Volume 14, Issue 1

Friday, January 9, 2015

Hot Topics

Turning the calendar page from 2014 to 2015 offers an opportunity for reflection on the progress made in early childhood education. A panel of policy analysts at the New America Foundation highlighted pre-K as one of the biggest education stories of the year: “The biggest investment came in New York, where just-inaugurated Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio fought a pitched battle with the state over a rapid pre-K expansion….It wasn’t just Democrats: in Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder secured $65 million in additional resources for pre-K across the state. In Indiana, Republican Governor Mike Pence started the state’s first public pre-K program. And voters in Seattle continued pre-K’s popularity streak at the ballot box, approving a property tax hike to fund a pre-K pilot program. At the federal level, pre-K developments were less conclusively positive. The Strong Start Act, while bipartisan, didn’t move far in 2014. The Obama Administration’s Preschool Development Grants program, on the other hand, prompted considerable excitement and led to nearly $230 million in competitively awarded grants announced at the end of this year.” How early education will fare in 2015, however, will be strongly influenced by change in elected officials at the state and local levels. POLITICO Pro’s Morning Education quotes Kris Perry of the First Five Years Fund as saying “At the federal level, there's a new majority in the Senate, but quality early childhood education has longstanding bipartisan support,"  while NPR’s Claudio Sanchez feels the bipartisan support of early childhood education won’t be enough to yield federal action. Changes in leadership may alter the federal early education landscape.  Senator Tom Harkin, who chaired the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and introduced the Strong Start Act, retired; he is replaced as committee chair by Senator Lamar Alexander, who has supported block grants for early childhood programs. In the House, Representative George Miller, who sponsored the House version of Strong Start, also retired from Congress.

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics made news by formally recommending that parents read aloud to young children daily - even to infants who may find books more interesting as chew toys. A recent study funded by Scholastic suggests that parents should continue reading aloud to children even after children can read on their own. The study found that while more than half of children ages 0 to 5 were read to between 5-7 days each week, about one-third of children age 6-8 were read to, and only 17 percent of children ages 9 to 11 had this experience. Eighty-three percent of children ages 6-17 reported they “enjoy(ed) being read aloud to at home,” saying it was a special and fun experience with parents. Additionally, according to a piece in The New York Times, “...literacy experts say the real value of reading to children is helping to develop background knowledge in all kinds of topics as well as exposure to sophisticated language.” As Shannon Riley-Ayers, NIEER/CEELO Assistant Research Professor, has written, even picture books continue to play a role for older readers: “Beyond the early years, picture books are great vehicles to teach literary elements. Literary devices such as imagery, voice, theme, satire, and personification can be identified and discussed using carefully selected picture books. These can be valuable understandings for older children to then apply to reading chapter books, and also to apply to their own narrative writing.”

Education Week released its annual Quality Counts report, Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown. The report uses a measure of early education enrollment in both public and private settings, while NIEER’s Yearbook focuses on state-funded programs only. Education Week graded the U.S. with a D+ on their Early Education Index, which examines multiple years of data through 2013 on states' participation in early childhood programs, including both prekindergarten and kindergarten. Their ratings raise three important issues that we hope do not get lost beyond the big point that the nation's preschool policies get a D+ (using the typical kindergarten grading scale we would say "Needs Improvement").  First, there are considerable gaps between the preschool opportunities of children from high- and low- to middle-income families as well as from state to state. Second, Head Start is still the leading provider of preschool education in many states (Mississippi’s relatively high score, for example, depends entirely on Head Start, not state policy), so it is vital that Head Start deliver an excellent education. Third, we have a lot of work to do on early childhood data systems. For example, the data used in Quality Counts indicate less than 80 percent of eligible children are attending kindergarten.  The real percentage of children attending kindergarten is almost certainly above the 90 percent of 5-year-olds who are in a classroom according to the Current Population Survey, as a substantial percentage of them are not yet eligible for Kindergarten. An article accompanying the report's release proclaims "Consensus on early ed. value," a position shared by more than 800 researchers who have signed the Early Childhood Education Consensus Letter, which can be signed here.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

As part of a planned series of conversations on CEELO's theme of Leading for Excellence in Early Childhood, Annie Rooney French, Preschool Consultant with the Kentucky Department of Education, describes the Early Learning Leadership Networks in that state, and how they are integral to promoting early childhood program development in a blog.


Applications for the Department of Education’s 2015-2016 cohort of Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellows are now available for P-12 Teachers and Principals/Directors!  For more information about the application process, visit the Teaching and Principal Ambassador Fellowship program pages. The deadline to apply is January 20, 2015. 

This brief uses data from the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) funded by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to describe critical elements in the decision-making process of parents and other caregivers regarding the nonparental care of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. 

This paper from the Education Commission of the states explores the growing trend of state-required reading instruction-specific assessments for teacher licensure. 

CEELO Update

A new blog from the New America Foundation's Early Education Initiative recaps CEELO/NIEER’s recent webinar, Young Immigrants and Dual Language Learners: Participation in Pre-K & Gaps at Kindergarten Entry Webinar, noting that ”...the CEELO-NIEER webinar makes it clear that policymakers and early educators need to work harder to integrate the needs of DLLs into new and existing early education programs.”  

Join CEELO for a webinar on Jan 27, 2015 at 3:30 PM ET, "Evaluating Early Childhood Educators: Prekindergarten Through Third Grade, a Supplement to the Practical Guide to Designing Comprehensive Educator Evaluation Systems | October 2014", co-sponsored by the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders and CEELO. Register today to hear about the development, recommended uses and expected tools from the supplemental guide.  Learn from key state leaders who will share the challenges and successes their state agencies experienced when implementing evaluation systems for teachers in the early grades. Register now!


Thursday, February 5, 2015 -
4:00pm to 5:30pm

This event is part of the New York City Wonder of Learning Serioes. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 8:00am to Sunday, March 15, 2015 - 12:30pm

The American Montessori Society will be having their annual conference in Philadephia. Find more information here

Monday, July 27, 2015 - 8:00am to Saturday, August 1, 2015 - 5:00pm

Join OMEP for its 67th Assembly and Conference, Early Childhood Pathways to Success. 

Early Education News Roundup

Friday, January 9, 2015
(San Jose Mercury News)

As welcome as the new preschool opportunities provided by the current budget are, they only begin to meet the need. When the California Department of Education last month invited preschool providers to apply for funds to support 4,000 newly available slots, providers sent letters seeking more than 32,000 slots -- an expression of need that exceeded availability by a factor of eight.

That means that, even with this year's investment, children in many communities in California will continue to go without the essential boost that good preschool provides. From population centers like Los Angeles and San Diego to rural communities in the north state and Central Valley, we have profound evidence of need.

Thursday, January 8, 2015
(Education Week)

A year ago, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told state leaders at a National Governors Association gathering that the growth of publicly financed early-childhood education in the nation is "inevitable." Actions at the state, local, and federal levels, both before and after that meeting, have largely proved the assertion true. But the enthusiasm for expanding early-childhood programs has raised some complex policy issues. . .

But policymakers around the country are willing to grapple with this issue in a way that they were not even 10 years ago, said W. Steven Barnett, the executive director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, based at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. The expansion of early-childhood programming "is the accumulation of a body of evidence and the demonstrated policy successes," Mr. Barnett said. "And I think you can also add a third thing: Families today just view it as a necessity." Today's debate about early childhood is not focused primarily on whether the government is interfering with child-rearing, Mr. Barnett explained, but on how to pay for preschool programs and how to improve their quality. "Parents have made the decision," he said. "So now, it's how do we support the parents' decisions?"

Thursday, January 8, 2015
(U.S. News & World Report)

Despite a bipartisan consensus on the importance of early childhood education, most states have a long way to go toward implementing high-quality programs and enrolling more young children, according to Education Week's annual report on state efforts to improve education. Overall, nearly two-thirds of children between the ages of 3 and 6 are attending school, but more than half of 3- and 4-year-olds are not in school, the report found. Large racial, ethnic and socioeconomic gaps – in some cases up to 21 percentage points – also still exist in preschool enrollment rates. Children from lower-income families and those with lower parental education are far less likely than their peers to be enrolled in preschool, the index report found. Despite some states' overall strong performance, scores for individual factors varied widely. More than half of states ranked in the top 10 for some indicators but in the bottom 10 for others, the report found.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
(New America EdCentral)

e number of dual language learners in the United States is growing extremely rapidly. And there’s strong evidence that identifying and supporting these students early in their educational process can make a big difference for them in the long run.

Yet, according to a recent webinar by the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) and the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) on Young Immigrants and Dual Language Learners: Participation in Pre-K & Gaps at Kindergarten Entry, few states require early language screening in early education programs. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
(New York Times Motherlode blog)

For all my uneasiness about the kindergarten decision, and what’s the Very Very Best for my kid, it’s all a bit of a tempest in a teapot. My children attended a high-quality preschool, and in that respect, they already have an advantage over the notable minority of the kids in my town who do not attend preschool. They also have an enormously wide advantage over the children in our neighboring city of Cleveland, where more than 75 percent of children do not attend a quality preschool, and where, not coincidentally, 54 percent of children live in poverty. (Efforts to expand preschool attendance in Cleveland have grown, but are still in their infancy.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The benefits of early childhood education include fewer special-education needs and repeated grades, higher graduation rates and earnings, and lower incarceration rates. These children enter the workforce prepared to succeed. For these reasons, education, law enforcement, military, and business leaders all support expanding access to early-education programs. . .

Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming benefits, only 30 percent of Pennsylvania's 3- and 4-year-olds have access to early-childhood education, according to the Pre-K for PA campaign. If we want to help children and taxpayers, we must look for fiscally responsible ways to expand access to these programs.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
(Go Local Prov)

A student should not be promoted to the next grade if he or she has not been earning passing grades or is unable to do grade-level work. Due to the accountability requirements established by federal grants under the No Child Left Behind Act andthe Race to the Top, fifteen states and the District of Columbia currently have strict retention policies in place for students who are not reading by third grade. This milestone is based on research that demonstrates that third graders who are not reading on grade level are significantly less likely to graduate high school on time. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015
(Public News Service)

Besides the state's biennial budget, education tops the agenda for Indiana lawmakers as they begin the new legislative session Tuesday. Justin Ohlemiller, executive director of Stand for Children Indiana, says improving school funding is an important matter given the state's $2 billion budget surplus and recent ranking of per-pupil spending at 28th in the nation. He also notes the critical need to address funding disparities between urban, rural, and suburban schools. . . . Ohlemiller says more investment in early childhood education is also needed, as approximately 30,000 high-risk students do not have opportunities for quality, affordable preschool. Last session, the state created a pilot preschool program, but only about 350 positions were available. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Leaders of the nation’s Migrant Head Start programs, which serve an estimated 34,000 children every year, say filling seats has been one of their toughest challenges for decades. Migrant workers are often undocumented and in many cases reluctant to take advantage of government-affiliated services. Drought, unemployment and changing migration patterns can make it hard to predict where families need support and how many will arrive in farm towns in any given season.

In recent years, those challenges have intensified, as more and more states have taken stronger measures to monitor and, in many cases, deport families who are here illegally. Families’ reluctance to interact with government agencies has heightened.

Today, advocates estimate that a mere 19 percent of eligible children are being served by Migrant Head Start programs, and in California, which has more eligible children than any other state, a mere 10 percent are getting placements.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 promises to be a pivotal year for several major reforms in public education, including the continuing rollout of the Common Core State Standards, the implementation of the state’s new school financing and accountability system, and the administration of the online Smarter Balanced assessments to millions of students this spring. There will be other issues to watch. Here’s our list of the top 10. Let us know what you would have added.

Sunday, January 4, 2015
(Washington Post)

Cesar Chavez is one of three schools in Prince George’s that formally started offering Spanish immersion as part of an expansion of educational options for children this year. Each of the elementary schools — Cesar Chavez, Overlook in Temple Hills and Phyllis E. Williams in Upper Marlboro — has three or four kindergarten classes and is scheduled to add the program in subsequent grades each school year. Students apply through a lottery system.

The district also offers Chinese immersion at Paint Branch Elementary School in College Park and French immersion at Robert Goddard French Immersion School in Lanham and John Hanson French Immersion in Temple Hills.

Marty Abbott, executive director of the American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages, said the number of school districts that use a foreign-language immersion model rises annually. Spanish is the most popular foreign language taught in U.S. schools, while Chinese is seeing a significant increase, and strong interest remains for French, Abbott said.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

As the senior member of the NPR Ed team with 25 years on the education beat, here are the top stories that my expert sources and I believe will be ones to watch in 2015. For more predictions, check out our crowdsourced list.

Friday, January 2, 2015
(Inside Philanthropy)

The past year saw major philanthropic organizations and national policymakers coalesce around a shared goal of expanded access and greater support for those critical early years in a child's education. The question going into 2015 is whether that momentum can be sustained.

The final weeks of 2014 brought some early holiday gifts for early childhood organizations and advocates. President Obama unveiled his Invest in US initiative, blending more than $1 billion in federal and philanthropic spending aimed at EC programs.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

When the children's television show Sesame Street first hit the air in 1969, many were deeply skeptical that you could use TV to introduce very young children to the basics of reading and math. But the experiment proved to be a remarkable success; Sesame Street has reached several generations of toddlers with its combination of educational content and pure entertainment. And now, Sesame Workshop is using new technology to reach the next generation.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014
(New America EdCentral)

While trends in pre-K access and funding have been mixed in recent years, its political prospects remain relatively positive and constant. State and local leaders from both parties made new investments in a variety of pre-K programs in 2014. The biggest investment came in New York, where just-inaugurated Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio fought a pitched battle with the state over a rapid pre-K expansion. As it turned out, de Blasio’s efforts led to a $360 million investment across the state, with $300 million going to 30,000 new pre-K seats in the city this year alone. It wasn’t just Democrats: in Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder secured $65 million in additional resources for pre-K across the state. In Indiana, Republican Governor Mike Pence started the state’s first public pre-K program. And voters in Seattle continued pre-K’s popularity streak at the ballot box, approving a property tax hike to fund a pre-K pilot program.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014
(La Raza)

Nearly 25 percent of children in Seattle are not enrolled in preschool, and of the 7 percent of Latino families in the city, many are unable to afford preschool for their 3 and 4 year olds. On Nov. 4, an overwhelming 69 percent of Seattle voters approved Proposition 1B—Universal Preschool, which aims to make high-quality preschool available city-wide, particularly for minority groups. . . 

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, the first five years of a child’s life are a time of rapid brain development, with early experiences having effects with life-long consequences.

Monday, December 22, 2014
(NBC Bay Area)

In response to an NBC Bay Area/CIR joint investigation, state lawmakers have fundamentally changed the way parents can access information about day cares in California: The information is now available online and federal lawmakers have passed stricter requirements as well.

In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill requiring California’s Department of Social Services to post and update inspection records for child care centers on its website.

Monday, December 22, 2014
(State Impact NPR)

In comments made by those who reviewed Ohio’s application, several point to a lack of details or unfocused plans in certain areas. Scorers have a tricky job, Barnett said.

“The difficulty for the people scoring these is there isn’t enough money to fund preschool expansion in all of the states,” he said. “They have to make fine-grain comparisons, and probably are not funding some proposals that would be terrific.”

Monday, December 22, 2014
(The Advocate)

Despite landing a $32 million federal grant this month, child care advocates say they are stumped on how Louisiana will pay for sweeping changes in its early childhood education system. “Money is the biggest issue, and right now, there is no money,” said Jonathan Pearce, president of the Child Care Association of Louisiana. The worries focus on a 2012 law pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

It is supposed to replace a preschool setup that critics contend is plagued by inequities in funding and quality and is confusing to parents. But the measure became law without any appropriation attached, and backers have spent months asking how the state can provide better-qualified teachers, serve more children and offer better oversight without additional dollars.

Monday, December 22, 2014
(Asbury Park Press)

No additional state aid or preschool funding lies in the near future for four Ocean County school districts who sued the state Department of Education.

A Superior Court judge issued a blow to the hopes of Lakewood, Lakehurst, Ocean Township (Waretown), Little Egg Harbor and 12 other New Jersey school districts last week when she denied their request seeking full funding of the state’s school funding formula. The schools also sought money to expand preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds in their communities.

The 16 poor, mostly rural school districts — known as “Bacon” districts — are unable to provide their students with a “thorough and efficient” education required by the state constitution, said Education Law Center Executive Director David Sciarra, who represented them in court. Insufficient state funding is to blame, he said.

Monday, December 22, 2014
(New America EdCentral)

Despite the growing emphasis on academics in early education, choosing Tools allowed DCPS not only to develop students’ early math, science, and literacy skills, but also build students’ abilities to plan, persist at a challenging task, and work with others through continued play from preschool at age 3 through kindergarten. A large component of the curriculum is intentional play-based activities that have an academic or regulatory element.

As with the enhanced freeze dance game and other similar activities, Tools — based on a Vygotskian framework — aims to to teach children more than facts and skills. Children are also taught cognitive and socioemotional “tools,” which builds a foundation for success later in life. As a Tools teaching manual explains, “When children do not possess these underlying cognitive skills, a teacher must struggle twice as hard to teach those children half as much as when they do have the skills.”

Sunday, December 21, 2014
(Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Richmond school officials are going to use the city’s portion of a new federal grant for preschool programs to decrease class size, increase the number of classes available, and to improve professional development for teachers and instructional assistants.

The city plans to add 240 slots to its Virginia Preschool Initiative program in the next four years, increasing the number of 4-year-olds in it to more than 1,100.

Sunday, December 21, 2014
(Chalkbeat Tennessee)

“Universal means there will be open slots for those who need it,” said Juarez, a single mother of three whose youngest, a three year old, is not yet in school. But that isn’t how things have turned out. Emanuel’s plan adds only about 1,500 seats, for low-income families only. Juarez’s local Chicago Public Schools program has a three-month wait to get in, and it provides only two and a half hours of instruction a day. . .

“People end up using ‘universal’ to cover the notion that they want to serve more than just poor kids and maybe they want to open it up to all kids,” said Steve Barnett, the director of National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. “But that doesn’t mean they’re going to serve everybody.”


Saturday, December 20, 2014
(El Tiempo Latino)

Amid a national drive to improve the quality of preschool education, especially among poor families, the center of bilingual education, CentroNía, reopened on Wednesday 17, in one of its five venues DC, after six months of remodeling. 24 percent of children under five years in the US are Hispanic, but only half attends a early education, according to data from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER, for its acronym in English). One of the main factors is the economic, say studies.