Volume 4, Issue 13

August 5, 2005

Hot Topics

As class begins in many locations for Florida's new voluntary universal preschool program, some point proudly to the fact that the state has set up a universal program in one year – something state leaders say took Georgia 10 to accomplish. Papers report smooth beginnings in many communities while others criticize the program's inadequacies in areas such as teacher credentials and testing. It appears the state is not likely to enroll the 150,000 children that planners estimated the program would serve. That's not a referendum on interest, though. Press reports have detailed frustration when some parents were unsuccessful in finding slots for their children and providers, especially the public schools, concluded the $2,500-per-child state payment won’t cover their costs. With movement toward universal pre-K building in several states, the nation is watching the implementation of this program. Concludes advocate David Lawrence, retired publisher of The Miami Herald who served as an assistant to Governor Jeb Bush in forging the program, "It's an honorable start."
More U.S. children live in poverty and their parents have a harder time finding work, say recent reports. New data from Annie E. Casey's 2005 KIDS COUNT Data Book show more children living in families in which no parent had full-time year-around employment. That trend is confirmed by findings from a consortium of federal agencies that also say child poverty is getting worse after a 5-year improvement. Though none of the indicators have risen sharply, they worry experts when taken as a whole. An increase in poverty could have dire consequences for children's education, says NIEER director Steve Barnett because state-financed preschool programs will likely face pressure to enroll more children. "The population they’re required to serve goes up every year but their budgets don't necessarily follow suit," Barnett told USA Today.
Chambers of commerce are not known for supporting tax increases but the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce has done just that by backing California's proposal for voluntary, universally available preschool for the state's 4-year-olds. In doing so, LA Chamber President Rusty Hammer said the Preschool for All Act "will significantly improve the quality of our workforce, our education system and our quality of life." The Chamber's support for the UPK proposal is seen as crucial by filmmaker Rob Reiner who is spearheading the effort. The program would be funded by taxes on California’s high-income citizens.
A series of front-page reports in the Wall Street Journal is focusing fresh scrutiny on how chemical residues are affecting children's development and learning. One details a growing body of animal research suggesting much lower doses of industrial chemicals than those currently judged safe affect gene activation and brain development in young children. Some scientists go so far as to say certain chemicals can be more dangerous at lower levels than higher levels since they activate endocrine receptors at low doses and shut them off entirely at higher levels. Bisphenol A, used in plastic baby bottles and food can linings is one example. Mercury in tuna is also getting a hard look since the story of Matthew Davis came to light. Doctors attribute the 10-year-old's loss of interest in homework and declining motor skills to mercury poisoning caused by eating 3 to 6 ounces of white albacore tuna per day — 12 times what the EPA considered safe for a 60-lb. child but closer to a more lenient FDA guideline. Matthew quit the tuna habit and got better. Critics say FDA needs to get better at sizing up risk to children.
Stanford School of Education Dean Deborah Stipek warns we should be wary of the new focus on academic skills trickling down to preschool from the testing and accountability movement occasioned by the No Child Left Behind Act. In the July/August issue of the Harvard Education Letter, Stipek writes that emphasizing academics is not likely to be positive. Tests for academic skills assess recognition and knowledge out of context with meaningful activities and, she says, skills required to teach reading and math to preschoolers are beyond what most preschool teachers possess. Plus, the inevitable move to rigidly paced curriculum-driven instruction is likely to undermine young children’s motivation to learn.

New on nieer.org

According to the most recent issue of the NIEER publication Preschool Matters, Seattle's Early Reading First program ties together literacy-focused community preschool centers, public schools, libraries and a local community college in a unique way to ensure that disadvantaged children make the big leap to kindergarten ready to learn. Raising proficiency of non-degree teachers and ready access to coaching are key components of this program, started in 2003 with a grant from the federal Good Start, Grow Smart initiative.



Also in Preschool Matters:

  • NIEER report reviews evidence that high-quality preschool can promote social and emotional development
  • National Prekindergarten Study: Survey finds pre-K teachers underpaid, lacking credentials
  • Despite tight budgets, South broadens preschool access
  • School readiness improves in NJ
  • Elementary school principals and school readiness: Interview with Vincent L. Ferrandino, Ph.D.
  • Stress and the developing brain

    Arkansas tackles teacher training with Math-Science program

Calendar

September 23, 2005


San Antonio, TX - Learn how to excel in staff management and communication at this one-day seminar.
September 28, 2005 - October 1, 2005
Brisbane, Australia - This conference will explore creative and inventive approaches to early childhood education.
October 13, 2005 - October 16, 2005
Portland, OR - This conference explores a wide range of important issues facing those who work with young children with special needs and their families.

Early Education News Roundup

August 5, 2005
The City Paper, Nashville, TN
Every school district that applied for funding was awarded one or more classrooms, with a total of 300 new classrooms being created statewide.
August 3, 2005
The Gazette, Gaithersburg, MD
In taking over responsibility for child care, state education officials said more children will be prepared to enter kindergarten because more resources will be available to providers.
August 1, 2005
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA
Improved test scores for children who attended public preschool paved the way for the growth of the LA4 preschool program.
August 1, 2005
The Arizona Republic
The states-led universal pre-kindergarten movement appears to be gaining steam.
July 31, 2005
The New York Times
Now middle-class families are insisting on first-rate, publicly supported prekindergartens.
July 29, 2005
The Houston Chronicle
The Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition released a plan to expand access to preschool programs, improve their quality and make them more affordable.
July 28, 2005
Summerville Journal-Scene, Summerville, SC
If we are serious about making sure that all of our children have every opportunity to reach their potential, we need to start with promoting and providing universal early childhood education programs.
July 27, 2005
USA Today
More U.S. children are living in poverty these days, and their parents often have difficulty finding full-time work, according to a handful of new reports.
July 26, 2005
Silver City Sun-News, Silver City, NM
New Mexico Voices for Children suggests the state should set aside surplus revenues for programs to improve the education and health of children.
July 21, 2005
The Augusta Chronicle
The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning seeks to combine child-care regulation, early education and nutrition services for children birth to school age into one united effort.

Resources

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2005 KIDS COUNT Data Book, the 16th annual report on national trends in child well-being, is now available online. The web site also includes an interactive database.
This first in a series of Head Start policy papers from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) assesses whether states and higher education systems are prepared for the suggested policy change requiring more Head Start teachers to have a bachelor's degree.
This fact sheet from the National Center for Children in Poverty provides statistics about children in poverty, finding that almost half of the infants and toddlers in the United States live in low-income families.
This new website, the Tracking, Referral and Assessment Center for Excellence or TRACE, is an initiative of the Center for Improving Community Linkages at the Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute and is designed to identify and promote the use of evidence-based practices for improving child find, referral, early identification and eligibility determination for infants and young children with developmental delays or disabilities who are eligible for early intervention or preschool special education.
The summer issue of Research Points, the quarterly research brief on education published by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), explores several past, current and best practices for teacher professional development.