Volume 4, Issue 21

December 23, 2005

Hot Topics

This year gave policymakers their clearest picture yet of the value of preschool programs, says NIEER Director Steve Barnett. "On the research front, policymakers who had been waiting for a study of a diverse group of state-funded preschool programs got it with NIEER's multi-state study released earlier this month. Those findings confirm what William Gormley and his colleagues at Georgetown University found in Oklahoma: Build a quality program and all kids will make meaningful gains regardless of their background. Barnett says going into 2006, governors in states with no state-funded programs have far less reason to sit on the fence. Rigorous research continues to mount on the benefits of pre-k programs with strong standards. As governors like Blagojevich in Illinois, Bredesen in Tennessee and Bush in Florida press ahead with increases in access, it will be important to keep focusing on the goal of high-quality and, thus, effective education," says Barnett. That quality is an important challenge when programs are newly launched or expanded is one of the lessons that might be drawn from the largely disappointing findings of the Sure Start impact evaluation in the UK. Read "The Effects of State Prekindergarten Programs on Young Children's School Readiness in Five States" at http://nieer.org/docs/index.php?DocID=129. And, the two Sure Start Impact Evaluation reports at http://www.ness.bbk.ac.uk.
Georgia children made significant gains from the beginning of preschool to the end of first grade compared to national samples of children their age, a new study from Georgia State University finds. By the end of first grade, children who attended the Georgia Prekindergarten Program exceeded national norms on overall math skills, phonemic awareness, expressive language, and letter and word recognition. Receptive language skills improved through kindergarten but declined by the end of first grade. Family characteristics played a role in children's progress. Nearly one-third of children whose mothers did not finish high school repeated either kindergarten or first grade. Read the study at: http://aysps.gsu.edu/publications/2005/EarlyChildhoodReport.pdf
A new class action filed in Connecticut includes preschool for all in its claim that school children are being denied "suitable and substantially equal" educational opportunities. In its request for relief, The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding asks the court to order the state to create a new funding system for education that meets constitutional mandates and to appoint a special master to make recommendations on funding. The plaintiffs consider high-quality pre-K essential to a suitable education and are asking that it be made available to all children in the state.
More electronic toys and programs for young children are marketed as educational every year. Yet we have little research-based knowledge about how educational they really are or guidelines with which to differentiate the good from the bad. That hasn't stopped parents from enabling babies, toddlers and preschoolers to spend more time in front of screens than ever. Those are a few of the conclusions in a new report out this month from the Kaiser Family Foundation titled "A Teacher in the Living Room?" It's based on research into three types of electronic multimedia: videos and DVDs, computer software and video games. Read the report at: http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/7427.pdf
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is launching a new early learning initiative in Washington state. This was prompted by the foundation's study of the state's children ages 5 and younger, which found nearly one in four children are at risk of school failure. The initiative promises up to $90 million in grants to increase the quality of child care and early learning for children birth to age 5. Plans call for building two model child care centers, one in the western part of the state and the other in eastern Washington. The centers will serve as hubs reaching out to other providers and families. Separately, a bipartisan panel has recommended a shake up in how the state's early learning programs are managed.
Outgoing Governor Mark Warner has announced the establishment of the Virginia Early Learning Foundation, a public-private partnership formed to raise funds, administer early childhood grants and provide training and technical assistance. Supporting that effort is a new Internet site, SmartBeginning.org, which will help parents and others find reliable information on early childhood programs. Warner's Lieutenant Governor, Tim Kaine, will succeed him as governor. Kaine won the governorship on a platform that included Jump Start, a plan for providing pre-K to every 4-year-old in Virginia.

Calendar

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.
March 31, 2006 - March 31, 2006
Somerset, NJ - This year's Conference on Reading and Writing presented by the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education includes many workshops geared toward the preschool educator.

Early Education News Roundup

December 21, 2005
The Times-News, Twin Falls, ID
As worthy a goal as it may be to support more preschool opportunities, education advocates should force the Legislature to revisit the mandatory kindergarten issue first.
December 19, 2005
The Beacon Leader, Akron, OH
Gov. Bob Taft has scaled back two eligibility requirements and set a March 1 deadline for enrolling thousands of additional students in a preschool program for poor children.
December 18, 2005
Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR
In places where state dollars remain in coveted supply, early childhood education advocates argue that universal preschool misses the point.
December 18, 2005
Chicago Tribune
Chicago parents are searching for available spots in the best preschool programs for their young children.
December 15, 2005
The Post and Courier, Charleston, SC
Although its economic development rewards are great, early childhood education is rarely viewed in economic development terms.
December 15, 2005
The New York Times
New media products for babies, toddlers and preschoolers began flooding the market in the late 1990's.
December 13, 2005
Times-News, Kingsport, VA
Gov. Warner has announced the establishment of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to help build and improve early childhood programs.
December 13, 2005
The Norman Transcript, Norman, OK
NIEER's study of the state-funded preschool program in Oklahoma revealed significant improvement in children's development.
December 12, 2005
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Washington's governor proposed a new rating system for child care and preschool centers so parents can make informed decisions about where to send their children.
December 11, 2005
The Washington Post
Publicly funded preschool is offered to about 27,000 disadvantaged Virginia children, but, by the time Gov.-elect Timothy M. Kaine leaves the governor's mansion, he wants to open it to all children who want to attend, regardless of family income.
December 10, 2005
The Casper Star-Tribune, Casper, WY
The Idaho Business Coalition for Education Excellence is supporting a change in state law that will allow school districts to spend money on preschool.
December 9, 2005
Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghamton, NY
The long-term economic consequences of not channeling more money into children's early schooling would be dire, with too few people having qualifications for high-skill jobs, the state education commissioner said Thursday.
December 7, 2005
Los Angeles Times
These days the rallying cry is preschool for everyone, not just poor children.

Resources

The Association for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) finds that although the overall picture for Newark, New Jersey's kids may look bleak, the promise of urban school reform, including state-funded preschool, is paying off. The report can be found at the ACNJ web site.
This Pre-K Now report finds that legislatures in 26 states increased pre-k spending for the upcoming fiscal year. This represents preschool access for an additional 120,000 3- and 4-year-olds around the country.
This television broadcast from KING 5 Television, Seattle, looks at new research on how infants and toddlers learn. In light of this research, questions are raised about the effectiveness of America's current system for educating young children. (Registration required.)