Volume 6, Issue 9

May 11, 2007

Hot Topics

A bill reauthorizing Head Start and containing new provisions for coordination with the states and competition for provider grants recently passed the House of Representatives. Among other provisions, the bill also suspends the National Reporting System that calls for assessments to measure progress pupils make in Head Start. In 2005, the House also passed a Head Start reauthorization but it died in the Senate. Head Start was last reauthorized in 1998. To read more about the bill, visit http://edworkforce.house.gov/issues/headstart.shtml.
A decline in tax revenues has contributed to a budget stalemate between the Michigan Legislature and Governor Jennifer Granholm, forcing the state's education chief, Mike Flanagan, to notify schools that much of their promised increases in state aid will not come through. In a podcast Flanagan recommended that school districts immediately consider cuts, including pre-K programs that aren't mandated. The governor has recommended a tax increase — something the Legislature is resisting.
Pre-kindergarten in the South, just-released by the Southern Education Foundation, takes a fresh look at state-funded preschool education in the broadly defined 15-state region that includes Oklahoma and Delaware. Drawing on NIEER's 2005 State Preschool Yearbook and a host of other research, the report makes some striking points. Among them are:
  • State pre-K in the South serves 19.4 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds compared to 8.4 percent for the non-South. National average is 13.1 percent.

  • Only 2.8 percent of Georgia children who attended state pre-K repeated kindergarten compared to 4.4 percent for those who attended private pre-K and 5.8 percent for those who had no pre-K.

  • Four-year-olds completing state pre-K in Arkansas, South Carolina and West Virginia achieved a more than 100 percent increase in learning growth in print awareness.

Read the report at: http://www.sefatl.org/pdf/Pre-KSouthReport-Final.pdf.

A new study from the Economic Policy Institute examines costs and benefits to society of two scenarios — one in which public preschool education is made available to all children and one in which programs are targeted to disadvantaged children. According to the author, economist Robert G. Lynch, total annual benefits of a universal program would begin to pay for the program within nine years and would do so by growing margins each year thereafter. The payoff for targeted programs would begin in six years with the margin growing yearly thereafter. While returns would vary by state, universal pre-K programs would yield higher returns by the year 2050. Read the report at: http://www.epi.org/books/enriching/mediakit/lynch_fact_sheet.pdf.
A Harris Interactive survey commissioned by PNC Financial Services Group that included more than 200 senior business leaders says while the executives feel U.S. children are ill-prepared when they enter kindergarten, only 56 percent of them say pre-K is very important. That compares to 73 percent of the general public and 78 percent of congressional leaders in the study who said pre-K is very important. Only 25 percent of the executives said the quality of the new group entering the workforce has improved compared to those entering five years ago.
Researchers were somewhat surprised to find that about two-thirds of U.S. children will undergo a traumatic event such as abuse or witnessing a violent act in their childhood but that few are likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder. According to William Copeland of Duke University Medical Center, whose study appears in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the finding suggests emotional resiliency in children. The study also suggests children react differently to trauma than adults. Copeland said children exposed to trauma had nearly double the rates of behavioral problems and depression.

New on nieer.org



The educational effectiveness of preschool relies on a program's curriculum, or the content of what children learn in preschool and how it is taught. Given the multitude of available curriculum models, confusion regarding which ones are more appropriate for young children overall or specific populations of 3- and 4-year olds is easily possible. Although the field of early childhood education does recommend program practices within a broad range of acceptable methods called Developmentally Appropriate Practices, the field does not promote any single curriculum model as "best," and no state government or federal entity mandates use of just one particular curriculum in their publicly funded preschool programs. However, if one of the goals of preschool programs is to improve children's school success by enhancing their early abilities, programs do need to decide the content of what children should learn, as well as how they will best learn it. The purpose of this report is to provide a framework for decision-makers to use in evaluating which curriculum might be most appropriate for their specific preschool program. The framework consists of a series of questions focusing on the curriculum model and the supports the model developer provides.


While public preschool programs are expanding across the country, there is a lag in participation by the nation's fastest growing and yet most educationally challenged group--Hispanic children. In this brief from NIEER, the authors present information about the Hispanic population in the context of preschool education and discuss issues of access, program quality, and instructional challenges as they relate to addressing the needs of Hispanic families. Many Hispanic children enter school behind their non-Hispanic counterparts and the authors contend that the gap in school readiness is unlikely to improve without an effort to increase preschool participation by Hispanic children and design programs to better accommodate their learning needs. Recommendations include making ELL status a factor considered for targeted programs, comparative analyses of targeted programs, and better reporting systems to ensure quality data for research on Hispanic children and early education policies.

Calendar

May 15, 2007 - May 18, 2007
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Participants will exchange ideas about the quality of services for young children in diverse settings.
June 10, 2007 - June 13, 2007
Pittsburgh, PA – Join early education professionals at the National Association for the Education of Young Children's annual institute.
June 25, 2007 - June 28, 2007
Washington, DC – This annual conference provides participants with opportunities to learn new skills and best practices in working with infants, toddlers and their families.

Early Education News Roundup

May 11, 2007
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Despite lagging the nation in most areas of education, the South is leading the country in educating 3- and 4-year-olds in pre-kindergarten programs, according to a new report. Georgia ranks fifth in the nation for the percent of children served by state-funded programs that get youngsters — primarily low-income — up to speed on math and language skills and reading readiness. The report, released by the Southern Education Foundation Thursday, examines pre-k trends across the United States and in 15 Southern states.
May 8, 2007
San Diego Union-Tribune
A federal initiative to improve the living conditions of service members has unwittingly rendered an untold number of military households ineligible for state-subsidized preschool, which used to be free for them. The military for the past decade has worked with private industry to build, renovate and manage base and off-base housing. However, subsidies to pay for such housing – even though they go directly to private property managers – count as income and put military families over state limits for the free program, called State Preschool.
May 6, 2007
WKRN, Nashville, TN
Children from middle income families are losing out when it comes to their education. According to Dr. Steve Barnett, a national leader in early education, that is because they don't have access to pre-k.
May 4, 2007
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Through investments in high-quality voluntary preschool for at-risk children, by 2050 Wisconsin could reap benefits of $13.60 for every dollar it puts into early learning, according to a study released Thursday. The report estimates that early education programs begun now at a cost of $6,300 per child for Wisconsin's poorest 3- and 4-year-olds would result in more than $5.1 billion in annual benefits by 2050, largely because more children would mature to be taxpaying wage-earners and fewer would fall to crime.
May 2, 2007
River Cities' Reader, Davenport, IA
A study of one program, [economist Rob] Grunewald said, estimated that each dollar invested in the program returned $17 over the course of 62 years. Some of that went to the program participants in the form of higher earnings, but a vast majority of the return came back to the public in the form of lower government costs (for special education, incarceration, and welfare, for instance) and higher tax revenues (from higher earnings).
May 2, 2007
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The Sonics, the environment and family leave were among the issues that dominated this year's debate in the Legislature, but Washington's youngest children quietly walked away as one of the biggest winners. The final $33 billion budget is packed with new money for preschool, prekindergarten and all sorts of child care.
May 1, 2007
Rutland Herald, Rutland, VT
A bill that will bring a new level of organization and support to pre-kindergarten education programs is due to come up for a vote in the Senate this week, and it deserves support. The new law sets up a process to develop high-quality early education programs, in partnership with private providers or through the public schools.
May 1, 2007
The Birmingham News, Birmingham, AL
Alabama already gets the quality part right; state-funded pre-K sites were rated a perfect 10 - one of only two states to receive that honor - by the National Institute for Early Education Research. Where we stumble is on quantity. The state provides a measly $4.3 million a year for pre-K, enough to reach only 2 percent of the state 4-year-olds. Georgia, by comparison, spends $277 million a year on pre-K; Florida spends more than that.
April 30, 2007
The Times-Tribune, Scranton, PA
Thirty one states, including Pennsylvania, have committed to increased funding for pre-kindergarten education in 2007-08, according to the Pre-K Today Pennsylvania campaign, which is run by a statewide coalition that supports the initiative.
April 29, 2007
Chicago Tribune
What preschoolers aren't suited for, in [a Head Start program director Loudell] Robb's opinion, is a 20-minute standardized test that requires them to sit and focus on a series of questions about letters, numbers and vocabulary intended to assess their school readiness. It's a test called the National Reporting System that's required of all Head Start pupils ages 4 and 5 every spring and fall, a controversial program that Congress is considering doing away with.

Resources

This research review from policy analyst Albert Wat at the national advocacy organization Pre-K Now brings together in one easy-to-use publication major economic studies of high-quality preschool education programs. From the long-term studies of the Perry Preschool Project to analyses by University of Chicago's James Heckman on pre-K's impact on productivity and implications for global competitiveness, the research is explained with overviews, summaries of findings, illustrations, guidance on methodology and definitions of commonly used research terms. Read it at: http://www.preknow.org/documents/DollarsandSense_May2007.pdf.