Volume 5, Issue 16

September 18, 2006

Hot Topics

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent signing of a bill providing $50 million in new money for state-funded preschool took place against the backdrop of what many call a looming crisis in early childhood education in the state. A study released by UC Berkeley, First 5 California and the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network predicts growth in the number of California children ages 0 to 5 will increase by nearly 15 percent this decade. Couple that with the fact that one-quarter of teachers in centers with BA degrees are over age 50 and teacher turnover is double that seen in public schools, and the potential exists for a major shortfall in early childhood care and education. The new bill increases California's total preschool budget from $350 million to $400 million and provides state-funded preschool to about 12,000 more children.
The Chicago Sun Times reports that 10,000 new state-funded preschool slots are being added in the first year of implementation of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's Preschool for All initiative. While the plan is slated to eventually provide state-funded pre-K to all the state's 3- and 4-year-olds, eligibility is means tested in the early years of implementation. This year, families making up to $80,000 can apply for the slots, though other at-risk students have priority. In Chicago, about 2,500 preschool students are being added this year. NIEER Scientific Advisory Board member Barbara Bowman, who heads early childhood programs at Chicago Public Schools, says they have had little trouble staffing for the new positions so far. She has been encouraging providers to offer at least the public school starting salary of $40,000.
Computer and Internet use continues to rise among children from nursery school through grade 12, with 66 percent of children in nursery school using computers and 23 percent of them using the Internet. Figures from a newly released report from the National Center for Education Statistics also show that the largest increases in computer and Internet use occurred in children ages 5-7. By the time children reach kindergarten, 80 percent are using computers and 32 percent are using the Internet. The report's authors say when they look at ethnic differences, Whites and Asians are more likely to use computers at home than Blacks and Hispanics. Much of this difference is socio-economic: 37 percent of children from families with incomes below $20,000 use computers at home compared to 88 percent of those living in families with incomes over $75,000. The report is on the web at http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006065.
Findings from a Vanderbilt University study show that 2-year-olds can learn from video but that when exposed to live interactive video rather than one-way video, the children learned more. Reported in the May/June issue of Child Development, the study employed a game in which children watched a stuffed animal being hidden in a room. Those watching a pre-recorded one-way video found the animal only 35 percent of the time as opposed to a 69 percent success rate for the kids viewing the live interactive video. Psychologists Georgene L. Troseth and Megan M. Saylor, who conducted the study, say it looks like shows such as Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer, which employ interactive techniques, are on the right track.
About 60 percent of toddlers and preschoolers who are overweight or obese during their preschool years are still that way at age 12, says a broad-based study of more than 1,000 children. Sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and reported in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics, the study says the more times a child reaches the "overweight" category (as opposed to obese) during the preschool and elementary school years, the more likely he or she is to be overweight at 12. The researchers considered "overweight" to be 85th- to 95th-percentile weight-to-height ratio. University of California, San Diego researcher Philip R. Nader said the results suggest any time a child reaches the 85th percentile for BMI, it's an appropriate time for intervention.

New on nieer.org

The Aug/Sept 2006 issue of Preschool Matters takes a look at the alarming picture of early education need contained in a recent report from the National Center for Rural Early Childhood Learning Initiatives at Mississippi State University and the challenges associated with providing early childhood education in rural areas.

Also in the new issue of Preschool Matters:

  • Illinois Takes a Pre-K Teacher Head Count

  • Pre-K One Year After Hurricane Katrina

  • Q & A on PK-3 with Noted Author Gene Maeroff

  • New Momentum for Pre-K in Washington State

  • Discoveries: Executive Function in Preschoolers

  • Recommended Reading


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.
November 16, 2006 - November 18, 2006
Melbourne, Australia – This 6th annual conference encourages attendees to make a difference in the early childhood field by exploring the place of children's rights in policy and practice.
November 23, 2006 - November 24, 2006
Melbourne, Australia – This conference aims to present cutting edge information on early childhood development and parenting.

Early Education News Roundup

September 17, 2006
This fall, more Long Island school districts are sending 4-year-olds to public prekindergarten classes, and New York State is spending $50 million more on such programs after having added no new funding since 2000. This suggests that a major change in education, long overdue, is finally beginning to take hold.
September 15, 2006
Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, WA
Washington Learns, a steering committee led by Gov. Chris Gregoire, says public schools fail to adequately prepare students to compete in an increasingly global economy. It recommends that the state provide seamless education from early childhood through graduate school by working closely with preschools and day-care providers, aligning curriculum between high schools and colleges and lengthening the school year and school day to provide more instruction time.
September 13, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
Illinois has had broad learning goals for all students since 1997 but until now hadn't specified what that meant for kindergarten students. Specific goals for clusters of other grades and preschoolers already have been established.
September 10, 2006
The Indianapolis Star
A wealth of research has documented that children who attend preschool perform better academically than those who do not. What's harder to pin down is whether expensive preschools give children a significant advantage over youngsters who've attended more affordable programs.
September 8, 2006
Los Angeles Times
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday signed legislation that provides $50 million to expand preschool opportunities for thousands of low-income children. The money will target preschools operated by school districts and nonprofit organizations in neighborhoods where students score in the lowest three deciles of the Academic Performance Index.
September 8, 2006
Monitor on Psychology, Volume 37, No. 8
One alphabet letter at a time, Head Start is doing a better job of helping low-income children get ready for school—by placing a stronger emphasis on building the foundations of reading—psychologists and other researchers said at the Head Start Research Conference held in Washington, D.C., in June.
September 7, 2006
The Pilot-Independent, Walker, MN
Whether we are 3 or 93, we all remember our first day of school, that milestone day that launched our lives as students. Many Minnesota children are unprepared to take this first step. They have not been exposed to the prerequisite skills, and they lack high quality early childhood experiences that lead to success in school.
September 6, 2006
The Arizona Republic
Unlike some other states, such as Florida, Arizona does not have a preschool tax credit to pay for early education, nor does it have a uniform rating system for parents to gauge such programs.
September 5, 2006
The New York Times
Experiments conducted at Vanderbilt University, described in the May/June issue of Child Development, offer some hints about toddlers. They showed that 24-month-olds are more apt to use information relayed by video if they consider the person on the screen to be someone they can talk to. Without that, the children seemed unable to act on what they had seen and heard.
September 5, 2006
The Birmingham News
To best educate our children, we need to make that investment as early as possible - in a child's formative years, when tax dollars pay the highest dividends by getting children ready for school. Overwhelming research shows it's the best investment of education dollars we can make.
August 31, 2006
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
There has been little or no improvement in turnover in recent years, says Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, a New Brunswick, N.J., nonprofit.


In his latest book, noted education author and journalist Gene I. Maeroff makes the case for what has become known as PK-3, an approach that recognizes the importance of integrating early learning into a unified period of schooling that seamlessly educates children from the time they are preschoolers to the age of 8. In quest of material for Building Blocks, Maeroff traveled the country looking for what works in primary education – from Massachusetts to Florida to California. For more on the book, go to http://www.fcd-us.org/BB.html.