Volume 4, Issue 17

October 7, 2005

Hot Topics

Democrats in the Michigan House of Representatives are reportedly readying proposed legislation that would make state-funded pre-K available to all 4-year-olds in the state. If the plan became law, pre-K enrollment in Michigan would rise nearly 6-fold to 150,000. Impetus for the proposal comes from an early childhood education task force formed in the state two years ago. Coming, as it does, with a $400 million-per-year price tag when fully implemented, the plan is expected to be a tough sell in the Republican-controlled legislature. Making state-funded preschool available to all 4-year-olds has also been proposed in Virginia where it's a key theme in Lieutenant Governor and gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine's campaign.
Texas has its hands full and then some handling the demand for bilingual pre-K. The number of 4-year-olds in bilingual pre-K classes funded by the state has grown nearly 60 percent over the past 6 years. Though the state managed to serve 55,000 children last school year, demand continues to outstrip availability as administrators report difficulty finding enough bilingual teachers and children ready to go to pre-K end up on waiting lists. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, more 30 percent of all children born in Texas are born to mothers who were born in another country.
Research funded by the National Eye Institute has found that 11 common tests for vision vary widely in their ability to detect vision problems in preschoolers even when administered by highly trained personnel. Researchers conducting Phase 1 of the Vision In Preschoolers (VIP) study narrowed the list of tests to be used on preschool children to the four best. When trained lay screeners administered the tests, they detected up to 68 percent of children with at least one of the vision problems being considered in the study. The Institute says not enough children are screened for vision problems before attending preschool. More information is at http://www.nei.nih.gov/neitrials/static/study85.asp.
Researchers investigating the relationship between exposure to phthalates, an ingredient common in plastics, and harmful effects on physical development of masculine traits in baby boys are extending their studies to play behavior. Babies who served as subjects for the University of Rochester study of physical markers of masculinity when mothers showed high levels of phthalates are being tracked and their play behaviors studied when they are 3 to 5 years old. Epidemiologist Shanna Swan, who found a relationship between phthalates and physical development in the boys, wants to see if they are associated with feminized neurological development. European countries are replacing phthalates in plastics used for toys and medical and food uses with alternatives.
In a project as breathtaking in ambition as it is in scope, Massachusetts Institute of Technology will unveil next month a simple, sturdy laptop computer intended for distribution as a learning tool to all the world’s children. The idea for the nonprofit “One Laptop Per Child” project occurred to MIT’s media lab director Nicholas Negroponte when he saw Cambodian children benefiting from laptop computers they could take home. Plans call for the MIT model to be produced for $100 apiece, have wireless capability, USB ports ... and a hand crank for electricity-challenged environments. Negroponte wants at least 100 million units to find their way to disadvantaged kids in the second year of production and predicts economies of scale will reduce the per-unit cost to double digits.

New on nieer.org

Two fact sheets based on previously published policy briefs are now available from NIEER. You can view the fact sheets Who Goes to Preschool and Why Does It Matter? and Child Outcome Standards in Pre-K Programs: What Are Standards; What Is Needed To Make Them Work? on the NIEER web site. For copies of the fact sheets, please contact info@nieer.org.

Calendar

October 9, 2005 - October 16, 2005
Mariner of the Seas - During this seven-day cruise, participants will gain knowledge on how to become a motivational leader for those they employ.
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.
October 16, 2005 - October 18, 2005
Orlando, FL – This conference will provide participants with hundreds of seminars, forums, and workshops lead by education experts.
November 1, 2005 - November 2, 2005
Framingham, MA – Join teachers, superintendents, and other educational leaders from across the nation for this annual conference aimed at providing important tools and strategies for improving student learning.
November 4, 2005 - November 6, 2005
Washington, DC – This conference is considered the premiere training event for professionals who focus on early care, health, and education.
December 7, 2005 - December 10, 2005
Washington, DC - This annual conference is the largest gathering of early childhood educators and professionals in the nation.

Early Education News Roundup

October 6, 2005
The Boston Globe
A high-quality system would give the state's children a chance to rack up early developmental successes.
October 4, 2005
Lowell Sun, Lowell, MA
The Department of Early Education and Care is considering changes for the family day-care providers of Massachusetts.
September 29, 2005
Orlando Sentinel
Nearly two months into Florida's universal pre-kindergarten program, serious problems are emerging that could prevent pre-K from living up to its promise of giving all children a good chance to succeed in school.
September 29, 2005
The Boston Globe
Choosing a preschool is daunting.
September 28, 2005
Education Week
In more than 40 states, teachers in Reading First schools use the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills to screen K-3 pupils for potential reading problems.
September 26, 2005
Irish Examiner
The returns on early childhood education are unquestionable.
September 25, 2005
The Des Moines Register
Business leaders are impressed by scientific research that shows the tremendous opportunity for expanding intelligence in children under the age of 5.
September 24, 2005
Detroit Free Press
Michigan legislators want to gradually expand the state's School Readiness Program to children from middle-income families.
September 22, 2005
The Washington Post
The bill seeks to improve Head Start programs by requiring more teachers to have college degrees in early childhood education or related fields.
September 22, 2005
The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, CA
The city could raise about $5.3 million from [a developer's] fee over the next 20 years, according to a report on child-care needs commissioned by the city. The money would go into a fund administered by the city's finance director and be used to build new child-care facilities or improve existing ones.
September 22, 2005
Alexandria Gazette Packet, Alexandria, VA
In light of the positive results of Alexandria's Kindergarten Preparation Program, the city's Early Childhood Commission is considering implementing a universal preschool program.
September 20, 2005
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
For every $1 put into preparing 4-year-olds for learning, Wisconsin schools would save 68 cents on later costs such as special education and teacher turnover.

Resources

This report from the RAND Corporation outlines the obstacles facing states aiming to create statewide public preschool programs as well as the progress made by these states.
This report from the Urban Institute observes that one-quarter of American children live in a low-income family, noting that these children are less likely to be engaged in school activities and more likely to exhibit high levels of emotional and behavioral problems than their wealthier peers. The report also acknowledges that one of the largest expenses for working families is child care.