Volume 6, Issue 4

March 5, 2007

Hot Topics

Northeast governors have picked up the pace of pre-K funding. New York Governor Elliot Spitzer took an early lead with his January announcement of $99 million for the state's universal preschool program, vowing to make it universally available within 4 years. Then Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell joined in with her announcement of $11.1 million for this year and $30.5 million above current levels for the following year to fund more than 4,000 new pre-K slots. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell asked his legislature to approve an additional $75 million to expand state pre-K and most recently in budget-challenged New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine proposed $10 million for state pre-K expansion in school districts that don’t currently qualify for the Abbott Preschool Program.
A just-released report from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) ranks the U.S. and Britain at the bottom of a U.N. survey of child welfare in 21 industrialized countries. The low rankings correlate with greater economic inequality and poorer levels of public support for families than is the case for other countries in the study. Britain and the U.S. also have a higher incidence of single-parent families. On average, 80 percent of children in the countries surveyed live with both parents. In the U.S., 60 percent of children live with both parents and in Britain, it is just under 70 percent.
If Missouri implements a state Senate proposal, it would join 13 other states that have instituted a star-based quality rating system for child care and preschool programs. The proposal, which has gained initial approval in the Senate, would rate child care and pre-K like hotels or restaurants with stars awarded according to criteria established by the University of Missouri Center for Family Policy and Research. All state-licensed facilities would be required to have a rating by 2014. For those receiving state funds, a tiered, quality-based payment system would be established by 2009.
Collaboration with state pre-K was one of many subjects addressed at the recent congressional hearings on Head Start reauthorization. While there can be advantages from better coordination between the federal and state programs, differences between them in areas like curriculum, assessment, and classroom standards can result in burdensome record-keeping and complex funding schemes. Testifying before the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education from NIEER was Co-Director Ellen Frede who drew on her experience with state-federal collaborations in New Jersey's Abbott Preschool Program. To read Ellen’s testimony, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/testimony/022807EllenFredetestimony.pdf. NIEER Scientific Advisory Board member Ross Thompson also testified before the subcommittee on the compelling evidence about brain development during early childhood. His testimony is at http://edworkforce.house.gov/testimony/022807RossThompsontestimony.pdf.
A new volume from the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) ranks the states on numerous aspects of child care standards and oversight. Similar in concept to NIEER's State of Preschool Yearbook, the NACCRRA We Can Do Better report provides quality benchmarks, scorecards and state-by-state profiles. While some states do reasonably well in some areas, the report's authors conclude "many states are doing little to protect the health and safety of children or to promote school readiness." The highest-ranked child care system in the nation is the Department of Defense which out-scored second-ranked New York state by a substantial margin. To read the report, visit http://www.naccrra.org/policy/scorecard.php.
Children in higher quality childcare acquired key markers of language development at a more rapid rate than children in lower quality care, say researchers at the University of North Carolina's Frank Porter Graham Institute. The study sample was demographically homogenous and children were observed at 18, 24 and 36 months of age. Child care settings included a hospital-based, a university-based and a for-profit community-based center. Child to caregiver ratios ranged from 1:8 to 1:2 and children in lower quality care fell progressively further behind over time. The findings will be discussed in the next issue of the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. The study summary can be read at http://www.fpg.unc.edu/%7Esnapshots/snap40.pdf.

Calendar

March 23, 2007 - March 25, 2007
Las Vegas, NV – Join administrators, policy makers, and child care professionals for the NCCA's Annual Leadership Conference.
April 3, 2007 - April 5, 2007
St. Louis, MO – Join preschool teachers, parent educators, and early childhood specialists and child care professionals for the annual Parents as Teachers conference.

Early Education News Roundup

March 2, 2007
Washington Post
Oversight and regulation of child-care centers in many states are disturbingly low, according to a study released yesterday that ranked the Defense Department well above any state for its child-care standards and Maryland fourth in the nation. The findings add weight to a series of similar reports released over the past year, said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.
March 2, 2007
Observer-Reporter, Washington, PA
Pennsylvania's top education official on Thursday defended a proposed expansion of an education-grant program that would have the state spend $100 million more on preschool and full-day kindergarten. Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak told the House Appropriations Committee that boosting the state's three-year-old accountability block grant program was crucial to ensuring that thousands more youngsters are prepared to succeed academically in school - one of Gov. Ed Rendell's top priorities.
February 28, 2007
The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, WV
A growing number of West Virginia children are being enrolled in prekindergarten programs, and experts stress that an early start on education can be a big boost to a child's success in school. West Virginia has an improving track record on pre-school preparation, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.
February 27, 2007
The Bismarck Tribune, Bismarck, ND
State law enforcement officials want increased funding for an early childhood education program. Head Start provides preschool education to low-income families. Law enforcement wants more federal money for the federal program because children who attend are less likely to cross their paths later in life.
February 25, 2007
Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, SD
Critics say proposed new standards for preschools are evidence of lawmakers trying to seize control of families and threatening to drive up already expensive early childhood education programs. Proponents say the standards issue is a simple one of encouraging better education for young children.
February 17, 2007
Orlando Sentinel
When school started in August, more Florida kindergartners were prepared to tackle reading than had been ready in previous years, the state's annual early-literacy screening shows. That makes educators hopeful that the state's new pre-kindergarten program is making a difference.
February 16, 2007
The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, IA
Expanding preschool access to Iowa children has been a widely debated issue during the current legislative session. Iowa lawmakers are weighing legislation to create high quality preschool for 4-year-olds. The bill proposes spending $15 million for three years and $16.2 million during the fourth year of the program.
February 16, 2007
Los Angeles Times
Classroom space in California public preschools is at such a premium that 21% of eligible 4-year-olds would be unable to attend if they all attempted to enroll, according to a statewide study released Thursday. The survey, released by Advancement Project, a national public policy and civil rights advocacy organization, found that if California public schools were to provide universal preschool, there would not be enough room for 117,000, or 21%, of 4-year-olds.
February 15, 2007
The Tuscaloosa News, Tuscaloosa, AL
Head Start, the country’s early childhood development program, would be open to more children and see more money under a bill approved Wednesday by the Senate's education committee. The bill, which would renew for five more years the school readiness program aimed at disadvantaged 3- and 4-year-olds, is expected to go before the full Senate for a vote later this year.
February 14, 2007
Idaho Statesman
The Senate Education Committee agreed Tuesday that Idaho school districts should be allowed to enroll 4-year-olds in voluntary preschool programs. The committee voted 6 to 2 to drop the minimum age for enrolling students in public schools from 5 to 4. The bill now goes to the full Senate. If it passes the Legislature, the bill would let school districts offer pre-school programs on a voluntary basis provided that no state money is used to fund them.

Resources

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with a coalition of national partners, has launched a public awareness campaign on early autism detection titled Learn the Signs. Act Early. CDC says about half of children with developmental disorders are not diagnosed until school age. The campaign is designed to educate parents and child care providers about childhood development, including early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders, and promote early action among parents and health care professionals. Materials are available in English and Spanish, including other resources and referral information by visiting http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/actearly/.