Volume 14, Issue 25

Friday, December 18, 2015

Hot Topics

Please check our Year in Review blog post for a quick summary of 2015 in early childhood.

The Washington Post this week included an article on Too Many Children Left Behind, a book by Columbia University professor Jane Waldfogel, “a long-time researcher of poverty and inequality. And it will force almost anyone to reflect on the impact of unchecked inequality on children.” In an interview with Waldfogel, the Post explores the question of why poor children start school almost a year behind their wealthier peers in achievement, a “serious and widespread problem in the United States, where poor kids enter school already a year behind the kids of wealthier parents. That deficit is among the largest in the developed world, and it can be extraordinarily difficult to narrow later in life.”

An article published online in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice reports on the recommendations of The Community Preventive Services Task Force. From the guide: “The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends center-based early childhood education programs (ECE) based on strong evidence of effectiveness in improving educational outcomes that are associated with long-term health and sufficient evidence of effectiveness in improving social- and health-related outcomes. When provided to low-income or racial and ethnic minority communities, ECE programs are likely to reduce educational achievement gaps, improve the health of these student populations, and promote health equity. Read the full Task Force Finding and Rationale Statement for more detailed information on the finding, including considerations for implementation, potential benefits and harms, and evidence gaps.”

A report to the MS legislature on the first year of the Mississippi preschool program assesses the outcomes. NIEER researcher Allison Friedman-Krauss addresses important concerns with the report here.  In general, when evaluating new or newly redesigned preschool programs, researchers and evaluators need to acknowledge that it takes time to build quality in a new program--the goal of higher state standards and better support often is to transform existing programs (not skim off the best existing programs) and this cannot happen overnight.  In addition, assessing outcomes accurately is difficult and the MS report appears to fall far short of what is required.

Support to expand access to one of the nation's preschool premiere preschool programs is growing in New Jersey, but not without opposition.  The latest installment in an in-depth multi-part series of reports sets out the perspectives of each side of the debate.  With Governor Chris Christie in the mix, this debate has the potential to spill over onto the national stage.  In New Jersey, as elsewhere, high quality pre-K is not a partisan issue as former Governor Tom Kean, a Republican, is among the leading proponents of high quality preschool education. In an op-ed, United Way of Northern New Jersey adds their voice and evidence for supporting increased access to a good early education.

PRE4CLE, Cleveland’s plan to expand high-quality preschool to all to all 3- and 4-year-olds in the city, released its first annual report. First-year findings show PRE4CLE has made major strides toward expanding access to and enrollment in high-quality preschool for all of its children after just one year of implementation. 

Elliott Regenstein wrote this week on Should State Funding Formulas Include Pre K? New America notes that they: “hope it is the first of several posts from our early & elementary education colleagues that challenge the field’s thinking about certain issues and debate the value of the policy indicators New America included in From Crawling to Walking, our scan of state birth-through-third grade policies that support children’s literacy development. If you are interested in responding to Elliot’s post or in discussing another policy indicator, please email us at earlyandelementaryed@newamerica.org

NJ advances the P-3 ball with bold new First through Third Grade Implementation Guidelines. (We'll have a link available in our next newsletter.) These guidelines are the collaborative work of local school districts, state and federal agencies, and higher education. Kudos to NIEER's Dr. Shannon Ayers & Rutgers Colleague Dr. Sharon Ryan who led the writing of the document and to the NJDOE. The purpose of these guidelines is to outline best practices in the primary years of schooling that are both academically rigorous and developmentally appropriate. Dr. Vincent Costanza--Executive Director of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, which originated and sponsored this work--should be credited as well. For the New Year, Vincent has called on the field to: "resolve to take a sledgehammer to the ceiling that has held early learning principles from moving into the early elementary and primary years for way too long!" 

The City of New York released enrollment and quality data for Pre-K for All today: “Mayor de Blasio today announced that a record 68,547 children are now enrolled in free, full-day, high-quality pre-K, nearly 50,000 more students than were enrolled before he took office.” Enrollment for next year will begin January 25th, to enhance the process for families.

The city is starting with quality at about the same levels as when Abbott Pre-K in New Jersey started: “Of the 1,114 ECERS-R scores released, the overall average of pre-K programs citywide is 3.9 out of 7.0. Overall, 77 percent of programs’ ECERS-R scores released are at or above the 3.4 threshold correlated with positive student outcomes.” And on CLASS: “Of the 555 CLASS scores for NYCEECs, programs averaged 6.0 out of 7.0 on Emotional Support, 5.8 out of 7.0 on Classroom Organization, and 3.6 out of 7.0 on Instructional Support. Programs performed at or above the national pre-K averages from 2014 in Classroom Organization (5.8) and Instructional Support (2.9) and have a comparable rating in Emotional Support (6.1).”

See a citywide summary and site-by-site assessments at http://schools.nyc.gov/Academics/EarlyChildhood/support/assessments.htm

ESSA was approved this week; NAECS-SDE has outlined some sources for more information on what that means. From the Social Innovation Research Center: K-12 Education Bill Advances Evidence-based Policy, Replaces i3; from Brookings, Using research to improve education under the Every Student Succeeds Act; from HuffPost Education: Evidence and the ESSA, How Will ESSA's Regulatory Process Work? and from EdWeek, The Every Student Succeeds Act Explained. For a commentary from the vantage point of early learning, Laura Bornfruend at New America on Every Student Succeeds Act and Early Learning.  The USED ESSA site is www.ed.gov/essa. USED is welcoming public comment and recommendations over the course of the next several weeks at essa.questions@ed.gov

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

Check out our post on early childhood events in 2015, with links to resources and deeper analysis.

Valora Washington, the Founder and Director of the CAYL Institute and CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition and Jeffrey Gross, Director of the New Americans Integration Institute at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy (MIRA) Coalition, consider English language learners as students and teachers in early education programs in Massachusetts, on the NIEER blog.


Federal Expenditures on Children: What Budget Policy Means for Children's Policy

High-quality early childhood programs, K-12 education, stable housing, and adequate nutrition help children become self-supporting adults who contribute to economic growth, but almost all categories of federal spending on children likely will decline through 2024,” according to this report.

OECD Indicators

CRRU reports that: The 2015 edition of Education at a glance has been released by the OECD. “The report notes that while progress has been made to tackle inequalities in education, these inequalities still persist with serious consequences for labour markets and economies. Of note, the report finds that in a majority of OECD countries, education now begins for most children well before they are 5 years old. Some 74% of 3-year-olds are enrolled in early childhood education across OECD countries; among OECD countries that are part of the European Union, 80% of 3-year-olds are enrolled. It is also interesting to note that Canadian data is lacking in a number of areas.”

Cost of child care

The 2015 Cost of Child Care Report has just been released by Child Care Aware. The report “summarizes the cost of child care across the country, examines the importance of child care as a workforce support and as an early learning program, and explores the effect of high costs on families’ child care options.”


Health outcomes in Sweden

CRRU also shared a working paper on “the effect of a Swedish universal child care reform on child health outcomes. The findings imply that child care prices play a crucial role in the provision of universal child care.”

Cognitive outcomes in Ireland

Also from CRRU “The latest 'Growing up in Ireland' report has been released. It considers children's experience of non-parental care in early life and its association with cognitive development at age five. The report found that starting in childcare at an early age (by nine months) had no effect on cognitive outcomes and that among children from non-English speaking backgrounds there was a small positive effect of centre-based care on vocabulary.” CRRU also shared a working paper on “the effect of a Swedish universal child care reform on child health outcomes. The findings imply that child care prices play a crucial role in the provision of universal child care.”

NAEYC is looking for an Editor-Chief for Teaching Young Children, their magazine for preschool teachers. Love to write and edit and care about early childhood education? It's a great opportunity for the right person. They encourage all qualified candidates to apply. Please see the job description.

The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, is currently recruiting for three research and policy positions to work across multiple aspects of the Center’s work. More information is available on the CSCCE website

Public Health Management Corporation seeks a PHMC ECE Senior Policy Analyst to lead the Early Childhood Education Research Action Collective in Philadelphia, PA.

CEELO Update

The BUILD Initiative and the Center for Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) have been working together with state leaders and national experts to strengthen policy that promotes effective early childhood teaching, birth through 3rd grade. A result of our ongoing collaboration, "Sharpening the Focus: State Policy to Promote Effective Teaching that Improves Learning" encourages state policymakers and their partners to critically review professional development and accountability policies, offers guidance on policy implementation, and makes recommendations for the "powerful and few" core state policies that can improve teaching and learning for all young children.

CEELO Peer Exchanges are designed to allow Preschool Expansion Grantees to collectively identify common problems of practice, and consider different approaches to solutions. The content of the meetings will evolve from the concerns and needs of the participating states.  Topics related to monitoring for continuous improvement of program quality may include issues such as logistics and governance, available tools, selecting tools, data collection and sharing, utilizing information for sub-grantee/site/classroom improvement and state professional development plans, integrating with other early childhood and education improvement efforts in the state, and others.  States will have time to meet as teams to consider next steps in developing or improving their monitoring efforts. The second and third Peer Exchange topics were:

Curriculum (November) - This Peer Exchange examined curriculum from three points of effective implementation. The in-person peer exchange was  co-sponsored with Sharon Lynn Kagan and held at Teachers College, Columbia University

Professional Learning Communities to Build Local Leadership Capacity (December) - Participants heard from Vincent Costanza (NJ) and Sally Richardson (KY) and their colleagues about two models of professional learning communities they are implementing in their states to build LEA or other local organizational leadership.

Early Education News Roundup

Thursday, December 17, 2015
(Medical Daily)

Poverty may prove to be an especially poor home for a maturing central nervous system to grow up in, suggests a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and partners.

The study, published Wednesday in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that the children of families with low socioeconomic status were more likely to harbor signs of neurological impairment than children from more privileged backgrounds. Worse still, these gaps in functioning between the two groups, though small, only appeared to grow larger as the children became older. That might leave the poorest children the most vulnerable to later learning difficulties or mental health problems.  

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Only in the past two decades has depression in children been taken seriously. Now, it’s becoming clear that kids as young as three can have major depression. That’s due largely to the work of Dr. Joan Luby, the director of the Early Emotional Development Program at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who is credited with spurring the small but growing body of evidence that preschoolers can experience depression and be successfully treated.

“Nobody believed preschoolers could get depressed,” says Luby. “People generally assumed children under the age of six were too developmentally immature to experience the core emotions of depression. I am not sure the zeitgeist has changed as dramatically is it probably should, given the data that’s available.”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

As the new governor of Kentucky takes over, it’s worth reminding ourselves how critical early childhood education has become to our state —and this commitment needs to continue.

Providing excellent early childhood programs is a statewide priority that truly transcends politics. In fact, a regional commission on early childhood issues that I chaired found much agreement on early childhood investment strategies by leaders with all sorts of perspectives.

Thursday, December 17, 2015
(Washington Post)
Wealthy parents aren't just able to send their kids to top pre-schools—they can also purchase the latest learning technology and ensure their children experience as many museums, concerts and other cultural experiences as possible. Low-income parents, on the other hand, don't have that opportunity. Instead, they're often left to face the reality of sending their kids to schools without having had the chance to provide an edifying experience at home.

That might sound foreboding if not hyperbolic, but it's a serious and widespread problem in the United States, where poor kids enter school already a year behind the kids of wealthier parents. That deficit is among the largest in the developed world, and it can be extraordinarily difficult to narrow later in life.

This is one of the key takeaways from a new book about how United States is failing its children. The book, called Too Many Children Left Behind, is written by Columbia University professor Jane Waldfogel, a long-time researcher of poverty and inequality. And it will force almost anyone to reflect on the impact of unchecked inequality on children.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015
(NJ Spotlight)

“We work with the parents, we work with the community, we do health, we do dental, we do nutrition. Ours is an all-around family-and-child kind of program -- whereas a school is a school,” said Ruhl, the nonprofit’s executive director. “We have social-service staff, we have health staff, we have a registered dietitian. We have a lot of agreements with other agencies, so if our families need mental-health services or help with rent or any of that, we have resources at our fingertips,” she said. “The philosophy is, the whole family has to be ready for school, not just the child.”

That, said Ruhl, is the difference between a federally funded Head Start program like hers and a regular preschool. For 16,000 children in New Jersey and more than a million across the country, Head Start centers offer learning and socialization to help them overcome the barriers associated with poverty, at the same time that the support staff work to foster family stability.

Many of the Head Starts in New Jersey are also Abbott preschools. Through that program, which provides pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-olds in 35 disadvantaged school districts, the state shares the cost of eligible Head Start centers. The participating centers must also meet the Abbott standards, such as small class sizes and teachers with bachelor degrees and preschool certification.

Head Start has been hugely popular since it was started in 1965, maintaining support from both Republican and Democratic administrations. Its budget has steadily climbed to $8.6 billion, and President Barack Obama wants to add another $1.5 billion so every center can offer full-day care over a full school year in order to boost the benefits.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015
(Seattle Times)

I WAS proud to stand with Democrats and Republicans in the White House last week and represent Washington state students and families as President Obama signed an education bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), into law.

The broken No Child Left Behind law is finally gone. Our new law is a huge step forward for students and schools. But the work hasn’t ended — far from it. . .

I am especially proud that one of my top priorities, expanding access to preschool for more of our youngest learners, was included in the new law. As a former preschool teacher, I know that helping more kids start kindergarten on a strong footing is one of the smartest investments our country can make. I fought hard to include investments in preschool, and ESSA marks the first time that the nation’s primary education law includes dedicated funding to expand access to early childhood education.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The city is well on its way to achieving its short-term goal of having 2,000 more kids enrolled in highly-rated pre-school classes by next year. But it's still a long way from its ultimate goal of making strong preschools available for all families that want it. The PRE4CLE partnership between the Cleveland school district and more than 30 community organizations released an update Tuesday on its plan to greatly improve preschool opportunities for Cleveland's three- and four-year-olds.

It's a plan tied closely to the school district's improvement efforts and which aims to have kids better prepared to learn in kindergarten and beyond. The district and its partners have worked together on a three-pronged approach to add more quality opportunities -- adding more seats in highly-rated pre-schools, encouraging more private pre-schools to be rated by the state and making sure families know about openings in strong schools.

All three, according to PRE4CLE leaders, contributed to having more than 1,200 more kids in highly-rated pre-schools this year than in 2013. "We made great strides in increasing the number of high-quality preschool seats available to Cleveland's children," PRE4CLE's 2015 annual report states. "In fact, we're more than halfway to our overall goal of creating and filling 2,000 new seats in our first two years."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
(NJ Spotlight)

New Jersey’s long history of state-funded preschool may have opened another chapter yesterday with Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s proposed public investment plan that would include more than $165 million over two years in expanded preschool and other early-childhood programs.

Significant details are still to be worked out -- and the political and financial prospects are even more uncertain. Sweeney’s expected run for governor in 2017 certainly plays into the calculus as well.

But if enacted, the proposal from Sweeney and other Democratic leaders yesterday could be the first noteworthy expansion of the state’s landmark program since the late 2000s, and among the largest since the state Supreme Court first ordered universal preschool for New Jersey’s 31 poorest cities

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
(Yahoo Parenting)

There’s no shortage of research on the benefits of preschool. It not only gives kids an introduction to the school environment they will be a part of for the better part of two decades, but also provides opportunities to develop social skills, among many other benefits. From learning how to wait your turn to knowing the days of the week, preschool programs can provide plenty of useful education. Well-designed programs have been known to provide long-term success in school, including better test scores, lower chances of grade repetition, and higher educational achievement overall.

Monday, December 14, 2015
(The Guardian)

Children of all backgrounds who receive a preschool education are almost twice as likely to go on to sit AS-levels, according to a study by Oxford University.

The research, funded by the government’s department for education, also found that children who go to preschool were significantly more likely to take four or more AS-levels, suggesting that far more preschoolers end up taking an academic route into university than those who do not have the same educational start.

Preschool, also known as nursery school, refers to an educational establishment that offers early education to under-fives prior to the start of primary school.

Children who experience stimulated learning activities at home – such as singing and nursery rhymes, learning the alphabet, reading, playing with numbers and letters, or going on visits to the library – when they are under five are also more likely to achieve better A-level grades, researchers found.

The study is the latest report to be published as part of the EPPSE (effective preschool, primary and secondary education) project, launched in 1997. It followed 3,000 children from the age of three to 18 to identify the factors that can predict a child’s academic success, particularly the effects of a preschool education and a child’s early years home environment.

Monday, December 14, 2015
(Seattle Times)

Seattle’s new, subsidized preschool program has met its first-year goals — for enrollment, number of classrooms, and the racial and income diversity of students, according to the city’s education and early learning department.

Voters approved a $58 million property-tax levy last year to make preschool in the city more affordable and higher quality. The idea is to chip away at persistent academic achievement gaps between children who get lots of learning opportunities at home and those who don’t, which tends to mirror economic and racial divisions.

The tax pays for a four-year program, which advocates hope will demonstrate the value of early learning.  By the 2018-19 school year, it will have 2,000 students enrolled in 100 classrooms.

Monday, December 14, 2015
(The Richmond Register)

“Unfortunately, not all children have the same opportunities to develop and learn before they enter school,” Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said in a release. “The reality is that poverty has a big impact on education in Kentucky. It is a reality that puts children at a disadvantage when they enter school and one that we must address from day one.”

Nearly 64 percent of the students entering kindergarten this year qualified for free- and reduced-price meals. For those who qualified, only 39.7 percent were kindergarten ready.

“We cannot let the opportunity gap determine a student’s future,” Pruitt added. “That’s why this data is so important. It provides kindergarten teachers with key information early in the school year that they can use to guide instruction and provide targeted support and interventions aimed at closing learning gaps before they have a chance to widen.”

Friday, December 11, 2015
(Education Week)

With Bernie Sanders proposing that all public universities become tuition-free zones for students of all stripes, and Hillary Clinton pushing a plan that would target middle- and low-income Americans with scholarship money, the higher ed debate is beginning to travel the well-worn paths early educators have trod for years. That is: Should we spend more money to make preschool free for everyone? Or, given limits on funging, should we target our spending to children whose parents couldn't otherwise afford preschool? 

A think piece on preschool enrollment published this week by Sarah Garland, Executive Editor of The Hechinger Report, asks that question and arrives at the less-than-satisfying conclusion that, in this country at least, we have no idea what works best. We do know, however, that we are not doing what works best.

Not all the children who qualify for the free programs we do have are actually able to attend because there isn't enough funding to serve all of them, and many families who don't qualify still struggle to find high quality care they can afford. The U.S. ranks 30th among OECD countries, a common proxy for advanced economies, in school enrollment for 3- and 4-year-olds. We do better at enrolling kids in college, but our rates of college-going have barely grown in recent decades.

Friday, December 11, 2015
(U.S. News & World Report)

The needs of our nation's littlest learners have garnered increasing attention in 2015. Although early learning still takes a back seat to K-12 education and higher education in national policy debates, state and national politicians are incorporating calls for early childhood investments into their stump speeches, philanthropic funders are targeting resources to early learning and, according to a new First Five Years Fund poll, average Americans increasingly recognize the importance of early learning for children's long-term success.

Here are some of the early childhood stories that captured attention in 2015 – and what they might mean for the year ahead.

Friday, December 11, 2015

About half of the children in the two largest public preschool programs in California – Head Start and the California State Preschool Program – speak a language other than English at home, but there is a good chance they will not be in classrooms with teachers and teacher assistants who are bilingual or trained specifically in instructing English learners.

This reality has broad implications for the ability of California’s public education system to promote successful outcomes for students who are learning English. Two-thirds of English learners did not meet the standards on the Smarter Balanced tests aligned with the Common Core standards, which were administered last spring for the first time. The results underscored the importance of early education programs in getting younger children who are not proficient in English better prepared before they get to kindergarten.

Early education experts say children who are English learners would be better prepared if they were taught in their native languages while also learning English – a goal included in the state’s preschool standards. But Head Start and the California State Preschool Program – which support tens of thousands of students across the state – don’t require teachers to be bilingual, making it more difficult to attain that goal. Combined, those two programs serve about a quarter of the state’s 4-year-olds.

Teachers’ qualifications, including the language skills they bring with them and the training they have received to help children learn English, are crucial for preparing English learners for kindergarten so they can keep pace with their English-only peers, said Lea Austin, a researcher with the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley.

Thursday, December 10, 2015
(The Star Press)

Gov. Mike Pence’s surprising decision last year not to apply for a federal education grant that could have brought Indiana up to $80 million to spend on preschool for low-income youngsters was a costly one for Hoosier children and families.

Last week brought a glimpse of the staggering tally.

According to a story in the Indianapolis Star, the prekindergarten funding available through the state’s $10 million pilot program doesn’t even begin to address the needs in the five counties where it’s available. The majority of families who applied for the program were turned away. In Marion County, about 70 percent of the 5,000 who applied were rejected. In Lake County, only 40 percent of those who applied were accepted. And Vanderburgh County, which had the highest acceptance rate, rejected about 35 percent of applicants. The program is also offered in Allen and Jackson counties.

Thursday, December 10, 2015
(Texas Observer)

In September, DFPS began trying to keep the detention facilities open to house women and children by creating a new child care licensing category for family detention centers. But Grassroots Leadership, an Austin nonprofit that has fought for the closure of family detention centers since 2006, filed suit against DFPS in order to block the licensure, and a Travis County district court halted the state’s efforts in late November. Instead, ruled Judge Karin Crump, the state would have to complete the normal administrative process required when creating new child care licensing rules and hold a public hearing.

Thursday, December 10, 2015
(Washington Post)

The new law will significantly reduce the legal authority of the education secretary, who would be legally barred from influencing state decisions about academic benchmarks, such as the Common Core State Standards, teacher evaluations and other policies.

But Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who is stepping down at the end of the month, claimed victory, saying that the new law incorporates many of his ideas about the best way to improve schools, such as federally funded preschool.

That was a top priority for Murray, a former preschool teacher, who initially sought funding for preschool for low-income children but settled for a $250 million annual grant program to help states organize existing systems.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015
(PBS Newshour)

A long-awaited rewrite of federal education law appears headed toward final congressional approval. The Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to end debate on a widely criticized No Child Left Behind Act, setting up a final vote Wednesday. The sweeping legislation would give the states greater control over the nation’s public schools but still maintain annual testing to gauge student progress. . .

Murray, a former preschool teacher, said the legislation would still hold under-performing schools responsible, but would leave it to the states to decide how to do that. Murray also praised the bill for including a key priority for her — a focus on early childhood education. “For the first time ever, our federal education law will recognize the importance of early learning with the grants program that we have put in place. It’s a very good beginning state for our nation,” Murray said in an interview. The grants program will use existing funding to help states improve quality and access to early childhood education.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015
(The Hechinger Report)

A fight between Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton over how to make college affordable bears a striking resemblance to an old debate on the other end of the education pipeline: Should publicly funded preschool be “universal” or targeted only to the neediest kids?

Early education advocates have been down this road many times already, and several had opinions about the pros and cons of universal vs. targeted as the debate hits higher education. In early education, universal pre-K — or, the Bernie Sanders approach — has had some political success. New York City launched free pre-K for every 4-year-old. In Washington, D.C., 3-year-olds get to go free, too. In New Jersey, a lawsuit made free preschool available for all kids living in the state’s poorest cities and towns. And Oklahoma, among the reddest of red states, has had universal pre-K for more than 15 years.

“I think the New York City approach is exactly the right thing,” said W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research. “There is this approach that government should only do things for poor people and everybody else should be off on their own. I think that that’s not a good approach to education. Education in the United States is already more unequal and uneven than most places in the world.”
“I think it is a problem if people view [preschool] as charity,” he added. “‘Beggars can’t be choosers’ — that’s not a good approach to education. I want the most advantaged people in the community lobbying the politicians in charge of these things to ensure that it’s high quality.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2015
(Huffington Post)

Preschool is important. But those tasked with educating the nation's littlest learners are not well-compensated for their efforts. A new report out from the National Association for the Education of Young Children shows that a majority of voters think early childhood educators deserve more pay. This makes sense given that a survey of preschool teachers also featured in the report reveals that some are struggling to get by.
Early childhood educators earn notoriously little money. A 2014 report from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment found that preschool teachers typically only make six dollars more an hour than fast-food workers (with mean hourly wages of $15.11 and $9.07, respectively) -- though early childhood educators are often required to have a bachelor's or associate's degree.

"If fast food workers deserve $15 per hour, then surely those teaching our most vulnerable children every day deserve significantly more," David Nocenti, Executive Director of the child care network Union Settlement, told the outlet in September. Eighty-five percent of voters said they think it's "very important" or "extremely important" that early childhood educators are well-compensated. Over 90 percent of surveyed voters also said that they "play a critical role in helping children grow and develop." 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015
(The Atlantic)

But for some more astounding than these discipline statistics were the thousands of the nation’s youngest learners—nearly 8,000 preschoolers—suspended from school in the same year, often for relatively minor disruptions and misbehaviors. For researchers and educators immersed in this work, why preschoolers are put out of school and the entrenched racial disparity seems most closely tied to reasons such as teacher bias and children living in poverty whose hitting, biting, and pinching is frequently labeled misconduct rather than developmental delays.

Walter S. Gilliam, a psychologist and researcher at Yale University’s Child Study Center, led the first expansive study of preschool expulsions a decade ago. In a random national sample of more than 4,500 state-funded pre-k classrooms in 40 states, his 2005 report revealed 3- and 4-year-olds were expelled from pre-k programs more than three times as often as students in kindergarten through high school. The rates of preschool expulsions varied dramatically with age, gender, and race: 4-year-olds were expelled at a higher rate than 3-year-olds; boys were over four times as likely to be ousted from prekindergarten as girls; and black children were expelled about twice as often as Latino and white youngsters, and over five times as often as Asian-American children.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The achievement gap in childhood education starts way before your child even walks into a classroom. Kids from lower income families typically hear 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers by the age of 3, according to research from the University of Kansas. That's why Saturday in Dover, Delaware put the focus on early childhood education.

Instead of spending their Saturday getting some well deserved rest after a week of teaching, Delaware's pre-kindergarten through first grade teachers were at Dover Downs at the first ever Stronger Together Conference. A day long conference designed to equip Delaware's teachers with the tools and knowledge they need to get our kids ready to learn.

"I think when you have an opportunity to sort of learn the best practices from your peers and some folks who are really experts in the field, it just makes it better for everybody," said Gov. Jack Markell (D)

Monday, December 7, 2015
(NJ Spotlight)

This year, though, his budget and his students got a rare boost. Thanks to a four-year federal grant, 17 low-income districts including North Bergen received funding to create or expand preschool programs that will prepare thousands of 4-year-olds for kindergarten and elementary school.

The districts have already begun turning half-day programs into full-day, hiring properly certified teachers, creating new bus routes, and enrolling more children. North Bergen and others are working on plans for new school buildings to house their expanded programs. Previously, most had only offered preschool to special-needs students, as required by law, along with a few regular education students chosen by lottery.

Other families had to keep their children at home until kindergarten, or if they could afford it, pay for private childcare programs that may or may not have educational value.

The new classrooms meet the teacher qualifications, class size, curriculum, and other standards of the Abbott program. Research shows that those preschools have measurable benefits for low-income kids lasting at least through fifth grade. The children remain academically more advanced than their counterparts who did not attend Abbott preschools, are less frequently assigned to special-education, classes and are held back a grade less often.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The revision of the No Child Left Behind law now before Congress has increased support for early childhood education that advocates are calling “historic.”

The bill makes permanent a grant program for early education and has a number of new provisions aimed at ensuring the effective use of resources among federal, state and local governments.

The bill, which has passed the House and is expected to be passed by the Senate this week, has “historic support for early childhood education,” said Charles Joughin, communications director with the First Five Years Fund, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

For the first time since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act  — currently referred to as NCLB — was implemented in 1965, the bill recognizes that early childhood education is important in federal and state efforts to close achievement gaps between low-income students and their peers, said Erin Gabel, deputy director of First 5 California. Gabel also applauds the bill for a new emphasis on coordination and collaboration between early education programs and K-12 schools.

Monday, December 7, 2015

"When you trace it all back, really the fundamental thing that grows human brains in the first three years of life is parent talk and interaction. And there is no way around it," says Dana Suskind, a pediatric surgeon at the University of Chicago Hospital and the founder of the Thirty Million Words Initiative. "The brain is hard-wired to learn from human language and interaction."

Suskind conducted close to 200 surgeries to install cochlear implants in the ears of children, to help them hear. Over the years, she came to see first-hand, in the operating room and X-rays, that hearing words vitalizes the brains of infants.

"The language comes in: You get these neural connections building the sort of architecture of the brain. It's really the foundation for all thinking and learning," she says. "I always say that language is the nutrition for the developing brain."

It's not just a question of developing vocabulary, she says: That interaction helps the brain develop to handle things like tying your shoe.