Volume 7, Issue 9

May 16, 2008

Hot Topics

A report just out from the Institute for Women's Policy Research provides national estimates of the per-child costs of pre-K for various levels of program quality and other variables such as length of session and class size. The report shows how relative costs of quality improvements differ depending on existing program design and quality features. And, it shows that changes in per-child costs are not necessarily proportional to changes in the number of hours in a program day.

An online calculator developed by the American Institutes of Research enables users to run scenarios and compare costs of program improvements.
Iowa Governor Chet Culver signed into law a budget that dedicates $15 million toward the state's expansion of public pre-K programs. In signing the bill, Culver reiterated his intent to make preschool available to all the state's children by 2010. The allocation is the second installment of a four-year phase-in of the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year-Old Children. After their first year, new pre-K programs become part of the school funding formula.
The $25 million increase in state pre-K funding proposed by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen in January has been trimmed to a $3 million increase in his new budget recommendations, reports The Tennessean. The move is part of a reduction of $468 million in the total state budget and all but eliminates the 250-classroom expansion Bredesen had planned for the pre-K program. The cuts, which result from what Bredesen calls a "historic" downturn in state revenues, could prolong budget negotiations with the legislature.
The latest census data show that about a quarter of children younger than age 5 in the U.S. are of Hispanic decent. Demographers say the assimilation pattern for Hispanics into society resembles that of Italian immigrants in the last century. Pedro Noguera, professor of education at New York University; and Jeffrey Passel, from the Pew Hispanic Center, discuss the trend and its implications in this interview on National Public Radio.
Warnings of a potentially serious measles outbreak this year followed closely on the heels of an announcement that researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 28 percent of 2-year-olds in their study weren't properly vaccinated, leaving them at risk of spreading preventable diseases. Missed doses accounted for two-thirds of unvaccinated children. CDC says the U.S. could be on the verge of a major outbreak of measles – a disease thought to be wiped out in the U.S. eight years ago.
An observational study of children interacting with web sites like Club Penguin, Webkinz and Nick Jr. shows that children and their parents are often manipulated by the web sites, leading to frustration and tears on the part of the kids. Children’s Technology Review editor Warren Buckleitner, author of the study, says after watching 10 hours of typical web play he was "shocked" by the manipulation. Like Taking Candy From a Baby: How Young Children Interact with Online Environments is co-sponsored by Consumer Reports WebWatch and MediaTech Foundation.

To see up close and personal what Buckleitner is talking about, check out this video from the study posted on YouTube.
We know children learn best when teachers engage them with strong personal relationships and instructional supports like feedback on their ideas and encouragement to think in complex ways. Findings from a study funded in part by NIEER confirm that high-quality teacher-pupil interactions correlate more strongly with children's learning and behavior than rough program quality benchmarks such as teachers possessing degrees or small class sizes.

University of Virginia researchers Andrew Mashburn, Robert Pianta, and colleagues analyzed data on 2,439 4-year-olds from 671 pre-K classrooms in 11 states, and in addition to assessments of classroom environment and interactions looked at measures related to the benchmarks in NIEER's state preschool yearbooks. The quality of the teacher-pupil relationships as measured by structured observations were significantly related to children's gains during the year on standardized tests and teacher ratings. The benchmarks were not, but NIEER Director Steve Barnett cautioned that the benchmarks would not necessarily be expected to relate to the study's outcomes. One implication is that states cannot assume they are producing their desired learning outcomes just because they meet NIEER's benchmarks for state standards.

Barnett noted that several of the NIEER benchmarks are for standards that are not expected to affect test scores, but are important for safety, health, nutrition, the inclusion of art, music, and physical activity in the curriculum, and other aspects of programs that are important for the quality of children’s lives. In addition, two benchmarks that might be expected to affect learning and teaching were not included in the study. The study, Measures of Classroom Quality in Pre-Kindergarten and Children's Development of Academic, Language and Social Skills, appears in the May/June issue of the journal Child Development.


May 20, 2008 - May 23, 2008
Honolulu, HI – This conference will explore the history and current place of men's participation in the field early childhood education.
June 8, 2008 - June 11, 2008
New Orleans, LA – This conference will deepen participants' understanding of the expanding early childhood knowledge base.
June 23, 2008 - June 25, 2008
Washington, DC – This biennial event provides participants with the opportunity to share research promoting positive development in young children.
June 30, 2008 - July 2, 2008
Austin, TX – This conference will feature sessions that will enlighten, equip, and engage conference attendees.
July 8, 2008 - July 11, 2008
San Diego, CA – This conference provides a new approach to developing leaders in the field of child care resource and referral.
July 9, 2008 - July 10, 2008
Washington, DC – The theme for this year's conference for the Partnership for America's Economic Success is "Using the Economic Message in Tough Economic Times."
July 17, 2008 - July 19, 2008
Chicago, IL – At this conference, attendees will learn the latest in early education practice.

Early Education News Roundup

May 15, 2008
The Palm Beach Post
On per-child spending and quality, the National Institute for Early Education Research in March ranked Florida 34th of 38 states that finance preschool. And Florida meets just four of the eight quality standards the group measures, lacking in training and credentials for pre-K teachers.
May 14, 2008
Bangor Daily News
Maine is not doing enough to invest time, energy and money in its youngest residents, [Attorney General Steven] Rowe said. As a result, the state spends more than it should on criminal justice, special education, substance abuse and domestic violence recovery programs, Rowe said.
May 12, 2008
USA Today
Proponents of publicly financed pre-K say the push will pay off in better achievement, higher graduation rates and lower chances that a child will need expensive special-ed services. But they also say the quality of programs is uneven.
May 12, 2008
The Tribune, Greeley, CO
Right now, most of the students who go to kindergarten full time are either poor or at-risk students, meaning they are entering the school system below grade level in terms of reading. But after going to kindergarten full time, educators say those students are either meeting or exceeding the test scores of their peers.
May 12, 2008
St. Joseph News-Press, St. Joseph, MO
Last fall, the preschool moved from serving only children with severe developmental delays to an integrated setting, where children with mild to severe delays, as well as no delays, mix. Integrated programs (also referred to as inclusion) can benefit children with and without disabilities, particularly with respect to social development, according to the National Professional Development Center on Inclusion.
May 9, 2008
KGO-TV, San Francisco, CA
The California Department of Education has just come out with its first ever list of skills preschools should be teaching. The 205-page document is full of recommendations to push children further than many schools are used to.
May 8, 2008
The Birmingham News
The education budget, which the Senate will likely debate today, also would increase spending on prekindergarten by more than $9 million, almost doubling this year's amount.
May 8, 2008
Imperial Valley News, Yuma, AZ
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell today joined Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Member Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) at Jedediah Smith Elementary School's preschool program to highlight a new legislative bill package aimed at expanding quality preschool options for children in California. The bills, sponsored by O'Connell, Preschool California, Children Now, and the California Child Development Administrators Association, will streamline funding for preschool and improve preschool quality.
May 7, 2008
The Times, Shreveport, LA
Louisiana Senate Bill 286 and its twin in the House (HB 722) would make pre-kindergarten programs available to every Louisiana 4-year-old by the year 2013. The potential long-range benefit to the student and the state is considerable, and the hefty price tag that comes along with it should be considered a long-term investment rather than a short-term expense.
May 7, 2008
The Sun, Mount Vernon, IA
With the deadline for applying for a state early childhood education grant approaching, Mount Vernon School District Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert told those attending a preschool forum last week that the district would be applying.


In this Future of Children article, Greg Duncan, Jens Ludwig, and Katherine Magnuson explain how providing high-quality care to disadvantaged preschool children can help reduce poverty. In early childhood, they note, children's cognitive and socio-emotional skills develop rapidly and are sensitive to "inputs" from parents, home learning environments, child care settings, and the health care system. The authors propose an intensive two-year, education-focused intervention for economically disadvantaged 3- and 4-year-olds.
Now that federal Early Head Start has been reauthorized, states should build on that program to expand its capacity and enhance services, says a new report by Rachel Schumacher at the Center for Law and Social Policy and Elizabeth DiLauro at ZERO TO THREE. They outline approaches states are taking as well as future opportunities and make recommendations.
This Foundation for Child Development policy brief looks at six commonly held beliefs about teaching young children who are English Language Learners (ELL) and presents research evidence to help better shape education policies for ELL and all children.
A new case study by Strategies for Children and the Rennie Center for Research & Policy provides an instructive and sometimes cautionary tale for states considering bringing early care and education under one governance system. Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the study documents the challenges encountered in creating the nation's first state-level independent department that consolidates early education and care. It highlights the critical role played by engaged stakeholders, champions in the legislature and strong research in making the case for consolidating governance of early care and education. It also underscores the need to deal with polarization that can contribute to mistrust between the two areas.