Volume 3, Issue 9

September 17, 2004

Hot Topics

Texas State District Judge John Dietz has found that state’s school funding system unconstitutional, giving lawmakers until October 2005 to develop one that closes the student achievement gap and funds the school system more equitably. Dietz’s decision marked the culmination of a six-week trial in which both rich and poor districts brought suit over a widely criticized revenue re-allocation plan that came to be known as “Robin Hood.” The Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represented some of the plaintiffs, cheered the decision. Governor Rick Perry vowed to work with the legislature to build a better system.
A report from the Progressive Policy Institute outlines a proposed national strategy for public investment in prekindergarten. Its aim: to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged and advantaged children as early as possible — ideally before they enter kindergarten. PPI policy analyst Sara Mead’s approach borrows from the No Child Left Behind Act in that it would make federal resources available to the states and would require measurable results. Her plan would step up teacher training and likely employ a sliding scale for subsidization of families whose incomes are on the lower end of the scale.
Thirty-three indicators of intellectual, social, and emotional development are reviewed in a 115-page volume just out from the Commonwealth Fund. As might be expected, significant developmental gaps exist between children from families with low incomes and low educational levels and those from more privileged backgrounds. Early Child Development in Social Context: A Chartbook says that only 38 percent of kindergarten children whose mothers lack a high school degree are proficient at recognizing letters.
Well, sort of. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the backlash against over-scheduling children’s activities has gained so much momentum that it now has its own day. October 24 is national “Take Back Your Time Day.” Joining harried parents in the movement are educators, coaches and community groups who are saying children and their families need more time to themselves.
Georgia, Oklahoma, New Jersey and New York prekindergarten programs have been studied by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and their findings were published in a report released this month. Utilizing NIEER research, the GAO found, among other things, that half-day sessions and lack of transportation to and from prekindergarten can pose limitations on attendance. Collaborations with community-based providers are a quick way to grow programs, the study found.
Responding to feedback from teachers and parents, the British are modifying compulsory testing of 7-year-olds by permitting the tests to be taken throughout the year rather than at one time and yielding to teacher judgment on which tests to administer. Research showed that under so-called "sudden-death" testing, many parents put undue pressure on their children. Vetted by Leeds University, the new approach is expected to eventually go national.
The top two executives at education publisher Houghton Mifflin, now departed, are heading up a new education company targeting the preschool-through-12th grade market. Privately held Cambium Learning, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, makes its debut having already acquired established education companies Sopris West, Longmont, Colorado and Metropolitan Teaching and Learning, New York, New York. The two companies give Cambium a presence in the intervention and at-risk markets in the K-12 learning space. CEO Nader Darehshori, a former elementary school teacher who saw Houghton Mifflin sell for more than $2 billion, says Cambium will generate revenue helping "educators raise the achievement level of those pre-K through grade 12 students underserved by existing instructional resources."

Calendar

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.
October 15, 2004 - October 17, 2004
Dallas, Texas – This conference provides opportunity for participants to learn how to apply the latest research for improving the achievement of all students.
October 21, 2004


New York, NY - This conference will explore the rapidly changing early childhood education market.
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

September 17, 2004
The Boston Globe
Children learn about words and numbers, but they also develop behavioral skills such as sitting still and paying attention. So the state must build bridges between early education and the existing public schools to ensure that young children get the academic and social skills they need for kindergarten and beyond.
September 16, 2004
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Virginia's Preschool Initiative supplements the work of the federally funded Head Start program, which served more than 70,000 children last year. While some states focus on reaching both 3- and 4-year-olds, Virginia's program focuses on the latter.
September 16, 2004
The Providence Journal
On some measures, like subsidized childcare for the poor, Rhode Island is doing better than most states, [Fight Crime: Invest in Kids president Sanford] Newman said, because it has supplemented federal child-development block funds with state money. But Newman said there's a "long way to go" before all of Rhode Island's children get equal access to high-quality, early-childhood education.
September 16, 2004
The Dallas Morning News
Texas' education funding system is unconstitutional and must be dramatically reshaped to put more money into schools, a state judge ruled Wednesday in a landmark decision touching millions of schoolchildren and taxpayers. State District Judge John Dietz said the $30 billion-a-year system is collapsing because of inadequate state money and the inability of school districts to meet increasing state and federal requirements.
September 14, 2004
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Now Georgia State University researchers have found that most children in the state — including both those who were enrolled in the state pre-k program and those who were not — are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. But children living in poverty are lagging behind.
September 14, 2004
The Honolulu Advertiser
The wisest path to improving the public education system isn't remediation, it's investing time and money in the development of children before they even get to school, an early-education expert told Hawai'i educators at the state's first-ever School Readiness Summit. While universal preschool carries a $60 million price tag, several speakers at the summit said it would reduce significantly how much the state needs to spend on remediation.
September 13, 2004
The Wichita Eagle
With all the debate about how to fund Kansas schools equitably and boost student performance, one approach is a clear winner: Getting kids started early in learning. It's a smart investment in our future that will pay dividends for years to come.
September 9, 2004
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Attending preschool allows poor and minority children to shrink the "achievement gap" separating them from white, affluent students, according to a study released Wednesday by University of California researchers. When it came to early language skills, for instance, the study found Latino children who attended preschool narrowed the achievement gap separating them from white children by a third of a grade level.
September 7, 2004
Lawrence Journal-World
Less than 6 percent of Kansas 4-year-olds are enrolled in state-funded preschool, compared with a national average of 14.8 percent, according to a study by the National Institute for Early Education Research. In the lawsuit challenging Kansas' method of funding public schools, Kansas Action for Children has called for state funding of high-quality prekindergarten for all 3- and 4-year-olds.
September 2, 2004
Arkansas News Bureau
Arkansas is opening classrooms this fall to more than 7,000 additional 3-and 4-year-old students from low-income families. The Legislature earlier this year appropriated an extra $40 million for preschool programs, which will be available to families with incomes not more than 200 percent above the federal poverty line.

Resources

This report released by the Trust for Early Education, which analyzes budgets for Fiscal Year 2005, found that while 15 states increased funding for preschool programs, almost half of the nation’s states had no increase or actually decreased expenditures.