programs on young Latino and Spanish-speaking children. 

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) seeks a highly skilled and effective executive level leader to direct the newly formed member engagement, professional learning and brand advancement team. Information on the opening for Deputy Executive Director Member Engagement, Professional Learning and Brand Advancement is available here.

NIEER Activities

NIEER Research Fellow Stephanie Curenton participated in a TweetChat organized by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans addressing the importance of early learning for all children. The conversation was part of an ongoing series on Twitter encouraging discussion among researchers, educators, parents, and other interested parties. The conversation can be found by following the #AfAmEdChat hashtag.

CEELO Update

Expanding Access to Quality Pre-K is Sound Public Policy

This paper by NIEER addresses what evidence says about effective preschool education and long-term cognitive benefits, estimated effects of state and local pre-K programs in more recent years, evidence regarding Head Start’s effectiveness, whether government can improve the quality of public preschool education, and what would happen to state education budgets once federal money was not available.

Validation of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS): Examples from Four States

This brief provides detailed examples and findings from QRIS validation activities in four states: Indiana, Maine, Minnesota and Virginia. The brief demonstrates how different states have approached QRIS validation, compares findings, and highlights challenges in designing and conducting QRIS validation studies.

Fostering and Measuring Skills: Interventions That Improve Character and Cognition

This working report, authored by James Heckman and Tim Kautz, reviews interventions that improve character and cognitive skills.

The Impact of Family Involvement on the Education of Children Ages 3 to 8: A Focus on Literacy and Math Achievement Outcomes and Social-Emotional Skills

This report from MDRC summarizes research conducted primarily over the past 10 years on how families’ involvement in children’s learning and development through activities at home and at school affects the literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional skills of children ages 3 to 8. A total of 95 studies of family involvement are reviewed. 


Monday, January 13, 2014 -
9:00am to 4:30pm

The Social Mobility Summit will open with a public keynote address from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) from 9:00 to 9:30 am, and close with a public keynote address from Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) from 4:00 to 4:30 pm. Sen. Gillibrand and Rep. Ryan will each lay out their personal vision for how we can promote social mobility in the U.S. today.

Monday, January 13, 2014 -
2:30pm to 4:00pm

Building on its original work from 2009—which helped advance a national movement to address non-medical factors that affect our health— the RWJF Commission to Build a Healthier America will release new recommendations.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014 -
2:00pm to 5:00pm

Tthe Prevention Project will host a Congressional Briefing on wide-scale implementation of well-established programs, focusing on what policymakers need to know to support and monitor the implementation of these programs to produce successful outcomes. The information covered will inform prevention legislation and the interaction between policymakers, governmental agencies, and service providers who implement programs. Representatives Antonio "Tony" Cárdenas (D-CA-29) and Robert Pittenger (R-NC-09) will speak.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 8:00am to Thursday, January 30, 2014 - 5:00pm

The Fourth National Summit on Quality in Home Visiting Programs will focus on enhancing quality in home visiting; policy and financing; break-through system changes; adaptations and enhancements to evidence-based models; and more.

Friday, March 14, 2014 - 8:00am to Saturday, March 15, 2014 - 5:00pm

T&L 2014 is where the profession meets to secure the future of PreK-12 education. From the Common Core State Standards to education technology to advancing issues of equity in the classroom, educators from all types of classroom settings will have unique opportunities to share their stories, gain new tools, learn from the nation’s top innovators and get inspired to achieve greatness in their classrooms and communities.

Monday, May 5, 2014 - 8:00am to Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 5:00pm

The National Smart Start Conference is the nation’s largest conference devoted to early education systems and strategies. The conference provides advanced professional development for early education leaders committed to improving the quality of and access to early childhood services for all children ages birth to five.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 8:00am to Thursday, May 22, 2014 - 5:00pm

The Inclusion Institute is the premier event for people from all early childhood sectors to come together to learn, share, and problem-solve about inclusion for young children.

Early Education News Roundup

Wednesday, January 8, 2014
(The Sacramento Bee)

California lawmakers have embraced the idea of allowing every 4-year-old in the state to attend pre-kindergarten classes, greatly expanding a much smaller program to make what would be the most comprehensive pre-kindergarten curriculum in the country. Democratic caucuses in the Assembly and Senate this week introduced legislation on the subject and are calling universal pre-kindergarten a priority in upcoming budget talks. Gov. Jerry Brown has been silent about whether the program will be part of the spending plan he releases Friday, but advocates have made their case to the administration in recent months. . . "If you can figure out a way to pay for it, it certainly makes a lot of sense," said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. "As the economy comes back, I do think you'll see more cities and states doing this."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014
(Philadelphia Public School Notebook (Blog))

National and state education activists made a call this week for stronger early childhood education in Pennsylvania, and some said they are preparing to sue the Commonwealth over fairer school funding. The comments came at a hearing Tuesday convened by Democratic Philadelphia legislators. ...W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, said that the achievement gap between students with different socio-economic backgrounds could be traced back to age 18 months and that high-quality preschool education achieves better cognitive development and could potentially close the achievement gap by half. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
(The New York Times)

W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, echoed that argument, saying prekindergarten — still widely viewed as an optional form of instruction — would be more vulnerable to legislators’ whims. Referring to first graders, Mr. Barnett said: “If you’re 7 years old, you get to go to school. It doesn’t matter how tight the budget is.” Prekindergarten, he said, would not enjoy the same immunity.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
(Santa Maria Times)

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is co-sponsoring legislation to provide transitional kindergarten to every 4-year-old child in California....Transitional kindergarten is currently available to 4-year-old students who have birthdays that fall too late in the calendar year to be eligible for kindergarten. The new bill would — if approved by legislators — expand that access to all 4-year-olds.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
(Yahoo News)

A top priority for the governor is a $4.5 million funding request for 32 preschool classrooms at 30 public schools in underserved or rural Hawaii communities. Executive Office on Early Learning Director GG Weisenfeld answered questions Monday about the request at an informational briefing of the state House Committee on Finance and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. The state Legislature reconvenes next week. The 30 schools where the pre-K classes will be established haven't been announced, but they will be in areas where there is limited access to private preschool programs. It's a piece of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's proposal for publicly funded universal preschool. Hawaii is one of few states without state-funded preschool.

Monday, January 6, 2014
(The Latino Post)

A study by UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) shows that children who have lower English-language abilities than their classmates benefit most from programs like Head Start and public pre-k. How and why this is true are not so clear.

Sunday, January 5, 2014
(Post and Courier (Charleston))

South Carolina has considered proposals to offer voluntary pre-kindergarten classes for all 4-year-olds, but those haven't been embraced by lawmakers. The state spent about $35.7 million to serve more than 29,000 pre-kindergartners in 2012, and the state ranked 39th nationally for its pre-K spending, according to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Sunday, January 5, 2014
(Capital New York)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will propose funding full-day pre-kindergarten statewide, according to sources briefed on the governor's preparation for his State of the State address this week....One source said Cuomo would allocate $250 million for pre-K. ...The state Board of Regents proposed allocating $125 million for pre-K in its budget proposal, which asked for a $1.3 billion increase over the current fiscal year's funding level. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014
(Seattle Times (Editorial))

Only three out of 10 Washington children, ages 3 and 4, were enrolled in preschool programs that met minimum state standards last year. That is one of the widest early education gaps in the nation, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The good news is that educators and policymakers are increasingly recognizing early learning's role preparing young children for school. . . . Kids would benefit if the state could combine ECEAP and Working Connections funding into a single slot for a full day of high-quality early learning. The National Institute for Early Education Research ranked Washington's ECEAP program high for meeting nine out of 10 benchmarks for quality.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

In the early 1990s, a team of researchers decided to follow about 40 volunteer families — some poor, some middle class, some rich — during the first three years of their new children's lives. Every month, the researchers recorded an hour of sound from the families' homes. Later in the lab, the team listened back and painstakingly tallied up the total number of words spoken in each household. What they found came to be known as the "word gap." It turned out, by the age of 3, children born into low-income families heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013
(wfpl.org (npr))

Despite a push from prominent Indiana lawmakers who to want expand access to childcare and preschool programs, it may be difficult for the General Assembly to pass any such measures in a non-budget writing year, according to Bill Stanczykiewicz, CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute. Stanczykiewicz says early childhood education will still be one of the hottest topics in the statehouse in 2014 with nearly a quarter of Indiana children living in poverty.

Friday, December 20, 2013
(The Atlantic)

There's growing evidence that the earlier we invest in children, the larger the returns we get. This holds true for both individual families and society at large. Children who attend quality early education programs later perform better in school and earn more as adults. As a result, the public can spend less money on welfare programs or crime reduction (and more on something else).

Friday, December 20, 2013
(Brattleboro Reformer)

Gov. Peter Shumlin says he’s proud the state of Vermont is getting $36.9 million in federal grants to help improve early education programs for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. This is the third time these early learning grants have been issued. Fourteen other states were previous winners. In total, nearly $1 billion in grants has been distributed. Shumlin says it’s going to be the largest single investment in early childhood education in Vermont history.

Friday, December 20, 2013
(The Intelligencer)

Pennsylvania is getting a $51.7 million boost for early childhood education programs, Gov. Tom Corbett announced Thursday. It’s the largest federal grant the state has ever received to spend on programs for early learning, and reflects the state’s commitment to strengthening and increasing programs that help prevent students from falling too far behind by the time they reach third grade, Acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq said. “This is actually the next evolution,” Dumaresq said on a conference call with reporters. “This is where Pennsylvanians need to go.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013
(Ed.gov Blog)

Only one in three four-year-olds attend a high-quality preschool program — and the number for three-year-olds is much lower. Across the country, children remain on long preschool waiting lists, and families who could benefit from support as they raise their children remain unserved.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Six states were announced as winners Thursday of a combined $280 million in government grants to improve early learning programs for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. The winning states in the Race to the Top-Early Challenge competition were Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont. The winners were announced by the Education and Health and Human Services departments, which jointly administer the program. This is the third time these early learning grants have been issued. Fourteen other states were previous winners. In total, nearly $1 billion in grants has been distributed.

Thursday, December 19, 2013
(The Atlanta-Journal Constitution)

Georgia has won a second multimillion-dollar federal education grant — one aimed at improving learning for the state’s youngest children, it was announced early Thursday. The state will receive $51 million over four years to expand access to high-quality child care for low-income families, to increase training for early childhood teachers and to put extra resources into areas of the state where test scores and other indicators show the greatest need.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
(AP News)

Congress sent President Barack Obama legislation Wednesday scaling back across-the-board cuts on programs ranging from the Pentagon to the national park system, adding a late dusting of bipartisanship to a year more likely to be remembered for a partial government shutdown and near-perpetual gridlock. . . . Democrats expressed satisfaction that money would be restored for programs like Head Start and education, and lawmakers in both parties and the White House cheered the cancellation of future cuts at the Pentagon

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sixty-five percent of Alabama kids under age 6 have both parents in the work force. So while their parents work, many of those children spend their days at child care centers, preschool or kindergarten. The child care and early education industries are critical not just to those 192,000 children, but also the state's economy, contended a new report released by a group arguing for more investment, and higher standards, in early care programs. The industry directly employs 18,959 full-time equivalent jobs, has a payroll of $369 million and has a billion dollar impact on the state's economy, according to the report prepared by Auburn University at Montgomery economist Keivan Deravi for the Alabama Partnership for Children.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Officials with the National Institute for Early Education Research, or NIEER, said there has been virtually no research done to explore the link between increased access to quality early childhood programs and a drop in academic remediation costs — largely because the term “remediation” is too broad. But Milagros Nores, associate director of research for NIEER’s Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes, said numerous studies show a direct impact between kindergarten readiness and significant reductions — as much as 30 percent — in the number of children who need special education or end up repeating a grade. Nores said reducing either one — children who are held back or those with learning delays — would have a significant and positive impact on a district’s operating budget.

Sunday, December 15, 2013
(Chicago Tribune)

West Chicago Elementary District 33 is one of many in the Chicago area that has seen the number of available state-funded preschool spots plummet in the past few years as Illinois continues to slash funding for some of its smallest residents. A few years ago, when funding was late once again, the district went so far as to cancel its preschool program. But the state came through at the last minute, and the district scrambled to rehire teachers, get bulletin boards decorated and inform parents that classes were back in session. The concern, said Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, is that inconsistent funding can undermine quality programs. "I understand it's been a long time since Illinois has had a good budget year," he said, "but it wreaks havoc at the local level."