Volume 8, Issue 1

January 16, 2009

Hot Topics

"First, we must invest in early childhood education." Speaking at his Senate confirmation hearing this week, Duncan prioritized early childhood programs as job one in the administration's education agenda and outlined President-elect Obama's Zero-to-Five strategy, which includes greater supports for working parents, early learning challenge grants for the states, universal pre-K quality enhancements and more funding for Head Start and Early Head Start. Duncan, who ran Chicago's school system, drew high praise from senators on both sides of the aisle for his work. Read Duncan's testimony at http://help.senate.gov/Hearings/2009_01_13.
At the request of President-elect Obama's transition team, NIEER Co-Directors Steve Barnett and Ellen Frede have developed recommendations on federal investments in preschool education and child care. They made the following four recommendations for the President-elect to consider implementing in the first 100 days of his administration.

• Stop thinking small when it comes to young children. Pass a stimulus package that includes $15 billion in construction over two years for early care and education for 1 million children under age 5.
• Offer states up to $3 billion over two years in matching grants to maintain and increase their early care and education spending.
• Increase funding for Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant.
• Create the presidential Early Learning Council alluded to during the campaign to coordinate federal early care and education programs and facilitate federal-state cooperation.

Read all of their recommendations in this brief.
House Democrats on Thursday unveiled an $825 billion economic recovery plan, the American Recovery and Reinvestment bill, designed to stimulate the economy. The House Appropriations Committee released a summary of the bill, providing details on the bill's nine major components, one of which is titled "Education for the 21st Century."

Specifically, the bill calls for these investments in early education:
• $2 billion invested in the Child Care Development Block Grant to provide child care services for an additional 300,000 children in low-income, working families.
• $2.1 billion invested in Head Start to provide comprehensive services for an additional 110,000 infants, toddlers and preschoolers from low-income families.
• $600 million invested in IDEA Infants and Families to provide grants to states serving children with special needs from birth to age 2.

In addition, the bill proposes more than $140 billion to improve the quality of K-12 education and to support higher education. Some of the K-12 investments include improving teacher quality, providing comprehensive services to homeless children, and increasing the federal share of special education costs.
A much-anticipated report from the National Early Literacy Panel draws on a large body of research to illuminate early skills that best predict later success in decoding, reading comprehension, and spelling achievement. Developing Early Literacy also identifies interventions and instructional approaches that improve children's early literacy skills as well as areas where further research is needed.

"This report provides important clues about early skills that are associated with later learning, but the results need to be viewed with caution as they are mostly corelational. For example, the report finds that a young child who can rapidly identify letters or remember a string of letters will likely be a better reader. However, it does not follow that if we drill 4-year-olds in rapid letter naming or memorizing strings of letters, this will result in better reading. These types of discrete skills are indicative of cognitive processing speed, which is likely the underlying ability that affects both rapid letter naming and later reading skill. The one is unlikely to cause the other," says NIEER Co-Director Ellen Frede.

Serving on the National Early Literacy Panel was NIEER Senior Research Fellow and Rutgers Professor Dorothy Strickland. She and NIEER Assistant Research Professor Shannon Riley-Ayers co-authored Early Literacy: Policy and Practice in the Preschool Years.
The Albert Shanker Institute answers that question in their new report Preschool Curriculum: What's In It for Children and Teachers?. Drawing on the research, Tanya S. Wright and Susan B. Neuman offer guidance to practitioners and policymakers, covering key content areas such as oral language, pre-literacy, mathematics and science. The Institute is endowed by the American Federation of Teachers.
Findings from a Bush Foundation cost-benefit study in Minnesota peg the costs incurred by the state's K-12 system due to children who are unprepared for kindergarten at $113 million. That's a big piece of the $377 million the study estimates it would cost to provide two years of high-quality pre-K to all low-income 3-year-olds not currently getting early education.
Like many governors these days, Vermont Governor James H. Douglas is talking about painful cuts that must be made in the state budget. When it comes to early education, his tone changes, however. In his inaugural address, Douglas said spending for public education reveals a "startling imbalance" in spending for early education, K-12, and higher education. He is recommending a 20 percent increase in funding for early education and higher education as a first step toward correcting that imbalance.
Writing in Politico, former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Hugh Shelton and former Navy Secretary John H. Dalton paint a stark picture of the pool of candidates from which the military draws recruits: more than 72 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds do not meet the basic educational, physical and moral standards required for service. They call for providing at-risk children with high-quality early education as the most reliable way to improve the pool. Not providing it could pose a threat to our national security, they say. Shelton and Dalton have joined with other retired military leaders to form a nonprofit organization aptly named "Mission: Readiness" that will advocate for this and other remedies.

Calendar

February 18, 2009 - February 21, 2009
Austin TX – The National Association for Bilingual Education's annual conference boasts the largest gathering of parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers dedicated to serving English Language Learners in the United States.
February 26, 2009 - March 1, 2009
New Orleans, LA – The theme for this year's conference is "Education for Peace and Social Justice."
March 10, 2009 - March 14, 2009
Washington, DC – Join with more than 600 participants from across the nation at NACCRRA's Policy Symposium to explore the latest developments in child care resource and referral.

Early Education News Roundup

January 16, 2009
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA
More early childhood education and better support for working families will be key to moving Louisiana families out of poverty, state and national experts said Thursday. The majority of [Child Poverty Council] members said expansion of early childhood education and child-care assistance were the most effective strategies in achieving the council's goal, according to a survey conducted by the council's consultants.
January 13, 2009
Congressional Quarterly, Washington, DC
Arne Duncan, President-elect Barack Obama's pick for Education secretary, promised a new emphasis on early childhood education at his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Duncan said he would work to do something "dramatically better" in early childhood education, and he said Obama was committed to the creation of a commission on early childhood education.
January 12, 2009
The Cambridge Chronicle, Cambridge, MA
Economists have backed up Churchill's instinct with hard data: public investment in the institutions, programs, and systems that support the healthy development of all young children in a community yields a high rate of return. Indeed, there are few public investments that are likely to bring better societal benefits or larger long-term monetary savings.
January 9, 2009
The Christian Science Monitor
In this report, some of the findings reinforce the value of common practices, such as teaching young children the alphabet. But "some of the patterns are different from what people predicted, and that's going to change practice," says Timothy Shanahan, chairman of the National Early Literacy Panel, which released the report Thursday.
January 8, 2009
Congressional Quarterly, Washington, DC
Advocates of early childhood education initiatives such as Head Start are lobbying for early childhood funding to be included in the stimulus, but lawmakers and education experts say they may be disappointed. Those calling for Head Start funds in the stimulus, however, argue that increased funding is an infrastructure investment.
January 6, 2009
The Miami Herald
Aside from going after non-classroom spending like bus services for kids in magnet schools, instructional materials and online classrooms, the Legislature is looking at adding more children to pre-K classrooms. As it is, about 59 percent of Florida kids take advantage of the program.
January 5, 2009
Keloland TV, Sioux Falls, SD
This legislative session, South Dakota lawmakers will consider a state-funded pre-k program for your kids. The state is one of only 12 without such a program, and one senator says the legislature needs to revisit the issue.
January 4, 2009
The Forum, Fargo, ND
The issue of pre-K schooling has been often overshadowed or dismissed in North Dakota – one of only about eight states not spending any money on pre-K programs. But there is a growing movement among lawmakers and school officials to change that this year.

Resources

This 13th annual edition of Education Week's national education survey tracks state policies across key areas of education for the 50 states from preschool on. The 2009 edition finds, for instance, that all states but North Dakota have early learning standards that are aligned with elementary-grade academic standards. A special theme in this edition is English Language Learners.
This latest volume from Stateline.org chronicles the significant economic and policy developments that have occurred in the states over the past year and looks ahead to 2009. The authors discuss key issues such as the state of the public safety net in various states, the relevance of measures of need such as the poverty line, and the prospects for federal help in various areas. To request a print copy of the report, click here.
This report from RAND examines the quality rating systems of five states that adopted such systems – Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania – and concludes with recommendations based on the lessons learned from these states.
This RAND paper studies the current child care options for military families, finding room for improvement in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) child care system. The paper provides recommendations for the DoD to better meet the child care needs of military families.