Volume 5, Issue 9

June 2, 2006

Hot Topics

In heavy television-viewing households, that appears to be the case. New survey results from The Henry Kaiser Family Foundation on children's exposure to "screen media" that include television, videogames, DVDs and computers says children from households where television is on most or all the time are less likely to be read to or engage in reading themselves. The report, titled The Media Family: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers and Their Parents, says children aged 6 months to 6 years spend more than an hour and a half a day with screen media. That compares with 40 minutes per day spent reading or being read to. Forty-one percent of 2- and 3-year-olds spend more than two hours per day with screen media. On any given day, 68 percent of children under 2 use screen media. Television is by far the most common screen medium.
With polls showing the spread between those for and against passage of California's Proposition 82 at less than 10 percentage points, much attention is being paid to the Hispanic community whose vote could play a critical role in the outcome. Those advocating in favor of the Preschool for All initiative are pointing out that less than half of children from Spanish-speaking households currently attend preschool and that a "Yes" vote helps ensure free programs will be broadly available. Opponents label the proposal a give-away to well-to-do families and say the dollars spent for universal pre-K would be better spent on means-tested programs that target lower income Hispanic households. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Bee reports that both sides say Prop 82, if passed, would help English Language Learners. Voters will decide the issue June 6.
For anyone wondering how (or whether) research informs policy, the debate surrounding California’s Preschool for All initiative provided a rare opportunity to witness the process in action. As advocates for and against the initiative cited research supporting their points of view, researchers in the early education field were drawn into the public conversation by the media and others to explain issues such as whether pre-K has lasting effects and the trade-offs between universal and targeted programs. Occasionally, prominent researchers debated each other. Such was the case when University of California, Berkeley professor Bruce Fuller and NIEER Director Steve Barnett debated the issues on California talk radio and squared off in a point-counter-point format on the website educationsector.org. Here’s a link to that lively exchange: http://www.educationsector.org/analysis/analysis_show.htm?doc_id=374565.
A new advocacy effort has been launched in Florida that seeks upgrades to that state's Voluntary Preschool Program (VPK). Sponsored by The Children's Campaign, the Five Promises to Parents Campaign is initially targeting potential candidates in the run-up to the primaries 90 days hence when Republicans and Democrats will pick their candidates for governor. Co-chairing the campaign are former Florida Commissioner of Education and former president of the University of South Florida, Betty Castor, a Democrat, and former state legislator and chairman of the Florida House Appropriations Committee, Bill Sublette, a Republican. Among the campaign's goals are effecting policy changes so the program requires teachers to have more than the current minimal qualifications, offers all-day all-year sessions and receives a hike in funding that substantially exceeds the $60 dollar per-pupil increase the legislature has approved. Castor and Sublette are emphasizing the need to cross party lines on this issue.
Australia's preschool and child care sector is almost entirely composed of for-profit entities — a fact some experts say is contributing to fewer women entering the workforce than would otherwise be the case. Despite Australia's subsidies to parents for out-of-pocket child care costs, private providers have not expanded sufficiently to meet demand for the 200,000 parents who say they aren’t being served. The Australian Bureau of Statistics' child-care price index has surged 65 percent in the past four years, far exceeding inflation and leading nearly all services. University of Sidney economist Patricia Apps says development of a public early care and education sector is essential if her country is to more fully realize the economic contribution of women workers. Fifty-seven percent of Australian women aged 15 to 64 work compared with 73 percent in Canada and 70 percent in New Zealand.
A well-known figure in early education research and policy development and implementation has joined NIEER as Co-Director. Ellen Frede recently returned to her professorship at the College of New Jersey after directing state pre-K programs at the New Jersey Department of Education, and will now co-direct NIEER, as well. Frede is no stranger to NIEER. She co-directed its predecessor organization, the Center for Early Education Research (CEER) and was instrumental in designing several of NIEER's randomized trials in New Jersey.

NIEER Activities

Five NIEER staff members will present at the National Association for the Education of Young Children's 15th Annual National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development, June 4 through 7 in San Antonio, Texas. Dates, presenters and subjects are:

June 4, 8 to 10 a.m. -- Ellen Frede and Debra J. Ackerman (with Jim Caccamo)– Curriculum Decision-Making: Dimensions to Consider

June 5, 8 to 10 a.m. -– Jason Hustedt - State-Funded Pre-K from 2001-2005: National Trends in Access, Standards and Spending

June 6, 2 to 4 p.m. –- Ellen Frede, Judi Boyd, and Amanda Worth (with Renee Whelan) – Using Math Standards to Observe Children’s Learning and Improve Teaching: The Role of Expanded Definitions and Teacher Reflection


June 14, 2006 - June 16, 2006
Denver, CO – This conference presents participants with materials based on McREL's Success in Sight model of school improvement.
June 21, 2006 - June 21, 2006
Oakland, CA – The Child Development Policy Institute Education Fund brings together state and national researchers and others to learn how research findings translate into classroom practice.
July 17, 2006 - July 18, 2006
New Haven, CT – This conference is intended for educational leaders who are faced with new expectations brought on by testing and accountability for academic improvement.
July 25, 2006 - July 27, 2006
Chapel Hill, NC – At this conference, participants will learn the latest research findings related to inclusive policy and practice.

Early Education News Roundup

June 1, 2006
Sacramento Bee
Even if your parents speak English at home, at 4 years old you have a ways to go before mastering the language. But, especially for 4-year-olds whose first language is Spanish or Hmong or Vietnamese, quality preschool can improve the transition to elementary school.
May 30, 2006
The Washington Post
Many education analysts are tracking the California debate over whether pre-kindergarten should be universal or targeted to disadvantaged kids.
May 30, 2006
The Sun News, Myrtle Beach, SC
Experts say only premium programs pack the punch that educators say is needed to help the most disadvantaged children prepare for kindergarten.
May 24, 2006
Los Angeles Times
No other social program has been evaluated more than preschool education.
May 23, 2006
The Sacramento Bee
The smaller amount proposed by the governor would go mostly to children from poor families who are not already enrolled.


In this publication from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, author Betty Joyce Nash explores the history and many facets of North Carolina's Smart Start and discusses the impact the program has had on the state's preschoolers.