Volume 7, Issue 15

August 8, 2008

Hot Topics

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill formally establishing the state Department of Early Education, which was created a year ago, and calling for a universal voluntary prekindergarten program. Titled An Act Relative to Early Education and Care, it directs the new department to create strategic recommendations for a broad range of initiatives such as the Massachusetts Universal Pre-Kindergarten program and to develop a state policy on kindergarten transition. The bill came with no new funding.
The National Research Council (NRC) released the report requested by Congress to inform the process of establishing accountability for Head Start and other early childhood programs. Requested when the validity of the National Reporting System used to measure Head Start’s effectiveness was called into question and the system ultimately discarded, the NRC report spells out in detail what needs to go into the design, implementation and uses of assessment and provides guidelines on transparency of purpose. Early Childhood Assessment: Why, What and How advises extreme caution when basing high-stakes decisions such as funding allocations on assessments.
When Congress passed legislation reauthorizing the Higher Education Act last week, it included a long sought-after provision authorizing the Secretary of Education to award competitive grants to states for establishing task forces that would develop plans for statewide early education professional development systems. The systems would include provision of postsecondary educational assistance to individuals who agree to work in early childhood programs.
American women are more concerned about their economic security than men and are more inclined to believe government should be providing more help in areas such as pre-K, says a poll conducted by the National Women's Law Center. Seventy-five percent of female respondents said the government should increase funding for child care and early education programs. Fifty-nine percent of men supported this view. Fifty-nine percent of women said they were worried about achieving their economic and financial goals over the next five years as opposed to 46 percent of men who said they were worried about that.
Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has been holding what he calls "Conversations on Education" around the state this summer to lay the groundwork for the education improvement plan he says he'll introduce at his State of the State address next February. At a recent summit in Columbus he said classrooms should be less focused on high-stakes testing and more focused on creativity and innovation. Strickland was a psychologist before entering politics, and his wife, Frances Strickland, is an education psychologist who developed a screening test for kindergarten-age children. Listen in on the conversations at The Ohio Channel.
The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act passed by Congress last week bans several compounds in plastics known as phthalates from toys. The compounds have been suspected by some researchers of negatively affecting development in young children. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law. A Newsweek article explains the conflicting research and the toy industry's position.

Calendar

August 25, 2008 - August 26, 2008
Baltimore, MD – This conference will cover topics related to special education and early intervention.
August 27, 2008 - August 27, 2008
Baltimore, MD – At this conference, attendees are given the opportunity to work directly with this office of the U.S. Department of Education.
August 27, 2008 - August 28, 2008
Baltimore, MD – This conference provides technical assistance for those collecting, reporting, and using child and family outcomes data.
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.
November 5, 2008 - November 8, 2008
Dallas, TX – This conference features sessions providing practical information and new research on key education issues.

Early Education News Roundup

August 8, 2008
Bucyrus Telegraph Forum, Bucyrus, OH
According to a report released by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) entitled, "Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2008 Update," the price of child care is rising faster than the average rate of inflation. While the report demonstrates that costs are lower for family child care homes, many of these providers are unlicensed, leaving the health and safety of children in these types of homes unknown.
August 7, 2008
Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN
Called Parent Aware, the program gives participating child care facilities a rating of zero to four stars, depending on staff training, teaching materials, parent involvement and other factors. Licensed child care facilities have volunteered to be part of the program; more than 200 have enrolled to date.
August 7, 2008
Grand Forks Herald, Grand Forks, ND
North Dakota's schools should make student tutoring, state-funded preschool and teacher coaching more widely available as part of a comprehensive improvement plan, a consultant's report says.
August 7, 2008
The Record, Bergen County, NJ
The campaign for universal preschool is a national movement, and New Jersey is considered a model, thanks to its long-established full-day programs for 3- and 4-year-olds in the Abbott districts, the state's neediest. [Governor] Corzine's phased-in expansion, which begins in September, will eventually offer preschool to any low-income child in public school across the state.
August 7, 2008
The Washington Post
As the current crop of youngsters reaches kindergarten age, school systems that would otherwise be losing students will continue to grow or remain stable. They will also need to accommodate an ever-larger number of students who were raised in immigrant households where English was not spoken.
August 6, 2008
The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS
Mississippi is the only state in the South without a state-funded early children education program. Only nine other states nationwide do not invest in some form of early childhood education and only 12 states don't have a state-funded pre-kindergarten program.
August 5, 2008
The New York Times
Parents who sent their toddlers to the well-regarded Mandell preschool on the Upper West Side used to count on getting into the private school of their choice. But with the recent boom in the city's under-5 set, the competition for kindergarten places can rival that of Ivy League admission.
August 1, 2008
The Republican, Springfield, MA
The legislation formally established the [Massachusetts] state Department of Early Education and Care, which was created a year ago, and calls for a universal voluntary prekindergarten program.
August 1, 2008
The Times Record, Brunswick, ME
[Sen. Sean] Faircloth chaired the Commission to Develop a Strategic Priorities Plan for Maine's Young Children, which was established last year through an amendment to "An Act to Ensure the Success of All Maine Families Through Early Care and Education," legislation sponsored by Faircloth. The commission's task was to identify and implement best practices to increase the quality of child care services and address current limits on access to high-quality care based on a parent's ability to pay.

Resources

This paper explores how teachers may inadvertently empower some children while disenfranchising others in the classroom. Teachers' responses to the most powerful children in their classroom showed that in order to empower all children, sometimes it was necessary to disempower some children. Observations demonstrate ways teachers often ignore this aspect of power dynamics, missing opportunities to raise critical questions about their own and children's behaviors. The study deconstructs some taken-for-granted early childhood practices.
For this study, three economists examined the effects of school starting ages using a large sample from the Norwegian army. They found that higher school starting age leads to lower earnings until about age 30. After about age 30, the estimates for earnings become close to zero and are almost always statistically insignificant.
This policy paper from the Center for Law and Social Policy discusses the strategy of states contracting directly with providers to expand and improve infant and toddler care for low-income children as a way to bring stability to providers and tie certain standards to the contracts.