Volume 5, Issue 1

January 9, 2006

Hot Topics

A December 29 ruling from a South Carolina trial court said even though the state has spent adequately to meet its constitutional mandate for K-12 education, it has failed to meet its overall constitutional responsibility to provide an adequate education for children because it has failed to fund early childhood education programs which the court saw as an essential input. In his opinion, Judge Thomas Cooper wrote that "The indisputable relationship between poverty and academic achievement and the magnified impact of poverty on the abilities of the very youngest, the most vulnerable, form the basis of the [state's] obligation." The decision in Abbeville County School District v. State of South Carolina emanates from equitable funding litigation filed by rural school districts in 1993. The Court stopped short of saying how much money should be spent on early childhood education or how the money should be raised. The case had already been to the South Carolina Supreme Court and was remanded to the trial court for the purpose of determining if the state was meeting its constitutional obligation. Press reports indicate a low likelihood that either side will appeal.
The January 5 Florida Supreme Court ruling nullifying the state's voucher system for sending K-12 students to private schools does not directly affect vouchers for the state's Voluntary Prekindergarten Program since the justices confined their ruling to K-12 education. The justices also confined their ruling to the issue of vouchers diverting public money to private schools — finding that there is a diversion and it is unconstitutional. They chose to sidestep the issue of whether Florida's vouchers violate the state constitutional ban on aid to churches and religious institutions. That issue, which was addressed in the lower courts, is central to the VPK voucher complaints since faith-based schools comprise a significant share of the program's education providers. Governor Bush has said he accepts the Supreme Court ruling as "the law of the land" but vows to explore non-judicial measures such as a ballot initiative to reverse the court.
The relationships, collaborations and exchanges among teaching professionals that comprise professional communities at schools are critical to teacher excellence and job satisfaction. When teachers are involved in strong professional communities, they do better. When University of Wisconsin's Adam Gamoran and Eric Grodsky began researching the quality of these communities, they expected there to be more variation from school to school rather than within schools. That proved not to be the case, however. When the researchers analyzed data from the Schools and Staffing Survey from the National Center for Education Statistics for quality of professional community, they found that 81 percent of the variation was within schools and not among them. This suggests that pockets of professional communities exist within schools and may not be school-wide. It also points to the potential for achieving larger and more tightly knit professional communities that can benefit teachers and children alike.
Education Week's just-released Quality Counts At 10 report takes a look at 10 years of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data, finding an overall correlation between states' standards-based reform and improvements on reading and math test scores in grades 4 through 8, although that achievement hasn't "come far or fast enough," says Education Week Editor Virginia B. Edwards. States like New Jersey and Texas show the largest gains in closing the achievement gap. The report is available online for a limited time.

New on nieer.org

The latest issue of Preschool Matters looks at NIEER's new study of five high-quality state-funded prekindergarten programs, which shows gains in language and math abilities for children in a wide variety of programs.



Also in Preschool Matters:


  • A Look Back at Progress in Pre-K Programs and Research in 2005

  • New NICHD Report on Long-Term Effects of Child Care

  • Classroom Design and Student Performance

  • Special Report: The Pew Charitable Trusts Advancing Quality Pre-K for All Initiative

  • Today’s Preschoolers: The Social Security Cure?

  • Urie Bronfenbrenner: The Man Who Changed How We See Human Development

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 9, 2006 - March 10, 2006
Arnhem, the Netherlands – Attendees will learn about worldwide developments and trends in early childhood education at this conference.

Early Education News Roundup

January 9, 2006
The Honolulu Advertiser
In an idea they believe will move Hawai'i closer to universal preschool for 4-year-olds, several leading educators and childcare advocates have recommended the state Legislature create a new authority that would make policy for and direct early-childhood education statewide.
January 6, 2006
The Greenville News, Greenville, SC
The state is talking with faith-based kindergarten programs about the possibility of contracting with them to open up slots for at-risk children.
January 5, 2006
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, SD
South Dakota is one of 11 states without a public preschool program, but Gov. Rounds wants to change that.
January 5, 2006
The Winchester Sun, Winchester, KY
Even under the best of conditions, finding enough money to fund Kentucky's education programs is problematic.
January 4, 2006
Quad-City Times, Davenport, IA
The proposal, which would cost $15 million in its first year, would make preschool a recurring part of the state budget rather than an optional expense that must be renewed each year.
December 30, 2005
The State, Columbia, SC
South Carolina fails to ensure the state's youngest children are prepared for the academic challenges they will face in public schools.

Resources

In this report from Marshall University, researchers explore the costs and benefits of early childhood development programs and conclude the benefits are higher than any other economic development investment.
National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Michelle Trudeau discusses the success of Oklahoma's high-quality pre-kindergarten program with William Gormley of Georgetown University and Walter Gilliam of Yale University in this audio clip available on the NPR web site.
This info brief from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) notes the effect teacher quality has on student successes and explores ways to improve teacher working conditions as a means of advancing student learning.
This report from the National Women's Law Center analyzes the effectiveness of ballot campaigns in expanding early childhood education programs and also includes strategies for increasing the chances of success for a ballot measure.