Volume 8, Issue 15

June 18, 2009

Hot Topics

Before adjourning, the Texas Legislature passed HB-130, a bill enabling the commissioner of education to make grants to school districts to offer full-day pre-K that meets considerably higher quality standards than Texas pre-K currently has. Among the enhancements are maximum class sizes of 22, adult-to-child ratios of at least one to 11 and a requirement that classrooms have at least one certified teacher. Districts must use at least 20 percent of the funds to contract with private providers. There is no word yet on whether Governor Rick Perry plans to sign it.
Findings from a new observational study are at odds with the conventional wisdom, which holds that preschoolers are active much of the day. William H. Brown, from the University of South Carolina, and colleagues used direct observation data to describe the physical activity behaviors of 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children, finding that their preschool day was characterized as predominantly sedentary. Vigorous physical activity occurred just 3 percent of the time, with light activity occurring 8 percent of the time and sedentary activity 89 percent of the time. The article appears in the January/February issue of Child Development.
An article in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine reports on a new study that found when the television is on and can be heard in the home children and caregivers use fewer words and have fewer conversations. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington Medical School, said for every hour the television could be heard children heard an average of 770 fewer words from caregivers.
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) says two studies of its series Super WHY! have found that children, especially those from low-income families, are learning core literacy skills from it. One University of Pennsylvania randomized study found that preschoolers who viewed 20 episodes over eight weeks performed significantly better on measures of early reading achievement than the control group. A Florida State University study found that preschoolers attending Super WHY! reading camps showed significant gains in phonics and word recognition skills. PBS says the program, its web site and reading camps feature characters based on recommendations from the National Reading Panel.
The Think Tank Review Project, a collaboration between Arizona State University and the University of Colorado dedicated to providing academically sound reviews, has published NIEER Director Steve Barnett's critique of Reroute the Preschool Juggernaut, a controversial new book by Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
While the drumbeat of dire warnings from budget makers in a number of states continues, there are signs the early education community is busy figuring out ways to steer federal stimulus money to various aspects of pre-K. For instance, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that Springdale School District plans to use Title I stimulus money to expand pre-K programs for low-income kids, enhance professional development, and to purchase software.

What creative ideas for stimulus spending are happening in your local districts?

Calendar

June 22, 2009 - June 25, 2009
Washington, DC - This conference will highlight the crucial role early childhood professionals play in supporting positive outcomes for young children through infant/toddler programs.
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 13, 2009 - July 14, 2009
New Brunswick, NJ – This professional development opportunity introduces participants to evidence-based practices for incorporating math and science into preschool and kindergarten classrooms.
July 15, 2009 - July 16, 2009
New Brunswick, NJ – This session provides participants with opportunities to explore research on literacy development in the preschool and kindergarten classroom.
July 20, 2009 - July 25, 2009
Cork, Ireland – The theme for the IFDCO’s Conference is "Celebrating Quality Family Childcare."
July 20, 2009 - July 21, 2009
New Brunswick, NJ – This professional development opportunity introduces participants to research and theories on supporting English Language Learners in prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms.
July 22, 2009 - July 23, 2009
New Brunswick, NJ – This professional development opportunity focuses on leaders, such as principals, supervisors, coaches, and child care and Head Start center directors, and their role in ensuring quality instruction in preschool to third grade classes.
July 28, 2009 - July 29, 2009
Washington, DC – The theme for the Child Care Bureau's (CCB) 2009 State and Territory Child Care Administrators Meeting is "New Opportunities and Possibilities for Child Care Leadership."

Early Education News Roundup

June 18, 2009
The Brunswick Beacon, Shallotte, NC
The N.C. House of Representatives' budget for 2009-2010 includes a $5 million cut in Smart Start funds, less than the $15 million cut proposed by the N.C. Senate. It also includes a provision to study consolidating all programs related to young children within a year.
June 16, 2009
The Windsor Star, Ontario, Canada
Ontario is moving one step closer to full-day kindergarten after a much-anticipated report recommended sweeping multibillion-dollar changes to daycare and early education in the province. Under the proposed framework, parents of four- and five-year-olds would have the option of enrolling their children in full-day programs that blend learning and daycare.
June 16, 2009
The Denver Post
Child care in Colorado is among the most expensive in the nation, with the average price for two kids costing more than most people's mortgage, according to a report released today. But findings about high child-care costs shed light on why many private preschools and day-care facilities are now seeing a drop in enrollment.
June 16, 2009
Ruidoso News, Ruidoso, NM
More than 67 percent of New Mexico Pre-K children showed a nearly 50 percent improvement across the board, the LFC [Legislative Finance Committee] notes. It also gave the program high marks for having the National Institute for Early Education Research conduct an evaluation.
June 15, 2009
Newsday
Thousands of additional 4- and 5-year-olds on Long Island could be getting free preschool classes if the school districts where they live had chosen to take state money earmarked for the service, according to a new report that recommends expanding future access through greater cooperation between the public and private sectors.
June 15, 2009
The Blade, Toledo, OH
That's why Read For Literacy will embark on a three-year demonstration project, "Creating Young Readers," its first effort to include children. Preschoolers will be paired with individual volunteers, who will read to them much as the adults in their lives would if they could.
June 14, 2009
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH
The investment is in early-childhood development, ensuring that all kids start life healthy, well-nourished and equipped by the time they reach kindergarten with the emotional and cognitive skills required to perform well and achieve. A growing body of evidence clearly demonstrates that our society can make few investments that provide the same high returns, in the short term and over the long run.
June 11, 2009
The Daily News, Memphis, TN
Future funding for Tennessee's pre-kindergarten program is becoming a sticking point among Democrats and Republicans as the legislative session ends.
June 10, 2009
The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC
At the same time, we have a North Carolina industry that in 2007 created 47,000 jobs and generated $1.77 billion in revenue -- more than the Panthers, Hurricanes, Bobcats and all spectator sports combined. That industry, the state's early childhood programs, is a vital part of our economy.
June 9, 2009
ScienceDaily
Early childhood development researchers have discovered that a simple, five-minute self-regulation game not only can predict end-of-year achievement in math, literacy and vocabulary, but also was associated with the equivalent of several months of additional learning in kindergarten. Their results were published in a recent issue of the journal, Developmental Psychology.
June 8, 2009
The Washington Post
Although many supporters of public preschool want it to be offered free to all students regardless of income, cost-conscious states have made it a priority for students from low-income families, who tend to lag behind their wealthier peers in measures of academic achievement.
June 6, 2009
Statesman Journal, Salem, OR
Legislators should hold a few simple truths in mind as they decide whether to adopt proposed funding cuts for Oregon Head Start prekindergarten — the state's cost-effective preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds living in poverty. Children growing up now cannot wait for Oregon's economy to rebound. Head Start saves taxpayers money and closes the achievement gap.
June 4, 2009
The Seattle Times
Washington's decision-makers missed an exciting opportunity this year to address what is a serious learning gap: only 50 percent of our young children are ready for kindergarten.

Resources

This brief from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation and Child Trends examines the various quality measures used for child care in the U.S., the aspects of quality covered by them, and what we need to know in the future to improve child care. Also discussed is the movement of quality measures into accountability systems and ratings systems used to inform parents.
This brief from the Ounce of Prevention Fund and Chapin Hall Center for Children reviews the evolution of home visitation programs and the research evaluating them. It charts improvements made since their inception and discusses the expectations that program designers and policymakers should consider.
This study finds that the most effective reading instruction may vary with children's language and literacy skills. First graders received instruction individualized to match their language and literacy skills (referred to as Child X). The more precisely the instruction was matched to their skills the better their skills progressed throughout the year.