Volume 8, Issue 20

August 28, 2009

Hot Topics

The early childhood/preschool section of the 41st Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward Public Schools released this week provides some fresh insights. Public support for paying for free pre-K is relatively high, with 6 out of 10 parents willing to pay more taxes to fund free pre-K for kids whose parents can't afford it. Public support for having pre-K in the public schools has also risen, with half of parents now favoring it. The report also provides commentary from NIEER Scientific Advisory Board Member and noted early childhood education expert Barbara Bowman.
Senator Ted Kennedy's tireless advocacy for health care and education, including pre-K, contributed to important legislation that led to improved health and education of children over the five decades spanned by his Senate career. It is noteworthy that the many tributes to Kennedy in recent days attest to his effectiveness not only when his party was in the majority, but also when it was not. Which begs the question: How can the vacuum in children's advocacy be filled?

Perhaps most quoted of all the words Kennedy uttered were these from his 1980 address at the Democratic National Convention: "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." Tributes to Kennedy are available online at http://www.tedkennedy.org and NIEER's interview with him earlier this year is available in the April/May issue of Preschool Matters.
The threat of swine flu spreading among preschoolers is testing public preschool policies that pay according to strict attendance guidelines. The Tampa Tribune reports that Florida providers and the state Office of Early Learning are anticipating flexibility will be needed regarding the Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) rule that providers get paid the state stipend only if children attend 80 percent of the time. By making the flexibility known to parents they hope to avoid parents whose children may have the flu from sending their kids in order to maintain eligibility.
Press accounts indicate the inability of the Pennsylvania Legislature and Governor Ed Rendell to settle on a FY 2010 budget is forcing postponement of classes in Pre-K Counts programs, some of which were set to begin this week. Governor Rendell signed an agreement enabling him to free up some operational money but not for Pre-K Counts. No lesser an education advocate than Bill Cosby has traveled to Harrisburg to help Rendell break the logjam.
When North Carolina's nine-year-old More at Four Program took a 5.8 percent cut for fiscal year 2010, legislators who approved it may not have anticipated the increased demand the program would experience due to the change they made in the kindergarten eligibility date. They moved the date up by a month and a half in order to reduce dropout rates in the later grades. ENC Today reports that the move resulted in 13,000 kids being ineligible for kindergarten and a rush to enroll in More at Four. The report says many have been turned away.
The Tulsa World reports that state schools superintendent Sandy Garret has announced she will not seek a 6th term. Garrett, who was elected to her position in 1990, was responsible for building Oklahoma's preschool program into what is arguably the best in the nation. She departs when her term is up in 2011.
Karen Pittman, president, CEO and co-founder of the Forum for Youth Investment, has been named one of the top 50 CEOs in nonprofits with power and influence. The list is published annually by The NonProfit Times.

Calendar

September 16, 2009 - September 18, 2009
Scottsdale, AZ – The annual NACCRRA conference provides participants with the opportunity to expand their skills while networking with colleagues from around the country.
October 1, 2009
Piscataway, NJ – Join educators, supervisors, and administrators at the first annual conference for prekindergarten and kindergarten from the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, New Jersey Department of Education, and the Center for Effective School Practices.
October 16, 2009 - October 18, 2009
Garden Grove, CA – The theme for the American Montessori Society 2009 Fall Conference is "Montessori Education: Inquiry, Involvement, Insight."
October 24, 2009 - October 27, 2009
Atlanta, GA – Join early childhood educators, administrators and other professionals in education, policymakers, researchers, and child development experts for the National Black Child Development Institute's 39th annual conference.
November 12, 2009 - November 13, 2009
Quebec City – This conference from the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development is designed for researchers, policymakers, and early childhood education professionals.
November 13, 2009
New York, NY – The theme for this one-day conference is "Building Empathy & Resilience: The Role of the Early Childhood Educator."

Early Education News Roundup

August 27, 2009
The Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, SD
A Sioux Falls preschool partnership has helped 194 at-risk 3- and 4-year-olds get ready for kindergarten, but future funding is uncertain as it enters the third and final year of the pilot. With money from the Governor's Future Fund, Sioux Empire United Way and Forward Sioux Falls, Starting Strong provides the same basic service as the federally funded Head Start but allows more low-income families to be served.
August 27, 2009
Babble.com
As top colleges have become more competitive, the pressure to excel has trickled down from high schools to homework-intensive elementary schools. Now, those demands are making their way to preschool.
August 25, 2009
Toronto Star
As it's become clear that knowledge about child development influences beliefs, attitudes and practices of teachers, a specialized degree is becoming the new benchmark for educator qualifications.
August 24, 2009
Connecticut Post
It's like winning the lottery, but then being told how the money has to be spent. Even so, Derby Superintendent of Schools Stephen Tracy will take the $565,684 his district is getting for tutoring, special education and preschool under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
August 23, 2009
The Salt Lake Tribune
Child development experts have long bemoaned the structured, test-driven course of early education. But a national push for universal kindergarten and preschool has raised the stakes. School administrators are now pressed to show these public programs are a worthwhile investment.
August 23, 2009
Dayton Daily News, Dayton, OH
[The Early Learning Initiative] ELI — a partnership between the Ohio Department of Education and the state's Department of Job and Family Services since 2004 — came to an end Friday, Aug. 21, after funding ran out.
August 23, 2009
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
In a far-reaching change in culture and strategy, teachers in Memphis City Schools will no longer be allowed to flunk children from prekindergarten through third grade. It doesn't matter if the child misses weeks of school at a time or has trouble doing the work.
August 21, 2009
The Grand Rapids Press, Grand Rapids, MI
But administrators plan to salvage their preschool program with scheduling changes and use of $250,000 from the district's fund balance. The program, held each weekday last year, will run three days per week, beginning Sept. 22, Superintendent Samuel Wright said.
August 19, 2009
The Grand Rapids Press, Grand Rapids, MI
Education, business and police groups rarely align politically. But in recent years they've stood on common ground over a simple national cause: preschool.
August 19, 2009
The Belmont Citizen-Herald, Lexington, MA
Children in homeless families whose parents do not qualify through the state's welfare program on the basis of work-related activities will not be allowed to enroll in Department of Early Education and Care after Sept. 1. Teen parents looking to find child care so they can return to school but do not meet state welfare criteria will lose access to vouchers on Oct. 1.
August 19, 2009
The Salt Lake Tribune
Like most states, Utah is slowly moving away from half-day kindergarten, swayed by research underscoring the importance of early childhood education for success in learning and life. Reports from school districts about the program's first year show extended-day kindergartners advanced faster than their half-day peers.

Resources

This report from the Alliance for Childhood makes the case that trends in kindergarten practice such as highly prescriptive curricula and high-stakes testing that are not well grounded in research violate established principles of child development. Authors Edward Miller and Joan Almon say the diminishing role of play threatens to compromise children's health and their long-term prospects in school.
This issues brief from Frank Porter Graham calls for a realignment of educational practices, particularly in preschool through third grade, with knowledge gleaned from developmental psychology.
Workshop presentations from the American Federation of Teachers Quality Educational Standards in Teaching June 2009 conference are available online. Among the presentation from the early childhood education track are "Creating Positive, Caring Learning Environments," "Preschool for All: The New Face of Public Education," and "Autism: Strategies to Promote Success in the Classroom."