Volume 6, Issue 22

November 30, 2007

Hot Topics

Findings from a study appearing in today's issue of Science magazine show that the play-based Tools of the Mind curriculum taught in regular classrooms with regular teachers can improve cognitive control (executive function) in preschool-age children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The research team, which included University of British Columbia's Adele Diamond and Sarah Munro and NIEER's Steve Barnett and Jessica Thomas, evaluated 147 5-year-olds in a poor urban school district. Children were randomly assigned to a program teaching Tools or another with a more traditional curriculum. The children receiving Tools turned in markedly higher scores on tests requiring them to inhibit tendencies and focus their attention on the task at hand. Executive function skills correlate with later school success and other important outcomes.
Hispanic children who attended state pre-K in Tulsa made significant gains in pre-reading, pre-writing and pre-math skills, but those whose parents spoke Spanish at home or whose parents were born in Mexico showed the greatest improvement. While the programs attended were not bilingual, students whose teachers spoke some Spanish seemed to benefit more. English language test gains were stronger than Spanish language test gains. William T. Gormley, Georgetown University, presented the findings from his latest Oklahoma study at the annual meeting of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management earlier this month.
Education Week reports that California is expected to become the first state to have learning standards for English Language Learners that apply specifically to preschool. Termed learning foundations by the state education department, the standards, still in draft form, employ a "language ladder" to guide expectations regarding children's progress in speaking and storytelling - initially in their native language and as time goes on, in English as well.
The Associated Press and the New York Times report that New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine is expected to unveil a new public school funding formula that bases state aid for schools less by whether a school is in a poor community, as is current practice, and more on the needs of children in all communities. That would change the system by which the state's poorest districts, called Abbott Districts after the New Jersey Supreme Court decision that ordered their designation, get funded. The Court also ordered the provision of high-quality preschool education to children in the Abbott Districts and the state-fund pre-K program now serves nearly 40,000 3- and 4-year-olds in these districts annually. The Associated Press quotes Corzine as saying, "The current method leaves too many children out of luck simply because they live in the wrong zip code."
Our last issue incorrectly reported that under the new Head Start reauthorization bill passed by Congress, all teachers would be required to have BA degrees by 2013. We should have said all teachers would be required to have AA degrees by 2013. Half of all teachers will be required to BA degrees by that time. Our apologies.

New on nieer.org

Prior to becoming NIEER Co-Director, College of New Jersey professor Ellen Frede, who was instrumental in implementing the Abbott Preschool Program while at the New Jersey Department of Education, documented the decision-making process and strategies that went into developing a system of assessment and continuous program improvement. Prepared to inform the National Early Childhood Accountability Task Force, Dr. Frede's paper provides an inside account of what it took to institute research-based accountability for a large new program in a relatively short span of time.



We reported on the final report from the National Early Childhood Accountability Task Force in our last issue. In case you missed it, here's the link: http://www.pewtrusts.org/uploadedFiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/Reports/Pre-k_education/task_force_report1.pdf.

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."
March 26, 2008 - March 29, 2008
Atlanta, GA – The theme of this year's conference is "Beyond Standards: Reaching Every Child's Potential."
March 30, 2008 - April 1, 2008
Louisville, KY – This conference draws together national and international participants to discuss issues of relevance to family literacy.
April 16, 2008 - April 19, 2008
New Orleans, LA – This conference will host sessions on child care best practices, aiming to improve the quality of early care and education across the country.
May 6, 2008 - May 9, 2008
Greensboro, NC – This conference will focus on issues related to the development of early childhood programs and systems.

Early Education News Roundup

November 29, 2007
The Daily Telegraph, London, UK
Children aged around four can be much better prepared for school by using "formal play" to teach them how to remember, pay attention and think, according to a study published today. The Tools of Mind curriculum has been tested for the first time by Prof Adele Diamond of the University of British Columbia and colleagues and they conclude it would be cheap and effective.
November 29, 2007
The Detroit News
About 150 school districts across Michigan are facing state funding losses for this year's School Readiness preschool programs, leaving systems like Lincoln Park scrambling to find additional money or drastically reduce their programs. Due to the late signing of the state's 2007-08 budget, districts just recently learned their School Readiness funding amounts, according to Lindy Buch, director of the Office of Early Childhood Education and Family Services at the Michigan Department of Education.
November 28, 2007
The Gazette, Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado needs to change the way it tests students to assess their annual progress, put more money into early-childhood education and attract and retain good teachers, a commission recommended Tuesday. [Governor Bill] Ritter, who attended the meeting at The Children's Museum, declined to back any specific plans but hinted at supporting the idea of putting money toward getting 11,500 needy kids off the waiting list for preschool programs.
November 26, 2007
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
There is much to celebrate in the fact that 257 new pre-K classrooms opened in Tennessee this year, serving about 4,000 more children in a program whose budget has grown to about $80 million a year. But the program should not be allowed to grow at the expense of the kind of training that will maintain the credibility of the program.
November 24, 2007
Herald News, Hackensack, NJ
To get parents more involved in their children's education, School 11 has come up with a crafty plan: lure parents to school by inviting them to meet cool guest speakers. Every month, the elementary school asks students to bring along their parents to take part in the Power of the Pages Reading Club.
November 18, 2007
The Daily News, Longview, WA
The reauthorization raises the eligibility ceiling from 100 percent of the poverty level for a family of four ($20,650) to 130 percent (26,845), with priority given to the neediest children. It also promotes participation of homeless and migrant children and children who are disabled or learning English.
November 15, 2007
The Washington Post
With two overwhelming votes, Congress approved a bill yesterday that would boost teacher qualifications in federally funded Head Start preschools, expand access to the program for children from low-income families and scrap a controversial system for testing 4-year-olds.
November 15, 2007
Richmond Times-Dispatch
The Virginia Preschool Initiative helps children prepare for kindergarten, but it is underused -- perhaps because of its cost. Although the initiative has more than 5,000 vacancies, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has proposed spending an additional $75 million to expand the program.
November 14, 2007
Toronto Star
Kindergarten math skills are the biggest predictor of future academic achievement - more so than reading readiness or even being able to pay attention, says a groundbreaking study involving Canadian researchers and data.

Resources

A Glasgow University team of researchers studied a group of 545 nursery school children who had the recommended adult level of exercise each week. They found that the adult level of activity was insufficient to affect the children's body mass index but did appear to affect their fundamental skills at physical movement. Professor John J. Reilly, who led the study says children probably need more activity than the adult recommendations to affect body mass index.
This study focused on the daily exchanges between mothers and teachers in a child care center during drop-off and pick-up times. Researcher Wendy Hobbins McGrath found "little evidence" of mothers and teachers working as partners. Mothers and teachers had differing expectations, knowledge and needs. McGrath concludes centers could do a better job of fostering this relationship.