Volume 3, Issue 7

August 6, 2004

Hot Topics

Early childhood education made the spotlight twice last week in Boston — when presidential candidate John Kerry mentioned early education programs in his nomination acceptance speech and also when Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Thomas Finneran, sponsor of the state’s new law calling for universal prekindergarten, held a symposium to showcase the program for other state leaders in town for the Democratic National Convention.



There was little doubt that early education would be a priority in a Kerry administration after the candidate said, "… I am determined that we stop being a nation content to spend $50,000 a year to keep a young person in prison for the rest of their life - when we could invest $10,000 to give them Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start — the best possible start in life."



Among those listening to Kerry’s speech were representatives of 28 states who had on the previous day attended Finneran’s symposium outlining the Massachusetts law setting up a new state Office of Early Education and Care charged with developing a universal preschool program for the state. Finneran, who asked NIEER Director Steve Barnett to present at the symposium, hopes to put universal prekindergarten on the national agenda.
That appears to be the case — at least in the southeast. According to a report from the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality, overall teacher quality is suffering in the wake of the No Child Left Behind Act. After studying 12 districts in 4 southeastern states, SCTQ’s investigators concluded NCLB’s reliance on testing teacher knowledge, rather than skill in the classroom, is having the unforeseen effect of lower overall teacher quality — this because districts are concentrating on meeting NCLB’s relatively narrow teacher qualification mandates rather than pursuing a coordinated effort to overhaul teacher recruitment, development and support.
Homeschooling among K-12 students increased 29 percent between 1999 and 2003 according to a just-released study from the National Center for Education Statistics, which pegged the number of home-schooled students nationally at 1.1 million in 2003 – the last year for which data was available. That figure represents 1.7 percent of the school-age population. The top two reasons parents gave for home schooling, in order, were "concern about environment of other schools" and "to provide religious or moral instruction." The report is at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2004115.
The North Carolina Supreme Court’s long-awaited decision in Hoke County Board of Education v. State of North Carolina, while upholding the lower court’s findings that the state has failed to provide adequate educational resources for at-risk children, reversed the trial court’s holding that the state is obliged to provide preschool for at-risk 4-year-olds. Notwithstanding the reversal on preschool, however, the ruling was a ringing confirmation of the court’s historic 1997 Leandro school finance case that addressed the disparity in state funding of poor school districts relative to wealthy districts, saying the state constitution guarantees "every child of this state an opportunity to receive a sound basic education in our public schools." The court did, however, note the value of preschool, leaving the door open to preschool as a future remedy to correct the state’s inequities.

Calendar

September 1, 2004 - September 4, 2004
Qawra, Malta – This year’s conference poses the question can research, policy or praxis create a quality curriculum for young children?
September 7, 2004 - September 10, 2004
Las Vegas, NV – Join professionals from the fields of education, law, medicine, and social work at National Association of Counsel for Children's 27th National Children's Law Conference.
September 23, 2004 - September 25, 2004
Dublin, Ireland – The first international conference from the Centre for Early Childhood Development will focus on quality in early childhood care and education.
September 26, 2004 - September 28, 2004
Los Angeles, CA – This year’s conference will provide seminars, forums and workshops led by renowned experts.
October 1, 2004 - October 2, 2004
Melbourne, Australia – This conference will feature international keynote addresses and workshops focusing on new understandings of early childhood.

Early Education News Roundup

August 4, 2004
Ventura County Star
More than 200 educators, law enforcement officials and parents are expected to congregate on the state Capitol floor this morning, communicating an idea as basic as the ABCs -- all California children should have access to preschool. The hearing is organized by the nonprofit organization Preschool California, established last year to coordinate a publicly funded, voluntary preschool program for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the state.
August 3, 2004
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Washington voters will get to decide in November whether to boost the state sales tax by a penny on the dollar to generate $1 billion a year for education.
August 1, 2004
The Philadelphia Inquirer
By then, funding is expected to be awarded to districts that applied for the Early Launch Learning Initiative, a $15 million grant that will fund preschool programs in districts that get little or no state aid for early-childhood programs. With the money, districts can start a new program or expand an existing one.
July 29, 2004
The Boston Herald
The prospects for universal preschool became brighter yesterday when the state's legislative leadership showcased the issue for their colleagues from around the country.
July 28, 2004
USA Today
Preschool teachers should have at least a bachelor's degree — and get salaries that match those of public elementary, middle and high school teachers, an influential education group says. In a report issued Tuesday, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) calls for what amounts to a complete makeover of the nation's early childhood education system, urging both private and public systems to raise standards and salaries with the aid of taxpayers, colleges and private enterprise.
July 27, 2004
The Tennessean
The legislature appropriated up to $8 million for pre-kindergarten and up to $2 million for after-school programs in Tennessee schools, but it's still not known how much of that money will be spent. The lottery law set up provisions for any excess money from the sale of lottery tickets to go for pre-K and after-school programs — with conditions.

Resources

Sparked by the New Jersey Supreme Court's landmark 1998 decision in the Abbott v. Burke court case, the state has developed a whole new system of pedagogy focused on 3- and 4-year-olds. This case study by Betty Holcomb can be found on the NIEER web site.
New York is unique among the many states with state-funded preschool: it has two contrasting, yet successful programs. This case study by Anne Mitchell is available on the NIEER web site.