Volume 4, Issue 20

December 6, 2005

Hot Topics

A just-released NIEER study of pre-K programs in Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia shows gains in vocabulary, early math skills and print awareness comparable to those seen in an earlier study conducted in Oklahoma by William Gormley of Georgetown University. As with the Georgetown work, the researchers used regression discontinuity design, testing children at preschool entry and at kindergarten entry. NIEER director Steve Barnett says the study is significant because it shows large gains occurring in a number of well-established state-funded preschool programs of good quality. The study, The Effects of State Prekindergarten Programs on Young Children's School Readiness in Five States, is available at the NIEER web site.
University of Wisconsin scientists say the absence of loving caregivers in early childhood affects normal functioning of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin that play key roles in social bonding and emotional intimacy. Their research establishes a link between emotional behaviors and the developing brain, says Seth Pollak, senior author of the report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers analyzed urine samples from 4-year-olds who had lived in Russian and Romanian orphanages before being adopted into homes in the Milwaukee area. Levels of the telltale hormones rose in family-reared subjects. Pollak thinks the findings can help define windows of opportunity for prevention and treatment of problems.
The House of Representatives Deficit Reduction 2005 Act cuts, among other things, federal support to states for enforcing court-ordered child support payments. The proposed cut — to 50 percent of administrative costs from the present 66 percent — would, says the Center for Law and Social Policy, result in $24 billion less in child support payments collected over the next decade. Reconciliation of the House bill and the Senate's deficit reduction bill, which does not have this provision, is set for this month.
Former State Senator Duane Benson and education official Barbara Yates have been hired to run the Minnesota Early Learning Foundation. Funded with $2.5 million from the state, Cargill Inc. and the McKnight Foundation, the new foundation will seek cost-effective ways to reach more families with existing and new early childhood education programs. Formation of the foundation was spurred by the recommendation of the 200-member organization Minnesota Business for Early Learning.
A new study from UCLA has identified the lack of functioning mirror neurons as a cause of autism. When functioning normally, mirror neurons enable people to interpret the intentions of others by observing their actions or imitating their behavior. When neuroscientist Mirella Dapretto and colleagues used magnetic resonance imaging to survey the brains of autistic and normally functioning children, they found that the autistic children were able to imitate the expressions of others but had no basis for understanding the emotional state of others. The source of this inability was tracked to reduced activity in the region of the brain where mirror neurons are located. The findings, which appear in the current issue of Nature Neuroscience, hold promise for therapies to "rewire" developing brains of children deemed deficient in mirror neuron function.
An experimental skin patch developed to treat children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) received a key recommendation from FDA scientist Robert Levin who had initially recommended the patch not be approved due to side effects. Produced by Noven Pharmaceuticals of Miami and Shire Pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom, the patch is intended for children ages 6 to 12 who find taking pills unpleasant or hard to remember. Side-effects from the patch, which contains the same active ingredient as Ritalin, include loss of appetite, insomnia and muscle twitches. Levin’s approval is considered a key step in getting the agency's final approval of the product.

Calendar

December 12, 2005 - December 14, 2005
Washington, DC – This conference gives participants the resources to improve programs for young children with special needs.
January 18, 2006 - January 21, 2006
Phoenix, AZ – The National Association for Bilingual Education's annual conference boasts the largest gathering of teachers, administrators, researchers, and policymakers dedicated to serving English language learners in the United States.
February 21, 2006 - February 25, 2006
Washington, DC – This conference will provide participants with the latest policy, research and best practices from the nation’s leading experts.
February 26, 2006 - March 1, 2006
Jacksonville, FL – This annual conference features a workshop focusing on early childhood education for children with learning disabilities.

Early Education News Roundup

December 6, 2005
The Star-Ledger, Newark, NJ
Children who attended state-funded prekindergarten in New Jersey's poorest districts made major gains in language, literacy and math skills, according to the largest study yet of the Abbott Preschool Program.
December 5, 2005
Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN
Preschool funding should rise on Minnesota's priority list.
December 2, 2005
Des Moines Register
Gov. Tom Vilsack's proposal to pay for preschool with Iowa's regular school-aid formula makes so much sense.
November 28, 2005
The Casper Star-Tribune, Casper, WY
The goal is to make high-quality early education programs available for every child in Wyoming.
November 27, 2005
Rocky Mountain News, Denver, CO
Investing in early education is critical to boosting Denver's school performance.
November 26, 2005
The Daily News, Longview, WA
As many as 40 percent of kindergarteners come to school already below grade level in reading and math.
November 24, 2005
The Missoulian, Missoula, MT
If economic development is the goal, it's better to care for toddlers than tempt companies with cash.
November 21, 2005
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Missouri has joined a growing national effort to look at making prekindergarten education available to anyone who wants it.
November 19, 2005
Colorado Daily
Men make up only 3 percent of childcare workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Resources

This United Way of America Success By 6 guidebook documents research on and outlines best practices for creating quality rating systems for early childhood education programs at state and local levels.