Volume 14, Issue 20

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hot Topics

A recent study from Vanderbilt University found that despite initial gains there appears to be no later achievement advantage for children who attended Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K program. In fact, in third grade, children who had participated in the program scored lower on achievement tests and behavior measures than a similar group of children who had not attended. This raises important questions for Tennessee, and for other states with programs that might be similar. The study and these questions are addressed in our blog today, and we encourage others to add their views in comments or even future guest blogs.

In The Hechinger Report article, one of the Vanderbilt authors notes: “I think it’s fair to draw policy conclusions [based on our study], but I wouldn’t draw them as an up or down vote on pre-k.” Farran said, “If we’re going to advocate for pre-K, we just need to be much more clear in defining what it should be.” Various commenters on the study indicate that quality is essential and it was widely noted that Tennessee’s VPK program met nine of NIEER’s 10 Benchmarks for quality standards (p.21). This offers us a chance to point to what NIEER actually says about the benchmarks: “they are not, in themselves, guarantees of quality. Arguably some of them are quite low … even though many states do not meet them…. In addition to high standards, effective pre-K programs require adequate funding and the continuous improvement of strong practices.”

An NPR report highlights the importance of quality as well: “Barnett says Tennessee's program looks good on paper but that the state made a few key mistakes when it scaled the program up to more than 900 classrooms across 95 counties. First, it created no mechanism for quality control to make sure teachers were following best practices from one end of the state to the other. Also, Barnett says, the state underfunded the program. That's why Vanderbilt's Farran says her research is not a failing grade for all preschool. "It's like saying spinach is really good for you," Farran says, "but we can't afford spinach. But here, I've got this Easter grass. Maybe that will be just as good."

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

Steve Barnett reviews the evidence on Tennessee's pre-K program and what it means for research and policy.

Rebecca Gomez discussed the functions and capacities of P-3 governance.


EdCentral reports on a new study: Two-year-old vocabulary predicts Kindergarten success.

Research Connections has highlighted A comprehensive examination of preschool teachers' implementation fidelity when using a supplemental language and literacy curriculum  “Findings suggest that teachers can exhibit fidelity to multi-componential language and literacy curricula designed for wide-scale use. Findings also support fidelity as a multidimensional construct and suggest that researchers utilize multiple measures to capture both within- and between-teacher variation in fidelity, while also pursuing additional studies to better understand the measurement and functioning of fidelity to inform future work.” (author abstract)

The ECTA Center has launched a campaign to bring widespread awareness about the Division of Early Childhood’s newly revised Recommended Practices in early intervention and early childhood special education. The latest ECTA resources to support implementation of the RPs include Performance Checklists for practitioners as well as Practice Guides for Practitioners and Practice Guides for Families.  These resources were highlighted on a recent national webinar which was recorded and can be accessed in aRPy’s Corner of the ECTA web site.

Child Trends has released the paper Preparing Low-Income Latino Children for Kindergarten and Beyond: How Children in Miami’s Publicly-Funded Preschool Programs Fare.

Shannon Riley-Ayers, Jorie Quinn, and Alexandra Figueras-Daniel of NIEER discuss improving early childhood education via coaching.

This article from EdCentral discusses a recent meeting on children and technology and includes a range of resources for educators of young children.

A study reported in Research Connections analyzes what happens in teacher-coach conversations related to early childhood teaching in Coaching conversations in early childhood programs: The contributions of coach and coachee. The study considers implications of findings for future work in research and practice.

A study funded by the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, and reported in Research Connections, “investigates licensure provisions for 13 early intervention and early childhood special education professional disciplines across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.” 

CEELO Update

A new Annotated Bibliography on Leadership Resources shares resources used in CEELO's Leadership Academy, which is designed to strengthen leadership and management competencies of individuals with responsibility for early childhood education programs in state departments of education, early learning agencies, and other state early childhood education agencies.


Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 1:00pm to Friday, October 2, 2015 - 5:30pm

ReadyNation, a membership organization working to strengthen business and the economy through effective investments in children and youth, is hosting the first Global Business Summit on Early Childhood Investments, October 1-2, 2015 in New York City. This free event will inspire and equip executives to take actions at the community, company, or policy levels that support young children. The event is for businesspeople, policy officials/staff and funders only. Others may attend with a team of business people. For more information and registration visit www.ReadyNation.org/2015Summit.

Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 3:00pm to Friday, October 16, 2015 - 4:00pm

The Research Symposium will address a range of critically important issues and themes relating to the health and wellbeing of young children. Plenary speakers include some of the leading medical and scientific thinkers, as well as workshop presentations and a poster session.

The annual Symposium will focus on the health, education, and developmental of young children, particular in terms of: Physical Health and Wellbeing; Mental Health and Executive Function; and Epigenetics and Environment.

Early Education News Roundup

Thursday, October 1, 2015

For example, a study of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Pre-K program showed that children who attended Tulsa’s preschool program demonstrated persistent education gains, better retention rates, better attitudes about school, and less absenteeism into 8th grade. Tulsa’s Pre-K program also showed gains in cognitive abilities, executive function and social skills. North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas and New Jersey are other high quality programs that have delivered high quality results.

“High quality preschool programs are being replicated and scaled in states with good results,” continued Perry. “We know what works and what doesn’t. The Tennessee study adds to this body of knowledge. Fortunately, Tennessee now has the information it needs to improve its program and its outcomes.”

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Research shows quality early childhood education has significant positive impacts on the education, employment, and health outcomes later in life. A new report highlights these findings within the Latino community and again demonstrates that there is tremendous economic power in the public investment in early childhood education.

The report shows that public pre-K programs and subsidized center-based child care for low-income Latino children has positive effects on their kindergarten readiness and their academic achievement and their ability to learn through third grade.

Hispanic children currently make up roughly one in four of all children in the United States, and by 2050 are projected to make up one in three – similar to the number of non-Hispanic, white children. How this growing segment of the population fares as the rise through the educational system is an important indicator of our future workforce.

Thursday, October 1, 2015
(The Advocate)

The growing emphasis on math and science instruction in elementary and secondary grades is almost nowhere to be found in many preschools and early childhood settings, an expert in the field told a Baton Rouge audience Wednesday.

Kimberly Brenneman, program officer for education at the Heising-Simons Foundation in Los Altos, California, laid out for an audience of more than 150 people gathered at the Crowne Plaza hotel what she described as a dismal state of affairs.

She summarized what researchers have found observing preschool classrooms. In one study, researchers found that during a six-hour day, just 58 seconds were devoted to math. Another, observing a prekindergarten for a day, found 3 percent of the time was occupied by teaching math, and only 1 percent on science. And yet another covering 49 hours in six classrooms found no math taught at all.

When surveyed, though, early childhood educators tell researchers that they are interested in incorporating more such instruction — STEM, as it’s called these days, short for science, technology, engineering and math — into their classrooms, but they have little training or experience in actually teaching it.

Thursday, October 1, 2015
(NJ Spotlight)

One of the Garden State’s best-kept secrets may be that it has succeeded in preschool precisely because it has done the hard work that other states have not.

In part, this is because New Jersey’s Supreme Court mandated that the state do so for 31 school districts that were part of the landmark Abbott v. Burke case. The court required New Jersey to fund and implement a program that is much more like the one I studied 30 years ago than any other program in the country.

To the state’s credit, the state Department of Education has put in place a rigorous and extensive support and oversight system that has raised and maintained quality for more than a decade.

Direct observation of teaching conducted every year shows that the vast majority of “Abbott” Pre-K classrooms are good to excellent. When I take visitors from other states and countries to see these classrooms they are stunned at their excellence – a common reaction is “We do the same curriculum, but it doesn’t look like this.”

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Education Law Center renewed a plea this week to increase state funding and expand preschool for 16 poor New Jersey school districts, including four in Ocean County.

The Newark-based law center has spent years fighting state cuts to these schools, referred to as "Bacon" districts because of their original lawsuit.

The districts – which include public schools in Lakewood, Lakehurst, Little Egg Harbor and Waretown – are unable to provide a constitutionally-required "thorough and efficient education" because of reduced state aid, law center Executive Director David Sciarra said Wednesday inside Superior Court in Toms River.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"If your program isn't very good, you can't expect it to have long-term impact on kids," says Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. He helped create the benchmarks that many states use to measure the quality of their pre-K programs.

Barnett says Tennessee's program looks good on paper but that the state made a few key mistakes when it scaled the program up to more than 900 classrooms across 95 counties. First, it created no mechanism for quality control to make sure teachers were following best practices from one end of the state to the other. Also, Barnett says, the state underfunded the program.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
(The Hechinger Report)

Yet, the big picture, research-wise, includes the studies that found excellent results for very high quality programs too. And then there is another study, of the much larger Chicago Parent Center program, that found the same benefits as the Perry and Abecedarian studies, though on a slightly smaller scale.

“In context, it is a warning,” Barnett said of the Tennessee study. “You have to do [preschool] well. You have to put the time money and effort into making it truly high quality if you want to get big initial gains and long term results. It’s hard work.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015
(The Sentinel)

Today, lessons learned from childhood resonate in the work Bell is doing as one of two Carlisle Area School District administrators trained in a framework for understanding poverty developed by Ruby Payne. A researcher and career educator, she is a leading expert on the effect poverty has on families and children.

An effort is underway within the school district to raise awareness of this plight so that faculty and staff could be better equipped to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in life.

Bell volunteered to be trained in the framework so the district could offer a more flexible schedule of professional development classes to reach a larger number of teachers.

“I just saw it as an opportunity to help our kids in poverty,” Bell said. Much of the emphasis of the training has been on trying to work with students in the context of what Payne called “hidden rules.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The report by the New America Foundation focuses on whether California has the policies and rigorous teacher training to meet the "demands of a growing, more diverse population."

Currently, 53 percent of the state's infants and toddlers are Latino and almost half are low-income. For an early education teacher, this means a cookie-cutter approach to the first years of school is not likely the best one, according to the report.

The report, authored by Sarah Jackson, said a lot of work needs to be done to raise the quality of teaching and ensure California’s pre-K teachers are adequately trained given the changing demographics among students.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

 A long-term cardiovascular health promotion program initiated in preschool with children as young as 3 years old had a significant beneficial effect on lifestyle-related behaviors and measures of adiposity, the results of a new study show[1].

Preschool-aged children exposed to the Spanish health-promotion program significantly improved their thinking and behavior related to diet, physical activity, and the body/heart, with the largest improvements observed in scores assessing physical activity. Children in the intervention arm also improved their knowledge, attitudes, and habits (KAH)—as assessed by a cumulative KAH score—related to diet but less so for body and heart health.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015
(Think Progress)

In a book published last week, Too Many Children Left Behind, the authors — a combination of social scientists and economists — detail how low-income children are far behind their middle class peers in their educational development before they enter school and emphasize the importance of pre-K access. As family backgrounds become lower income, proficiency in math fades, the authors write, and gaps in academic performance don’t change very much over time:

“Children from families with low-educated parents begin school with a massive disadvantage in terms of their basic academic capabilities, and they are not able to close even a portion of that gap by the start of high school. Disadvantage from the preschool period appears to persist unchallenged throughout the school years,” they write.

Williams agrees. “Public investment here done well could raise quality and it could raise the professional standards of the education force of the United States. Right now, there are tiers in the system where we have the very cheapest care but usually the lowest quality going to the children who often need the best and highest quality,” he said.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

“The stats prove themselves: If we don’t have the early childhood development, then we don’t have the first-, second-graders reading at sufficient levels or doing basic math at sufficient levels; then by third grade, if they’re not at sufficient levels, we know we’ve lost them most likely for life,” McCrory told the crowd of about 100 business, education and nonprofit leaders, some of whom traveled from as far away as Clay County.

“We are putting more money into pre-K; that’s through my department, Health and Human Services,” the governor said. “Pre-K is extremely, extremely important.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015
(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Educating and caring for Georgia’s youngest children is a $2.45 billion industry and one worthy of public support, state early childhood officials say.

The state’s Department of Early Care and Learning will release a study today supporting its case for increased public funding. The study comes after Gov. Nathan Deal announced he wants to spend$50 million to reverse cuts to Georgia’s pre-kindergarten program that increased class sizes and cut teacher pay.


Monday, September 28, 2015
(Reading Eagle)

Preschools typically leave math for grade school, in the belief that 4- and 5-year-olds aren't old enough to understand what 7 stands for. Decades of brain science now show that waiting is a mistake. Even in the crib, research shows, infants can tell the difference between eight dots and 16 using an innate number sense we share with other species that helps us make some size comparisons without counting. By the time they are preschool age, students like the ones in Alfonzo's class can grasp simple addition - three beads plus four beads makes seven beads - even if they can't yet write the equations. They're getting a strong start in math with games and playful activities that show all the ways they can use numbers and shapes to describe and measure differences and relationships between things.

Monday, September 28, 2015
(The Washington Times)

The students - many of them never separated from their parents - would be here for 25 hours a week instead of the usual 10, starting today. . .

Not much has changed in the past dozen years. It’s been half days and flat funding, forcing Nevada school districts to fight over $3.3 million in grants each year to reach only 1,400 students in a few schools. That’s just 1.5 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds.

But that’s changing. Nevada pre-school funding is tripling this year, reflecting a trend taking shape in American public education: Preschool is shedding its prefix, quickly becoming just another part of “school.” Nationwide, more than a quarter of 4-year-olds are now in state-funded preschool programs, according to a report released this spring by the U.S. Department of Education, tracking states’ voluntary shift. From 2003 to 2013, states increased their investment in preschool by more than 200 percent. The increase continued last year as 28 states put $1 billion more into early education.

Friday, September 25, 2015
(Mother Jones)

I'm a considerable fan of early childhood education. Megan McArdle says she's tentatively in favor too, but "I am opposed to blind boosterism of such programs, the kind that confidently predicts marvelous results from thin empirical evidence, and briskly proceeds to demand huge sums be spent accordingly." I'm tempted to say this is a straw-man argument, but maybe not. There are a lot of cheerleaders out there. In any case, she offers a useful corrective for anyone who thinks the evidence in favor of universal preschool is open and shut. So what should we do?

Friday, September 25, 2015
(The Century Foundation)

In a new Brookings Institution paper, Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst and Ellie Klein claim that the Obama administration’s proposal for a new federal universal preschool program significantly overstates how much it would cost to enable all four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families to attend free pre-K. . .

Setting aside whether a $2.6 billion annual gap in federal spending between the administration and Brookings estimates is sizeable enough to warrant the degree of consternation expressed by Whitehurst and Klein, the paper omits a crucial consideration and makes several claims that require a response.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

According to a report released by Child Care Aware of America, Rhode Island ranks 14th in a list of states with the least affordable child care for infants; 9th in least affordable care for a four-year old; and 25th in the cost of care for a school-aged child. Not surprisingly, New York is the least affordable state for all three categories of child care. 

Why is this important? First, over 12 million children younger than age 5 in the United States attend some form of child care each week.  Second, access to quality child care impacts more than parents: employee absenteeism due to child care issues costs businesses more than $3 billion each year. Parents whose children are enrolled in high-quality, reliable child care centers often have higher engagement at work. 

Lotte Bailyn, professor emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management notes that for young families, “Child care is so expensive that there is very little discretionary money for consumption. It may be one of the things contributing to the slowness of our recovery and pulling down demand.” Faced with the high costs, some parents choose to stay home with their young children instead, reducing both their family income and our workforce. 

And of course, research has shown that there are huge benefits for children who attend high-quality early childhood education centers. Because children’s brains undergo drastic change between the ages of birth and three years, the experiences they have during those years can be critical. As mentioned in a previous column, for every dollar spent in early childhood, there is a return on investment of $8.59. 

Last year, the Washington Post declared that “The U.S. ranks last in every measure when it comes to family policy, in 10 charts.” Examples cited include: the U.S. is one of only three countries to offer no paid maternity leave; the U.S. has high child care costs shouldered by parents alone; and our country has no ban on mandatory overtime, no mandate that workers have rest, and no national vacation policy. This lack of support for working families manifests itself in many ways. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015
(New York Times)

Education is today more critical than ever. College has become virtually a precondition for upward mobility. Men with only a high school diploma earn about a fifth less than they did 35 years ago. The gap between the earnings of students with a college degree and those without one is bigger than ever.

And yet American higher education is increasingly the preserve of the elite. The sons and daughters of college-educated parents are more than twice as likely to go to college as the children of high school graduates and seven times as likely as those of high school dropouts.

Only 5 percent of Americans ages 25 to 34 whose parents didn’t finish high school have a college degree. By comparison, the average across 20 rich countries in an analysis by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is almost 20 percent.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015
(Daily Sabah)

UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Shakira called on the world leaders on Tuesday to make investments in early childhood development as the lasting effects of stress on the brains of children have been exposed by new scientific discoveries.

"More than 100 million children are out of school and 159 million boys and girls under five are physically and cognitively stunted due to a lack of care and proper nutrition," said Shakira.

"Every year that passes without us making significant investment in early childhood development and initiatives that address these issues, millions of kids will be born into the same cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity," she added.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A strong early education can often lead to a lot of great things later in life, including less need for repeating a grade and a reduction in remedial classes to help students catch up to their peers according to Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

“There’s increases in high school graduation and also decreases in behavior problems, delinquency and crime and all of those things contribute to increased employment, higher earnings, decreased welfare dependency and also we find a decreased engagement in risky behaviors like smoking, drug use and even improvements in health behaviors,” Barnett said.

New Jersey has the best early education system in the country, but poorer urban areas are still struggling to improve, according to another expert who testified.

“Pre-school is an important investment not only in the future of our children, but of our state,” said Cecilia Zalkind, Advocates for Children of New Jersey executive director. “It sounds trite to say that, but it’s really true.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
(The BayNet.com)

Congressman John K. Delaney (MD-6) has filed legislation to create nationwide access to free pre-K for four-year-old children. The Early Learning Act provides state governments with federal funding to establish or expand their pre-K programs. Delaney’s legislation makes access to free pre-K for all a reality in all 50 states.

The legislation establishes The Early Education Trust Fund which will distribute block grants to participating states. The Early Education Trust Fund will be funded by a 1.5% increase on individual income, dividends and capital gains above $500,000. This provides states with up to $8,000 in funding per student, per year for pre-k.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Educators, researchers and entrepreneurs like Hosford are taking that analogy very seriously. They're arguing that the basic skills of coding, such as sequencing, pattern recognition and if/then conditional logic, should be introduced alongside or even before traditional reading, writing and math.

To Hosford, this early introduction is key to broadening participation in STEM disciplines. "If we were teaching coding like reading and math, we would break it down into bite-size chunks, make it more fun with songs and stories, and give students two decades to reach mastery," Hosford says. "With coding we throw you in the deep end in high school or college and are surprised when most kids drown."

According to this thinking, the skill sets required for coding and the three Rs will all reinforce each other. And the engaging nature of many gamelike tech tools will help draw in young learners who may not be as inspired by traditional lessons. And there is some evidence for both of these claims.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015
(NJ Spotlight)

State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), the chair of the Senate committee, flipped through the student work in wonder.

“Of all the testimony we have received today,” she said. “If anybody needs the proof, in New Jersey we have the evidence, and it is our responsibility to step up our game and find the investment. This is extraordinary.”

Ruiz had called for the hearing, saying she wanted to jumpstart the discussion on bringing universal preschool to the state, expanding on the successful court-ordered program now serving the state’s most impoverished districts with two years of full-day programs.

  • Click to expand/close

Also on the table, Ruiz said, were other early-childhood services, including those that come before pre-K, and building out full-day kindergarten so that it is in every district. State officials said about 85 percent of districts have full-day, the rest half-day.

The line-up of guests included many of the state’s top advocates on the issue, including state Early Childhood Director Ellen Wolock, all the main education organizations, leaders of individual child centers and United Way programs, and the top researcher from Rutgers’ National Institute for Early Education Research.

“I am pleased to be in a state that has made substantial progress in providing high-quality preschool,” said Steve Barnett, NIEER’s executive director. “New Jersey already has a proven approach.”

Barnett argued that high-quality preschool across the state would save $850 million a year in K-12 costs in terms of remediation and special education.

Monday, September 21, 2015
(Reno Gazette-Journal)

Not much has changed in the past dozen years. It's been half days and flat funding, forcing Nevada school districts to fight over $3.3 million in grants each year to reach only 1,400 students in a few schools. That's just 1.5 percent of the state's 4-year-olds.

But that's changing. Nevada pre-school funding is tripling this year, reflecting a trend taking shape in American public education: Preschool is shedding its prefix, quickly becoming just another part of "school."

Monday, September 21, 2015
(Yakima Herald Op-Ed)

Can Yakima students improve achievement?

“With landmark investments this year, Washington is poised to be a world leader in early learning.” In the same section of the newspaper, this was followed later by “Washington ranks 33rd in the nation for access to state preschool for low-income 4-year-olds, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research which conducts an annual review of preschool programs.” The NIEER review for 2013-14 indicates less than 20 percent of Washington’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in pre-K. To me, this indicates Washington’s education infrastructure is as poor as our transportation infrastructure. We are not going to be even a national leader in early learning until the attitudes of the public and Legislature change.

Business leaders considering where to locate their businesses look at the quality of education in states and communities. If it takes a tax increase to give our children the quality pre-K every child deserves, so be it. The future of our city and state will be much brighter if we do.

Monday, September 21, 2015
(New York State)

Governor Cuomo announced that $30 million has been awarded to 34 high-need school districts to increase access to high-quality pre-kindergarten for a total of 3,295 students in communities across the state. The funding, which was originally committed by Governor Cuomo in his 2015 Opportunity Agenda, supports the expansion of pre-k for both 3- and 4-year old students for the first time in more than a decade. This combined approach is part of the State’s ongoing efforts to promote early education, specifically in high-needs districts where such programs can be most beneficial in increasing academic outcomes for students.

“Access to a quality education from a young age can unlock a student’s potential and put them on a path to success years into the future,” said Governor Cuomo. “That’s what this funding is all about – it’s an investment in the future of thousands of children across the state, and I am proud that we are able to help those students begin learning early on.”

Friday, September 18, 2015
(NJ Spotlight)

The idea of universal preschool will get some new political attention next week, when a state Senate committee starts tackling the topic – and, in particular, the difficult question of how to fund such programs.

The Senate education committee will hold a hearing Monday with advocates and educators to start hashing out the long-debated issue, with the Legislature’s Democratic leadership saying there will ultimately be some initiatives to expand early childhood education.