Volume 13, Issue 13

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hot Topics

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a $156.3 billion budget plan this month that includes $264 million funding to increase access to high quality preschool for 4-year-olds. Described as the biggest California investment in early education in a decade--and a significant reversal in recent decreased funding trends for children’s programs--the bill includes money allocated for professional development, facilities, and quality improvements, as described in detail by Early Edge California. A report from the California Budget Project explains why the funding is so critical to California’s children, and to the state’s future economic success.

Seattle is taking the next step in expanding early education in the city. This week, the City Council voted unanimously to place a $58 million property-tax levy on the November ballot to boost the quality and affordability of preschool. Also on the ballot is Initiative 107, a child care proposal supported by two unions that argued that the preschool initiative was too narrowly defined; this proposal was supported by nearly 22,000 signatures. Voters will have to choose between the two initiatives this fall.

The question of teacher quality has been hot in the news thanks to a high-profile legal case, as well as a new report. The education world has been buzzing about tenure and the components of quality education in the wake of a ruling in Vergara v. California and reactions from various education stakeholders. The National Center on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) also released its 2014 report on Teacher Preparation Programs, which provides detailed comparisons on preparation programs based on information regarding program requirements (though there are serious criticisms of the report’s methodology from deans of such programs). NCTQ covers elementary, secondary, and special education programs, but does not have a specific category focused on early childhood education preparation programs. This year, CEELO’s annual Roundtable meeting focused on Excellence for Every Child: Improving the Quality of Teaching Birth through Grade Three. Powerpoint presentations from the meeting are posted on the CEELO website. A full recap of the event can be found at the Storify created from live Tweets.

This week, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a formal recommendation that parents read to their children, starting at birth. The recommendation was announced at the Clinton Global Initiative Summit, and will include a high-profile partnership with groups including Scholastic, Reach Out and Read, and Too Small to Fail to both spread the word and also provide books to children and families. A piece in The New Republic builds on these recommendations, asking whether the content that parents read to young children matters. Shannon Riley-Ayers, assistant research professor at NIEER, notes that for young babies rhythm matters more than content: “Reading has a very different cadence than having a conversation. It exposes them to more language development,” but should switch to colorful age-appropriate books around age three to four months, when “[i]t’s about using books to identify and label things.” That’s where bright colors and big, hardcover books come in. NIEER Distinguished Research Fellow Ellen Frede added, “The books should be things that lead to interaction and taking turns. Even though the baby may not be responding with words, they’re learning a really important social skill and they’re hearing language.” NIEER has several resources regarding building early childhood literacy, including a policy brief on this topic and suggested children’s books from NIEER and CEELO staff members.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

No one disputes the value of play in the lives of young children; nor do we dispute the need for children to gain important intellectual skills. But NIEER Research Fellow Jim Squires presents an often overlooked perspective in a new blog: that of preschoolers themselves.


The full appendix of survey data from NIEER’s 2013 State Preschool Yearbook is now available online as a PDF. The appendix provides in-depth information on pre-K program enrollment, spending and funding sources, and  range of program quality standards. Additional information on Head Start, child care, and special education can also be accessed.

The National Governors’ Association released its recommendations on key principles of any federal legislation focused on early childhood education.

In Australia, as in the US, there is currently a focus on raising standards and improving quality in early childhood programs. This small-scale, exploratory study looked at opportunities to build early childhood leadership capacity in school settings. They determined that infrastructure issues and creating home-school partnerships are two challenges in developing early childhood leader educators.

Recent research suggests early math, science, and social studies knowledge may boost achievement for the nation’s youngest students and provides a better chance at future reading success–even more than early reading skills. (Kimberly Brenneman, National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, June 2014).

NIEER Activities

Steve Barnett, NIEER Director, gave a presentation, "Economics of investing in ECCE globally," at the Global Partnership for Education Second Replenishment Pledging Conference on June 26 in Brussels, Belgium.

Kimberly Brenneman, Assistant Research Professor at NIEER and Director of EC STEM Lab, authored a brief, The Progress of Education Reform: Science in the Early Years, released through the Education Commission of the States with support from the GE Foundation.

CEELO Update

Slides and Resources from the CEELO Roundtable, Excellence for Every Child: Improving the Quality of Teaching Birth through Grade Three, are now available on the CEELO Roundtable's Presentations page.

Tom Schultz’s presentation on Innovations in Kindergarten Entry Assessments: Opportunities and Implementation Challenges is now available, and related resources are also listed under the Presentations tab on CEELO’s products page, including Top Nine Reasons to Implement a State KEA and the Top 10 Concerns/Challenges for State KEAs.

Jim Squires presented on Where Vermont Stands: Understanding the NIEER State of Preschool Yearbook earlier this month.


Monday, July 7, 2014 - 8:00am to Wednesday, July 9, 2014 - 5:00pm

The conference title for 2014 is Collaboration and Coordination: Understanding Systems Supporting Young Children and Their Families....HSRC12 will highlight research focusing on service integration, coordination and alignment, while continuing to showcase evidence-based best practices and new research surrounding child care, Head Start, home visiting, and other early childhood programs and approaches.

Monday, July 7, 2014 - 6:30pm
Friday, November 21, 2014 - 8:00am to Saturday, November 22, 2014 - 5:00pm

The conference will focus on exploring identities in a changing world (including but not limited to gender, culture, religion, linguistics, ability and environment) as well as supporting equity in research, practice, and policy. 

Early Education News Roundup

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) announced its Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action as part of the fourth annual CGI America meeting hosted by President Bill Clinton, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton, June 23-25 in Denver Colorado.

LAUP's CGI Commitment to Action is called Project Goodnight Moon Time: Closing the Word Gap and addresses the ever-widening opportunity and education gap that exists in the U.S. by attempting to improve early literacy skills of low-income children. Researchers say that by the time children from poor families reach the age of 3, they are already far behind in literacy skills, an obstacle that keeps them from competing academically with their better-off peers. This gap has been widely referred to as the 30-million word gap, the number of fewer words children of poorer families have been exposed to as compared to children from high-income families—even before they reach kindergarten.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
(The Californian)

Last Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the 2014-15 state budget including $264 million for early learning and child development. While those of us dedicated to this work had hoped for much more, we are pleased that this is a step in the right direction. This budget marks the largest investment in high-quality early learning in 10 years following a decade of decline that saw support for early childhood development cut by more than $1 billion. We are pleased that the state is moving toward a smart social and economic decision for communities throughout the state.

The approved budget will increase the number of slots available for pre-school and transitional kindergarten, improve provider reimbursement rates and strengthen the quality of early learning programs overall for thousands of California children.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
(The Washington Post)

Currently preschool enrollment is determined by lottery. No one is guaranteed a seat, and it’s not unusual for students to be shut out of the schools to which they apply. This spring, 12 percent of 3-year-olds and 23 percent of 4-year-olds who entered the first round of the city’s preschool lottery did not get in anywhere.

Under the new proposal, 3- and 4-year-olds who live in-boundary for a high-poverty Title I school — a category that includes most of the traditional public schools in the city — would have a right to attend pre-kindergarten at that school.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
(National Journal)

For example, preschool enrollment has skyrocketed since 1970, which is the main reason the report's education score shows such a dramatic incline over time. Economists and educators generally view preschool as one of the best ways to ensure that disadvantaged children graduate from high school and (in theory) contribute to the economy. Yet the topline economic figures in the historical report don't reflect economic improvement. The economic score actually dropped from 62.4 to 48.5 over 40 years.

That doesn't mean preschool hasn't helped, but you need more context (outside of the report's scope) to understand how early education is impacting the economy. The short answer is that it may be too soon to tell. In 1970, there was nowhere to go but up with preschool. Government funded Head Start had been created just five years earlier, and only about 10 percent of three- and four-year olds attended some form of preschool, most of it private. Now, that figure is 48 percent. What's more, 28 percent of kids are in preschool programs that receive government funding, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
(New York Times)

While highly educated, ambitious parents who are already reading poetry and playing Mozart to their children in utero may not need this advice, research shows that many parents do not read to their children as often as researchers and educators think is crucial to the development of pre-literacy skills that help children succeed once they get to school.

Reading, as well as talking and singing, is viewed as important in increasing the number of words that children hear in the earliest years of their lives. Nearly two decades ago, an oft-cited study found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than have those of less educated, low-income parents, giving the children who have heard more words a distinct advantage in school. New research shows that these gaps emerge as early as 18 months.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
(Seattle Times)

A fight simmering for months between Seattle City Council president Tim Burgess and two unions that together represent 1,500 child-care workers in Seattle will be settled by voters in November. The City Council voted unanimously Monday to place a $58 million property-tax levy on the November ballot to boost the quality and affordability of preschool in Seattle.

They also voted to put Initiative 107, a separate union-backed child-care proposal that was supported by nearly 22,000 signatures, on the November ballot. However, the council voted to consider it a competing, rather than complementary measure. That means voters will have to choose between them rather than voting for both.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"Quality is a really important aspect of pre-K. And in universal pre-K, public pre-K, every 3 and 4-year-old now has access to high quality public pre-K programming. And unfortunately, as many high quality programs as we have, we have more programs that just aren’t high quality. Many more programs are struggling and just can’t offer quality care. And that’s a real dilemma now that this bill has passed, because it’s only for high quality programs. So state agencies, philanthropists, providers, early learning professionals, we now have to work very concerted to improve the quality and the access to high quality programs."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Children whose parents read to them get a head start on language skills and literacy. But many children miss out on that experience, with one-third of children starting kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read. In a policy statement released Tuesday, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for pediatricians to talk with all parents about reading to their children starting in infancy, and to give books to "high-risk, low-income young children" at office visits.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
(Sacramento Business Journal)

West Sacramento’s bid to offer preschool to all of its youngest residents has resulted in it being honored as one of the most livable cities in the U.S. by the national Conference of Mayors.

According to a news release from the ongoing conference in Dallas, West Sacramento’s program stands out for helping children of preschool age gain literacy skills before they begin kindergarten, particularly youngsters who speak English as a second language.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
(Miami Herald)

Gov. Rick Scott visited a daycare center in Little Havana on Tuesday touting his early childhood education proposals on what was the first stop of his gubernatorial campaign’s “Caring for Florida Families” tour. He talked about adding 270 additional child protective investigative personnel and a boost in funding for the state’s popular Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program. He is proposing every child receive an additional $100 a year to attend preschool, an amount he says would be the largest increase in a decade.

He also plans to expand the number of “personal learning accounts,” which provides up to $9,000 to parents and caretakers with disabled children to be spent for educational purposes. In addition, he wants to implement a hot-line service, “Help Me Grow,” for parents to have instant access to needed services.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014
(New Republic)

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a recommendation today advising parents to read out loud to their babies every day from the time they’re born. But if parents are going to carve out time every day reading books to tiny people who can’t understand them, can they use it as an opportunity to make headway on their own reading list?

“Reading has a very different cadence than having a conversation,” said Shannon Ayers, an assistant research professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research. “It exposes them to more language development.”
Monday, June 23, 2014
(The Buffalo News [Op-Ed])

Among the bills that sailed through the legislative flurry in Albany last week, perhaps none is as critical to the future of the City of Buffalo as the one requiring all 5-year-olds to attend kindergarten. . . . Without kindergarten, some students are entering first grade without the social skills and basic knowledge needed to succeed. They start out behind other students, and may never catch up.

Monday, June 23, 2014
(The Daily Item)

Paid leave and access to child care are surging to the top of the nation’s political debate as Democrats and Republicans seek to win votes and advance policies to address the economic struggles of families trying to raise children and hold jobs. A high-profile White House “working families” summit Monday will focus on issues such as child care, paid family leave and equal pay between men and women. Politicians in both parties are also rolling out new parental leave and child-care legislation amid predictions that such issues will be prominent in the 2014 midterm and 2016 presidential campaigns.

Monday, June 23, 2014
(VPR News (NPR))

[A] year from now, all children in Vermont will be offered a place in preschool or daycare. Many schools will outsource instruction to private childcare providers who must be qualified to participate, based on a rating system.

Over 80 percent of Vermont’s towns currently offer some subsidized preschool, but only about 38 percent of Vermont’s children are enrolled. The new law is designed to bring more early education to more kids. It’s expected to cost an additional $10 million over the next seven years, and local districts and philanthropists will also carry some of the cost.

Monday, June 23, 2014
(Centre Daily Times [Op-Ed])

Decades of compelling scientific research prove that quality early learning experiences resonate for a lifetime. Almost 90 percent of the brain is developed by age 5, laying the groundwork for academic and social success. Quality programs help young children develop core character traits, including stronger focus and self-control, better communication skills, critical thinking and the abilities to work in teams or engage in self-directed learning.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The nation’s mayors had a crash course in neuroscience this morning as brain expert Patricia Kuhl showed them how much early childhood education makes a difference. The interaction and experiences children have from birth to five determine what kind of connections in the brain stay over a lifetime, said Kuhl, the co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington. . .

Kuhl is showing how much more the brain is engaged when an infant has access to quality language engagement at 12 months old. The activity is increased when a child has a that engagement in more than one language, she said.
Saturday, June 21, 2014
(The Washington Times)

Former President Bill Clinton has joined Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to push for better access to early childhood education.

In a news release, Emanuel says the city has committed $36 million over three years to early childhood education. The mayor’s office says that will help provide programming for an additional 5,000 Chicago children.

Friday, June 20, 2014
(Graphic Online)

The National Director of World Vision Ghana, Mr Hubert Charles, has urged the government to increase budgetary allocation for early childhood education to promote access and quality. He said this would strengthen the infrastructure and human resource base at that level of education and ensure that interventions such as the School Feeding Programme became well structured. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014
(District Administration)

High-quality preschools in a Utah district began receiving funds from a first-of-its-kind, $4.6 million social impact bond from investment banking firm Goldman Sachs last fall. The goal is to improve instruction in order to prevent students from needing special education or remedial services.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Poverty has little association with the cognitive abilities of nine-month-old children (Fryer and Levitt 2013). By the start of kindergarten, however, not only do poor children perform significantly worse on tests of cognitive ability than children from higher-income families, but teachers also report that these children have much more difficulty paying attention and exhibit more behavioral problems (Duncan and Magnuson 2011). The poverty gap in school readiness appears to be growing as income inequality widens (Reardon 2011). 

Thursday, June 19, 2014
(The Daily Journal)

Compromise is the name of the game with the California budget’s inclusion of additional preschool programming, which is going to include less transitional kindergarten than initially anticipated. The plan, part of the 2014-15 budget passed by the Legislature Sunday, includes an early childhood education package that proposes $268 million to increase access and improve quality in existing programs. It establishes an ongoing $50 million annual grant to support quality improvements in the state’s preschool programming and provides $35 million for professional development and facilities, while creating 11,500 full-day spaces in state preschool for low-income 4-year-olds.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
(Dallas Observer)

This past spring, Dallas ISD rolled out a generally successful push for eligible families to sign their 4-year-olds up for pre-k. Early registration more than doubled, from 3,288 to 6,905, and while the increase in the number of kids who ultimately enrolled was slightly less impressive -- from about 9,000 to about 9,500 -- a 5.5 percent jump isn't bad. DISD's pre-K expansion, though, is just getting started. . . 

According to a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research, just 15 percent of Texas 3-year-olds are enrolled in Head Start or a state-funded pre-k program. That figure doesn't include kids in high-quality private pre-k -- a not insubstantial number -- but it's low, about a fourth of what it is for 4-year-olds.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Detroit is among just five places in the U.S. selected for millions of dollars in federal funds for an Office of Head Start program aimed at improving early childhood education in the city.

With $60 million in federal money, a group of Detroit community-based agencies are participating in the so-called Birth to Five pilot program, including Starfish Family Services, Development Centers, Inc.; Focus: HOPE , Southwest Solutions and HighScope Educational Research Foundation.

The collaborative is set to get $12 million annually for five years, with the grant money going toward community-based childcare, K-3 education and investments in family and parent engagement, the group said. Detroit joined Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Sunflower County, Miss. and Jersey City, N.J. in the five places targeted with the money.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

More than 120 school districts from upstate and Long Island will compete for $40 million in available grant money for full-day pre-kindergarten. . .

The initial interest is higher than what stakeholders and pre-K advocates expected. The groups had warned that the after-the-fact reimbursement process would deter upstate districts from applying, because they wouldn't have money to front for the considerable expenses of identifying new space and hiring teachers.
Monday, June 16, 2014
(Lexington Herald-Leader)

Gov. Steve Beshear announced Monday that Kentucky will finance workshops for parents on early childhood education in 25 school districts in the fall. The initiative is paid for by Kentucky's Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge federal grant. . . . It's the first step of a four-year, $1.4 million expansion of 150 academies across the state. The academies consist of six sessions designed to demonstrate how to turn everyday moments with children into learning opportunities.

Monday, June 16, 2014
(The Seattle Times)

At the mayor’s request, the Seattle City Council on Monday delayed a scheduled vote on the city’s universal preschool initiative so council members can put a price tag on a different plan that also would be on the November ballot. That plan is backed by unions representing child-care workers.

The one-week delay means that next Monday will be the council’s last chance to place a $58 million property-tax levy on the November ballot to make high-quality preschool free, or at least more affordable, for all of Seattle’s families. Mayor Ed Murray said the results of that financial analysis will inform how — and perhaps even if — the city takes its own levy proposal to voters this fall.

Saturday, June 14, 2014
(Washington Post)

Over the past four decades, the United States has sent high numbers of its citizens to prison, especially poor minority men. The price has been paid by young children. Nearly one of every 10 U.S. residents under 18 has been affected by parental imprisonment. This has important consequences for children’s educational development.

One measure of early educational development, “school readiness,” suggests how prepared children are to learn in formal classrooms. Readiness involves skills such as problem solving, word knowledge, and number recognition as well as a child’s ability to pay attention, follow directions and control their anger and frustration. Readiness has been shown to affect success in kindergarten and early grades and predict success in college and the workplace. Readiness also affects decisions by teachers and school counselors – such as whether to assign children to special education classes — that affect children’s future paths and opportunities.