Volume 5, Issue 14

August 16, 2006

Hot Topics

Massachusetts has been laying the groundwork for universal preschool education since passage of the enabling statute in 2004. When it came to signing off on program specifics, however, Governor Mitt Romney balked and vetoed the landmark H. 4755 that had passed unanimously in the legislature. Titled "An Act Relative to Early Education and Care," the bill instructed Department of Early Education and Care to come up with a 5-year plan for developing a voluntary, high-quality universal preschool program for all of the state's 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds. Even though the bill had no cost or revenue source identified, Romney rejected it on a fiscal basis, saying the program could cost taxpayers more than $1 billion and require tax increases.



Romney's veto caught House Education Committee Chair Patricia Haddad and Senate Committee Chair Robert Antioni by surprise. The next opportunity for passage of UPK legislation is in the January legislative session. By then, there will be a new governor. Romney can't run again and Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, who cultivates a pro-education image, is the Republican candidate. A Democratic candidate has yet to be chosen. Advocate Amy O'Leary, at Strategies for Children, said, "We're disheartened but we're not giving up on this." A $4.6 million pilot program has been approved.
While many states are implementing or considering preschool programs, Indiana is still engaged in the debate over implementing full-day kindergarten. Two governors have tried and failed in the full-day K effort, but current Governor Mitch Daniels, who saved his push for full-day K until the state had a fiscal surplus, is widely seen to have momentum on his side. Currently, the state pays for half-day programs, while districts offering full-day kindergarten rely on other funding, including fees charged parents for the full day. That arrangement nearly ended when a March state Supreme Court ruling said schools can't charge for programs considered part of a free public education. To circumvent the court, the Indiana Board of Education changed state policy to say that full-day kindergarten goes beyond basic educational requirements, thus permitting the fees to continue. There's a problem, though. Many parents are hard pressed to find the money. The result: only about a quarter of Indiana's kindergartners are in full-day programs. Daniels says the state can afford to pay the estimated $150 million needed for free full-day K. He says he'll propose that in the next legislative session.
Surveys of teachers, principals and reading coaches that form the basis for a new interim report on implementation of the federal Reading First program indicate that more reading is occurring at schools that are program grantees, that teachers spend more time on professional development and that they are more likely to use assessment data to inform teaching. The $1 billion-per-year program focuses on kindergarten through 3rd grade. A final implementation report is due next year.
New findings from the Harvard Medical School suggest the obesity we see in some preschoolers could be starting in infancy. Published in the July issue of the journal Obesity, the study says the percentage of infants who are significantly overweight has risen 73.5 percent over two decades. About 6 percent of infants in the U.S. fall into the obese category. The researchers point to three factors: infants are just plain larger for their gestational age these days, more moms are overweight, developing gestational diabetes while pregnant, and more babies are putting on weight rapidly in the first months of life.
With Washington Governor Christine Gregoire as its new chair and Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell as incoming vice chair, the National Governors Association Education Committee has leaders with strong records on preschool education. Gregoire pushed a visioning effort that resulted in a new cabinet-level Department of Early Learning, increased funding for state pre-K and is about to release a long-term education plan. Rell is on a similar track, creating Connecticut's new Early Childhood Cabinet and boosting state pre-K funding. Outgoing Education Committee Chair Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano ascends to the top job at NGA — the first woman to serve as chair of the organization. Napolitano is calling for a national school reform effort as part of the chair's initiative during her term.
Two studies illuminate the relationship between literacy achievement and behavior. In one, Stanford University's Sarah B. Miles and Deborah Stipek examined associations between children's social skills and their literacy achievement, finding that high aggressive behavior was related to relatively low literacy achievement and low aggression was related to relatively high literacy achievement. Stipek is Dean of the School of Education at Stanford and a member of the NIEER scientific advisory board.



In a related study, researchers at Kings College, London found that the robust correlation between reading achievement and anti-social behavior is primarily due to environmental factors that are common to both, particularly among boys. They found the development of reading achievement and anti-social behavior are intertwined — that boys' behavior and ability when they enter school influences their reading achievement, suggesting that this association lends itself to being broken by appropriate interventions before school entry.

Calendar

September 18, 2006 - September 19, 2006
Denver, CO – This conference addresses the challenges of monitoring programs providing education for students with disabilities.
September 20, 2006


Washington, DC – Although based in Washington, this satellite broadcast is intended to reach a nationwide audience of prekindergarten advocates though local conference sites.
October 19, 2006 - October 22, 2006
Little Rock, AR – The sessions and workshops of this conference cover a wide range of vital issues facing those who work with young children with special needs.
October 22, 2006 - October 24, 2006
Miami, FL – This conference is designed to provide professional development for those working to improve the lives of children, youth and their families.

Early Education News Roundup

August 10, 2006
Rocky Mountain News, Denver, CO
Denver Public Schools leaders on Wednesday unveiled a policy for teaching English to children who are native Spanish speakers, creating the district's first guidelines for the instruction of more than 20 percent of its students. The new language allocation policy recommends the number of minutes per school day that students are to be taught in their native language and in English, starting with 30 minutes of English daily for those in half-day preschool and kindergarten classrooms.
August 9, 2006
The Mercury News
The vast majority of child care providers are older women, but the number of Latinas who care for younger children is nearly twice that who teach K-12 students. Many workers leave the early care and education field because of notoriously low pay: often $9 to $11 an hour -- what many parking lot attendants earn.
August 5, 2006
The Sacramento Bee
Kindergarten teachers have long said they see huge differences between students who have attended preschool and those who haven't. The preschool kids are already ahead on the first day of school, teachers say.
August 5, 2006
The Missoulian, Missoula, MT
While most of Montana's children are reveling in the last half of summer vacation, their teachers and education leaders are considering whether to begin school at age 3. They're feeling pressure from a national movement promoting pre-kindergarten as a cost-effective way of boosting academic and social performance in later years.
August 4, 2006
The Baltimore Sun
Despite the clear connection between early experience and success in school, there has been an almost complete separation between the early-care community and school systems, on both the state and local level, across the country. Last month, Maryland became the first (and so far, only) state to overcome this divide.
August 2, 2006
Orlando Sentinel
Four years after voters overwhelmingly approved "high-quality" pre-kindergarten classes for the state's children, Floridians are left with a litany of half measures adding up to one unfulfilled promise. Now, when it comes to evaluating how well the program is working, the state DOE offers another half-measure.
August 1, 2006
Rocky Mountain News, Denver, CO
The Denver City Council voted 11-1 Monday night to initially approve placing Mayor John Hickenlooper's proposed sales tax hike that would help preschools on the Nov. 7 ballot. The sales tax would raise about $12 million annually that would fund preschool tuition credits for the families of 4-year-olds.
August 1, 2006
Knoxville News Sentinel
The state of Tennessee is providing $20 million to launch 227 new pre-K classes, which are aimed at giving a head start in school to disadvantaged 4-year-olds. There is so much more needed as Tennessee tries to catch up with other states, but at least the Volunteer State is heading in the right direction.
August 1, 2006
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
As the Star-Bulletin's Dan Martin reports, a 2004 law directs schools to assess, then place children in junior kindergarten or kindergarten, based on ability. [Junior kindergarten] gets younger children into schools while providing the additional assistance some might need.

Resources

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has developed 10 standards aimed at helping parents in their search for early education and care programs. This NAEYC guide is available in English and Spanish.
This education policy brief from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) at Indiana University and the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community tackles the issue of publicly funded prekindergarten programs.
A report from the Canadian Centre for Knowledge Mobilisation's (CCKM) to the Canadian Council on Learning based on the CCKM's Research Guide to Child Care Decision Making.