Volume 5, Issue 15

August 30, 2006

Hot Topics

Findings from a study reported in the July/August issue of Child Development indicate that when mothers read daily to children during their earliest years, the children had better language comprehension and cognitive development. University of Nebraska researcher Helen Raikes and colleagues studied about 2,500 low-income mothers and their children. About half the mothers reported reading daily to their children when they were under age 3. For English-speaking children, reading was associated with enhanced vocabulary and comprehension at 14 months and with enhanced vocabulary and cognitive development at 24 months. Spanish-speaking children who were read to made smaller gains. "This shows relations between reading to children and children's cognitive development begin very early," concludes Raikes. Children were evaluated at 14, 24 and 36 months of age.
It is well established that the brain needs stimulation to get "wired" properly and that the brain's plasticity associated with such stimuli aids the process. What is not well established, however, is the effect that inhibiting or withholding stimuli might have on the way brain circuitry forms. In a study that involved covering the eyes of rats, Brandeis University researchers have shown that inhibiting stimuli triggers the inhibitory networks of the brain and that those networks also exhibit the kind of plasticity that can determine the way the brain gets wired. Rats whose eyes were covered lost visual function, proving that inhibiting stimuli can determine the brain's architecture. The researchers say human brain function is highly likely to mirror what they are seeing in the rats.
When it comes to investing in public education, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour parts company with state Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds on state-funded preschool. While Barbour has supported the $57 million in new money Bounds has recommended for teacher pay raises and a high school redesign initiative, he said the $10 million Bounds would spend on a pre-K pilot program is not a "wise expense." Instead, Barbour proposes boosting the educational content of federal Head Start programs and increasing the amount available in federal child care vouchers. The pilot would have funded 88 preschool programs in a state that currently has no state-funded pre-K. On a per-capita basis, Mississippi ranks high in Head Start funding, and has the highest percentage in the nation of 4-year-olds in Head Start.
Ohio's School Readiness Solutions Group, impaneled to advise the state board of education on early childhood education issues, has recommended that any revamping of the state's pre-K programs go beyond targeting disadvantaged children and include pre-K services for all children. The group's report is the result of a 14-month effort which had considered and then rejected a system that would have targeted just the neediest kids. Other recommendations include mandatory full-day kindergarten, requiring college degrees for pre-K teachers and organizing all functions of early education under one state agency. The panel's chairman, Carl Kohrt, said any funding formula should include subsidies to preschools as well as means-tested co-payments from families.
The early childhood literacy awareness campaign organized by Boston-based nonprofit Jumpstart has, at last count, resulted in more than 130,000 youngsters having the newly illustrated children's classic The Little Engine That Could read to them by an adult. Sponsored by Starbucks, Pearson, American Eagle Outfitters and the Corporation for National and Community Service, the initiative enlisted volunteers to see that young children were read The Little Engine at various venues throughout the U.S. Among the volunteers was NIEER, which organized a reading at a New Brunswick Starbucks where 23 preschoolers heard New Jersey Education Commissioner Lucille Davy read the book. Each child took a copy of the newly reissued The Little Engine That Could home, courtesy of NIEER. For more on the initiative, go to readfortherecord.com.

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.
November 8, 2006 - November 11, 2006
Atlanta, GA – This conference provides participants with a variety of sessions focusing on practical experience and applied research.

Early Education News Roundup

August 27, 2006
The Toledo Blade, Toledo, OH
Although there is still playtime and finger painting, kindergarten is not all fun and games. Ellen Frede, co-director of National Institute for Early Education Research, said there is much debate over how much and in what manner young students should be taught.
August 26, 2006
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH
A retooled state-funded early childhood education system in Ohio should benefit all children, regardless of family wealth, a state panel recommended on Friday. The School Readiness Solutions Group, which wrapped up 14 months of work on a report containing 10 recommendations, also had considered a less costly system that would have reached just the neediest in an effort to have an impact on an obvious symptom of the cycle of poverty.
August 25, 2006
The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, WA
Advocates for early childhood education told a legislative task force on Thursday that eager-to-learn 3-year-old kids in the state are falling behind their counterparts elsewhere because Idaho doesn't give them a chance to attend publicly funded preschool. Both groups also touted a proposal to extend kindergarten to a full day, while making its completion mandatory.
August 25, 2006
Deseret Morning News, Salt Lake City, UT
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, wants the state to spend up to $7 million to train a team of specialists to give parents, preschools and day-care centers the tools they need to make sure children are ready for kindergarten. The specialists would reach out to all families and help those who are disadvantaged due to income or limited English skills understand how to access available services, including Head Start preschool programs.
August 25, 2006
Vermont Guardian
Come this fall, several new early-education programs will be in place throughout Vermont, thanks to a unique collaborative of philanthropists, education experts, and private foundations. Advocates say the problem isn't that the current system isn't unsustainable, but that it's unaffordable for many parents, and wages are too low to attract providers into the field.
August 25, 2006
Reading Eagle
Pennsylvania is getting better at readying its children for school, but still has too little high-quality child care available, according to a study released Thursday by a child advocacy group. The Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children report praised the state for having more children in pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten than it did last year, and also more enrolled in Head Start and high-quality child-care programs.
August 25, 2006
Hernando Today, Brooksville, FL
Looking at Florida's Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) one year after its launch, one is left wondering how far off the mark the program really is. I say "wonder" because at present, there is no scientifically sound plan to measure its educational benefits to the children who attend.
August 25, 2006
The Oklahoman
As pre-kindergarten becomes ever more popular here and nationwide, public schools continue to see more and more 4-year-olds stepping bravely into the world of language centers, recess and art time. [Oklahoma] is one of the few states where pre-kindergarten is made available to all students regardless of income and where the budget is part of the common-education funding stream.
August 24, 2006
The Journal News, White Plains, NY
Despite representing a large and rapidly growing segment of the nation's population, Hispanic children are least likely to participate in preschool, studies show.
August 23, 2006
La Crosse Tribune, La Crosse, WI
School boards alone no longer would control where publicly funded 4-year-old kindergarten is offered in Wisconsin under a voucher program proposed by Wisconsin Child Care Administrators Association. The association wants legislators to support a "family options program" that would allow "any high-quality program that meets a specific set of standards" to provide kindergarten for 4-year-olds and collect the state money, said Beverly Anderson, president of the association.
August 17, 2006
The Boston Globe
Romney states that the value of universal preschool is unproven. Nothing could be further from the truth.
August 17, 2006
Billings Gazette, Billings, MT
Montana is one of three states that has received a $50,000 grant from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices to develop programs to help make sure children are ready for school. Gov. Brian Schweitzer said the money would be used in Montana to start an early childhood education program he's calling "Best Beginnings."

Resources

This resource from the Center for Evidence-Based Practice offers teachers guidance on how to support preschoolers with challenging behavior, provides handouts and visual supports to explain detailed strategies, and supplies teachers with templates for creating helpful materials.
This quality checklist, developed by Pre-K Now and the National PTA, is designed to help parents evaluate their pre-k options based on components that research says are the most important for the healthy growth and development of preschool-age children.
This policy brief from the Foundation for Child Development describes the five key components of the PK-3 approach, provides evidence of the approach's success, and offers recommendations for state departments of education and local school boards.