Volume 13, Issue 9

Friday, May 2, 2014

Hot Topics

The rise of early childhood education in media coverage has given rise a seemingly simple question: What makes high-quality in early childhood education? A recent NPR article, with accompanying video, explores this question through the lens of a classroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma.The Ounce of Prevention Fund provides a helpful checklist of some indicators of quality. For visual learners, First Five Years Fund’s Invest in Us project provides an interactive video tour of a classroom set up for high-quality learning. The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) also provides several “Observe and Learn” Resource videos, in preparation for an upcoming meeting, that provide professional development.

Rhian Evans Allvin, executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and Adele Robinson, NAEYC's deputy executive director for policy and public affairs, explored “Why the U.S. Doesn't Deliver on the Promise of High-Quality Early-Childhood Education” in a new piece at the National Journal. In another article, MaryLee Allen, acting policy director of the Children's Defense Fund, and Daniel Hains, early childhood policy assistant there, shine the spotlight on the particular needs of children receiving special education services in the ongoing conversations on expanding early childhood education. Both pieces appeared as part of the National Journal’s ongoing “The Next America” series, which explores political, economic, and social impacts of profound racial and cultural change in the United States. The full archive of early childhood coverage can be found here.


New on Preschool Matters...Today!

In this blog, guest authors Stephanie Curenton and Iheoma U. Iruka discuss the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, and what the initiative can mean for early childhood education--by focusing on what educational structures are needed to ensure African Americans/Blacks are on the path to success even before they enroll in the K-12 system.


A new short video released by The Heckman Equation covers the long-lasting health effects of quality early childhood programs.

CLASP released two new reports focused on Early Head Start: a guide for state leaders in aligning Early Head Start with other early childhood investments, as well as a tool designed to help state leaders support Early Head Start-Child care partnerships.

Weren’t able to attend the National Head Start Association (NHSA) conference this week? You can follow updates from attendees via Twitter and Tumblr or follow the latest from NHSA on their blog.

A new report from AIR studies examined the first year implementation of California’s “transitional kindergarten” program, using focus groups, interviews, surveys and classroom observations.

Vermont has launched Let's Grow Kids, a statewide public education campaign, to raise understanding of the importance of the earliest years in the lives of Vermont's children. Funded by a collaboration of private foundations, Let's Grow Kids is working with Vermont communities, organizations, businesses, and individuals to help young children find success.

NIEER Activities

The 2014 National Smart Start Conference will be held at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, North Carolina from May 5-8. On May 7, NIEER Director Steve Barnett will appear on a panel entitled “Pre-K for Some or All?” with Debra Andersen and Cecilia Zalkind, moderated by Kenneth Dodge.

The 2014 National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from June 8-11. NIEER Staff Members will be presenting:

  • Improving young children’s mathematical development: Teacher professional development as key: Herbert P. Ginsburg, Marilou Hyson, Kimberly Brenneman, Juanita V Copley.  6/8/2014 2:00 PM - 4:00 PM

  • Supports for science and mathematics learning in pre-K dual language learners: Designing a professional development system: Kimberly Brenneman, Alissa A. Lange, Jorie Quinn. 6/9/2014 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM

CEELO Update

CEELO has linked to surveys allowing users to collect consistent data on using child assessments and learning standards in early childhood learning settings. Each survey includes modules on educator/administrator background information, using assessments, and implementing learning standards. The surveys and modules can be used either together or individually, and are part of a research agenda to improve early childhood programming and child outcomes through research- and evidence-based practices.

Lori Connors-Tadros, CEELO Project Director, facilitated a session on "Comprehensive Assessment Systems Overview" at the 2014 RTT-ELC Annual Grantee Meeting on April 29, 2014. Georgia and Minnesota presented the approaches they are taking in their states to build an aligned assessment system from Birth through 3rd grade, to ensure teachers and administrators have deep knowledge of children's learning to inform effective teaching practice and engagement with families.

At a session on "Approaches to Creating and Implementing Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA) Systems" on April 30, Tom Schultz, CCSSO and CEELO, presented the "Top Nine Reasons to Implement a State KEA and Top 9 Challenges/Concerns."   


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.

Sunday, June 8, 2014 - 8:00am to Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 5:00pm

The NAEYC 2014 National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development will be held in Minneapolis June 8-11. A list of featured sessions is available here

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

Thursday, May 1, 2014
(National Journal)

Right now, a strong case is being made for public investments in high-quality early childhood experiences for all children. The research is clear: The earliest years of a child's life are marked by rapid brain development, laying the foundation for future educational and life outcomes. High-quality early childhood opportunities benefit the children who participate in them, particularly those with the greatest needs and the greatest risk of being left behind. Society benefits through a substantial return on investments made.

Thursday, May 1, 2014
(The Fresno Bee)

How can Fresno County close the learning achievement gap? What's the trick to getting all third-graders reading at grade level?...

Jeff Edmondson, managing director of the Ohio-based children advocacy group StriveTogether, gave the keynote address. His message: schools, businesses and community groups should collaborate to strengthen programs that work now.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
(Providence Journal (Opinion))

I firmly believe that early childhood education is the critical factor in the development of our young people and the communities in which they live. Multiple studies have demonstrated as much: Pre-kindergarten graduates are more likely to attend college, maintain a full-time job and possess health insurance. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that lifetime economic benefits yield a return-on-investment of as much as $11 for each dollar invested in high-quality early childhood programs. As someone went from Head Start to Harvard, I have lived this reality.

The good news for Rhode Island is that our state pre-kindergarten program is among the best in the nation. Rhode Island meets all 10 benchmarks for standards developed by the National Institute for Early Education Research. And yet, despite the high quality of our program, Rhode Island has the lowest percentage of 4-year-old children enrolled in state pre-kindergarten of any state with a state-sponsored program. Only 1 percent of Rhode Island’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in our state pre-kindergarten program, compared with highs of 74 percent in Oklahoma and 65 percent in Vermont.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
(News 12 Connecticut)

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is working to give the public more access to early education . . . . Supporters say the measure would expand access to pre-K for more than 4,000 children statewide over the next four years.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
(The Buffalo News (Opinion))

Most people agree that early education produces the best results. Therefore, news that Erie County’s largest Head Start administrator has gotten the boost it needs to maintain all of its programs this year is to be celebrated.

As reported in The News, the federal government restored millions of dollars that had been cut in the sequester last year. Even better, this year’s grant even increased the funding by 3 percent.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
(Hechinger Report via Vida in el valle)

Ruth Kimble has been waiting a long time for early childhood education to have its moment, and now, she thinks, it has arrived. Across the country, voters and politicians alike are making prekindergarten expansion a priority.

That’s good news to Kimble, a 66-year-old grandmother of four who offers day care and preschool in a violent and impoverished section of Chicago. But it’s not nearly enough, she says.

Kimble has ideas about how to get society’s youngest and most vulnerable learners off to the right start. She’s carrying them out in her community, a predominantly African-American neighborhood on Chicago’s west side called Austin. On a very small scale, others say, she’s demonstrating promising practices for the nation at large.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
(Houston Chronicle (Opinion))

In this contentious age, there are a few things that voters can agree on: Mom, apple pie and the need for pre-kindergarten. A recent YouGov poll found that most Americans support expansion of pre-K. As noted "A& for pre-K debate" (Page B8, April 10), it bodes well for Texas that Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Wendy Davis, our gubernatorial candidates, have made pre-K plans the cornerstones of their educational programs. But pre-K can mean different things to different people, and so it is not surprising that the Abbott and Davis plans disagree on specifics, such as whether the program should be full-day (Davis) or half-day (Abbott). Unfortunately, both plans are alike in one crucial respect. They both ignore the apples in the pre-K pie: class size and student-teacher ratio.

"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," W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, recently told the San Antonio Express-News.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When it comes to investing in early childhood education, said Bill Millett, “It’s not about ABCs. It’s about ROI,” or return on investmentMillett, president of the North Carolina-based consulting firm Scope View Strategic Advantage, spoke to an assembled group of business and community leaders Tuesday in Rib Mountain about how factors such as providing high-quality daycare and reading to babies translate into future workforce and business advantages.

Monday, April 28, 2014
(Washington Post)

Thousands of low-income children could find space in pre-kindergarten programs around Connecticut under legislation that won bipartisan support on Friday. The legislation would open 1,020 seats for pre-kindergarteners in low-income school districts in the 2014-2015 school year. Over the next five years, the state will spend $51 million a year to open another 4,010 seats in pre-K classrooms, the Hartford Courant reported.

Local school boards will be eligible for the grants. Private programs will also be eligible after Republicans pushed to allow them to accept funding; the measure provides almost equal funding for public and private schools.

Friday, April 25, 2014
(Vermont Business Magazine)

Research conducted by Hart Research Associates in December showed that Vermonters are not aware of the significant development that occurs during the first three years of life. About 80% of a child's crucial brain development happens before age three, and 90% by age five.

"It's a whole lot easier to prevent problems than it is to fix them later," added Dr Hagan.

Friday, April 25, 2014

One key to improving student proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math will be getting children interested in those areas at a younger age.

Friday, April 25, 2014
(kmov.com St. Louis)

The Missouri Senate has approved a measure that could pave the way for private, nonprofit groups to develop a preschool rating system.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A study looking at the first-year implementation of transitional kindergarten in California finds that most school districts provided the new grade level, and that approaches varied widely. The results, which are shared in a new report by the American Institutes for Research (AIR), found that transitional kindergarten appears to provide a different experience than traditional kindergarten, one more appropriate for young learners.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The importance of expanding access to preschool seems to be the one topic in education that everyone can agree on . . . .

The business and law enforcement communities have been proponents of the push, with leaders in both fields arguing that better preparing kids for kindergarten will ultimately lead to a more skilled labor force and less crime. 
Thursday, April 24, 2014
(Los Angeles Times)

In a broad consensus across racial, political and economic lines, most Californians support two historic changes in how academic subjects are taught and state dollars are allocated to schools, according to a statewide survey released Wednesday...

More than two-thirds of Californians surveyed support new national learning standards known as Common Core, which are currently being rolled out to better prepare students for college and careers with a deeper focus on critical thinking over rote memorization. California’s support is in marked contrast to growing resistance to the standards in New York, Indiana, Oklahoma and several other states.

Thursday, April 24, 2014
(News 2 ABC/WKRN-TV Nashville)

Access to high-quality pre-k has both immediate and lasting economic benefits that extend far beyond the individual child, according to a new report from ReadyNation/America's Edge. The study, which was commissioned as a research element of the Pre-K for PA campaign, found that for every $1 dollar invested in pre-k, the state's economy would see $1.79in spending and economic activity. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
(National Journal)

Head Start served about 8 percent of American 3-year olds and 11 percent of 4-year olds in 2012, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University In their assessments . . . Head Start providers must now meet seven performance criteria. Five are administrative—things such as having the right licensing, and being financially solvent. Providers must also set goals for preparing children for kindergarten, and take steps to achieve them. The last and most important change is a requirement that programs meet minimum thresholds on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, a privately developed tool that assesses how teachers and staff interact with children. . . .    

If Baltimore's plan is approved, the city's public school pre-K programs will expand to serve 4-year olds who would otherwise have gone to Head Start. Head Start will also become a full-day, full-year program for 3-year olds, and Early Head Start services will coordinate with a federally funded home visiting program for pregnant women.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NPR's education team is grappling with a big question. It grows from a subject President Obama talks about a lot: preschool. The president wants every child in America to have what he calls high quality preschool...

Which leaves the question of what a high quality preschool is. Tulsa, Oklahoma is a leader in early childhood education. Teachers there are well-trained and well-paid. Classrooms are safe, nurturing and challenging.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

President Obama has called repeatedly on Congress to help states pay for "high-quality preschool" for all. In fact, those two words — "high quality" — appear time and again in the president's prepared remarks. They are also a refrain among early childhood education advocates and researchers. But what do they mean? And what separates the best of the nation's preschool programs from the rest?...

NPR found one answer to those questions in Tulsa, Okla. The city is known as a national leader in early childhood education. There, preschool means teachers are unusually well-educated, well-trained and well-paid. Educators in Tulsa have worked to make classrooms safe and nurturing, but also challenging.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Some researchers counter that many kids don't see lasting benefits because early childhood education programs are often underfunded. That can mean poorly trained teachers and a weak, curricular patchwork.

"Those kids are going to be in a spiral of failure," says Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. "And we set that up by not adequately investing before they get to kindergarten."

Barnett says a majority of low-income 4-year-olds are in poor quality programs. If there is a silver lining, it's that even substandard preschool is better than the more common alternative: none at all. Children who get no preschool start kindergarten already a year or more behind developmentally.

"It's very clear from the research," Barnett says, "that our problems with inequality... are set when children walk in the school door."

Monday, April 21, 2014
(Washington Post (Opinion))

The District has led the country in giving its residents universal access to preschool, and and New York and other cities are now following suit. But if preschool is going to close the achievement gap for low-income kids, it has to be high-quality. And even that may not be enough to do the trick.

A good preschool program teaches all children the social and emotional skills that will help ensure their future success in school: things like how to cooperate with their classmates and how to listen when the teacher is talking.

But research has shown that in the first four years of life, high-income children hear about 30 million more words than their low-income peers. So if kids at all income levels are going to start kindergarten on an equal footing, preschools serving poor children need to also provide the vocabulary and background knowledge that wealthier ones get at home.

Sunday, April 20, 2014
(The Daytona Beach News-Journal (Opinion))

Yes, we are making real progress in both education and the economy in Florida, but we would be foolish to think the future is assured. Forty-six percent of our public school 10th-graders cannot read at grade level — and three of four 17- to 24-year-olds cannot enter the American military (because of an academic problem, a physical problem, a substance-abuse problem, or a criminal justice problem).

When we give all children a real chance to fulfill their potential, we help all of us. If we want safe and secure neighborhoods, if we want less crime and more people to share the basic costs of societal well-being, then we need to know of the quite extraordinary evidence of the power of early investment and the power to grow children who dream and have a real chance to achieve those dreams.

Friday, April 18, 2014
(Huffington Post)

We know high-quality early childhood development and learning interventions can buffer the negative effects of poverty and provide a foundation for future success with lifelong benefits, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable children. Studies have shown children enrolled in high-quality early childhood programs are more likely to graduate from high school, hold a job, and make more money and are less likely to commit a crime than their peers who do not participate. 

Friday, April 18, 2014
(National Journal)

If cognition was not set, but could be developed, then even children born into families and communities with few resources could potentially gain skills early on that would improve their lives as adults. This new research provided much of the justification for the Head Start program—which began as a summer pilot project in 1965 and expanded to year-round shortly thereafter—as well as the federal government's decision to provide half of the original $8 million needed to launch the public television show Sesame Street when it premiered in 1969. Both interventions were targeted at low-income preschoolers, with the goal of reducing the learning gap by the time they started kindergarten.

Sharp debates over the goals of early childhood programs, and who the providers and recipients of this federally funded education should be, surrounded Head Start at the beginning—as they still do 50 years later. Head Start supporters also worried that Sesame Street might lead parents and policymakers to decide that television could be a replacement for early classroom learning.

Friday, April 18, 2014
(Morning Sun)

One of the most important things that parents can do is just talk to their babies -whether they are just cooing or smiling or playing peek-a-boo, they should be "talking a blue streak," says Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. A common analogy that people use is "serve and respond," he says. If the baby smiles, respond; if the baby burps, respond; if the baby gets a funny look on his face, make a face back. "That responsive parent is golden," he says. "That's how baby learns. It's how they learn that the world is safe, that they have control, can make things happen."

Campbell agrees: "Talk, talk talk," she says. "Don't ignore them." But she and Barnett would also like to see changes at the policy level. "What needs to happen next is we need to create the capacity to do what we know matters and need to have processes in place to make sure it actually work well," says Barnett, who notes that too often programs offer one or two years of early education, but continuity is key. "Every year counts," he says.