Volume 4, Issue 3

February 11, 2005

Hot Topics

A new report from Fight Crime: Invest in Kids California shows a pervasive lack of access to publicly funded preschool. Three out of four of the 861 public preschools queried in the Public Safety Can’t Wait report indicated they have waiting lists that are sometimes years long. The study said more than 300,000 children 3 to 5 years old who are eligible for subsidized preschool are not being served. The lack of access mirrors some of the conclusions in NIEER’s August 2004 policy brief Who Goes to Preschool and Why Does It Matter?
If Massachusetts invests the $578 million it would take to provide pre-K for all children, the state can expect to eventually receive $680 million in benefits, say economists Clive R. Belfield of Queens College and Columbia University and Patrick McEwan of Wellesley College. The two developed a balance sheet of costs and benefits from a UPK program that would be available to children for the two years before they would enter kindergarten. They found that $205 million would be returned due to higher schooling efficiency, mostly through reduced special education and grade repetition. Reduced crime would produce a $288 million return, higher tax revenues from higher earnings would bring $115 million, and health and welfare savings would total $71 million. Even under their most conservative assumptions, the program showed a return greater than the initial investment. To learn more, visit the Early Education For All Campaign web site.
Having high self-esteem, once thought critical to maximizing academic performance and minimizing anti-social behavior, appears to have little to do with either. So say four leading psychologists whose review of the literature on self-esteem as it relates to performance appears in Scientific American. The authors say high self-esteem in high school is "only weakly" predictive of academic achievement. Bullying behavior in children, thought by many to be exhibited by individuals with insecurities and self-doubt, turns out to be as common in children who have little of either. High self-esteem does, however, make for happier people less prone to depression.
Routine reporting of students' body mass indexes (BMI), under consideration in some states to notify parents of potential obesity in their school children, is coming under fire. In Arkansas, where it is mandatory, the system is encountering resistance from some students and parents. Even though parents signed permission forms for their children to be measured for the index, many were offended when letters arrived suggesting their kids were at risk of obesity and related health problems. Caught in the BMI system were some football players with plenty of body mass but not much fat. According to the measure, nearly 40 percent of children in the state are overweight. One legislator has already filed to rescind the bill requiring the reporting. Collecting information on obesity can be controversial. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control moved to reduce the death toll reported in its study on obesity after the Wall Street Journal reported problems with the data.
As testing has grown as a determinant of pocketbook issues like school aid and teacher bonuses, so have fears that scores may be manipulated in some schools. Delaware, North Carolina and South Carolina have responded to the possibility by retaining computer forensics experts to screen test data for patterns that could indicate organized cheating. In Texas, Governor Rick Perry devoted part of his state of the state address to addressing a manipulation scandal there, saying "it is wrong to blame testing for test tampering." He said Texas will send "turn-around teams" to schools where tampering is shown to exist.

NIEER Activities

Is there a link between class size and the quality of preschool? This latest policy brief from NIEER, Class Size: What's the Best Fit? examines how class size and staff-child ratios affect quality, educational effectiveness, and cost of preschool programs.
NIEER Director Steve Barnett recently took part in Rutgers University's Trenton Academic Seminar Series at the New Jersey state capital. Dr. Barnett shared the data supporting New Jersey's number one position, nationally speaking, in resources devoted to state-funded preschool. He offered recommendations for expanding access to quality early education beyond the Abbott Districts in the Garden State.

Calendar

March 1, 2005 - March 5, 2005
Washington, DC – Get the very latest policy, research, and practice developments from the nation’s leading experts at NACCRA’s 17th annual symposium.
March 21, 2005 - March 24, 2005
St. Louis, MO -- Join professionals from a variety of fields – from child care to government – for the 14th annual Born to Learn conference in St. Louis.
March 23, 2005 - March 26, 2005
Washington, DC – Join teachers, principals, child care professionals, school board members and teacher educators at the Association for Childhood Education International's annual conference.

Early Education News Roundup

February 11, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
Dylan is among 250 students to attend a "third-shift" preschool program, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. daily -- part of Chicago's latest answer to offering more kids an early childhood education in areas where classroom space is at a premium.
February 11, 2005
Redwood Falls Gazette, Redwood Falls, MN
The revised edition of a groundbreaking report provides parents and educators with the newest information on early education standards.
February 9, 2005
Education Week
Rating systems—which measure such indicators as staff-child ratio and the educational level of the teachers at a center—are useful as consumer guides.
February 9, 2005
Carlsbad Current-Argus, Carlsbad, NM
A bill that would appropriate $9 million to fund the first phase of a voluntary prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds cleared its first committee hurdle Tuesday despite the protests of faith-based child-care providers from Alamogordo.
February 7, 2005
Connecticut Post
If the state is going to bolster its investment in preschool education, it should do so with certified teachers.
February 6, 2005
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
Changes in society that in some cases are highly regrettable have made early childhood education something that many communities cannot afford to ignore.
February 2, 2005
The Philadelphia Inquirer
School districts are spending about two-thirds of the money available in a new grant program aimed at improving reading and math test scores on early-childhood education efforts, according to a report Gov. Rendell released yesterday.
February 2, 2005
Daily Herald, Arlington Heights, IL
The Illinois State Board of Education is poised to reinforce that all children in Illinois, regardless of immigration status, are guaranteed access to preschool programs.
January 31, 2005
The Boston Globe
Massachusetts taxpayers could get a lot out of preschool.
January 30, 2005
The Des Moines Register
Early-childhood funding is an investment, not an expense.
January 29, 2005
The Arizona Republic
Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano established the Arizona Early Education Fund eight months ago with the goal of raising $20 million in private money for early-childhood education programs.

Resources

The Illinois push for preschool for all and an interview with Ed Zigler are featured in the most recent issue of the NIEER newsletter, Preschool Matters.