Volume 15, Issue 1

Friday, January 8, 2016

Hot Topics

In Mississippi, there has been some controversy over a recent report from the PEER Committee to the legislature on Mississippi’s emerging state preschool program. Mississippi First responded to the report, including a link to a NIEER review of the study. Mississippi press reported on the issues here and here.  This follows discussions about the effectiveness of Tennessee’s early childhood program last year. Lessons learned? Quality is essential, implementation takes time, and evaluation reports must be carefully evaluated.

The Department of Education has begun implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes ESEA and replaces No Child Left Behind. They have issued a Dear Colleague letter to provide initial guidance to states, then previewed a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register “seeking advice and recommendations for Title I regulations under the ESSA.” There will be a 30-day comment period, and two public hearings:

  • Monday, January 11, 2016, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
  • Tuesday, January 19, 2016, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time at the University of California-Los Angeles’ Carnesale Commons.

To present comments during these meetings, RSVP to ESSA.publichearing@ed.gov no later than 5:00 p.m. ET on January 4, 2016, for the Washington, D.C., hearing and 5:00 p.m. ET on January 12, 2016, for the Los Angeles hearing.  

Comments are already available from the National School Boards Association, EdCentral, the American Enterprise Institute, Breitbart, and the Hechinger Report.

Starting Strong IV: Monitoring Quality in Early Childhood Education and Care is an excellent recent resource, including reviews of instruments used to monitor the quality of staff and programs. “Research suggests that, when it comes to early childhood education and care, quality matters most. A growing number of countries are establishing monitoring systems to ensure quality and accountability in these programmes. This new publication explores how countries can develop and use these systems to enhance service and staff quality for the benefit of child development. It offers an international perspective and concrete examples to help policy makers, monitoring experts and practitioners in the field develop their own monitoring policies and practices.”

The report describes early childhood education and care (ECEC) systems in participating jurisdictions, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, several European countries, Kazakhstan, Japan, Korea, Chile, and Mexico. The report covers current practices and trends in early care and education; monitoring service quality, staff quality, and child development and outcomes; and improving monitoring policy and practice in early childhood education and care.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

In case you’ve ever wondered what Universal preschool or UPK is, and who delivers it, there are some answers in our latest blog post. The states that actually deliver UPK may surprise you.


From Frank Porter Graham, their newest TED Talk, on The Power of Early Education by Kate Gallagher, talks about the importance of relationships in early childhood programs, and resulting benefits for children and society.

Pennsylvania Early Education News highlighted a Child Development article reporting that in a study of more than 8,600 US children, “Even after extensive covariate adjustment, 24-month-old children with larger oral vocabularies displayed greater reading and mathematics achievement, increased behavioral self-regulation, and fewer externalizing and internalizing problem behaviors at kindergarten entry.”

Child Care Canada highlighted a survey of parenting in America from the Pew Charitable Trusts finds that “for lower-income parents with children younger than 18, financial instability can limit their children’s access to a safe environment and to the kinds of enrichment activities that affluent parents may take for granted. Of particular interest, the majority of parents surveyed with one or more children younger than six say it is very (29%) or somewhat (33%) hard to find affordable, high-quality child care in their community.”

They also highlighted a TEDx talk by Jessica Shortall supporting a call for paid parental leave in the US as a moral and economic issue.

The Pennsylvania Early Education News also reported on a recent publication from the BUILD Initiative, the Impact of the Early Learning Challenge on State Quality Rating and Improvement Systems. The chapter discusses QRIS systems and planning, and includes information on family engagement and outreach, and financial supports and financing.

From FPG, an ECRQ article explaining: "Evidence suggests that household chaos is associated with less optimal child outcomes. Yet, there is an increasing indication that children’s experiences in childcare may buffer them against the detrimental effects of such environments.”

Early Education News Roundup

Thursday, January 7, 2016

While Spanish is by far the most common language other than English in California’s publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs, they enroll children who speak a variety of languages, reflecting the pockets of ethnic communities dotting California. In Los Angeles County alone, 224 languages and dialects are spoken by children in Head Start and the California State Preschool Program.

Preschool programs are playing a key role in helping children who speak languages other than English get ready for kindergarten. More than half of students in those two programs – the largest ones statewide – speak a language other than English at home.

Thursday, January 7, 2016
(EdWeek )

Today, we unveil the 2016 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings. Simply being included in this list of 200 scholars is an honor, given the tens of thousands who might qualify. The ranked scholars include the top 150 finishers from last year, along with 50 "at-large" nominees chosen by the 26-member selection committee (see yesterday's post for a list of committee members and all other requisite details). The metrics, as explained yesterday, recognize university-based scholars in the U.S. who are doing the most to influence educational policy and practice. The rubric reflects both a scholar's larger body of work and their impact on the public discourse last year.

Thursday, January 7, 2016
(Detroit Free Press)

Detroit parents could have more options for child care beginning next year thanks to a $20-million investment from the Kresge Foundation to build up to three new centers focused on early childhood development.

Officials envision the centers being community hubs that provide services such as full-day child care, education, health screenings and parent programs.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016
(FiveThirtyEight Economics)

Prekindergarten is extremely popular. President Obama made expanding pre-K a major policy goal. In the past few years, several states have launched pre-K programs, and large cities such as New York have pushed to make pre-K universal on the promise that seemingly large benefits can come from educating kids at a young age, setting them up for success later in life. But a recent study of Tennessee’s voluntary program for 4-year-olds from low-income families found that by third grade, kids who went to pre-K fared worse academically than those who didn’t. That shocking finding has triggered a debate among experts; some have called into question pre-K’s long-touted benefits, while critics of the study have sought to reaffirm pre-K as a good investment. . .

But a separate team of researchers at the University of Chicago has criticized the Tennessee study in a recent working paper. They view its results as more than just surprising — they claim they run counter to most other pre-K research. The University of Chicago team — led by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman, one of the godfathers of early childhood education research and a long-time pre-K proponent — has marshaled a battery of arguments to dispute the Tennessee study’s findings. First, Heckman’s team criticizes the study’s methodology, saying that the researchers failed to get a fully random sample of participants. (The Vanderbilt team stands behind its study design, saying that it checks out against selection bias and that Heckman’s team is making a mountain out of a molehill.) Heckman’s team also maintains that the case for pre-K’s benefits outlined in earlier research is strong. In their new working paper, the Chicago researchers re-analyze a slew of studies — experimental, observational, and in-between — on early childhood education and conclude: “There is a strong case for high-quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children.”

Monday, January 4, 2016
(Jackson Free Press)

Education policy groups backed up the Mississippi Department of Education and its state superintendent by lambasting a recent report on the state's new pre-kindergarten pilot program.

That report, from the Legislature's Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, concluded that 4-year-olds enrolled in the state's special pilot programs for early-learning collaboratives scored no better than their peers in other public pre-K programs on kindergarten readiness tests. The PEER report said there was "room for improvement" in the collaboratives and suggested that MDE conduct research to identify the programming necessary to amp up the collaborative students' test scores.

Mississippi First, an education policy and advocacy organization, issued a letter on Dec. 23 denouncing the Mississippi PEER committee report.

The organization critiqued the committee's research methods for statistical analysis as and questioned the need for such a report at all.

Rachel Canter, executive director of Mississippi First, said PEER rarely releases educational program evaluations within the first year of those initiatives. Canter said educational programs are typically evaluated three to five years after implementation.

Monday, January 4, 2016
(Sacramento Bee )

During the decades he worked in social services, the next speaker of the California Assembly says he saw the effectiveness of programs to train job seekers and dissolve gangs. None approached the echoing effects of educating young children before they enter kindergarten.

“They made the local schools better. They made parents more involved in their communities and more vigilant,” said Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, who is scheduled to take over as leader early this year. “I could see where that benefits for democracy and just people showing up at the polls.

“Staving off health maladies that often manifest themselves later in a child’s growth or life, you see how these things tend to be caught early in these types of programs,” he continued. “It’s something that has benefits way beyond in-classroom benefits.”

Soon Rendon will be able to throw the full weight of the speaker’s office behind that conviction. As head of the Democratic caucus and a lead player in budget negotiations that launch next week with Gov. Jerry Brown’s initial proposal, Rendon will place a premium on directing more resources to preparing young Californians for school.


Monday, January 4, 2016
(WCPO Cincinnati)

Depending on which U.S. Census Bureau data you look at, childhood poverty has either gotten worse or a little bit better in the city of Cincinnati.

Either way, though, tens of thousands of children in Cincinnati and Hamilton County are living below the federal poverty line. And 2016 is the year the city's business, political, civic and faith leaders are determined to come together in an initiative known as the Child Poverty Collaborative to reduce those numbers.

Monday, January 4, 2016
(Arkansas Times)

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families has a new brief out today on the pre-K situation in Arkansas, and how it's changed in the past year.

The report is optimistic, noting that a $60 million federal grant (to be disbursed over a four year period) has made possible an expansion of 1,371 new preschool slots statewide, along with a significant increase in per-child funding for another 1,506 children. The federal money is intended to increase the quality of pre-K programs in specific, high-need areas, including the Little Rock School District.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015
(Alaska Public Media)

The governor’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of a $2 million pre-kindergarten program, which serves six school districts in Anchorage, Juneau, and Western Alaska. Alaska was one of just 12 states in the U.S. without state-funded pre-kindergarten when it started a pilot program in 2009. The pre-K program is free to qualifying low-income families and, according to Deputy Education Commissioner Les Morse, has seen considerable success in its six-year run.

“There is solid data around its success,” Morse said. “We specifically looked at various different assessments on students in terms of their’ performance as well as the delivery by districts. It’s really been very successful. The largest problem with the program is that we really haven’t been able to grow it. So it really continues to serve the same number of students and the same dollar amount that it did during its pilot phase.”

Monday, December 21, 2015
(The Atlantic)

Media attention to the cognitive potential of early childhood has a way of exacerbating such worries, but the actual academic consensus on the components of high-quality early education tells another story. According to experts such as the Yale professor Edward Zigler, a leader in child-development and early-education policy for half a century, the best preschool programs share several features: They provide ample opportunities for young children to use and hear complex, interactive language; their curriculum supports a wide range of school-readiness goals that include social and emotional skills and active learning; they encourage meaningful family involvement; and they have knowledgeable and well-qualified teachers.

As an early-childhood educator, I’ve clocked many hours in many preschool classrooms, and I have found that I can pretty quickly take the temperature from the looks on kids’ faces, the ratio of table space to open areas, and the amount of conversation going on in either. In a high-quality program, adults are building relationships with the children and paying close attention to their thought processes and, by extension, their communication. They’re finding ways to make the children think out loud.

The real focus in the preschool years should be not just on vocabulary and reading, but on talking and listening.

Monday, December 21, 2015
(The Baltimore Sun)

Not all that long ago, early childhood education meant the first three grades of elementary school. Very few schools had kindergarten programs and even fewer offered pre-kindergarten programs. Today, all Maryland school systems offer kindergarten programs and pre-kindergarten programs for at least the most disadvantaged 4 year olds. It is now time for Maryland to continue to lead the way in early childhood education by expanding innovative programs that start at birth and continue through age 3.

Monday, December 21, 2015
(KTOO Public Media)

Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of a $2 million pre-kindergarten program, which serves six school districts in Anchorage, Juneau and Western Alaska.

Alaska was one of just 12 states in the U.S. without state-funded pre-kindergarten when it started a pilot program in 2009.

The pre-K program is free to qualifying low-income families and, according to Deputy Education Commissioner Les Morse, has seen considerable success in its six-year run.

“There is solid data around its success,” said Morse. “We specifically looked at various different assessments on students in terms of their performance as well as the delivery by districts. It’s really been very successful. The largest problem with the program is that we really haven’t been able to grow it. So it really continues to serve the same number of students and the same dollar amount that it did during its pilot phase.”

Monday, December 21, 2015
(Wyoming Public Media)

In its last meeting before the upcoming budget session, the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee forwarded a bill that could expand early childhood education in some school districts.

Districts apply for grant money through a program called BRIDGES—and are allowed to spend that money on afterschool and summer programming. The new legislation would also allow districts to spend that money on early learning, if they choose.

Wyoming Kids First executive director Becca Steinhoff says it’s a step in the right direction.

Monday, December 21, 2015
(Bennington Banner)

Early childhood education in Vermont received a boost when in 2014 the state legislature passed, and Gov. Peter Shumlin signed, Act 166, which "requires all Vermont school districts to provide universal publicly funded pre-kindergarten education for a minimum of 10 hours per week for 35 weeks annually for all 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children who are not enrolled in kindergarten," according to the Vermont Agency of Education website.

Although school districts may opt to postpone full implementation until July 1, 2016, the need for licensed early education teachers already exceeds supply.

The Early Childhood Education program at the Windham Regional Career Center is expanding its course offerings, providing students with access to a career ladder in ECE.

Monday, December 21, 2015
(Education World)

Analysis from Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow John, T. Bruer indicates that on the subject of using science to improve education, research is more effective than using neuroscience. The paper, titled Research Base for Improved Classroom Learning: Brain or Behavior? found that traditional education research is more effective in improving classroom learning outcomes as opposed to the recently favored method of using educational neuroscience data. Part of the reason behind this, however, could be because educational neuroscience is a young, still-developing field. - See more at: http://www.educationworld.com/a_news/education-research-more-beneficial-...

Friday, December 18, 2015
(NJ Spotlight)

New Jersey’s publicly-funded preschool program is considered a national model for high quality – for some 50,000 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds living in 35 towns. But as NJ Spotlight’s preschool series points out, there is zero guarantee of quality for the 350,000 other children attending a patchwork of licensed and unlicensed preschools across the state. It can cost a family more to send a child to preschool than to community college, which puts quality out of reach for many. These hundreds of thousands of children are attending programs that may or may not be effective, at an age that is widely recognized as critical for their development and, therefore, our state’s future.

Friday, December 18, 2015
(NJ Spotlight)

Seven years after a proposal to expand New Jersey’s much-touted public pre-K program was approved, the state may be getting close to actually funding the plan, at least in part. Democratic legislators have unveiled an ambitious initiative that would bring preschool to an additional 17 disadvantaged districts at a cost of $165 million over two years. But they will have to overcome opposition from Gov. Christie Christie and many Republicans who are staunch critics of any expansion. The opponents describe the state preschool program as an expensive, ineffective, and unfair example of government overreach, one that pours public funds into poor urban communities while struggling residents of suburbs and towns get nothing but mounting local tax bills.

“What we have essentially is a very expensive program, and New Jersey really can't pay its bills right now, for example the pension system, and we're looking to expand government,” said Sen. Mike Doherty (R-Warren), a fierce critic of the state’s Abbott schools program. “You just can't keep expanding government when you can't pay your bills at the present moment.”

Both sides are armed with statistics that prove their points, as well as pointed arguments that dismiss their opponent’s studies and findings. Both groups draw their convictions from an ongoing national debate about the role of government in early education, and both say the direction the state takes on preschool in the near future could have a significant impact on the state’s economic future.