Volume 7, Issue 14

July 29, 2008

Hot Topics

Preschool children who received the new Building Blocks math program in Buffalo, New York performed 50 percent better on math skills tests than children who did not receive it, report Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama, University of Buffalo professors who developed the curriculum. They evaluated the program in a randomized trial using 36 preschool classrooms in which children were individually pre- and post-tested. In addition to the gains made by the treatment group, they found that the program was effectively instituted by the teachers. Development of the program was funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The research appears in the June 2008 issue of the American Educational Research Journal.
A paper by Harvard researchers David Deming and Susan Dynarski says holding children back so they can enter school at older ages increases the possibility they will end up dropping out with less education and it decreases by a year the amount of time they will pay into Social Security. Dynarski says in the last 30 years, nearly half of all states have increased the age at which a child can legally enter kindergarten and that the practice of red-shirting is growing among parents. She says recent stagnation in high school and college completion rates can be partly explained by children’s later start in primary school.
RAND Corporation researcher Lynn Karoly and colleagues have analyzed the nature and quality of early care and education arrangements in California as part of their larger study focusing on the adequacy and efficiency of preschool education in the state. Using a representative sample of kids one or two years away from kindergarten, detailed information on their care arrangements, and measures of program quality, they found that:

• Center-based programs are the norm.

• Latinos and other disadvantaged groups attend programs at lower rates.

• The centers fall short on quality benchmarks.

• There's plenty of scope for improving the programs.

A substantial percentage of the center programs meet well-established benchmarks for group size and teacher-child ratios but the same cannot be said for teacher education and training. Read the report at http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/2008/RAND_TR539.sum.pdf.
This final report of the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research initiative has been released by the Institute of Education Sciences. It contains findings for the impact of each of 14 preschool curricula on five student-level outcomes and six classroom-level outcomes. Ten curricula show no statistically significant impacts on any of the student-level measures while five show significant impacts on some measures.
After investing more than two years and $14 million, Sesame Workshop is launching a broadband Sesame Street web site designed to compete with offerings from Disney and Nickelodeon and to ultimately be the brand's primary channel of distribution. Based on research that involved preschoolers in the New York area, the site, which debuts August 11, will use Muppets to guide visitors. Preview it at http://www.sesameworkshop.org/.


August 6, 2008 - August 8, 2008
Quebec, Canada – This conference aims to enrich the possibilities of children's right to be educated in a culture of peace.
October 3, 2008 - October 4, 2008
Kansas City, MO – This conference focuses on key issues affecting the learning disabilities field.
October 25, 2008 - October 28, 2008
Atlanta, GA – At this conference, participants gather to gain knowledge and acquire the skills needed to ensure a quality future for all children and youth.
October 27, 2008 - October 30, 2008
Minneapolis, MN – Attendees at this conference will explore ways to improve outcomes for young children with special needs.

Early Education News Roundup

July 28, 2008
The Birmingham News
Alabama and North Carolina are the only states to meet all 10 quality benchmarks of the National Institute for Early Education Research. We have the nation's best pre-K, but offer it to just a sliver of eligible children.
July 27, 2008
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
The first day of school will find special education preschool teacher Nicole Lulow in her best teaching environment in six years at Hernando Elementary School. Lulow has tapped corporate goodwill and volunteer labor to transform classrooms into a learning suite for 3- and 4-year-olds with autism and other developmental issues.
July 24, 2008
The Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI
Federal and state programs provide free or subsidized preschool and daycare for families who qualify, but many parents either pay for preschool or ignore it. The Great Start Collaborative is a group of organizations looking to promote early childhood education in hope of reaping long-term benefits.
July 23, 2008
Daily News, New York, NY
Dozens of siblings mistakenly denied spots in the city's prekindergarten program will be enrolled this fall, but their classes will grow and be staffed by $1.4million worth of extra teaching aides.
July 21, 2008
The Gazette, Colorado Springs, CO
Deciding when to send a child to kindergarten can be difficult for parents. Should a gifted child start at age 4 so she doesn't get bored? Should a less precocious child wait until he's 6 so he doesn't fall behind his classmates? There's no clear-cut answer.
July 20, 2008
Press-Register, Mobile, AL
Research shows that high-quality pre-kindergarten yields academic benefits for children and economic savings for communities. We know that children who have quality early-learning experiences are less likely to need special education placements, grade retention or remedial services.
July 15, 2008
USA Today
After videotaping and carefully analyzing the children's reactions, researchers found that kids watched the TV only in snippets but that it modestly shortened their playtime. TV decreased play's intensity and cut by half the amount of time children focused on a given toy.
July 15, 2008
The Detroit News
Well, the new science of brain development is forging a path that is both illuminating and frightening. It's pushing the frontiers of early childhood practice (that's where parents and child care providers come in) and policy (that's where legislators and business leaders come in). In ways never before understood, we now know that an infant's early circuits of the brain cannot be rewired later in life; optimal flexibility and plasticity of the brain occurs very early, during the first three years of life.
July 15, 2008
Huliq, Hickory, NC
Even among low-income families, mothers with greater social and economic resources were more supportive in parenting their children than those with fewer resources, which in turn influenced the children's cognitive performance. That's the main finding of a new study that considers how economic factors and parenting quality jointly influence children's development.
July 15, 2008
The Leader-Post, Regina, Canada
Research shows that the earlier a child is exposed to violence, the greater the impact that violence will have on their development. A review of such research compiled in the province over the last 12 years is the basis of a new Justice Canada and Saskatchewan Justice jointly funded study led by Dr. Leslie Tutty. One of the recommendations the study makes is the need for more intervention for preschool-aged children.
July 13, 2008
Child Development Media Blog
Finding a preschool that fits parents' needs, budgets, and schedules can be challenging, and parents need to know what to look for to ensure their child is receiving top-quality instruction and care. The National Institute Early for Education Research has compiled a List of Top 10 Pre-K Questions designed to assist parents as they search for the best setting for their children.
July 12, 2008
Statesman Journal, Salem, OR
One study even put a dollar figure to the savings: for every dollar invested in the preschool program, more than $8 in benefits were returned to society as a whole. Oregon would be crazy to turn down such a payoff.


Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro, University of Chicago, analyzed the timing of television's introduction to various local markets and standardized test scores from the Coleman Study. They conclude that television viewing in preschool-aged children had little or no negative effects on cognitive learning and some positive effects, especially for children from households where English is not the primary language, for children whose mothers have less than a high school education and for nonwhite children. Read the article in The Quarterly Journal of Economics.
Charles T. Clotfelter, Jacob L. Vigdor, and Helen F. Ladd of Duke University studied North Carolina teacher data over a 10-year period, concluding that a teacher's experience, test scores, and regular licensure have positive effects on student achievement. Larger effects were found for math than for reading. The effect sizes on student achievement found for teacher credentials was large compared to effects due to changes in class size or socio-economic characteristics of the students. You can read the report at http://www.caldercenter.org/PDF/1001058_Teacher_Credentials.pdf.
This report from the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices describes the nature and activities of early education public-private partnerships, aiming to help governors and policymakers understand the roles they will play if they pursue such partnerships.
This study from the Center for Law and Social Policy and ZERO TO THREE found 20 states have taken action to expand and enhance Early Head Start (EHS) services and recommends state leaders interesting in promoting better outcomes for at-risk children take appropriate action to build on the promise of EHS.