Volume 3, Issue 3

May 19, 2004

Hot Topics

Nowhere in the nation have the issues associated with achieving quality voluntary universal prekindergarten programs been more on display than Florida where politicians clearly have failed to deliver the kind of universal program voters ordered in the state’s 2002 public referendum. Few in the education community would argue with the conclusion that the final measure — on Governor Jeb Bush’s desk — short-changes quality in one way or another. With the eyes of the nation on Florida, educators are wondering if quality can be postponed and, if so, how much? For insight on the issue from NIEER director W. Steven Barnett, you can read his op-ed piece that ran in The Miami Herald.
This NIEER policy brief, Child Outcome Standards in Pre-K Programs: What Are Standards; What Is Needed To Make Them Work? provides an overview of the extension of the standards movement to preschool programs. It presents the conditions and special considerations necessary for standards to have a positive impact on preschool children and strengthen accountability. Policy recommendations include writing standards in ways that allow for appropriate, effective assessment and take into account the unique ways young children develop and learn.
Based on the Trust for Early Education’s survey of state and federal prekindergarten budgets for Fiscal Year 2005, this report finds that the budget proposals fall short of the needs of children and families. You can access the Report of Governors’ Pre-K Funding FY05 at the TEE web site.

NIEER Activities

The Winter 2004 edition of the NIEER newsletter, Preschool Matters, features news about a Head Start study – the first randomized trial – that provides evidence of how the program can boost children’s language skills and health.
NIEER Director Steve Barnett joined Washington Post columnist Evelyn Vuko online recently to respond to questions about preschool. You can read the transcript of the online chat at washingtonpost.com.

Calendar

June 20, 2004 - June 23, 2004
Baltimore, MD – Learning from Assessment is the theme of the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s 13th National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development.
June 28, 2004 - July 1, 2004
Washington, DC – Participants at Head Start’s 7th National Research Conference have the opportunity to explore the many factors that promote positive development in young children.
July 13, 2004 - July 16, 2004
Orlando, FL – Join state and national policymakers from across the country at the Education Commission of the States’ national forum.
July 14, 2004 - July 15, 2004
Aurora, CO – This workshop provides an introduction to the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) Scaffolding Early Literacy professional development program.

Early Education News Roundup

May 19, 2004
The City Paper, Nashville, TN
Poverty-level wages and minimal training are the reality for Nashville’s early childhood educators and the roughly 18,000 children served by them, according to a study released Tuesday by a local children’s advocacy group.
May 15, 2004
Pioneer Press, St. Paul, MN
This week's legislative logjam could jeopardize a pre-kindergarten program serving more than 1,200 4-year-olds in Minneapolis and St. Paul. A plan to save the program, which proponents say has been successful in narrowing the achievement gap, has the approval of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-controlled Senate.
May 12, 2004
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY
Gov. Joe Kernan couldn't get lawmakers to buy into his plan for statewide full-day kindergarten earlier this year, but yesterday he used an executive order to create a commission to keep looking at the issue. The 32 members of the Indiana Commission for Early Learning and School Readiness also will make recommendations for coordinating existing preschool, reading and other programs for children ages 4 and younger, whether they are offered by public or private organizations.
May 10, 2004
The New York Times
Since the nation's welfare system was overhauled in 1996, New York City has received hundreds of millions of additional state and federal dollars intended to help women leave welfare for work and to greatly expand the city's low-income child care system. But the money has not significantly increased the number of licensed day care slots, for which the waiting list is now over 36,000.
May 10, 2004
Palm Beach Post
Voters asked for "high quality" pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds in Florida. Lawmakers ignored voters' demand, delivering to the governor legislation that provides so few academic standards that preschool is a misnomer.
May 8, 2004
Orlando Sentinel
On its final night, after weeks of squabbling about it, the Legislature finally produced a plan that would provide a free school-readiness program for every 4-year-old in Florida whose parents want it, beginning in August 2005. This foundation is strong enough to build on next year, when lawmakers have to figure out how to pay for pre-K.
May 5, 2004
The Miami Herald
The plan calls for pupils to be in class three hours a day, one hour shy of what the governor wanted. It also calls for a 10-to-1 child-to-teacher ratio, a considerably smaller one than what the House was seeking in its proposal along with a $7 million summer pilot program to begin in July in 10 school districts.
May 3, 2004
Santa Maria Times
To prepare students for school and future academic and career success, some educators and politicians are getting behind an effort to offer preschool to all children in California. Proponents argue that students who do not attend preschool are behind academically when they enter kindergarten.
May 2, 2004
Hattiesburg American
According to the 2000 census, 204,364 children under the age of five were living in Mississippi and only 54,058 of those children were enrolled in a preschool or nursery school.
April 30, 2004
The Boston Globe
The House paved the way yesterday for free preschool for thousands of Massachusetts 3- and 4-year-olds, passing a budget amendment that advocates hailed as historic. The amendment, pushed by House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, would set up two panels to sketch what a good preschool would look like, the type of qualifications the teachers should have, and who would run the schools.
April 27, 2004
The Boston Globe
The judge's decision, the latest chapter in the 26-year battle over school funding in Massachusetts, could reshape classrooms across the state if the Supreme Judicial Court follows the recommendations. Her recommended remedies, which state education officials would carry out, include establishing free preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds, constructing adequate school buildings, and determining how much more money is needed for children with special needs.
April 25, 2004
The New York Times
To provide what some believe to be an academic edge in today's competitive classrooms, or even an athletic foot up, many parents postpone their children's entry into kindergarten so they are older in the grade than their peers. The irony of it, said Samuel J. Meisels, president of the Erikson Institute, a graduate school in child development in Chicago, is that parents who hold their children out of kindergarten because it is too academic add to pressures a year later to make it even more academic.
April 22, 2004
Asheville Citizen-Times
Experts agree that in an age of increased testing and accountability, kindergarten isn't as easy at it used to be, which can create problems for some children. Because kindergartners must master more skills before they advance to the first grade, more students are being held back.
April 15, 2004
The Miami Herald
If lawmakers in Tallahassee fail to give voters the high quality pre-kindergarten program we asked for two years ago, they will make it much more likely that one day you or someone you love will become a victim of crime and violence. By giving kids the right start in life, through programs such as high quality preschool, we can help ensure that they don't grow up to be violent criminals.
April 14, 2004
The Miami Herald
When Floridians voted to mandate "high quality" prekindergarten education for all of the state's 4-year-olds, the state became the first to hold a successful referendum on this issue. Unfortunately, what we are seeing is reminiscent of nothing so much as a political version of "bait and switch."

Resources

The 2003 edition of the annual National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC) publication updates information on state policies, programs, and practices under the Preschool Grants Program (Section 619 of Part B) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The report includes information about program administration, funding and education reform, personnel, transition, programming, accreditation and monitoring, performance outcomes, public awareness, and state data from the 24th Annual Report to Congress. The profile is available on the NECTAC web site.
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) poses the question: How do the various structures of kindergarten programs affect student learning? The ASCD examines data from the first year of the National Center for Education Statistics’ Early Childhood Longitudinal Study in this ResearchBrief.
The Prekindergarten Policy Framework is a new resource developed by The National Prekindergarten Center to provide local, state, and federal policymakers with research-based information on how to build high-quality programs. In particular, the Prekindergarten Policy Framework provides a comprehensive array of topics on high-quality programs as well as concise, current summaries of research on prekindergarten. The framework also includes examples of state programs and bibliographies and web resources for more information on each topic.
This article by Edward Zigler and Sandra Bishop-Josef addresses the beneficial effects of play on the cognitive development of preschool-aged children.