Volume 3, Issue 11

December 17, 2004

Hot Topics

Florida lawmakers — brought back to Tallahassee for an emergency session — finally passed a universal prekindergarten bill Governor Jeb Bush says he can live with even if education experts are disappointed. Set to start next August, the program provides for either a 540-hour plan to run 3 hours per day or a 300-hour summer program. Maximum class size is 18 and staff-child ratio is 1:10, with instruction to take place in both public schools and private organizations. The bill sets a "goal" of teachers having a 2-year AA degree within 5 years and a 4-year BA degree in 8, but does not require it. Florida advocates say work remains to be done on the quality front if Florida's program is to succeed. "The 'shining city on the hill' for pre-K has not yet come to pass," said education advocate David Lawrence Jr., president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation. "This is not perfect legislation."
Lawrence conceded the bill needs more work, saying "we cannot build Rome in one session of the Florida Legislature." In addition to quality issues, accountability will be on next year's agenda. Critics say more safeguards need to be in place to prevent misuse of public funds by providers.
The Massachusetts Early Education for All Campaign went back to the state house earlier this month and refiled legislation with features not included in the law that paved the way for universal pre-K earlier this year. The refiling of the 2005-2006 Act Establishing Early Education for All puts more meat on the bones by providing that funding be administered by the new Board and Department of Early Education and Care to programs so that every preschool-aged child in the Commonwealth has access to an early childhood education that meets high quality early learning standards, is staffed by well-qualified early educators and is delivered through a mix of public and private programs. The legislation calls for the universal early childhood program to be fully funded and implemented by 2012 — and gives priority to children in low-income communities. To read the bill, visit the Early Education for All Campaign web site.
When it comes to early childhood issues, we don’t have enough data to get a clear representation from rural America, says a new report from the National Center for Rural Early Childhood Learning Initiatives at Mississippi State University. It says most national surveys and other public data sources yield little information about rural young children and their families, in part because of challenges associated with collecting large enough samples from far-flung areas. Confidentiality rules pose a greater obstacle in rural data collection, too, since respondents to surveys can be more easily identified than in large cities. The authors suggest state and federal agencies conduct large-scale surveys to produce reports that help fill the data gap about rural young children and their families.
If New York State complies with recommendations of a court-appointed panel, New York City schools will receive $5.6 billion in additional operating money over 4 years — and $9.2 billion in new buildings, classrooms and other infrastructure. According to the New York Times, the task of spending the $572 million Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to dedicate to prekindergarten for 75,000 4-year-olds and 35,000 3-year-olds would require hiring more than 4,000 teachers and adding several thousand new classroom seats. With numbers like that, there's a growing realization that ramping up to quality takes more than money — it takes time.
Flat Stanley, the character invented by the late actor and writer, Jeff Brown, has enjoyed a surge in popularity at elementary schools ever since Canadian third grade teacher Dale Hubert set up a website to serve as an exchange for Stanley’s travels in 1995. Since Stanley, who acquired his flatness when a bulletin board landed on him, fits easily (as a cut-out) in envelopes, he travels wherever kids send him — and Hubert's website tracks his progress when schools join the Stanley Project. Accompanied by a log his hosts fill out and send back on his return trip, Stanley gets around quite a bit, making more than 6,000 trips in the past year. Teachers say he helps teach kids geography and writing skills. His services are apparently required in high places, since His Flatness has been seen hobnobbing at the White House.

NIEER Activities

NIEER has released its second annual study of state preschool programs. The State of Preschool: 2004 State Preschool Yearbook reveals huge disparities among states in numbers of children served. Although enrollment is growing, state spending per pupil is down. Twenty-one states cut funds last year. A "dirty dozen" have no state-funded preschool programs. The study ranks all 50 states on access to preschool programs, state resources spent, and quality.

Calendar

January 4, 2005 - January 7, 2005
Honolulu, HI - The third annual Hawaii International Conference on Education brings together educators and professionals from the field of education from all over the globe.
January 19, 2005 - January 22, 2005
San Antonio, TX – Educators, policy makers, and community members will gather for the National Association for Bilingual Education’s annual conference.
January 23, 2005 - January 27, 2005
Greensboro, NC – Smart Start staff, child care providers, teachers, policy makers, and others from across the country will attend the annual Smart Start conference.
January 31, 2005 - February 4, 2005
Albuquerque, New Mexico – The Institute provides an opportunity for Head Start, Early Head Start, and Migrant & Seasonal Head Start programs to come together to explore specific issues related to providing effective services to Hispanic children and families.

Early Education News Roundup

December 17, 2004
The News-Press
While legislators gave final approval to a statewide pre-kindergarten program Thursday, they also acknowledged many details are still uncertain. No one is sure how many 4-year-olds will show up for the free classes when they start in eight months.
December 16, 2004
Orlando Sentinel
Judging Florida's new pre-kindergarten programs by how well 5-year-olds do on standardized tests could shortchange the state's neediest youngsters and wouldn't properly assess the quality of pre-K providers, critics argue.
December 9, 2004
Knoxville News Sentinel
The state now spends about $10 million per year on such programs, which Gov. Bredesen said have proven their worth in preparing youngsters for school.
December 9, 2004
The Miami Herald
Florida legislative leaders unveiled the outline for a new statewide pre-kindergarten program.
December 7, 2004
The Beaufort Gazette
There's a noticeable difference between children who attended preschool and those who didn't, according to Donna Smith, a kindergarten teacher at Okatie Elementary School.
December 2, 2004
The Des Moines Register
Preschool isn't just about providing a better education for Iowa's children. It promotes economic development.
December 1, 2004
The Ledger, Lakeland, FL
Florida lawmakers will consider creating an education program for 4-year-olds that would fall far short of the nation's leading prekindergarten systems.
November 23, 2004
The Christian Science Monitor
While many studies have shown preschool's short-term academic effects, the High/Scope Perry Preschool Study offers a rare glimpse into how far-reaching the gains can be.
November 21, 2004
The Oklahoman
A new study finding that Tulsa's publicly funded pre-kindergarten program has produced academic gains for all students, regardless of race and income level, should serve as a serious boost for early education efforts in Oklahoma.
November 19, 2004
USA Today
An intensive preschool program for low-income children in the early 1960s has made a huge difference in their lives, its benefits felt nearly 40 years later, a study shows.

Resources

Has Oklahoma’s universal prekindergarten program been successful in preparing children for kindergarten and beyond? Read more about this report from Georgetown University at www.crocus.georgetown.edu/.
In the latest phase of the Perry Preschool study, data show that the adults at age 40 who had attended the preschool program "had higher earnings, were more likely to hold a job, had committed fewer crimes, and were more likely to have graduated from high school than adults who did not have preschool." You can read about study at the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation's web site.
From the importance of teacher-child interactions to technology education and young children, the fall 2004 issue of Early Childhood Research & Practice (ECRP) (volume 6, number 2) contains articles in both English and Spanish on a variety of topics related to early childhood education and care.