Volume 8, Issue 28

December 23, 2009

Hot Topics

New America Foundation recently published a report spelling out principles to follow in creating high-quality early education systems that enable children to sustain gains made in pre-K as they progress through school. Author Sara Mead concludes New Jersey's experience can inform federal and state efforts to improve quality in early childhood programs, raise student achievement, and narrow racial and economic gaps. Noting that some New Jersey districts have nearly erased the achievement gap, she pointedly cautions state leaders, including Governor-elect Chris Christie, that they risk undoing what the state has achieved if they don't build on it.
Early Reading First, the early education companion to the much larger Reading First program, has outlived its forebearer. Reading First was defunded for lack of evidence that it worked, but Early Reading First received a congressional appropriation of $163 billion for FY 2010 — a $50 million increase over FY 2009. Some who argued that Reading First ought not to have been defunded based on a single evaluation argued on behalf of Early Reading First, which showed marginally better results.
Total third quarter tax revenues collected by the 44 states reporting them show they declined by an average of 10.7 percent compared to third quarter last year, says a preliminary report from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. The bad news has prompted some, including Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, to call for additional federal help for the states. In a recent article on Stateline.org, staff writer Daniel C. Vock discussed scenarios states are facing, the consequences of further deterioration, and earlier precedents for federal intervention going back to the Revolutionary War.
Most states managed to sustain and in some cases expand health coverage for children in their Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Programs in 2009, says a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation. That was due in large part to renewal of the Children's Health Insurance Program and fiscal relief from the federal stimulus program. The report says states' resolve to continue will be sorely tested in the future as budget shortfalls grow and stimulus funding runs out.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University administered 100 hours of intensive remedial instruction to 35 8- to 10-year-old children who were poor readers, finding that over the course of the instruction, the children's brains showed positive increases in white matter. The researchers said their findings support the use of intense behavioral learning programs to address deficits such as reading disabilities or even autism.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

Ever wonder how researchers come up with those return-on-investment ratios for money spent on early education? A booklet just out from the National Research Council summarizes a workshop held on benefit-cost analyses (BCA) earlier this year. In it, leading practitioners of the discipline, including NIEER Co-Director Steve Barnett, address challenges to developing quality BCAs such as ascertaining true program costs and assessing the value to society of gains kids make in their early years. They also point to new approaches that have the potential to strengthen this critically important area of early education research.

This is the subject of this week's blog post on Preschool Matters ... Today!

Calendar

February 3, 2010 - February 6, 2010
Denver, CO – The National Association for Bilingual Education's annual conference is designed for parents, teachers, administrators, and policymakers dedicated to serving English Language Learners in the United States.
February 18, 2010 - February 18, 2010
This web-based conference with feature live, interactive sessions documenting best practices.
March 9, 2010 - March 13, 2010
Washington, DC – The theme for this year's symposium is "Making Connections: All Children, All Families, All Settings."
March 25, 2010 - March 28, 2010
Boston, MA – The theme for this year's AMS conference is "Montessori in the 21st Century."
April 8, 2010 - April 11, 2010
Houston, TX – The theme for this year's National Association of Elementary School Principals convention and expo is "Mission Possible: Enrich Your World and Beyond."
April 20, 2010 - April 23, 2010
Chicago, IL – The theme of this year's conference is "Winds of Change."

Early Education News Roundup

December 22, 2009
The Wall Street Journal
For years, imagination was thought of as a way for children to escape from reality, and once they reached a certain age, it was believed they would push fantasy aside and deal with the real world. But, increasingly, child-development experts are recognizing the importance of imagination and the role it plays in understanding reality.
December 21, 2009
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Southeastern Wisconsin could benefit economically by increasing the quality of early childhood education centers, but doing so presents a daunting tradeoff: more than doubling the expense of caring for infants and young children up to age 5. A three-year study by Public Policy Forum researchers released Tuesday found that a system of high-quality early childhood education programs would cost about $11,500 per child, per year.
December 20, 2009
Statesman Journal, Salem, OR
Getting children prepared for kindergarten is a mutual goal for both early childhood providers and schools. But it's a yardstick that Oregon and local officials are having a hard time creating. The assessment for "school readiness" is an indicator that would show how equipped children are with social and emotional skills coming into kindergarten.
December 20, 2009
The Holland Sentinel, Holland, MI
But the delayed decision has spelled disaster for many of the state's Great Start preschool programs, said Andrea Mulder, parent liaison for the Great Start Coalition. Unfortunately many school programs — which provided preschool to hundreds of at-risk students — were canceled.
December 20, 2009
Bradenton Herald, Bradenton, FL
The state-funded, legislative-mandated program called Voluntary PreKindergarten was created to prepare every 4-year-old in Florida for kindergarten. The program is in its fifth year, yet not one county across the state is anywhere near 100 percent enrollment. Still, enrollment numbers are growing here and across the state.
December 18, 2009
ScienceDaily
Many young children in child care centers are not getting as much active playtime as they should, according to new research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A study published in the December 2009 issue of the journal Pediatrics found only 13.7 percent of child care centers in North Carolina offered 120 minutes of active playtime during the school day.
December 17, 2009
Thompson Publishing Group
To partly pick up where the now-terminated Reading First program left off, Congress authorized and funded a new $250 million literacy grant program to help school districts and school-nonprofit partnerships provide "effective literacy instruction" for children in preschool through grade 12. After certain set-asides, the recently approved appropriations bill for fiscal year 2010 will offer $235 million for competitive state grants.
December 14, 2009
The Texas Tribune
The Texas Education Agency gives school districts continuous funding for half-day Pre-Kindergarten based on a formula. Only specific children are eligible — those learning English, the economically disadvantaged, the homeless, military families and children who have ever been in foster care. Any school that's got 15 eligible students must offer Pre-K services that meet the state learning standards, and there are seven approved curricula districts can choose from.
December 12, 2009
Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY
When it comes to return on investment, a recent report by the University of Kentucky Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) suggests investment in preschool education is tantamount to academic and economic success.
December 11, 2009
New Richmond News, New Richmond, WI
Sixteen school districts opened 4K programs this year. The 333 districts that provide 4K programs are serving 38,075 children, an enrollment increase of more than 4,000 from last year. Of the districts providing 4K, 101 do so through the community approach, which blends public and private resources to allow more options for the care and education of all 4-year-olds.

Resources

This report from the Foundation for Child Development (FCD) examines how decades of attempts to involve low-income parents in their children's education have fallen short, from the 20-year-old Even Start program to parental involvement language in the No Child Left Behind Act. Efforts by the Obama administration aimed at remedying the situation are discussed.
This book from the Urban Institute is dedicated to improving teacher quality. High-profile figures, such as Alan Blinder of Princeton University, Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, contribute articles that challenge current practice and cite lessons gained through experience.
State efforts to implement the elementary and secondary education provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 are described in this report that's based on a survey of state education agencies and governors' offices. It sheds light on the financial condition of state education budgets and progress that is or isn't being made toward education reform.
A new paper from the Center for Law and Social Policy explains the thinking behind the poverty threshold calculation that's in current use, presents two new approaches recommended by the National Academy of Sciences, and provides a break-out on a state-by-state basis for the percentage of the population that would be classified in poverty according to each method used. When adjustments for geographic differences in costs such as housing and utilities are made, disparities begin to appear, resulting in states such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Nebraska having substantially fewer of their populations in poverty than under the current measure. States like Hawaii, New Jersey and New York see considerably more of their populations in poverty.