Volume 6, Issue 21

November 14, 2007

Hot Topics

A new measure reauthorizing the federal Head Start program has been approved by the House/Senate conference committee. If it becomes law as is, Head Start will receive $7.3 billion in FY 2008, $7.6 billion in FY 2009, and $7.9 billion in 2010. Among other provisions are these:



• New flexibility will enable the program to serve families just above the poverty line.

• All Head Start teachers would be required to have bachelor's degree by 2013.

• 40 percent of funding will go to improving program quality, including raising teacher salaries.

• A new system for designating grants would be phased in over 3 years.

• The National Reporting System that tests Head Start students will be suspended.



The House and Senate plan to consider the bill this week.
The National Early Childhood Accountability Task Force has issued its final report and recommendations for developing a comprehensive assessment system to improve the performance of state early education programs. It points out the need for a state early childhood accountability system and offers recommendations the task force says are flexible enough to be adapted in multiple states while at the same time enabling them to employ state-of-the-art evaluation methods. Over the next 18 months, the Council of Chief State School Officers, with funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts, will use the findings to help states document and strengthen preschool program performance.



Written by Thomas Schultz of The Pew Charitable Trusts and Sharon Lynn Kagan of Columbia University, the report drew on the thinking of 15 testing experts and state officials with experience running early learning programs. The task force is a collaboration of The Foundation for Child Development, The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Joyce Foundation.
Two studies released by RAND Corp. paint a dismaying picture of California children's school readiness and achievement in the early grades as well as a portrait of public early care and education that's poorly positioned to reverse the trend. RAND's Lynn Karoly and colleagues looked at 2007 California Standards Tests for second and third graders, finding more than half the kids in both grades didn't meet grade-level proficiency in English language arts. More than 40 percent in both grades didn't meet proficiency in math. Looking at reading skills assessments for kindergarteners and first graders in 17 school districts, they found a similar pattern. When they looked at California's array of publicly funded ECE programs for preschool-age children, they found big variations in program quality, gaps between number of children served, and number eligible for the programs and funding mechanisms that provide little incentive for raising quality.



The findings are part of the California Preschool Study requested by state lawmakers to help them consider options for reforming or expanding public preschool education. The reports are available at http://rand.org/.
Findings from a new study suggests that watching violent television programs between ages 2 and 5 may be linked to aggressive and anti-social behavior in boys when they reach ages 7 to 9. Dimitri A. Christakis, Seattle Children's Hospital Institute, and Frederic Zimmerman, University of Washington, analyzed the viewing habits of 184 boys and then assessed their behavior five years later. They concluded for each hour on average per day the boys watched violent TV they were three times more likely to be in the group that had serious problems with aggression. Twenty-five of the 184 boys ended up having serious behavior problems.



The researchers say that while programming like Star Wars and Power Rangers are easily classified as violent, parents should realize football games and some cartoons are also violent. "Cartoon violence teaches that violence is funny and without consequence," says Christakis. No association between violent programming and overly aggressive behavior was found in 146 girls studied. The study appears in the November issue of Pediatrics.
Research conducted by the UCLA/Johnson & Johnson Health Care Institute found that a program of hands-on health care training provided to parents whose children attend Head Start reduced visits to hospital emergency rooms by 58 percent and clinic visits by 42 percent when parents opted to treat children's fevers, colds and earaches at home. That translated to annual savings to Medicaid of $554 per family in direct costs. The program had a one-time cost of $60 per family. Since parents were better informed about handling their children's health needs, they saw a 42 percent drop in days lost at work. The kids saw a 29 percent drop in days lost at school.

New on nieer.org

That's the title of the latest NIEER policy brief updated with fresh data providing in-depth analysis of preschool program participation. In 2005, 69 percent of 4-year-olds and 43 percent of 3-year-olds attended some type of (public and/or private) preschool program. That's up from the 59 percent of 4s and 41 percent of 3s who attended in 1991. The fact that participation increased at the same pace for children whether or not their mothers worked outside the home indicates that pre-K's educational benefits — and not the need for child care — is the primary reason parents send their children to pre-K. The updated policy brief also documents differences in pre-K participation by region and among ethnic groups. Among them are these:


  • Participation among 4-year-olds increased to 75 percent for African-American children, 69 percent for White children, 59 percent for Hispanic children and 81 percent for the "other" category that includes Asian Americans and Native Americans.
  • Four-year-old participation rates increased to 77 percent in the Northeast, 71 percent in the South, 66 percent in the Midwest and 64 percent in the West.


Read the full brief at http://nieer.org/docs/index.php?DocID=190.



Newsweek magazine writer Anna Kuchment incorporated content from the new NIEER brief in her story "Who Needs Preschool?" It appears in the November 12 edition.

Calendar

January 31, 2008 - February 2, 2008
Vancouver, Canada – This conference will focus on realizing children's full potential by discussing how to provide more effective supports.
February 14, 2008 - February 17, 2008
Tampa, FL – This conference will seek to help improve the quality of education in America’s public schools.
March 15, 2008 - March 17, 2008
New Orleans, LA – The theme of this year's conference is "Reinventing Schools: Courageous Leadership for Positive Change."

Early Education News Roundup

November 12, 2007
Newsweek
While many young children stay home with a parent or sitter until they start kindergarten at the age of 5, a growing number are entering preschool earlier. Statistics set to be released this week by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University show that in 2005, 69 percent of 4-year-olds attended preschool, up from 59 percent in 1991; among 3-year-olds, that number has grown to 43 percent and, for 2-year-olds, to 29 percent.
November 12, 2007
The Republican, Springfield, MA
Many legislators and educators across Massachusetts are joined in the belief that universal pre-kindergarten could yield benefits for the state's children. But a major question looms: where will the money come from to pay for it?
November 11, 2007
Tuscaloosa News, Tuscaloosa, AL
Educators and researchers are nearly unanimous in agreeing that a high-quality pre-school program gives children a better chance to succeed. That's why most forward-looking people endorse publicly funded pre-kindergarten classes for at-risk 4-year-olds.
November 7, 2007
The News-Herald, Southgate, MI
As part of a state aid bill sitting before the governor, there's a $100 increase proposed for every pupil enrolled in the Michigan School Readiness Program, a preschool project designed for 4-year-olds who might be at risk of school failure. While the entire amount being allocated to the program is increasing slightly, it is capped at $4 million. Because of that limit and because more school districts are applying for the preschool program, thousands of children already enrolled are expected to lose their slots.
November 3, 2007
Lexington Herald-Leader
Stressing the importance of preschool, a state task force says Kentucky should spend $30 million a year to expand a voluntary program for low-income families. Kentucky's public preschool program is currently open only to 4-year-olds whose family incomes do not exceed 150 percent of the federal poverty level - or about $31,000 for a family of four - and 3- and 4-year olds who have a disability.
November 2, 2007
The Intelligencer, Wheeling, WV
West Virginia already is a leader in early childhood education, offering "pre-K" programs to most parents who want their children to get at least some schooling before kindergarten. The state has received national attention both for the comprehensiveness of its "pre-K" system and the quality of programs offered through it.
October 31, 2007
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA
Louisiana's public school classes for 4-year-olds won some praise Tuesday in a new report, but the state's program remains well behind top efforts in the South. The findings are part of a study issued by the Southern Regional Education Board, which tracks education trends in Louisiana and 15 other states.
October 28, 2007
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
More public schools are working closely with community day-care centers and preschools to help prepare children for kindergarten. State and federal testing requirements in upper grades have trickled down to preschool, which is now expected to cover material that used to be introduced in kindergarten.
October 28, 2007
The New York Times Magazine
Calling for an overhaul of the current patchwork of uneven preschool programs, UPK proponents invoke neuroscientific evidence of brain growth rather than child-care needs. They cite the long-term economic benefits of an early investment in boosting "cognitive skills" and "school readiness," especially for low-income children.
October 28, 2007
Lexington Herald-Leader, Lexington, KY
We should invest in a proven resource that we know will spark economic development for generations to come. We should start investing in our families from the very beginning, through early childhood education.

Resources

New America Media, a California-based collaboration of ethnic media outlets, features a Q and A interview with David Kirp, public policy professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Kirp is the author of the The Sandbox Investment, a new book praised by reviewers for its sweeping and insightful rendering of the preschool movement. Managing editor Mary Ambrose asks Kirp tough questions about inequities in preschool education, language issues, Head Start, California's failed Prop. 82, and No Child Left Behind.