Volume 8, Issue 11

May 8, 2009

Hot Topics

There were pleasant surprises for early education in the Department of Education FY 2010 budget proposal released yesterday. Among them were two new programs — one to fund Title I preschool programs and another to help states raise pre-K program quality.

Highlights include:
• $500 million for a new program of Title I Early Childhood Grants, which would encourage local education agencies to use a portion of the increase in Title I Grants to start or expand Title I preschool programs.
• $300 million for the new Early Learning Challenge Fund, a component of the president's Zero-to-Five initiative that will provide grants to state education agencies for the development of state plans and infrastructure to raise the quality of publicly funded early learning programs.
• $370.4 million for an expanded Striving Readers program that, in addition to promoting the development and implementation of research-based interventions that improve the skills of teenage students who are reading below grade level, would provide demonstration grants to local education agencies to implement comprehensive and coherent programs of reading instruction for children in the elementary grades.
• $162.5 million for Early Reading First, an increase of $50 million, for support of an additional 52 grants to enable early childhood programs to improve the quality of their early literacy services for preschool-aged children.
• $10 million for the Promise Neighborhoods initiative to provide 1-year planning grants to non-profit, community-based organizations to enable them to develop plans and establish partnerships for the development of comprehensive neighborhood programs for children and youth, from birth through college.

The proposed budget eliminates Even Start, the 20-year-old program supporting family literacy through early childhood education and adult education. National evaluations have found that children and adults participating in the program made no greater literacy gains than non-participants. The Obama administration said the resources dedicated to Even Start ($66.5 million in FY 09) would be better directed to other early childhood programs. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services has budgeted $124 million for competitive grants for home visitation programs. DOE's budget summary is available on the web.
A national analysis of state-funded preschool released this week by Pre-K Now finds that as governors confront the fiscal crisis, the majority of them are either increasing or protecting their state's investments in pre-K for the coming fiscal year.

Highlights of the analysis:
• Fourteen governors are proposing to increase pre-K funding.
• Thirteen are proposing to flat fund early education.
• Governors of three states with no public pre-K are proposing new programs.
• Five governors are proposing to cut pre-K funding.
• Total proposed state investment in pre-K for FY 2010 is four percent greater than FY 2009 appropriations.
With funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) now allocated among the states, the push is on to develop plans for accessing the money. Since the intent is to be temporary, stimulative and beneficial to program quality, uses like teacher training and developing quality improvement and rating systems rise to the occasion. Less certain are other uses such as applying stimulus money toward keeping kids in state-funded pre-K where states are cutting funding. A number of resources have been developed in recent days that offer guidance on the various pots of funding contained in ARRA, what the stipulations are, and ways to go about qualifying for funds. The National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center makes them available at its web site.

Meanwhile, a new report from Learning Point Associates and Mission Measurement, titled The Education Stimulus: Too Big to Fail, examines challenges and concerns that are emerging among education leaders regarding application of the stimulus money.
Science has known that an enlargement of the brain in young children often correlates with autism. A study reported in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry points to enlargement of the amygdala, the brain area associated with functions such as processing faces and emotion, as correlating with autism. A brain imaging study of 50 autistic children and 33 control children at ages 2 and 4 found that those with enlarged amygdalas at age 2 were more likely to demonstrate autistic behavior. The report said the autistic children had enlarged amygdalas prior to age 2 and they stayed enlarged through age 4.
Denver Preschool Program CEO James Mejia reports that after 16 months of operation, enrollment has passed the 5,000-children mark, a milestone planners hadn't expected to reach this soon. In 2007, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper pushed for and voters approved a sales tax increase to fund preschool for all in the city.
Yasmina Vinci has taken the helm as executive director of the National Head Start Association. She takes over from Michael McGrady who stepped in as interim executive director 17 months ago following the departure of Sarah Greene. Vinci was the executive director of the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) where she served for 11 years.
President Obama has nominated Carmen Nazario to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services. Nazario served as Administrator of the Administration for Children and Families for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico from 2003 to 2008. During the Clinton administration she was Associate Commissioner for Child Care in the Administration on Children, Youth and Families and later became Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Administration for Children and Families. She's currently an assistant professor at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico.

NIEER Activities

NIEER is offering a series of summer sessions for administrators and other early childhood leaders. All sessions will focus on evidence-based practices and collaborative learning, and will meet at the Rutgers University's Douglass Campus Student Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Topics include math and science, language and literacy, English Language Learners, and instructional leadership in early childhood education. Visit www.nieer.org/pd for more information and to register for courses.

Calendar

June 14, 2009 - June 17, 2009
Charlotte, NC – The theme for the 18th National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development is "Play: Where Learning Begins."
June 25, 2009 - June 27, 2009
Baltimore, MD – The theme for the 19th annual National Association for Family Child Care conference is "Defining New Horizons: Charting a Course to Quality Learning."
June 26, 2009 - June 27, 2009
Albuquerque, NM – The theme of this conference sponsored by the National Child Care Association and New Mexico Child Care & Education Association is "In Our Hands."
July 12, 2009 - July 15, 2009
Cambridge, MA – The theme for this year's summer conference for elementary principals serving children from age 3 through third grade is "Young learners in America's schools: What's in your toolkit?"
July 20, 2009 - July 25, 2009
Cork, Ireland – The theme for the IFDCO’s Conference is "Celebrating Quality Family Childcare."

Early Education News Roundup

May 8, 2009
Los Angeles Times
California voters supported Proposition 10 not simply because it was a humane investment in society's youngest and most vulnerable members, but also because it made economic sense to invest early and prevent costly problems down the line.
May 8, 2009
Education Week
Mr. Obama also is seeking $500 million in federal matching funds that would encourage states and districts to devote a larger share of their Title I money to prekindergarten programs. And he has asked for $300 million to help states better integrate early-childhood programs.
May 7, 2009
Post-Bulletin, Rochester, MN
Early care and education is literally the foundation for all subsequent school success. Many national studies show the value of quality early learning experiences, and an important Minnesota study conducted by the state Department of Human Services demonstrated that children in quality child care are measurably more "ready for K" than are children who lack that opportunity.
May 6, 2009
Austin American-Statesman
The push in the Texas House of Representatives for full-day prekindergarten classes had the weight of 100 members behind it before a vote was ever taken. [But] it will be up to the 10-member conference committee negotiating the budget to say if the state will make a major new investment in prekindergarten.
May 1, 2009
KTUU TV, Anchorage, AK
The Anchorage School Board will look at how to spend about $60 million in federal stimulus money over the next two years on Monday, and some educators would like to see the money used to develop pre-kindergarten programs.
April 28, 2009
WHNT TV, Huntsville, AL
The state Department of Education will be starting a new evaluation of the effectiveness of Tennessee's voluntary pre-K program next month. The five-year, $6 million study is being funded by a grant from U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Science.
April 28, 2009
The Washington Post
The nation's 9- and 13-year-olds are doing better in math and reading than in the early 1970s, but average scores for students approaching high school graduation haven't budged, according to test results released today.
April 28, 2009
Voice of San Diego.org
Despite solid evidence that preschool can have lasting effects on children, even curbing dropout rates and slimming the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their classmates, there is no uniform system for funding it. The fates of different preschools and their different programs will vary dramatically depending on where they get their money, and whether they can find ways to tap the stimulus.
April 28, 2009
Houston Chronicle
Of the 38 states that sponsor pre-K classes, Texas is the only one that doesn't cap student-to-teacher ratios. Pre-K programs, including Head Start, are among the best, most cost-effective ways to propel disadvantaged kids into academic success — but studies show that pre-K works its magic only when the program is of high quality, with trained teachers and a low student-to-teacher ratio.
April 27, 2009
The Salt Lake Tribune
Utah legislators and educators should look closely at an early-childhood learning program created by a law written and promoted by the company the state is now paying $2.5 million to provide preschoolers with computer software.
April 27, 2009
Athens Banner-Herald, Athens, GA
[Pre-K teacher Vickie] Floyd has kept track of Jamarion and the 19 other students in her class since August, through portfolios of their work and other brief, two- to five-minute assessments. In two weeks, she'll review some of the data collected throughout the year to help parents and other administrators decide whether Jamarion or other students need seven more weeks of school.
April 26, 2009
The New York Times
Private nursery schools have enjoyed robust enrollment in recent years, often having long waiting lists in many suburbs around the region. But directors at private nursery schools said they are concerned that the faltering economy and listless real estate market were contributing to a dip in applications and enrollments.
April 26, 2009
The Oklahoman
Although school districts have until 2011 to provide full-day kindergarten, many already are there or are on their way, a state official said. To date, the state has 24 districts not offering any full-day sections.
April 25, 2009
The Philadelphia Inquirer
More than half a million 4-year-olds are obese, and the numbers are even more startling among children of color, according to a government study published this month in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The troubling findings also show that young children are becoming obese before they enroll in school, which is when they are more likely to eat unhealthful meals and vending-machine snacks and soda.
April 25, 2009
The Salt Lake Tribune
Children ages 4 and 5 are supposed to use the program for 15 minutes a day, five days a week, until they enter kindergarten. A cast of cartoon characters guide kids through short exercises about counting, sorting, letter sounds and vocabulary, among other things.

Resources

This book by Gordon MacInnes tells the story of New Jersey's attempt to close the achievement gap between poor, minority children in predominantly urban settings and their more affluent peers in more prosperous school districts. That effort, set in motion by a mandate from the State Supreme Court, resulted in creation of the Abbott Preschool Program which research has shown to be effective at partially closing the achievement gap. MacInnes is a fellow at The Century Foundation and a lecturer at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. He served as assistant commissioner in the New Jersey Department of Education during implementation of the Abbott program.
This report on policy insights from the Governors' Forum Series addresses issues involved in improving student outcomes by creating "seamless" systems of education starting at preschool. It provides perspectives gained from Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK), a five-year initiative funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Policy recommendations as well as case studies from the states are provided.
This report provides the tenth annual mother's index from Save the Children. The index compares the well-being of mothers and children in 158 countries. Sweden, Norway and Australia are at the top of this year's rankings. The U.S. ranks twenty-seventh. Seven of the bottom ten countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. The report provides a number of recommendations to increase early care and education.
This report from the National Center on Family Homelessness says that one in every 50 American children is homeless and provides a state-by-state analysis of child homelessness, ranking the 50 states in terms of severity. According to the report, children experiencing homelessness have twice the rate of moderate-to-severe health conditions as middle-income children, and twice the incidence of emotional problems. They have an average of 16 percent lower proficiency in math and reading and a lower graduation rate.
This report from the Pew Hispanic Center explores the growth in the population of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., paying special attention of children of unauthorized immigrants who are born in this country. Pew's analysis estimates that 11.9 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States as of March 2008 -- 5.4 percent of the U.S. workforce. Seventy-three percent of the children of unauthorized immigrants were born here.