Volume 13, Issue 2

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hot Topics

Last Friday marked a good day for preschool children in the US; President Obama signed the 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which included restored funding and some increases for preschool programs. The Departments of Education and Health and Human Services celebrated these highlights:

  • A $1.025 billion increase to Head Start to restore the funding cut by sequestration and provide programs with a modest cost-of-living increase. $500 million of that is set aside for new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships proposed by the Administration to increase the supply of high-quality infant and toddler care for America’s youngest children. (NIEER’s recent report illustrates how important this will be.) New or existing Early Head Start programs will be able to use this funding to partner with local child care centers and family child care providers serving low-income infants and toddlers.
  • A $154 million increase to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to restore the sequestration cuts along with a small increase, bringing the total CCDBG to $5.25 billion.
  • $250 million in new funding through the Department of Education’s Race to the Top (RTT) program for grants to States to develop, enhance, or expand access to high-quality preschool programs for children from low- and moderate-income families.

News across states and in cities was also positive. California legislators introduced an act to provide Universal Transitional Kindergarten for 4-year-olds not already reached by existing preschool programs, and New York is offering both city and state proposals to expand the reach and quality of universal preschool programs. NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett addressed the two proposals in New York in a new editorial.

The field of education lost a strong champion for children with the death of James J. Gallagher, age 87, on January 17th. Former Director of The Frank Porter Graham (FPG) Child Development Institute, Gallagher was a leader in education policy and child development research for more than six decades. FPG has shared an article that pays homage to his many significant contributions to child development and education policy, research, and teaching.

New numbers from Washington state’s kindergarten assessment confirm what many parents and teachers already know: children may be struggling with math concepts before kindergarten. The assessment observed 38,500 kindergarteners using the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, mostly in low-income districts, and found that only half of students were “school ready” in the math domain. Research shows that early math skills are a better predictor of later achievement in math and reading than early reading predicting later reading skill.


Recent research efforts at NIEER have underscored the need for introducing children early to concepts in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), particularly given the natural curiosity of preschool-aged children. Adults in children’s lives, including both parents and teachers, often report discomfort with teaching math and science concepts, which highlights the need for professional development focused on these areas. NIEER’s ongoing math games study is testing a set of games to see if it is an effective and straightforward tool for parents to use with their children at home. 

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

W. Steven Barnett, Director of NIEER and CEELO and Megan Carolan, Policy Research Coordinator at NIEER  and CEELO, examine the universal preschool options proposed in New York State and New York City by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. They explain how both proposals could be implemented to provide quality universal preschool for the state’s children.


This new paper from the New America Foundation’s Early Education Initiative explores investments in education and family well-being from birth through third grade since 2009 in the context of both the recession and the Obama administration. (Please note: New America’s panel discussion on this paper, scheduled for January 21, was cancelled for weather concerns. It has been rescheduled for January 29.).

This special report of The American Prospect provides in-depth coverage on a range of early education issues, ranging from New Jersey’s Abbott program to concerns about fade-out to international efforts in the field.

NIEER Activities

NIEER Scientific Advisory Board member Barbara Bowman was named as an appointee to the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. The Commission is “charged with strengthening the nation by improving educational outcomes for African Americans to ensure that all African Americans receive an education that prepares them for college, productive careers, and satisfying lives.”

NIEER/CEELO Assistant Research Professor Shannon Riley-Ayers and Policy Research Coordinator Megan Carolan have a new paper on American early literacy policies appearing in “Prepare for Life! Raising Awareness for Early Literacy Education,” Results and Implications of the International Conference of Experts 2013 at Stiftung Lesen in Germany. 

NIEER/CEELO researcher Megan Carolan wrote a guest blog for the New America Foundation’s EdCentral, exploring the large pool of data that exists from the federal Head Start program’s Program Information Reports. 

CEELO Update

The CEELO/ECTA Formative Assessment Peer Learning Community call on January 21 was rescheduled to February 18th, due to weather and office closing issues. If you would like to join the community please email kbrown@nieer.org.

On December 16-18, 2013, Lori Connors-Tadros, CEELO Project Director, in collaboration with Kathy Thornburg, ELC-TA; Debi Mathias, BUILD Initiative; and Susan Rohrbough, Child Care State Systems Specialist, Region V, provided technical assistance to  Minnesota's Office of Early Learning (OEL) and Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge staff to develop an evaluation framework for all RTT funded projects aligned to the Vision, Mission, and Goals of the OEL. The TA team interviewed project leads, facilitated a meeting of MN's Early Learning Cabinet, and met with the OEL leadership team.  The TA team gathered data to identify successes and challenges and determine the stage of implementation of each project to inform the development of the evaluation framework, including aligning project logic models.  The TA team submitted a report to the OEL leadership team with recommendations for next steps to ensure the goals of OEL are met, and the RTT-ELC projects are effective.


Mississippi is joining the ranks of states offering publicly funded pre-K. The Legislature allocated $3 million to initiate the state's first pre-K program as an early learning collaborative engaging public schools, Head Start, and child care programs. Eleven competitive grants were issued to community collaboratives. CEELO state liaison Jim Squires has assisted the Mississippi Dept. of Education with various aspects of planning and implementation, and Steve Barnett and Tom Schultz serve on the program's Technical Advisory Committee.

Early Learning Left Out: Building an Early-Learning System to Secure America’s Future.

This report draws upon the most recent federal, state, and public school budget information – and what we know about effective investments in young children. It offers valuable information for those seeking to build early learning systems, based upon fiscal analysis and the latest research and evidence of the need for and value of additional investments in early childhood services.


Examining the Content and Context of the Common Core State Standards:

NIEER Distinguished Research Fellow Dorothy Strickland helped develop A First Look at Implications for the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a report which examines the implications of the Common Core State Standards for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This includes two substantial studies exploring the relationship between the content of the NAEP mathematics, reading, and writing assessments and the CCSS in mathematics and English language arts (ELA), along with two shorter white papers that explore (1) the potential for incorporating learning progressions into NAEP assessments, and (2) the implications for the NAEP program of coming changes in psychometric approaches to statewide testing.

CLASP Data Finder  

CLASP maintains a customizable database of information on early childhood care and education programs and families, including figures on poverty, demographics, child care, Head Start and Early Head Start, TANF, and work supports. You can run reports based on all states, the U.S., or specific states


Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success  

This KIDS COUNT policy report details how a child’s early development from birth through age 8 is essential to making an effective transition into elementary school and for long-term academic achievement. To prepare all of America’s children to succeed, this document sets forth broad policy recommendations. This policy report also features data on early childhood development for every state, the District of Columbia and the nation.


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.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 -
1:30pm to 3:00pm

In Subprime Learning: Early Education in America Since the Great Recession, the Early Education Initiative at New America analyzes a wide array of indicators in policy, funding, family well-being, and children’s achievement across the spectrum of birth through third grade. Join us for the release of our findings and a discussion with national experts on child development and education.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - 6:00pm

Join Demos and The American Prospect for a discussion on the promise of universal preschool and what quality early education would mean for New York and the nation.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014 -
1:00pm to 4:15pm

Join top education experts who will discuss what actions state and federal policymakers can take to promote data literacy—the skills needed to effectively use data to improve instruction.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 -
2:00pm to 3:00pm

The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center) offers free professional learning materials on pressing challenges related to educator quality. Adaptable and customizable to state needs, these easy-to-use materials are designed for regional center staff, state agency staff, and a range of education stakeholders.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 -
12:00pm to 1:15pm

This webinar will be the first in a 3-part series designed to help participants think about the overall components that frame effective PreK-3rd Grade efforts and to detail some of the ways schools and districts have brought these ideas to life. This webinar showcases FirstSchool, highlighting how districts in North Carolina and Michigan are working to improve the school experiences of PreK-3rd grade African-American, Latino and low-income children. 

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.

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.

Early Education News Roundup

Friday, January 24, 2014
(The Advocate)

“From a taxpayer’s perspective it makes a lot more sense to fix the problem than spending the rest of the time catching up,” said Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, at the New Jersey university....“A high-quality program has the potential to eliminate almost all of the achievement gap in kindergarten,” Barnett said. “That’s a pretty big deal.”

Friday, January 24, 2014
(SchoolBook (WNYC))

In 1997, the politicians in Albany promised every child in New York a better opportunity for school success by creating a statewide universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) program. More than 15 years later, fewer than half of the state’s 4-year-olds receive full-day pre-k....Giving New York City the autonomy to raise its own taxes in order to invest in educating its children, as [Mayor] de Blasio has proposed, would ensure real progress toward raising quality and providing a full day, while increasing access.

Friday, January 24, 2014
(Portland Press Herald)

Casino funds already funneled to state public education should be used to help pay for universal voluntary pre-kindergarten in Maine, the Legislature’s Education Committee voted Thursday....A national study put Maine 14th in the nation for offering 4-year-olds’ access to public pre-K programs, according to a survey of 2011-2012 school year data by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Friday, January 24, 2014
(KPCC (California Public Radio))

Of the 135,000 children served by California’s subsidized preschool program for low-income families, 95,000 go to half-day programs. One reason might be because the state pays providers $21.22 per day per child for a half day class and $38.34 per day for a full day....[Steve] Barnett, the Rutgers professor, said daylong Pre-K has to be high quality in order to make a difference. “You can’t just increase the length of day and automatically you’ll get the results you want,” he said. “Teachers need to be prepared to use the full day.”

Thursday, January 23, 2014
(Washington Post)

Is early education a national security concern? A group of retired senior military officials says: Yes. “Without enough skilled men and women available to serve in tomorrow’s armed services, we endanger the future strength of our military,” says a report by Mission: Readiness, an advocacy group representing hundreds of senior retired military leaders. The best way to improve that talent pool? Early education, the report says.

Thursday, January 23, 2014
(Cape Cod Times)

The STEM curriculum becoming popular in high schools and junior high schools isn’t just for big kids anymore. On Thursday, Heritage Museums & Gardens announced plans to open a year-round preschool focusing on science, technology, engineering and math. The goal is to open The Hundred Acre School with 40 students ages 4 and 5 in the fall, said Ellen Spear, president and CEO of Heritage Museums & Gardens.  “We are hoping our curriculum will be a model not only for the state but for the nation,” Spear said at a press conference.The Hundred Acre School will be a U.S. first: a STEM preschool housed in a museum with a curriculum aligned with the local public school system and local library, she said.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to make universal prekindergarten the centerpiece of his first term, and he’s not alone. A year ago, President Obama made pre-K expansion a major component of his State of the Union address, and mayors and governors across the country—from rising Democratic stars like San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to Republican governors in Michigan and Alabama—have also championed pre-K expansion.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
(Think Progress (Blog))

While spending on early childhood education got a federal boost with stimulus funds, those have run out and funding has seen big drops since the recession, according to a new report from the New America Foundation. Funding saw a high of nearly $33 billion from the 2009 stimulus bill, which injected states with an extra $11.2 billion for programs serving kids from age zero to third grade. But that figure fell to a low of $21.5 billion last year....Special education also fared poorly: while it saw a one-time doubling of funding through the stimulus, it stayed flat and then fell last year thanks to sequestration.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A newly published study co-authored by a University of Minnesota labor economist predicts that providing full-time, high-quality preschool to impoverished children under the age of 3 could entirely eliminate the achievement gap....The study, published in the Journal of Human Resources, also found that the impact of very early intervention was less likely to fade as the children aged — even if they did not stay in quality care after age 3.

Sunday, January 19, 2014
(The Washington Post)

Across Virginia, about $23 million designated for preschool was left on the table because localities — citing limited resources, lack of classroom space and politics — did not contribute the required matching funds to take full advantage of the program. As a result, more than 6,000 disadvantaged children missed the opportunity to go to school before kindergarten....

The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, which tracks preschool spending, estimates the average per-child cost for a high-quality preschool program in Virginia would be $9,327....“You can see why school districts would balk at $6,000,” said W. Steven Barnett, the institute’s director. “The amount of money that the state is offering is too little to do this, so districts that can’t make up the difference just aren’t going to do it.”

Thursday, January 16, 2014
(Bloomberg Business Week)

Heckman won a Nobel prize in 2000. He used his speech in Stockholm to underscore the importance of using hard, observable data in making public policy, and he’s continued to gather evidence for the idea he explained to Summers. Focused, personal attention paid to the young children of poor families isn’t some warm, fuzzy notion, he argues. It’s a hard-nosed investment that pays off in lower social welfare costs, decreased crime rates, and increased tax revenue. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
(WRBL News (Alabama))

On the heels of the Alabama Governor Robert Bentley's "State of the State" address this evening, the Alabama School Readiness Alliance Pre-K Task Force is calling for an additional $12.8 million dollars to be pumped into the state's pre-k program....The Task Force says despite being recognized by the National Institute for Early Education Research as the nation's highest-quality state-funded pre-k program, the voluntary First Class Pre-K program only reaches fewer than ten percent of Alabama's four-year-olds. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
(UT San Diego)

Tens of thousands more American babies, toddlers and preschoolers would be eligible for early childhood programs under a budget deal reached by lawmakers that advocates hailed as an encouraging sign that Congress is committed to early education programs.

Monday, January 13, 2014
(Marin News)

California lawmakers are proposing a plan to create a universal free preschool for 4-year-olds in an attempt to enroll more children from immigrant and low-income families, but some Marin County education officials aren't in unanimous support of the proposal. The program would be voluntary, just as kindergarten is in the state. It would phase in over five years beginning in the 2015-16 school year and could cost the state $1 billion annually when fully implemented — adding an estimated 350,000 children to public schools.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The $65 million Gov. Rick Snyder put toward expanding preschool access across Michigan last year was the largest spending increase in the country, the Education Commission of the States said Monday. Snyder expanded the Great Start Readiness Program's budget by 59.5 percent for 2013, which was the fourth-largest percentage increase, but the $65 million allocation was the largest dollar figure expansion nationwide. A total of 30 states and the District of Columbia increased spending last fiscal year, the commission's analysis stated, while funding in seven states declined. Overall, states spent more than $5.6 billion on preschool last fiscal year, an increase of about $360 million over fiscal year 2012-2013.

Monday, January 13, 2014
(Idaho State Journal (via The Associated Press))

Democratic and some Republican advocates for state-supported preschool Monday intensified their push for a $1.4 million, five-school pilot program they hope will eventually open the door in Idaho to broader pre-kindergarten education....Across the nation, states spent about $5.1 billion on pre-K programs in 2012. Idaho is one of 10 states without a state-funded pre-K program, according to the advocacy group National Institute for Early Education Research.

Monday, January 13, 2014
(Education Week)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to create a universal preschool program for the city's 4-year-olds—through a tax on the city's highest earners—is the latest example of city leaders around the country taking early-childhood education into their own hands, sometimes well in advance of state or federal officials.

W. Steven Barnett, the executive director of [NIEER], says the tax proposal allows a dedicated funding stream for the program, rather than relying on the priorities of the state legislators. "If you go to Albany, they give you more money this year and take it away next year," he said. "The history in New York is that the rug has been pulled out from under programs pretty quickly."

Monday, January 13, 2014
(Stateline (Pew Center on the States))

The percentage of kindergartners attending full-day programs has grown from about 10 percent in the 1970s to about 76 percent in 2012, with a steep increase between 2002 and 2006, according to Child Trends, a nonprofit research center. While some programs took a hit during the recession, several states have taken action recently to expand access to full-day kindergarten.  Part-day kindergarten typically last two or three hours, while full-day kindergarten can range from four to seven hours.