Volume 8, Issue 26

November 13, 2009

Hot Topics

Pre-K program expansion is in retreat or at risk in a number of states, and dire warnings are already being issued for future state budgets. At the same time, new federal resources are aimed primarily at disadvantaged populations. Understandably, fear is growing that more working families who don't qualify for targeted programs, yet can't afford private pre-K, will increasingly have no pre-K. Cutting back on pre-K for working families, as Ohio has already done by eliminating its Early Learning Initiative, is a policy mistake since there is no sharp differentiation in school readiness or later educational success between those above and below the poverty line, says NIEER co-director Steve Barnett. Instead there is a strong linear gradient along which school readiness, achievement, and graduation rates increase with income. Barnett blogs on the subject this week in Preschool Matters … Today!
Retired military leaders belonging to the group Mission: Readiness delivered a shocker recently when they released a report saying that 75 percent of young people in the U.S. can't join the military because they are too poorly educated, are overweight or have a criminal record. Calling the situation a threat to our national security, they made a strong case for devoting more resources to public pre-K to help address the problem. The group called on Congress to act this year. Former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark issued something sounding like a direct order, telling Congress it "must pass" the Early Learning Challenge Grant. That bill, which would provide $1 billion in funding for early childhood programs each year over the next 10 years, passed the House but is unlikely to be taken up in the Senate until it finishes with health care reform.
Early childhood interventions around the world vary widely and not much exists in way of research reviews looking at their effectiveness. To help address that gap, NIEER recently completed a meta-analysis of studies looking at 30 interventions in 23 countries, finding that conditional cash transfers, early care and education, and nutritional interventions all had moderate positive effects in all domains of development. Educational interventions had the largest effects on cognitive abilities. NIEER Assistant Research Professor Milagros Nores, who led the study which appears in Economics of Education Review, says studies looking at effects at later ages found the gains were lasting. She blogs on the subject in Preschool Matters … Today!
Data released this week by Nielsen News shows that American children aged two to five are spending more than 32 hours a week — or more than 4.5 hours a day — watching television. That's four more hours per week than kids six to eleven. The younger kids are also more likely to watch advertising in playback mode than the older group. The Lehrer NewsHour took up the issue in a segment recognizing the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street. It featured Michele Obama, Big Bird, Sesame Workshop CEO Gary Knell and Lisa Guernsey, author and director of the early education initiative at New America Foundation. Read the transcript here.
American Radio Works producer Emily Hanford traveled to Yipsilanti, Michigan, to capture the essence of the Perry Preschool Program, interview Perry teachers, and document the advances in early education that emanated from it and other programs that are the basis of so much high-quality research. Her program, called Early Lessons has been drawing rave reviews. Read articles by Hanford about the project and download the program at the American Radio Works web site.

Calendar

November 18, 2009 - November 21, 2009
Washington, DC – The annual NAEYC conference offers participants a chance to explore early childhood strategies as well as networking opportunities.
December 4, 2009 - December 6, 2009
Dallas, TX – This conference will offer participants opportunities to discover the latest research on infants and toddlers and to discuss the history and future of the field with colleagues.

Early Education News Roundup

November 13, 2009
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Despite tough economic times, Virginia has taken a strong interest in maintaining its programs for early-childhood education, according to a member of the Virginia Board of Education.
November 10, 2009
Knoxville News Sentinel, Knoxville, TN
Nevertheless, getting the pre-K students ready for kindergarten and first grade, it would seem, satisfies a major objective of the program, and that is what the report found. The program was not designed to create super students who would show up their peers for the next dozen years but to put disadvantaged students on a par with those who were tutored at home or attended private preschool programs.
November 9, 2009
Missoulian, Missoula, MT
The state of Montana is gearing up to roll out a program next year that would take the guesswork out of finding top-notch early childhood programs. Called STARS to Quality, the voluntary program would rate early childhood programs, either centers or in-home providers. Programs would be evaluated based on early childhood education research.
November 9, 2009
The Washington Post
It is well known that many preschool parents have become super-anxious trying to give their kids a leg up on kindergarten, but I didn't realize just how nutty things had become until I talked to several dozen preschool program directors. The preschool directors wanted to discuss the worsening anxiety they see in parents who recognize that children are being required to read and write in kindergarten and want to make sure little Johnny and Joanie stay on track -- whether or not they are developmentally ready (and lots aren't).
November 8, 2009
The Star-Ledger
Today, more than 50,000 kids are in these programs, most of them in the poorest urban districts. Class size is limited to 15, and teachers must be college graduates with special training in the workings of the young mind and how it learns.
November 7, 2009
Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, MA
Sherri Killins, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care, told a group of legislators at the Statehouse Thursday only 15 percent of children who apply for subsidies for early education or after-school programs receive state aid. There are 22,774 children on the waiting list, according to Killins, who estimated the cost for subsidizing tuition for all of the children at $214 million.
November 5, 2009
WFSB-TV, Hartford, CT
According to a new study, the state could save millions of dollars in prison costs by getting more children in preschool. The study also found that 28 percent of kids who did attend preschool were sent to jail in their lives while 52 percent of those who didn't attend preschool went to jail.
November 4, 2009
The Standard Times, New Bedford, MA
There are currently a variety of options for delivering high-quality early learning opportunities to Massachusetts' children. This "mixed delivery system" is comprised of community-based child care centers, public preschool programs, after-school and out-of-school-time programs, family child care homes, Head Start programs, and child care provided by families, friends, and neighbors.
November 4, 2009
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Lubbock, TX
Gov. Rick Perry recently named his appointees to the newly formed Texas State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care, a new council mandated by the federal Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007. The council will direct spending on a pending $11.3 million federal stimulus grant and work towards developing a comprehensive system of early childhood education and care that ensures coordination and collaboration among early childhood programs throughout Texas.
November 2, 2009
Memphis Daily News
A new report shows the effectiveness of Tennessee's pre-kindergarten program diminishes after the second grade, but supporters say it still provides a valuable foundation that will help at-risk children succeed. The report commissioned by the state comptroller's office late last week reveals kindergarten students who participated in the pre-K program performed better academically than a group of those who didn't.
October 30, 2009
The Register-Mail, Galesburg, IL
If Illinois pre-K administrators and educators are given the same budget they received last year — which amounted to a 10 percent reduction from the previous year — cuts would have to be made across the state. More than 9,500 3- and 4-year olds could go without pre-kindergarten.

Resources

This report from the New America Foundation, written by education reporter Linda Jacobsen, shows how key state officials, early childhood advocates, and education reformers have taken critical first steps towards a PreK-3rd primary education system in California. Jacobsen recommends 13 steps that California policymakers can take to improve access to and move toward a more seamless system.
Using data from the final two rounds of the ECLS-B, a longitudinal study begun in 2001, this First Look provides a snapshot of the demographic characteristics, reading and mathematics knowledge, fine motor skills, school characteristics, and before- and after-school care arrangements of the cohort at the time they first began kindergarten. Information has been collected from and about these children when they were 9 months old, 2 years old, 4 years old, and at kindergarten entry.
This report is part of a series of publications produced by the Child and Youth Studies Group at The Open University in the United Kingdom. Its purpose is to provide reviews of the best and most recent research, analysis and information on key policy issues leading to effective early childhood programs. Contributors include researchers from around the world, including NIEER co-director W. Steve Barnett and Lawrence J. Schweinhart, President, HighScope Educational Research Foundation.
In this brief from The Century Foundation, Senior Fellow Richard Kahlenberg details why "turnaround" approaches that focus on changing principals and teachers but fail to address issues related to parents and students have fallen short of expectations. In the report, he also looks at charter schools, such as Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) schools and the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) Promise Academies. He finds that, while these schools have been highly successful with low income students, the models would not likely be successfully employed to improve student achievement in the nation's five thousand lowest-performing public schools, which are the focus of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's current efforts.