Volume 3, Issue 10

October 22, 2004

Hot Topics

Like other trends with roots in older age groups, for-profit tutoring has migrated to the preschool set — and business is reportedly brisk. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Japanese-owned Kumon education service is offering Junior Kumon, a nationwide “cram school” for children as young as 2 that relies primarily on worksheets. Preschoolers reportedly attend 15-minute sessions twice weekly — when it suits them, since there is no set time for classes. Parents pay $80 to $110 per month. Desktop drills for preschoolers are sure to raise concerns among early education experts, says NIEER Director Steve Barnett, who was interviewed for the WSJ article. "People set up a false dichotomy between academics and play," he cautioned. Meanwhile, Kumon says its top 2-year-old is doing multiplication and division tables and it has no trouble filling classes.
A $15 million research project being conducted by the Santa Fe Institute Consortium (SFIC) promises to add more to the body of knowledge about early childhood education opportunities by studying infant and preadolescent brains to determine the best times to teach children language and other skills. As part of the project, Rutgers University and the University of Washington will study 160 children from ages 6 months to 5 years. The children will undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that will be correlated with studies of the children’s language and developmental skills. Each child will be examined in his or her home and in the educational environment. SFIC says the methodology provides a unique opportunity to collect sufficient data about the complex relationships between brain maturation, environmental educational factors, behavior, psychology and anatomy. The subjects will be evaluated again in five years. Teenagers are also being studied.
North Carolina Governor Mike Easley has found $22 million in extra funds for poor school districts since that state's Supreme Court ruled in July that the state school funding formula discriminated against poor districts. The appellate judges sent the funding case back to Superior Court Judge Howard Manning for implementation. Manning, who welcomed the money, reminded state leaders that the price tag to remedy the situation is $220 million. The state says it cannot come up with a reasonable plan by Manning's next court date on the matter, set for Oct. 25.
Officials with New Jersey's Schools Construction Corporation (SCC) say the $8.6 billion allocated four years ago to build and renovate schools, including preschools, could run dry in 2006. Among the challenges faced by the SCC are higher than expected costs for construction and developing land, and a deteriorating bond rating that requires the state to repay more than was originally anticipated to secure the money. So far, the fund has assisted in 1,127 projects across the state. New Jersey Governor James McGreevey is warning that the state will be unlikely to come up with the entire funding shortfall.

NIEER Activities

Which children have the least access to preschool in the United States? You can find out in this new policy brief from NIEER. The brief, Who Goes to Preschool and Why Does It Matter? identifies factors that influence preschool enrollment, such as income, geography and ethnicity, and offers policy recommendations to address inequities in access. Another brief from NIEER, Preschool Assessment: A Guide to Developing a Balanced Approach, examines assessment of learning among preschoolers and the trend toward increased standardized testing of young children.

Can investing in high-quality early education reduce the demand for high-cost special education, social welfare and criminal justice systems? NIEER Director Steve Barnett makes this point in this new video, which features children in preschool and parents who weigh in on the issue. The 7-minute video, Preschool: America’s Best Investment, is available in both vhs and dvd formats. To request a copy, e-mail info@nieer.org.

Calendar

November 10, 2004 - November 13, 2004
Anaheim, CA – Early childhood educators and professionals from around the world will gather for the National Association of Education for Young Children's Annual Conference and Expo.
November 11, 2004 - November 14, 2004
Melbourne, Australia – The theme of the Centre for Equity and Innovation in Early Childhood's conference is "Pushing the boundaries to make a difference."

Early Education News Roundup

October 21, 2004
Casper Star-Tribune
The good news is that spending on early childhood development programs has a big payoff in the future.
October 21, 2004
U.S. Newswire
The study identified an alarming gap in preschool participation between children in lower and higher income families.
October 14, 2004
Richmond Times-Dispatch
The business community wants to know not just why preschool is good for the student but whether it will benefit the local economy as well.
October 10, 2004
The Kansas City Star
Thirty years ago mental health experts thought it was impossible.
October 7, 2004
Wisconsin State Journal
Many more Madison children could benefit from this early start.
October 4, 2004
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Voters overwhelmingly endorsed the measure as a constitutional amendment in 2002.
September 30, 2004
The Detroit News
The 2000 U.S. census indicated 48.9 percent of all 3- and 4-year-olds in Michigan were enrolled in some form of preschool program.
September 29, 2004
Lawrence Journal-World
Kansas Action for Children released a poll that showed nearly eight of 10 Kansas voters support state funding for pre-kindergarten programs and believe it should be made available to all children. Seventy-nine percent believe in making pre-kindergarten available to all children, and 78 percent support state funding for pre-kindergarten programs.
September 29, 2004
Education Week
Early education's star is rising in some state legislatures and in Congress, two reports issued this month suggest. Despite continuing economic uncertainty, 15 states increased their preschool funding by $205 million for fiscal 2005, a nationwide study by the Trust for Early Education found.

Resources

This paper from the Education Commission of the States is designed to help policymakers and educators incorporate civic knowledge and support effective citizenship education.
This report, written by members of the National Study Group for the Affirmative Development of Academic Ability, presents recommendations to help all students achieve academic success.