Volume 7, Issue 1

January 14, 2008

Hot Topics

The New Jersey legislature narrowly approved Governor Jon Corzine's school aid funding formula, bringing to a close the era when state education spending for disadvantaged children was focused tightly on court-designated Abbott districts. Corzine's new formula takes into account the needs — and disadvantaged circumstances — of children across the state regardless of the district in which they reside. He is proposing expanding full-day state pre-K beyond the Abbott districts, where 41,000 children currently attend, to low-income children in the rest of the state.
Responding to reversals in California's economy, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed dramatic cuts to public education budgets for FY 2008-09, including child development programs. According to the Sacramento-based Child Development Policy Institute, the governor proposes a $198.9 million reduction in budget for child development and no cost-of-living adjustment. State pre-K's portion of that would be a $28,452,000 cut that translates to a proposed reduction in maximum enrollment of 7,661 slots. The proposed cut for K-12 education is $4.4 billion. Before the cuts could take effect, the legislature would have to agree to them and vote to suspend the constitutional set-aside for education known as Proposition 98.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick wants to create a new Cabinet post for an education leader who would oversee the three branches of education in the state and make it easier to have an effective pre-K through college system. Under Patrick's plan, the Secretary of Education will have approval over hiring commissioners for primary, secondary and higher education, have a voting seat on the boards for those departments and have final say on their budgets. Massachusetts had a Secretary of Education in the 1990s but the position didn't have the powers Patrick envisions for the new position. Patrick has also vowed to increase funding for state pre-K but has yet to specify how much.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is recommending a $9.3 million increase to continue expanding state pre-K across the state. The increase is part of a recommended 6.4 percent increase for the next fiscal year to pay for public schools, higher education and general government operations. A NIEER study released last year found that New Mexico 4-year-olds who participated in state pre-K showed greater improvement in early language, literacy and math development than children who did not.
The Texas Early Education Model (TEEM), begun in 2003 to serve as a blueprint for improving public pre-K in the state, has yet to deliver on its investment, according to an evaluation by the Texas Education Agency. Consultants studying TEEM concluded there has been insufficient accountability in how funds have been spent and little proof most children fared better in TEEM than in conventional preschool. The report documented gains in confidence levels and motivation of pre-K staff as a result of TEEM's coaching efforts and gains for children who were English Language Learners. Susan Landry, director of the Texas State Center for Early Childhood Development at the University of Texas, said the evaluation was conducted as if TEEM were a well-established program with deep roots rather than a start-up.
Newsweek reports technology manufacturers and children's groups gathered at this year's Consumer Electronics Show for a "Sandbox Summit," a meeting designed to explore how young children play with technology. Spearheaded by the Parents Choice Foundation, it featured a paper from Carly Schuler at Sesame Workshop. Schuler said not many products marketed for kids are based on research and urged more be done to bridge the gap. The Newsweek article, including perspectives from Children's Technology Review Editor Warren Buckleitner, can be read at http://www.newsweek.com/id/87168.

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 9, 2008 - February 12, 2008
Columbus, OH – A national literacy conference that provides professional development for classroom educators.
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.

Early Education News Roundup

January 11, 2008
Los Angeles Times
Preschool teachers who are highly stressed because of classroom conditions, depression or other factors are far more likely than their colleagues to recommend expulsion for children with behavioral problems, according to a study released Thursday.
January 6, 2008
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
Among the wishes in the proposed Quality Education Act of 2008, the Mississippi Board of Education wants state lawmakers to spend $20 million on pilot pre-kindergarten programs.
January 4, 2008
The Washington Post
Early childhood experts and parents expressed support yesterday for a measure before the D.C. Council that would extend pre-kindergarten programs to 2,000 more 3- and 4-year-olds in the city. Although researchers and education advocates at the council hearing agreed that pre-K can boost academic achievement in later years, debate centered on what constitutes a high-quality program for D.C. students.
January 4, 2008
The Honolulu Advertiser
A state task force on early childhood education recommended to legislators yesterday a 10-year plan to establish a statewide early-education system starting with a program for 4-year-old children. It would cost $10.5 million to begin implementing the early-education program next year, but costs are expected to increase exponentially over the next 10 years to a total cost of more than $170 million.
January 3, 2008
Santa Monica Daily Press, Santa Monica, CA
Santa Monica College received a $1.2 million bump in its efforts to attract students into the early childhood education (ECE) field, an industry that experts say has dealt with issues of recruitment and retention due to low pay and the ambiguity in going about pursuing such a career. The grant — awarded by the Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) last month — helps SMC jumpstart its new Early Start Pathway program, which allows high school students interested in an ECE job to start their college education a couple of years early.
December 23, 2007
Sun -Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Researchers have identified five programs that have been successful in reducing dropouts, including early childhood programs, a class size reduction initiative, a school reform project based on small learning communities, and a teacher salary increase project. The most successful intervention was the Perry Preschool Program in Michigan, a pre-K program that produced an extra 19 graduates for every 100 students.
December 23, 2007
USA Today
In a growing number of classrooms around the country, 4 is the new 5 and preschool the new kindergarten. Hoping for a future payoff of better schools and sharper students, states are aggressively expanding publicly funded programs to the youngest students — 4 or even 3 years old.

Resources

The Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a think tank noted for its creativity in presenting data, features NIEER's map showing state-by-state break-outs of the percentage of 4-year-olds served by state-funded pre-K in its "Six Snapshots of America" series. Other snapshots, also presenting maps with state break-outs, deal with foreclosure rates for sub-prime loans, schedules of presidential primaries, per-capita carbon emissions, residents without health insurance and percent of bridges found to be structurally deficient.
The first report from the third wave of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), a study of a nationally representative sample of children born in 2001 is now available. It provides descriptive information about these children when they were about 4 years old. Also included are results from language, literacy, mathematics, and fine motor skills assessments, and information on children's non-parental education and care experiences. For example, the report shows that 65 percent of children between 48 and 57 months of age were proficient in number and shape recognition, a component of the mathematics assessment.



Proficiency varied by several child and family characteristics such as socioeconomic status. Forty percent of children from low SES families were proficient compared to 87 percent of children from high SES families. For experiences with non-parental care and education settings, the report shows that approximately 20 percent of the cohort did not regularly attend such settings. The primary non-parental care and education setting was a non-Head Start center for 45 percent of the cohort, a Head Start center for approximately 13 percent of the cohort, a home-based relative setting for 13 percent of the cohort, and a home-based non-relative setting for 8 percent of the cohort.
A new brief on early childhood mathematics education (ECME) comes by way of the latest issue of SRDC's Social Policy Report. Authors Herbert P. Ginsburg, Teachers College, Columbia University, Joon Sun Lee, Hunter College, City University of New York and Judi Stevenson Boyd, a NIEER research associate and Teachers College graduate student, show how research provides a basis for sound ECME and offer nine recommendations to make it happen. The authors conclude that teachers are generally not well prepared to teach ECME and that teacher training and support should be the first priority.
Romania, with its abundance of young children relegated to public institutions, provides the setting for this randomized controlled trial in which abandoned children reared in institutions are compared to abandoned children placed in institutions but then moved to foster care. The researchers, who established a foster care program in order to conduct the research, found that the cognitive outcomes of children who remained in the institution were markedly below those of never-institutionalized children and children taken out of the institution and placed into foster care. The research appears in Science Magazine.