Volume 4, Issue 18

October 28, 2005

Hot Topics

A newly published report from the NICHD Early Child Care Research Network reports small effects of child care experience through grade three. The researchers found disadvantages from more hours in child care including lower levels of teacher-rated social skills and poorer academic work habits, while more hours in center care were associated with more mother-child conflict and teacher-rated behavior problems. Higher quality child care was associated with better academic achievement and center care was associated with enhanced memory. Some in the press have taken the small effects seen in the new report, particularly in regard to aggressive behavior, as a sign that parental concern over too much child care has been misplaced. The authors advise readers to exercise caution in reaching that conclusion. The report appears in the Fall 2005 American Educational Research Journal.
The latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that nationally, 4th and 8th grade children showed increases in math test scores but little progress in reading. States like Massachusetts and New Jersey turned in high scores relative to the rest of the nation. The achievement gap between whites and African Americans continued to narrow. In 2005, White, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander fourth-graders had higher average scores and higher percentages of students performing at or above Basic than in 1992. The rate of improvement has slowed since 2003, however. The report could spawn fresh questions about approaches to teaching reading. Read more at: http://nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_2005/.
A report released by the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education concludes that the voucher system used for Florida's Voluntary Prekindergarten Program favors school choice over equity and social cohesion. Because schools are free to charge fees for instruction provided beyond the $2,500 per student covered by the vouchers, cost can become a barrier to entry for poor families wanting to enroll their children in some programs. The result can be that access by poorest families can be limited despite the existence of a state program intended to provide preschool for all. "After the first 540 hours [of instruction], I [the provider] can charge whatever I want," says researcher Shana Kennedy who used the framework for assessing Florida's program developed by NIEER Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Henry Levin.
A fresh wrinkle in the debate over children's attention spans comes by way of research into the application of computer exercises designed to increase kids' ability to tune out distractions and pay attention to useful information. Known as executive attention, this ability develops between ages 3 and 7 and is believed to correlate strongly with traits inherited from parents. New research reported by University of Oregon psychologist Michael Posner in the October 11 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that when 4- and 6-year-old children were given attention training through specially developed computer exercises, their executive attention showed "strong improvement." Read more at: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/short/102/41/14931.
Enrollment in public elementary and secondary education is projected to increase a national average of 4 percent for the period 2002 to 2014, says the Department of Education (DOE) in its updated Projections of Education Statistics to 2014. Behind that average, though, lie big differences among the states. Western and southern states will see increases, with Nevada experiencing a 28.4 percent rise, a 15.6 percent increase in Texas, and five other western and southern states growing more than 10 percent. At 3.5 percent growth, New Jersey is the only northeastern state not projected to see shrinking enrollment. Except for Indiana and Illinois, the Midwest will see declines as well. The DOE projects increases for 23 states, decreases for 27 states and a total national enrollment of 50 million by 2014. More information is available at: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/2005074_1.pdf.
In a wide ranging interview, Congressman Mike Castle (R-DE), author of the House Head Start reauthorization bill, told Margaret Sotham of Preschool Matters that there needs to be continuing focus on teacher quality and a better balance between health care services and education at Head Start. Castle explained the Head Start Impact Study shows that, while the program is having some positive effect, Head Start children are starting school behind their peers. Read the full interview in the October 2005 issue of Preschool Matters.

New on nieer.org

Pre-K claims in school finance lawsuits are on the rise, according to the latest issue of Preschool Matters. These cases reflect broader thinking on the definition of adequate public education, which increasingly includes prekindergarten.

Also in Preschool Matters:

  • NIEER Director salutes Urie Bronfenbrenner and Lew Platt

  • The Head Start Impact Study: Methodology is Rigorous

  • States Gain in Preschool Access

  • Lesser-Known Benefits of Preschool

  • What Makes Strong Research?


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 3, 2005 - November 6, 2005
Clearwater Beach, FL – This conference will address using Montessori best practices for the early childhood classroom.
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.
November 10, 2005

Cincinnati, OH – Although based in Cincinnati, this satellite broadcast is intended to reach a nationwide audience of prekindergarten advocates though local conference sites.
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 25, 2005
Daily Press, Hampton Roads, VA
That's what everyone "gets" about preschool. You have to start early.
October 25, 2005
Tallahassee Democrat
Instead of having preschoolers complete writing drills, teachers encourage activities that enhance fine and gross motor skills.
October 22, 2005
Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Florida has created the fourth largest voluntary universal prekindergarten program.
October 19, 2005
Wausau Daily Herald
A Pre-K Now study says Wisconsin's pre-kindergarten programs save money in the long run.
October 17, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
In more affluent areas, children start kindergarten with two years of schooling already completed.
October 16, 2005
The Miami Herald
High-quality early childhood care and education are not "feel-good" concepts but rather crucial imperatives.
October 14, 2005
The Casper Star-Tribune, Casper, WY
A committee studying how to help children get a better start on life recommended Wyoming establish an early childhood development program.
October 14, 2005
Knoxville News Sentinel
The governor said school systems need some assurances that the state's pre-K funding will be there year after year for schools that are running quality programs.
October 13, 2005
Wakefield Observer, Beverly, MA
The drive to provide preschool for all Massachusetts children earned support from a range of voices but also received criticism about prospective problems for private child care providers.
October 12, 2005
New York Daily News
The success of early education prorams depends on quality - especially teacher quality.
October 10, 2005
The Herald-Sun, Durham, NC
One North Carolina agency has developed two programs to combat the lack of education and competitive wages among preschool teachers.
October 9, 2005
The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN
Although some states believe better educating 3- and 4-year-olds can build their economic futures, Indiana is waiting for an economic turnaround before it invests in early-childhood education.


This new paper from Pre-K Now discusses the economic impact to the K-12 education system in the state and in the city of Milwaukee from expanding Wisconsin's four-year-old kindergarten program.