Volume 13, Issue 4

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hot Topics

As educators incorporate Black History Month into their February lesson plans, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans (WHIEEAA) is setting an example by focusing on the future of education and equity for African-American children. The Initiative runs frequent “TweetChats” bringing together advocates and experts on a wide range of educational topics, including a recent conversation on early childhood education which included NIEER Research Fellow Stephanie Curenton; NIEER has previously released a paper with WHIEEAA on disparities in access to and quality of early childhood education for African-American students. WHIEEAA also held an event this week on Reducing Disparities and Promoting Positive School Discipline to Ensure Educational Excellence for African Americans which highlighted the importance of community, youth, and family involvement in changing implicitly biased school policies that turn discipline into punishment rather than a teaching moment.

A recent blog from Alex Holt at the New America Foundation refutes recent claims that full-day pre-K does not have a greater impact than does part-day pre-K. He notes: “Time matters a lot, even for middle-income children. In fact, authors of a respected literature review on the topic stated in summary that,'perhaps the most striking pattern of findings … is the increase in positive outcomes (and in some studies, decrease in negative outcomes) when children attend high quality early care and education program for more time.'” Holt has previously emphasized the need to collect more complete data on how many hours children are served in pre-K. Full-day kindergarten (FDK) programs also convey numerous benefits to the children enrolled in them, as discussed in two new papers. As reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, there is strong evidence that full-day kindergarten improves academic achievement, which is a predictor of long-term health, and can play a role in advancing health equity for low-income and minority children. There is strong evidence that FDK improves academic achievement, a predictor of longer-term health benefits. To sustain early benefits, intensive elementary school education is needed. If targeted to low-income and minority communities, FDK can advance health equity. In another piece in the same publication, the Community Preventive Services Task Force calls for full-day kindergarten for five days per week for minority and low-income children because of the gains shown in reading and mathematics achievement compared to half-day kindergarten or full-day kindergarten on alternating days. The Task Force also calls for ongoing school interventions to sustain these gains through the early elementary grades.

The Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services are soliciting input on the competition for new Preschool Development grants. The Administration plans to use the $250 million new Race to the Top grants to states for a major new competition to build and expand high-quality preschool programs.

The two departments encourage all interested parties to submit opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments pertaining to the new competition on the Homeroom Blog up until 5:00 PM EDT on February 26, 2014. Once the initial input from the field is collected and reviewed, they will draft an executive summary and post for comments that will, in turn, inform the final NIA.

Please see this website for complete information and to share your comments.

A new report from the Early Childhood Data Collaborative assessed state longitudinal data systems in 2013 and found connections across early childhood lacking. Only Pennsylvania’s system can link child-level data across all early childhood sectors as well as link to the state’s K-12 data system, both key components of tracking child outcome data comprehensively. Thirty states reported they were able to link early childhood child data to the states’ K-12 system, as well as 20 that could link to social service data and 12 that could link to health data. In a blog post, researchers at the New America Foundation explain the practical importance of having these data: “Imagine being an elementary school principal, but not knowing whether your incoming kindergartners had been in any educational environment prior to age 5. Or picture a state official working to distribute funding for a state pre-K program, but who has no way to know whether a particular region is over- or underrepresented in early educational offerings.“ The ability to link early childhood data to K-12 systems is a prerequisite for funding in the proposed Strong Start for America’s Children Act which has been introduced in both the House and the Senate.

The Administration for Children and Families  (ACF) has launched a Web page providing resources for encouraging Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships. There is an overview of the initiative available as a PowerPoint; resources available on building successful partnerships between EHS programs and family child care providers; and information on applying for grants for Early Head Start grantees to partner with family childcare providers and center-based care programs. The goal is to provide full-day, full-year, high quality service to infants and toddlers from low-income families.


EdWeek has reported on a study using ECLS-K data indicating that Kindergarten content may be too easy for most incoming students, who could benefit from more advanced content coverage in class. The study is available online here, for a limited time.

The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and National Association of Secondary School Principals have released a document on policy recommendations to support principals in implementing  teacher evaluation systems.

A new survey was released by Early Care and Education Consortium and Exchange Magazine of their members and subscribers regarding federal early childhood policy. Nearly half the respondents are owners or administrators. Among the findings: 53 percent currently partner with public schools, 60 percent believe that programs should be required to meet state early learning standards to participate in new federal initiatives, and the highest priority use for additional funding is professional development closely followed by increased salaries for teachers.

NIEER Activities

The new issue (Vol. 7, No.2) of the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy is now available. NIEER co-edits the journal with Korea Institute for Child Care and Education and has a limited number of hard copies available.  Articles of particular interest include: a history and explanation of policies behind universal kindergarten (age 1-5) in Norway; a discussion by Jay Belsky of research on differential susceptibility of young children to both positive and negative environmental influences; an analysis of the benefits of national early childhood policy change of indigenous children in Australia; a global perspective by Sharon Lynn Kagan and colleagues on understanding and using early learning standards; and an empirical study of the quality of license-exempt church sponsored child care in the United States.

NIEER’s most recent published State of Preschool Yearbook data, covering the 2011-2012 school year, is now available as a data file for secondary analysis through Research Connections at the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. 

Join us next week at Preschool Matters . . .Today! for an interactive discussion on play in early childhood education. New research and such policy initiatives as teacher evaluation, statewide assessment systems for young children, and the introduction of the Common Core have heightened tensions in the field regarding play. We’ll have experts weighing in all week, and we welcome your comments on the blog, @PreschoolToday on Twitter, and on Facebook.

CEELO Update

This new Fast Fact provides an overview of information on Kindergarten Entry Assessments (KEAs) as well as best practices in developing them. The resource was also highlighted in a recent blog from Strategies for Children. 

Supporting two generations for family success

In January the Aspen Institute released a report outlining how leading early childhood programs are supporting families’ educational success and economic security, and tracing the path of development of those programs. A video discussion of the report findings is also available.


The impact of full-day K on children from low-income and minority families

The Community Preventive Services Task Force has published a series of articles about providing full-day Kindergarten. These include a systemic review of research, a commentary by Marian Wright Edelman, and recommendation for implementing full-day Kindergarten.


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

Thursday, February 20, 2014
(The Journal Gazette (Indiana))

As state lawmakers debated the future of Gov. Mike Pence’s preschool bill Wednesday, local leaders gathered to discuss the importance of early childhood learning. More than 140 business, education and community leaders attended the Early Childhood Learning Summit in Fort Wayne. The summit included a live webcast with Robert Dugger, founder of ReadyNation, a business partnership that focuses on the link between early childhood education and economic success.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A report released yesterday by the Early Childhood Data Collaborative suggests most states need more support in using and linking data on early childhood education so that officials can get a clear picture of what services are available for young children, the quality of those services, and if they are helping them prepare for school.

Thursday, February 20, 2014
(NPR (Radio) St. Louis)

Last week, Steven Dow, executive director of Community Action Project (CAP) of Tulsa, the state’s largest anti-poverty problem that was involved in establishing pre-K as state policy, testified in front of the New York City Council on how Oklahoma’s program works.

Dow joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss Oklahoma’s pre-K program.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
(The Fresno Bee)

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, proposes to expand the state's voluntary pre-kindergarten grade in public schools to all 4-year-olds within five years. His Senate Bill 837 is a good start for discussion on this important issue.

Many details remain to be worked out, not the least of which is how to pay for it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
(U-T San Diego)

As discussions about the merits of early education continue nationally, a push for more preschool programs in California hit the road Tuesday when state Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Torlakson launched a bus tour from San Diego to Sacramento with a rally for increased funding.

“Right now students from poverty and from English-learner backgrounds come to kindergarten a year and a half to two years behind their peers,” Torlakson said at a “Gap Busters”-themed kick-off event at Chollas Mead Elementary School in San Diego. “We’re aiming at helping our students achieve, get a solid grounding in preschool and early-learning, and then go on and be successful in elementary school.”

Monday, February 17, 2014
(The New Mexican)

The proposed constitutional amendment to tap New Mexico’s $13.1 billion land-grant endowment to help fund early childhood education appears dead. A mix of Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee stopped the initiative Monday night on an 8-2 vote. Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, said the bill was “temporarily tabled,” but even the measure’s die-hard advocates concede that the odds of it passing now are minuscule. . . . During Monday’s two-hour hearing, proponents of early childhood education said the program could turn around New Mexico’s economy by creating more success stories. Infants and preschoolers who receive a quality education would be much more likely to become wage earners than dropouts, they said.

Monday, February 17, 2014
(The Times-Picayune)

On a quiet strip of St. Bernard Avenue, a New Orleans neighborhood is rebuilding. Among the building blocks is a remarkable cornerstone, a pre-school center where a combination of charities is spending more than twice the Louisiana norm to prepare low-income children for kindergarten. . . . "Part of our challenge is it's very difficult for low-income kids to catch up," Gerry Barousse Jr., a founding member of the Bayou District Foundation. "Our ability to ensure that children in the Bayou District and across the city (whom) we can impact arrive at kindergarten on grade level is obviously hugely important."

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Kentucky House passed a bill Friday that's part of an effort to improve kindergarten readiness by expanding training for preschool staffs and broadening use of a rating system to critique day cares and preschools.

The proposal is a response to Kentucky's emergence as a winner late last year in a national competition for government grants to improve early childhood learning. Kentucky claimed a $44.3 million grant as part of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge competition.

Friday, February 14, 2014
(CBS Sacramento)

Using videos that claim to teach toddlers, or flash cards for tots, may not be the best idea. Simply talking to babies is key to building crucial language and vocabulary skills — but sooner is better, and long sentences are good. So says research that aims to explain, and help solve, the troubling “word gap”: Children from more affluent, professional families hear millions more words before they start school than poor kids, leaving the lower-income students at an academic disadvantage that’s difficult to overcome.

That gap starts to appear at a younger age than scientists once thought, around 18 months, said Stanford University psychology professor Anne Fernald. And research being presented this week at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science suggests that it’s not just hearing lists of words that matters as much as rich, varied language with good grammar that trains babies’ brains to learn through context.

Friday, February 14, 2014
(CBS Miami)

Meanwhile, House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said this week he was happy to see Gov. Rick Scott’s budget recommendations for early learning, but wasn’t sure how much the House would allocate for the programs. “There’s been a tremendous amount of data and science that has shown that investing in early childhood education pays huge dividends to your state,” Weatherford said. “Particularly in the last 10 years, the data that has come back has been pretty overwhelming.”

Scott’s recommendations include a one-time $30 million boost to the school readiness programs, which served 223,000 children last year. Florida has long had a waiting list for the school readiness programs, which haven’t had a significant funding increase in a decade. Best estimates are that 60,000 to 70,000 children are waiting for a place. Scott is also calling for an increase in per-pupil spending for the voluntary pre-kindergarten program, in which more than 174,000 children are enrolled. Currently the state spends $2,383 per child; Scott has asked for an increase to $2,483 per child, or $929,000 overall. The national average was $3,841 in 2012, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Thursday, February 13, 2014
(The Daily Beast)

In the District of Columbia, where I live, four to five thousand kids whose family income falls below the poverty line ($24,000 for a family of four) should be served by Head Start, but aren’t. Critics say the program is not cost-effective, that academic gains made at the end of a year fade over time. Advocates say that early intervention has benefits beyond test scores because it exposes kids to language and structure they may not get at home.

President Obama wants more than Head Start; he wants universal preschool. So do New York City Mayor DeBlasio, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and a growing cadre of politicians across the country.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
(The Hartford Courant (Editorial))

For decades, research has shown that quality prekindergarten programs give taxpayers a huge, positive return on investment. The landmark Perry Preschool Project, which provided poor minority children in Ypsilanti, Mich., with a quality preschool experience in the 1960s was found in follow-up studies decades later to have saved taxpayers about $13 for every $1 invested — more than a quarter-million dollars per student. Participants were more likely to avoid being held back in school, to finish high school and even to earn more money as adults than those who did not have the same early childhood education.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Expanding publicly funded care for children under 5 is a top priority for the U.S. Department of Education, said Libby Doggett, the deputy assistant secretary of Policy and Early Learning.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

President Barack Obama mentioned the importance of pre-K education during his State of the Union Address in January. Last year, Obama said he asked Congress to help make pre-K education available to all 4-year-olds in the country. Since he made this request to Congress, Obama said 30 states have raised pre-K funding on their own.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, 1,332,663 children were enrolled in pre-K education programs for the 2011-12 school year. In Indiana, Senate Bill 389, authored by Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, would have required all public schools, including charter schools, to offer a preschool education program or to contract with a provider to offer a preschool education program. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

It's not only poor Philadelphia children who are going without high quality child-care and preschool programs - suburban communities have severe shortages of slots, and in many cases costs are prohibitive.

Those findings are from a report released today by Public Citizens for Children and Youth, a Philadelphia-based advocacy group that has issued similar studies on education, health, poverty, and nutrition in recent months. Characteristics of high-quality care include having trained teachers who understand child development and can teach social and emotional skills along with letters and numbers, said Shawn Towey, the organization's child-care policy coordinator.

Sunday, February 9, 2014
(Columbia Daily Tribune (MO))

Republican governors and lawmakers who now control a majority of state capitols have been pushing aggressively to cut spending and shrink government — with one glaring exception. Many are pumping new money into preschool programs at a rate equaling or even exceeding the Democratic-dominated capitols stereotypically cast as big spenders. The push reflects a conclusion among conservatives that one part of the social safety net deserves more government help, not less. If it continues, the move could be a step toward creation of a new educational entitlement at a time when both parties are concerned about the costs of the current programs, such as Medicare and Social Security.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said he has been working on legislation to expand the Iowa Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program, which was established in 2007 to fund preschool for 4-year-olds. Quirmbach, a professor at Iowa State University, expressed concern that there are not always enough public preschool spots available, meaning some kids may end up on waiting lists."We have strong belief in the value of preschool. We want every kid eligible and whose parents want them to participate, to be able to," Quirmbach said.

W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, said preschool programs benefit students both by enhancing academic skills and helping them understand how to behave at school. Barnett said research shows that preschool can help boost performance for kids from a range of economic backgrounds. "The advantage of a preschool program is it can help kids get ready. That can be in language and cognitive ability...It can also be what's called executive functions, self-regulation. These abilities include the ability to focus on what someone else wants you to focus on. Also, the ability to plan," Barnett said.