Volume 7, Issue 17

September 19, 2008

Hot Topics

NIEER Director Steve Barnett reviews the major research on short- and long-term effects of preschool education, evaluates the studies, and discusses the findings in a brief just published by the education policy centers at Arizona State University and University of Colorado. Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications is available at http://nieer.org/resources/research/PreschoolLastingEffects.pdf.
The same week that researchers made public a report on kindergarten readiness in San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsome announced the city's Preschool for All program is ahead of schedule and available in every zip code. That's a good thing since the readiness report showed only a bit more than half of children entering kindergarten in the San Francisco Unified School District last year were near proficient across all skills. Thirty percent fell significantly below teachers' desired level of self-regulation and 11 percent were described as having "a lot of catching up to do." In addition to being a girl and having a well-educated mother, preschool experience was one of the traits that predicted a child's school readiness.
A new report from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government documents a retrenchment in spending by state and local governments on social welfare, including child care that contrasts with the increases that took place from the mid-1990s to the early years of this decade. Since 2002 social welfare spending has been outpaced by spending for medical assistance. Authors Thomas Gais and Lucy Dadayan say given the current economic downturn, states are likely to see further contractions in non-health spending levels.
Researchers studying ethnically and linguistically diverse children who attended a variety of center-based and public school pre-K in Miami say the kids made notable gains in language, cognition and fine motor skills in those programs. By the end of the year, they performed on or around the national average. The study is reported in Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Volume 23, Issue 3.
A new book from the child advocacy group First Focus brings together in one volume the work of some of the leading figures in the early childhood field, including James Heckman, University of Chicago; Isabell Sawhill, The Brookings Institution; and David Kirp, University of California. Big Ideas for Children: Investing in Our Nation's Future covers a lot of ground in fewer than 250 concisely written pages. In it, Heckman "amends" the conclusions about the role of genetics in children's outcomes made in the 1994 book The Bell Curve while making his case for investing in young children.
The cost of early childhood intervention has always paled in comparison to the sticker shock of trying to correct wayward youth through the criminal justice system. A paper by Mark A. Cohen, Vanderbilt University, and Alex R. Piquiero, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, makes the case that the difference between the two is greater than some previously thought since previous estimates of the cost of crime haven't included the foregone wages and lost productivity of the perpetrators of crime.
This isn't the first presidential election in which a candidate has taken a stand on preschool education, but it's the first one in which both the Republican and Democratic candidates have stands on the issue. You can read John McCain's stand here and Barack Obama's stand here.

Calendar

September 23, 2008 - September 26, 2008
Pittsburgh, PA – This conference provides participants with the opportunity to expand their skills while networking with colleagues from around the country.
October 3, 2008 - October 4, 2008
Kansas City, MO – This conference focuses on key issues affecting the learning disabilities field.
October 9, 2008 - October 12, 2008
Budapest, Hungary – This conference will bring together professionals from around the globe to learn about best practices in democratic teaching in preschool and primary classrooms.
October 20, 2008 - October 21, 2008
Sacramento, CA – This conference provides child development leaders with the opportunity to discuss current public policy initiatives with colleagues.
October 22, 2008 - October 24, 2008
Lihue, HI – This conference will focus on how to grow an early childhood organization while maintaining quality services for children.
October 24, 2008 - October 26, 2008
Los Angeles, CA – This conference aims to empower educators to help break through barriers to higher student achievement.
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 26, 2008 - October 30, 2008
St. Louis, MO – This conference aims to bring Head Start leaders together to strengthen their skills in an effort to further positive outcomes for children and their families.
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

September 18, 2008
Hickory Daily Record, Hickory, NC
[Founder of Scope View Strategic Planning Bill] Millett compared the skills children learn in their early years to the launching of a shuttle: If they don't begin learning when they're young — before they're 4, even — then their kindergarten through high school years won't be successful. If those aren't, post-secondary school won't and then the work force that society depends on won't be successful, either.
September 18, 2008
The Newton Kansan
Getting a child ready for success later in life doesn't mean buying educational toys, compact discs or DVDs. Instead, it's about nurturing the more than 700 connections being made in the brain every second — responding to what their brains are doing naturally.
September 16, 2008
The Washington Times
In an era of high-stakes testing and education reforms and revolutions, research has repeatedly proved that one simple parenting technique is among the most effective. Children who are read aloud to by parents get a head start in language and literacy skills and go to school better prepared.
September 16, 2008
WINK, Fort Myers, FL
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, pre-school not only helps provide the math and early reading skills children will need in the first grade, but it also helps them learn how to respect and cooperate with other kids. And experts say the pre-school years are crucial because 90 percent of a child's brain development happens by age three, and their fundamental personality is set by age five.
September 14, 2008
The New York Times
Preschool programs and day care centers have been studied extensively by researchers, and the reports are usually a mixed bag of risks and benefits. But researchers agree it is critical that child care programs be of high quality and staffed by well-trained teachers who are responsive to children's developmental needs.
September 13, 2008
The Boston Globe
The study of 2,558 children said the positive effects of both quality primary schools and preschools "were sufficiently large enough to be important for any government wishing to maximize education achievement." That ought to make the rapid expansion of pre-K a high enough priority for Massachusetts to make universal access a reality.
September 12, 2008
The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, IA
To see how well Iowa's campaign to enroll more children in preschool is going, look at Des Moines: In the second year of the voluntary program, thanks to the new state dollars, 1,235 4-year-olds are attending preschool in district schools, church schools and other private schools, as well as child-care centers. The state dollars mean more children are learning through play that helps them get a stronger start academically, such as developing a grasp of literacy and math skills by pretending to take orders and adding up the bills in a make-believe restaurant.
September 12, 2008
The Akron Beacon Journal
Two local elementary schools are among 10 in the state that will participate in a two-year pilot program to form a stronger link between preschools and the public schools they feed into. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton are each contributing $100,000 for the two-year program, with 10 schools in the first year and an additional 10 added in the second year.
September 11, 2008
The Gazette, Gaithersburg, MD
Last school year marked the end of a rollout of pre-kindergarten programs throughout the county, as a result of 2002 state law that required pre-kindergarten to be offered to all low-income students in the state. Since then, the Maryland Model for School Readiness, an annual evaluation of how prepared kindergarten students are for school, has shown that the number of Prince George's kindergarten students who are ready for school has nearly doubled.

Resources

Researchers conducting a study of the differences between high school graduates and dropouts in Arizona conclude the characteristics predicting which group the child will belong to show up in kindergarten. What's more, the differences between the two groups become more firmly entrenched as schooling progresses, pointing to the years before kids enter kindergarten as the best time to address the behaviors.
The Brookings Institution has published a new brief that summarizes the research on state-funded preschool education, addresses its significance and efficacy, and addresses legislation introduced at the federal level to assist the states in expanding pre-K programs.