Volume 13, Issue 8

Friday, April 18, 2014

Hot Topics

NIEER Director Steve Barnett testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Expanding Access to Quality Early Learning: the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, on April 10th. Barnett discussed the scientific basis for Strong Start, and the importance of public support for high quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras also weighed in on the importance of public programs, citing his own experience as a Head Start (and Harvard) graduate to highlight the value of early education. A webcast and pdf files of all testimony are available here.

During the Testimony, Lamar Alexander discussed a February GAO report outlining support for early childhood programs, and suggesting this funding could be streamlined, and that no new programs are required. A New America Foundation article digs deeper into that suggestion, and asks how many programs really provide substantive Federal funding for early childhood and what this means for children and Strong Start. 

Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee introduced legislation to allow state block grants of Head Start funding for early childhood programs. The proposal permits each state to determine where money is most needed, and disperse it accordingly. Representative Matt Salmon also proposed a companion House version of the bill. Currently, Head Start grantees are chosen through an application process in which the federal Office of Head Start directly funds local organizations without state government participation.  Recently, the Obama Administration introduced major changes in Monitoring Review and Re-competition, and outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius oversaw the first round of re-competition in the program. NIEER Director Steve Barnett has previously proposed recommendations to reform the program to make it more effective.

Texans may not be voting for Governor until November, but candidates Greg Abbott (R) and Wendy Davis (D) are already campaigning on early childhood education. While the two proposals differ deeply in terms of quality, access, and funding, NIEER Director Steve Barnett called the current spotlight on pre-K an “historic first for Texas.” The Davis proposal promises high-quality and access for all children, limiting the increased cost to the public through sliding scale fees. Davis provides a few specifics on how she will assure high quality, mentioning professional development and restoring funding for aides. These are both positive steps, but not sufficient to address the shortcomings of the Texas pre-K program. Abbott’s proposal is more detailed, calling for increased teacher qualifications, strong curriculum, professional development, and data collection on child progress. Yet Abbott relies on test scores (or a close substitute) alone to judge quality of implementation and success.  Such an evaluation system might provide little or no useful guidance for program improvement. Currently, Texas enrolls about 51 percent of its 4-year-olds in state-funded pre-K, considerably more than most states, but there are real concerns regarding its quality standards, which, for example, do not set any maximum class size for preschool classrooms.

A growing economics literature establishes a link between in utero shocks and health and human capital in adulthood. Most studies research extreme negative shocks, such as famine and pandemics. A report from the National Bureau of Economic Research is the first to examine the impact of a positive and policy-driven change in economic resources available in utero and during childhood. NBER uses the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to assemble data linking family background and county of residence in early childhood to adult health and economic outcomes. Findings indicate that the food stamp program has effects decades after initial exposure: Access to food stamps in childhood leads to a significant reduction in obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes; and, for women, an increase in economic self-sufficiency. NIEER Senior Research Fellow Cynthia Lamy outlines the importance of quality early childhood programs to low-income children and how vital it is in the fight against poverty in a blog posted earlier this year.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

In this blog, NIEER and CEELO Research Professor Shannon Riley-Ayers offers points for policy makers, teachers, and parents to consider in implementing formative assessments. The recommendations are based on a new CEELO report, which provides a guide and framework to early childhood policy makers on issues related to formative assessment.


This issue brief from the Center for American Progress is part of a six-part series from the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, which outlines value-based policies that benefit American families.

This report from the Educational Testing Service examines pre-K classroom observation policies across the country, focusing on three key factors: observation protocols in use, observer reliability, and collection frequency.

A report from Child Trends includes unfortunate findings on the well-being of early childhood educators, along with policy recommendations. They note that: “Early childhood educators working in Pennsylvania Head Start programs reported chronic illnesses, such as obesity and headache, in significantly higher proportions than nationally representative cohorts of women of similar age and socioeconomic status. Notably, in this anonymous online survey, 24 percent of the over 2,000 Head Start staff surveyed reported clinically significant levels of depression.”

A recent report indicates improved outcomes for children in North Carolina’s state pre-K program. Scientists from UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute report students enrolled in NC Pre-K show significant gains across all areas of learning. 

The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released the Race for Results policy report, outlining their development of an index to measure well-being for children of all races, and  to develop pathways of opportunity for all children.

Mathematica and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago have released materials on replicating evidence-based home-visiting programs. A comprehensive list of related materials, with links, is available here.

An educational intervention program for children between kindergarten and 10th grade, known as Fast Track, reduces aggressive behavior later in life, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) is a new option available to high-poverty schools to offer breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge while eliminating school meal applications. This blog explains how eligible school districts can be involved.

The PNC Foundation announced a $19 million, multi-year vocabulary initiative for underserved pre-kindergarten children.  As part of the 10-year anniversary of Grow Up Great, PNC also announced a new online Lesson Center featuring early education lesson plans created by non-profit partners who collaborated on PNC-funded initiatives.   

Worthy Wage Day’s focus on income inequality and the importance of a living wage is part of the AFT’s efforts to mobilize members and the community to reclaim the promise. On May 1, you can promote worthy wages for early childhood educators and providers. Annually, AFT child care providers around the country give awards on Worthy Wage Day to local advocates who have passed legislation, increased funding or offered assistance. For more information, visit the Worthy Wage Day website.

NIEER Activities

The Jacobs Foundation, an international foundation serving child and youth, celebrated its 25th anniversary, releasing a report of reflections on the efforts of the Foundation thus far, and moving into the future. NIEER Director Steve Barnett provided an essay (p. 22-23) reflecting on the status of early childhood care and education programs around the world as well as the Foundation’s commitment to studying such programs.


NIEER Research Professor Shannon Riley-Ayers presented at the San Antonio Association for the Education of Young Children (SAAEYC) on the question policymakers should ask regarding formative assessment. Riley-Ayers also discussed the Early Learning Scale (ELS), an assessment tool developed by NIEER and The Center: Resources for Teaching & Learning in conjunction with Lakeshore Learning. More information on the ELS is available here

CEELO Update

CEELO has just launched state-specific pages highlighting relevant policy and Technical Assistance information. Click on the state map to find information about state early learning guidelines for infants and toddlers, prekindergarten, and K-3. There are also links to state program standards for early childhood education, along with teacher and family guidance documents related to the standards. Each state page includes links to the state’s office/s of early learning. 

Shannon Riley-Ayers has prepared a report as a guide and framework to early childhood policy makers considering formative assessment, outlining issues for consideration in implementing formative assessment. This guide provides a practical roadmap for decision-makers by offering several key questions to consider in the process of selecting, supporting, and using data to inform and improve instruction. 

The Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Technical Assistance Consortium includes the project directors of federal and private technical assistance centers, and is intended to leverage resources to supporting RTT-ELC grantees.  Jana Martella and Lori Connors-Tadros attended a meeting of the ELC-TA Consortium on April 21, to discuss how well the collaboration is working and to identify new strategies to ensure that RTT grantees make the most of these resources. Resources are available here.

In May, an Inclusion Forum will be held in Chapel Hill, in conjunction with the National Early Childhood Institute.  A list of policy-oriented sessions at the Institute is outlined here. Sessions include CEELO staff Jim Squires presenting on Issues and Actions: Achieving Full Inclusion from Birth–Third Grade, with Sharon Ritchie, and Beth Rous.  


Thursday, April 17, 2014 -
2:00pm to 3:30pm

REL Midwest and REL Southwest present an interactive webinar on effectively building state early childhood data systems. This free, interactive webinar will examine research-based best practices as well as lessons learned from the field.

Monday, April 28, 2014 - 8:00am to Friday, May 2, 2014 - 5:00pm

NHSA’s Annual Head Start Conference and Expo is the largest national event devoted to the Head Start and Early Head Start community. The 41st Annual Conference’s theme is Driven to Make a Difference.

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.

Thursday, May 15, 2014 - 8:00am to Saturday, May 17, 2014 - 5:00pm

Join the McCormick Center for its  Leadership Connections national conference, at the Wheeling Westin, just north of Chicago, IL. Sessions are designed for a range of individuals, including any child care administrator, policymaker, resource and referral specialist, college instructor, family child care provider, or independent consultant. Meet national experts, learn new skills, and gain the knowledge you need to be more effective in your leadership role. Equally important is the opportunity you’ll have to network with others who are doing similar work and experiencing the same challenges you do.

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.

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, April 16, 2014
(The Detroit News)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and running mate Lisa Brown outlined universal preschool, standards for limiting class sizes and better state funding for higher education Wednesday as key education goals.

The package of education priorities lacked any funding details. Former Congressman Schauer said Wednesday he is not prepared to say how he would pay for the proposals, but that he’d start with a study to determine how much the state should spend to provide a quality public education system.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Local school administrators do not expect a state plan to expand preschool access to have a major impact on Greenwich, but they welcome the proposal nonetheless.

The plan, put forth by General Assembly Democrats, calls for a 10-year, $200 million commitment to create as many as 50,000 preschool spaces for 3- and 4-year-olds. It would focus on underperforming school districts, but Senate President Pro Tempore Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said the entire state should ultimately benefit.

Monday, April 14, 2014
(Daily Journal)

New Mexico may be the worst in the nation when it comes to child well-being, but U.S. Sen. Tom Udall on Monday said raising the minimum wage and providing unemployment insurance to those parents who have been without jobs the longest could make an immediate difference in the lives of children.

"Extra dollars to families really make a difference," Udall said.

The New Mexico Democrat hosted a round table discussion with children's advocates, business leaders and others to address the state's dismal rankings. His goal is to identify steps that can be taken at the federal level to lift children and families out of poverty and to boost opportunities for children to succeed.

Monday, April 14, 2014
(Huffington Post)

Play is the young child's context for deep learning! Play is not only appropriate, it is critical in preschool, pre-k, and kindergarten. Don't envision a developmentally appropriate classroom as a place of chaos, either. It's a place where children are happily and energetically interacting with their surroundings that support learning. 

Monday, April 14, 2014
(Globe-Gazette (IA))

The Iowa Senate on Monday approved incentives to increase enrollment in the state voluntary preschool program. The measure would alleviate waiting lists, especially for low-income and minority students who, the floor manager said, have the most to gain from early childhood education.

Senate File 2351 was approved 28-22 with two Republicans -- Sens. Rick Bertrand of Sioux City and Mark Segebart of Vail -- joining majority Democrats to send the bill to the GOP-controlled House, where leadership has shown little interest.

Although the program could cost the state as much as $127 million over three years, Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, estimated $51 million is a more likely cost because some students won’t enroll and others attend other programs, such as Head Start.

Monday, April 14, 2014
(Pittsburgh Business Times)

If companies want to have a skilled and educated workforce in the future, supporting quality early education is key, according to Pre-K for PA, a statewide issue campaign. Capitalizing on this year's gubernatorial election, the goal of the campaign is to provide access to high quality pre-kindergarten education to each child in Pennsylvania.

Research shows that children with access to high-quality pre-K are more likely to advance grades and have improved social skills, said Michelle Figlar, executive director of the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, which is heading up the campaign locally.

Sunday, April 13, 2014
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

A systematic analysis of 84 preschool programs demonstrated that on average children gained about a third of a year of additional learning in language, reading and math skills, and the publicly funded preschool programs in Tulsa and Boston produced gains of a half to a full year of additional learning in reading and math.

New research shows that learning improvements occur for middle-class as well as low-income children, although low-income children gain more. Further, dual-language learners gain as much or more than native speakers, and children with mild to moderate special needs advance as much as typically developing children.

Saturday, April 12, 2014
(4-traders Interserv)

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, for the 2009-2010 school year, prekindergarten enrollment of 4-year- olds was at 26.7 percent. In the same time frame, total state funding for prekindergarten children decreased by nearly $30 million, prompting local agencies to stress the importance of early education.

"I looked at every single place I could, and there were only a few things I was looking for: the location, the price and the curriculum," Ms. Campbell said. "I really think (early education) is the best thing for kids, because my daughter stayed home with me and I took her to her grandmother's house. But she has so many problems in school right now."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Democratic leaders in the legislature presented an ambitious proposal Wednesday to dramatically expand government-funded early childhood education programs in Connecticut.

Standing alongside educators from across the state at a Capitol press conference, a group of powerful lawmakers, including Senate President Donald Williams and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, outlined their plan to spend $200 million over 10 years. The money would cover the cost of providing "a "high-quality" pre-kindergarten experience in public schools for about 50,000 3- and 4-year-olds.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
(News Daily)

A proposal to offer free preschool to all California four-year-olds passed its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday with support from Democrats but facing skepticism from Governor Jerry Brown and some educators that could doom its chances this year.

The $1.5 billion program is being pushed hard by the state senate's Democratic leader, Darrell Steinberg, who is leaving office at the end of this year and views it as key to his legacy in the most populous U.S. state.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

 Legislation originally designed to study the amount of demand for early childhood education sparked an extended argument in the House Education Committee. House Bill 954 by Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, drew criticism from school districts around the state because it also allocates funds for private day care centers.

“It’s important to determine what kind of demand is out there before moving forward to find the best way to give our young people access to the high-quality educational opportunities at an early age,” Leger said.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Using a new $1.5 million grant provided by the John E. Morgan Foundation, Rutgers-Camden on Wednesday announced plans to establish a $3 million endowment supporting early childhood education programs in the city.

According to a school spokesman, the $3 million endowment, the other half of which will be provided by various smaller donors, will benefit the John S. and James L. Knight Early Learning Research Academy (ELRA), located on the Rutgers campus in Camden.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
(Houston Chronicle)

This very wealthy state with its booming economy - so says candidate Abbott - has a long way to go when it comes to meeting our children's education needs. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, Texas meets only two of 10 benchmarks used to measure quality pre-K education.

"Texas has some of the weakest pre-K quality standards in the country, with no limits to class size and ratio of students to teachers," said W. Steven Barnett, the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, in an interview with the San Antonio Express News. "To turn this around, the next governor needs to work with the Legislature to increase access to high quality based on the science of early learning."

Tuesday, April 8, 2014
(El Semanario)

To provide early childhood educators, policymakers and school leaders with information on the reliability and validity challenges that accompany efforts to track and improve the quality of early education programs, Educational Testing Service (ETS) has released a report that examines PreK classroom observation policies across the country.  . . . Ackerman's report also provides a detailed analysis and description of classroom observation policies for 27 state-funded PreK programs from the 2012–2013 school year. The data for the descriptions were gathered from a survey Ackerman sent to the administrators of 53 PreK programs that were identified in the National Institute for Early Education Research's 2011 Preschool Yearbook.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014
(Pew Research Center Factank)

A greater share of mothers are not working outside the home than at any time in the past two decades, according to a new Pew Research Center report. After declining for several decades—bottoming out at 23% around the turn of the century—the share of stay-at-home mothers has risen in fits and starts over the past decade and a half, to 29% in 2012, according to the Pew Research analysis of census data.

While there are many reasons driving this trend, one likely reason is the rising cost of child care. A 2010 Census paper (which focused on married stay-at-home mothers) commented that “[e]specially for mothers who have more than one child under 5, the cost of day care might be higher than she could support unless she has fairly high earnings.”

Monday, April 7, 2014
(KPCC (Southern California Public Radio))

California’s childcare and development system has “serious flaws” and is in need of “comprehensive restructuring,” according to a new report from the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO.) Examining the complicated public subsidy which provides low-income families with assistance for early childcare, the report lays out a road map for the state legislature to move towards a “simplified and rational system.”

Serving 300,000 children, California spends approximately $2 billion each year on subsidized childcare and development programs, according to the LAO. 60 percent of this funding comes from the state and the remaining 40 percent from federal monies. The report does not consider Head Start programs as that is a separate federal program.

Monday, April 7, 2014
(Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel)

What breaks this cycle? Education. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, college graduates live at least five years longer than those who haven't graduated high school, and each additional year of schooling represents an 11% increase in income. A solid education is an individual's primary method for securing financial stability, which not only increases access to healthy foods and safe communities but also promotes an individual's ability to provide his or her children with quality child care and educational experiences.. . . Furthermore, education—Head Start, in particular—is an essential program to enable low-income populations to increase their economic mobility. Yet National Institute for Early Education Research shows despite the fact that admittance to Wisconsin Head Start and pre-kindergarten programs has almost tripled since 2002, state spending has decreased nearly $1,500 per child enrolled since then.

Saturday, April 5, 2014
(Washington Post)

D.C. officials released a proposal for new elementary school boundaries Saturday, the first comprehensive overhaul of the politically sensitive partitions in four decades. The proposed new lines—redrawn to adjust for schools that are overcrowded or underused and to address travel or safety issues—could affect thousands of families. But even more far-reaching­ than the reconfigured map is a set of three policy proposals the city also unveiled at a public meeting, parts of which could fundamentally change how students are assigned to traditional public schools. . . .Two of the policy proposals contemplate giving children the right to attend pre-kindergarten at their neighborhood school. Currently, all pre-kindergarten enrollment is determined by lottery, which means families have no guarantee that their children can attend a school near home.

Saturday, April 5, 2014
(MySA (San Antonio))

W. Steven Barnett, the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, or NIEER, lauded both candidates for emphasizing high-quality preschool in their education proposals, calling it a “historic first for Texas.” But neither plan addresses class size and student-teacher ratio, Barnett noted in an email.

“Texas has some of the weakest pre-K quality standards in the country with no limits to class size and ratio” of students to teachers, he said. “To turn this around, the next governor needs to work with the legislature to increase access to high quality based on the science of early learning.”

Abbott's recommendation to steer families away from Head Start “would make no sense,” Barnett said, adding, “Texas pre-K is not stronger than Head Start; it may well be weaker for some children.” And, he said, Davis' plan has too few details on how she would ensure high quality, aside from professional development and rehiring teacher's aides.