Volume 4, Issue 7

April 15, 2005

Hot Topics

The heat is on for Florida's universal prekindergarten effort in more ways than one. With the warm season upon them, state leaders are finding that turning the law, passed in special session last December, into a program serving all interested 4-year-olds come August is no easy task. Of immediate concern is whether the state will succeed in providing enough slots to credibly call the program universal.



The $2,500-per-child voucher reported to be available from state funds has not prompted many public schools to sign up. They say their costs are higher than that. In a move to bring more of them into the fold, Education Commissioner John Winn has interpreted class size mandates in a way that removes them as a barrier for schools currently meeting class size requirements. A large number of private providers are reported to be holding back on sign-up as well. Many that have registered interest have yet to learn if they qualify. Meanwhile, demand from parents is robust but many who inquire about availability for their children are not receiving definitive answers.
No sooner had Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings vowed to grant states additional flexibility in implementing standardized testing under the No Child Left Behind Act than new findings surfaced questioning how effective the act has been in helping students grow academically. Analyzing assessment data from more than 300,000 third- through eighth-grade students in more than 200 school districts in 23 states, the Northwest Evaluation Association found that, while math and reading scores have improved over the past two years, students have made less academic progress during the school year than they did before NCLB went into effect. When Hispanic and Anglo students had the same initial test scores, the Hispanic children experienced less academic growth during the school year. The findings appear to run counter to a recent study from the Center on Education Policy that reported a narrowing of the achievement gap.
A new article from Dorian Friedman of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child says early childhood stress such as that encountered in some poor preschool and child care environments can negatively affect the way children’s brains develop. Friedman writes that children respond physiologically to high levels of stress during the period when their genes and personal experiences are interacting to form the architecture of the brain that establishes their stress system and determines how they release hormones in stressful situations later in life. Children exposed to unhealthy early stress run the risk of having an inadequate "off" switch for their stress systems, which can cause them to react inappropriately to stimuli and can endanger the ability of their brains to fully develop.
The one remaining East Coast state without a public lottery appears to be on track to give up that distinction in the wake of passage of a bill establishing a lottery in North Carolina by that state's House of Representatives. If passed by the Senate and signed by Governor Mike Easley, who has championed the idea in the past, the lottery would pump an estimated $400 million into the state’s education system — from school construction to prekindergarten. Budget woes, including a threatened $244 million reduction in the state’s education budget made passage of a lottery by the lower house more palatable than previous attempts. The state Senate has passed lottery bills on three previous occasions.

NIEER Activities

NIEER Director Steve Barnett was a presenter at The National Latino Education Summit in Las Vegas April 3-5. He discussed effectiveness of early childhood education programs, the long-term effects of early intervention and New Jersey's Abbott Program.
In an article in the March 30, 2005, issue of the Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA), NIEER research associates Sharon Ryan and Debra J. Ackerman examine the study of a system made to encourage preschool teachers to obtain a teaching credential by a court imposed deadline. The article, "Using Pressure and Support to Create a Qualified Workforce," can be found at the EPAA web site.

Calendar

April 20, 2005 - April 22, 2005
Chapel Hill, NC – Participants at this year’s conference will focus on the theme, Helping Meet the Demand for Tomorrow’s Workforce Today.
April 25, 2005 - April 27, 2005
Louisville, KY – The National Conference on Family Literacy synthesizes the latest reading research that impacts children, adults and families.
May 10, 2005 - May 13, 2005
Ypsilanti, Michigan -- Teachers and trainers from throughout the U.S. and around the world will gather together for High/Scope Foundation's annual training conference.
May 17, 2005 - May 20, 2005
Montreal, Quebec, Canada -- The World Forum conference is designed to promote a global exchange of ideas for creating quality early education.

Early Education News Roundup

April 14, 2005
Rockford Register Star, Rockford, IL
Using solid research statistics, Fight Crime: Invest in Children Illinois makes a case that no traditional crime-fighting weapons are as effective as investing in children through various programs targeted at various ages.
April 14, 2005
The Palm Beach Post
So far, 2,982 private providers have gone online to register their interest in offering pre-kindergarten.
April 14, 2005
The Mountain Times, Boone, NC
The North Carolina Senate is bracing for a showdown on a bill that could give the state a lottery.
April 13, 2005
The Des Moines Register
It's common sense to offer all 4-year-olds the opportunity to attend prekindergarten and to assure high quality across the state.
April 10, 2005
San Diego Union-Tribune
Businessman Lewis Platt is pushing the introduction of voluntary universal preschool for all 4-year-olds in California.
April 5, 2005
Knoxville News Sentinel
The legislation would allow existing pilot pre-K programs to be expanded on a voluntary basis, and mandates the creation of an advisory council for educational agencies that apply for such programs.
April 2, 2005
The Times-Picayune
Questions about the future of the program are likely to be debated during a hearing Tuesday by the House Education and Workforce Committee.
March 31, 2005
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY
Since 1990, Kentucky has required school districts to provide preschool to 4-year-olds who are poor enough to qualify for free lunches, and 3- and 4-year-olds with learning disabilities, regardless of income.
March 30, 2005
The Sacramento Bee
Those findings likely will fuel the push for expanded public preschool already under way in Sacramento and across the state.
March 30, 2005
Omaha World-Herald
The Iowa House on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the framework of a $12 million plan that focuses on strengthening existing early childhood education programs in the state.
March 29, 2005
Pioneer Press, St. Paul, MN
Nearly 95 percent of 4-year-olds in two St. Paul public preschool programs are ready for school or well on their way when kindergarten rolls around, according to the first study of school readiness in the district.
March 28, 2005
The Baltimore Sun
Ensuring that all kids have sufficient skills and support when they start school requires a comprehensive approach.

Resources

A new report, Leading Early Childhood Learning Communities: What Principals Should Know and Be Able To Do, from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), designed as a guide for principals who administer pre-K and kindergarten programs, identifies components of sound preschool programs and outlines the role principals play in leading and advocating for early learning opportunities.
Clay Shouse, Vice President of High/Scope Foundation, will be the guest speaker at the New Jersey Association for the Education of Young Children's Annual Meeting on Tuesday, April 19th at 7:30 pm at the East Brunswick Hilton, East Brunswick, NJ. To learn more, visit the NJAEYC web site.