Volume 5, Issue 17

October 6, 2006

Hot Topics

As early as age 3, children identify food brands and ask for them — a fact not lost on food advertisers who target the top three channels for preschool-age children with brand strategy advertising, says an article in the October issue of the journal Pediatrics. Based on a study by Susan Connor, research director at Cleveland's Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, the article says there are 1.3 food advertisements per half hour of programming on the three channels with the largest audience share — Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Disney and Nickelodeon. More than half the advertisements in the study were aimed specifically at children, the majority from fast food chains and makers of sweetened cereal. Connor and her colleagues monitored 96 randomly selected hours of programming from the three channels and coded the messages as to approach, content, and visual and textual cues. Results show the majority of child-oriented food ads take a branding approach, focusing on creating lifelong customers rather than generating immediate sales. Fast food ads used licensed characters to create positive impressions, associating food with fun and energy. Susan Linn, a Harvard Medical School faculty member and co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, termed the findings "very concerning when childhood obesity is a major public health problem."
Virginia's new universal preschool plan will eventually have a five-star quality rating system, says Secretary of Education Thomas Morris who sits on the Start Strong Council that's developing it. The plan will also include training and incentives for the public and private pre-K providers who participate so they can improve their ratings. A number of states, including Pennsylvania, Vermont, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Colorado already have quality rating systems. Providing state pre-K to all of Virginia's 4-year-olds was a plank that helped propel Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine to the governorship last November.
Alaska is one of the 11 hold-out states with no state-funded pre-K program – but that could change if a new coalition of pre-K advocates in the state succeeds. The Ready to Read, Ready to Learn Task Force, which has been meeting for more than a year, recently presented its set of findings to Governor Frank Murkowski. Speaking on behalf of the group was David Wight, retired CEO of Alyeska Pipeline Service, who voiced frustration with finding acceptable preschools for his children and at how many young Alaskans struggle in kindergarten. Also presented was a study by the McDowell group finding that 88 percent of Alaskans say state-funded pre-K is important and 66 percent of them say it rates higher on the list of priorities than road construction and higher education. Murkowski, a Republican, is a lame duck since losing the primary to a former mayor, Sarah Palin. Her Democratic opponent is former two-term governor Tony Knowles.
A three-year series of studies conducted by the Minnesota Department of Education concludes that more than half the children entering kindergarten in the state were lacking basic skills necessary to succeed in school. In the most recent year of the study, 2004, 47 percent of children entering kindergarten were deemed proficient in language and literacy skills and 46 percent were proficient in mathematical thinking skills. The '04 numbers represent a slight increase in proficiency over previous year. Teachers assessed students using the Work Sampling System.
A bill introduced on the floor of the U.S. Senate last week would authorize spending to set up databases that would, among other things, track students from pre-K through college. Sponsored by Sen. John Ensign, a Nevada Republican, S3936 is in large part the result of recommendations from the U.S. Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education. Neither S3936 nor a House of Representatives version of it are expected to reach a vote any time soon. Some civil libertarians have opposed such a tracking system.
The Denver Post reports that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has released a position paper opposing the city’s ballot initiative calling for a universal pre-K program because it would give taxpayer money to religious schools. The ADL praised the intent of Initiative 1A but said distributing tuition credits to private schools, as permitted by the initiative, violates the state constitution that specifically forbids any government money from going to religious organizations. Proponents of the measure contend that is not the case since the money is distributed to individuals who then decide where to spend it. Mayor John Hickenlooper, who spearheaded the initiative, says the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of similar programs. Denver's sales tax rate would increase 12 cents on every $100 purchase to raise the $12 million needed to fund the program.

NIEER Activities

Two recent NIEER arrivals bring welcome capabilities to our research staff. Laura Hawkinson is an early childhood education researcher with a background in studying publicly funded programs, particularly Head Start. At NIEER, she coordinates the State Preschool Yearbook and contributes to policy publications. She has an M.P.A. degree from Columbia University with a specialization in social policy. Allison Friedman is a researcher who joins NIEER after work on studies such as one examining the coupling of infant movement and attention and cognitive and mathematical abilities in school-age children. At NIEER her focus is on child math assessment, policy briefs and grant proposals. She has a B.S. in Human Development from Cornell University and an Ed.M. in Mind, Brain and Education from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

Calendar

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 1, 2006 - November 1, 2006
Philadelphia, PA – The theme for the symposium is Transforming Inner-City Education: Can an Early Start Change the Outcome?
November 1, 2006 - November 2, 2006
Indianapolis, IN –Speakers at the Early Childhood Center conference will present aspects of assessment and evaluation affecting state, school district, and individual program policies and practices.
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

October 5, 2006
Missoulian, Missoula, MT
For a long time, [Montana Gov. Brian] Schweitzer believed the best way to address the increasing demand for skilled workers was to increase funding for higher education and, particularly for two-year programs, to help rapidly turn out a work force ready to meet shifting employment needs. But at the most recent Western Governors Conference, four world-renowned education specialists changed his mind.
October 4, 2006
The New York Times
ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Children with severe reading problems usually struggle for years before getting the help they need. But a growing number of neurologists and educators say that with the latest diagnostic tests, children at high risk for these problems can be identified in preschool and treated before they ever begin to read.
October 3, 2006
The Denver Post
Mayor John Hickenlooper is asking Denver residents to vote yes on Measure 1A, a ballot initiative that would increase the city sales tax by .12 percent - that's a mere 12 cents for every hundred dollars spent - to help pay for pre-K programs for all Denver 4-year-olds. A report released this year by the National Institute for Early Education Research found [positive] results in three longitudinal studies conducted in Chapel Hill, N.C.; Chicago; and Ypsilanti, Mich.
September 29, 2006
Daily News-Record, Harrisonburg, VA
"Start Strong" is an initiative to expand classes for 4-year-olds throughout the state. But the project is still very much in the development phase, education officials say.
September 29, 2006
The Free Press, Mankato, MN
The human brain develops more rapidly between birth and age 5 than during any other period in human life. And research, such as the Abecedarian Project and the Chicago Child-Parent Center Longitudinal Study, show that children who are exposed to nurturing and stimulating environments early will perform better in elementary and secondary schools.
September 28, 2006
Anchorage Daily News
Educators, business leaders and parents called for Alaska to create a preschool system that will get young children excited about learning. Only about half of Alaska's children show up to kindergarten prepared to go to school, said representatives of the Ready to Read, Ready to Learn Task Force.
September 26, 2006
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Through business initiative, Wisconsin could lead the nation in making early childhood education a top policy priority, a range of speakers said at an economic summit in Milwaukee on Monday. Citing early education as the best investment for building a better work force and preventing a bevy of social problems, speakers said businesses need to lead the charge for expanding learning opportunities for children younger than 5.
September 25, 2006
Newsday
Growing academic demands - including batteries of standardized tests as early as third grade - have parents feeling pressure to help their kids get off to a faster start, and experts in early childhood development calling for balance.
September 20, 2006
Centre Daily Times, State College, PA
The state Board of Education unanimously approved instructional guidelines for state-funded preschool programs on Wednesday. The regulations would set standards for the first time for public school programs enrolling children between 3 and 5 years old, such as a minimum 2 1/2-hour school day and a maximum class size of 20 students.

Resources

This initiative at the Washington-based New America Foundation is dedicated to laying the groundwork for integrating pre-K into primary education by fostering development of a schooling unit that includes Pre-K through third grade. The initiative frames the debate in the context of the No Child Left Behind Act and seeks to develop a dialogue for increasing PK-3 awareness, elevating its importance as a policy priority and expanding its constituency. Among those serving on the initiative's advisory panel are NIEER Director Steve Barnett, Pre-K Now Executive Director Libby Doggett, NAEYC Senior Director Adele Robinson and Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Marsha Moore. Visit the initiative web site at http://www.newamerica.net/programs/education_policy/early_education.
This newly published 62-page booklet describes the findings from the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD). Started in 1991, the study has collected information about non-maternal child care arrangements, the children and families who use them, those who do not and child outcomes. Among the findings: family characteristics have more influence on child development than does experience in child care. To read the booklet, visit http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/upload/seccyd_051206.pdf.