Volume 8, Issue 6

March 11, 2009

Hot Topics

In his first major speech on education, President Obama made it clear preschool education is the first priority in his education reform agenda. In addition to expanded funding for Head Start and Early Head Start, the president outlined his plan for Early Learning Challenge Grants aimed at encouraging states to raise the bar on the quality of early education, upgrade workforce quality and drive improvements across federal, state and local funding streams. States will also receive incentive grants to support data collection across a variety of early care and education programs, including Head Start. He reiterated his commitment to developing "seamless, comprehensive and coordinated 'Zero to Five' systems." Funding levels are not yet available. View video at http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/03/10/obama.education/#cnnSTCVideo
New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine presented a budget to the state that spends $1 billion less than the state spent in 2006, cuts many programs, and yet includes funding for an increase to 50,000 children attending state pre-K. His budget proposes increasing classroom funding to enable the state to press ahead with the new school funding formula passed last year. That formula requires school districts outside those designated as needy districts by the Abbott v. Burke court decision to provide state pre-K to disadvantaged children. The new formula is being contested in court by the Education Law Center and a decision from the New Jersey Supreme Court is expected this spring.
A study released this month finds that just 1.4 percent of young children had elevated lead levels in their blood in 2004 as compare with almost 9 percent of kids in 1988. The researchers, who studied a sample of nearly 5,000 children age 1 to 5, credit continued lead remediation for the progress.
Researchers analyzing data from a sample of more than 30,000 children have found that kids with fathers 50 years or older performed somewhat less well on a variety of tests of cognitive ability administered at 8 months, 4 years and 7 years of age. They found that the older the father, the more likely the scores were to be lower. The study's authors say that while further research is needed, their findings suggest policymakers should consider promoting awareness of the risks of delaying parenthood or introducing policies to encourage childbearing at an optimal age.
Writing in Newsweek, three prominent experts make the case that parental concern over the safety of vaccination programs is threatening the public health. They say rates of refusal by parents to have their children vaccinated have doubled in some places and are as high as 15 percent in parts of Washington state. The growing lack of confidence in vaccines on the part of the public is evidenced by the fact that pediatricians are spending an inordinate amount of time persuading parents that getting their kids vaccinated is a good idea.
In a word, yes. A recent study by Cornell University shows that in Pennsylvania, increased direct spending for early childhood education services generates more total sales and employment than any other major sector in the state. For every additional dollar spent through Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts and Head Start State Supplemental Assistance Program, $2.10 is circulated in the state's economy.

NIEER Activities

The following NIEER staffers are presenting at the American Education Finance Association (AEFA) Annual Conference in Nashville:

Thursday 3:30 pm - 5 pm (March 20, 2009)
(Under)investing in the Very Young: Benefits in an International Perspective
Milagros Nores, Steve Barnett

The following NIEER staff members are presenting at the upcoming biennial meeting of Society for Research in Child Development (SRCD) in Denver:

Thursday 12:20 pm - 2:00 pm (April 2, 2009)
Worldwide Access to Early Childhood Programs: Where Do We Go from Here?
Jason T. Hustedt, W. Steven Barnett

Determinants of Late School Entry: Early Inequalities in Vietnam
Milagros Nores

Thursday 4:20 pm (April 2, 2009)
Symposium on Prevention, Return on Investment, and Early Childhood Programs
W. Steven Barnett

Friday 8:20 am - 10:00 am (April 3, 2009)
Two Years vs. One Year of State Preschool Education: What are the Long-Term Gains in Language, Literacy, and Math Achievement?
Ellen Frede, Kwanghee Jung

Friday 10:20 am - 12:00 pm (April 3, 2009)
The Impact of Parents' Demographic and Psychological Characteristics and Involvement on Children's Reading and Math Outcomes
Dale J. Epstein

Saturday 8:20 am - 10:00 am (April 4, 2009)
Child Outcomes of the Arkansas Better Chance Prekindergarten Program in Kindergarten and First Grade
Jason T. Hustedt, W. Steven Barnett, Kwanghee Jung

Saturday 2:20 pm - 4:00 pm (April 4, 2009)
Super Why = Super Reading: The Effects of Multiple Viewings of the PBS Program Super Why on Preschooler's Literacy Development
Rachel Sansanelli, NIEER; Amanda Rosenburg, Jane Brown-O'Gorman, & Ann Cami, Teachers College, Columbia University

Calendar

April 2, 2009 - April 4, 2009
Denver, CO - This conference features leading-edge presentations from researchers with multidisciplinary backgrounds.
April 9, 2009 - April 10, 2009
San Diego, CA – Join early childhood professionals from across the country at the two-day training institute that will include both physical activity and instructional-based lessons.
April 13, 2009 - April 17, 2009
San Diego, CA - This conference will provide opportunity for discussing the role of education research in interdisciplinary scholarship.
May 5, 2009 - May 8, 2009
Greensboro, NC – The National Smart Start Conference is devoted to exchanging ideas about early education systems and strategies.
July 20, 2009 - July 25, 2009
Cork, Ireland – The theme for the IFDCO’s Conference is "Celebrating Quality Family Childcare."

Early Education News Roundup

March 11, 2009
Newsday
[Governor Jon] Corzine's $29.8 billion budget contains $25 million to fund more preschool programs in poor districts. That's in line with the state's plan for voluntary universal preschool in five years.
March 10, 2009
The Wall Street Journal
The early education portion of the plan will offer states Early Learning Challenge Grants to improve quality of child care, including improvements to workforce quality. Incentive grants will provide aid for states to better collect data about programs, push for uniform standards and increase help for the most disadvantaged students.
March 10, 2009
CBS News, Political Hotsheet
"Studies show that children in early childhood education programs are more likely to score higher in reading and math, more likely to graduate from high school and attend college, more likely to hold a job, and more likely to earn more in that job. ... Even as we invest in early childhood education, let's raise the bar for early learning programs that are falling short," [says President Obama].
March 9, 2009
The Daily Times, Salisbury, MD
Hearings for House Bill 184 and Senate Bill 234 held last month call on the Maryland State Department of Education to begin discussions with superintendents and school boards across the state about how to bring universal, public pre-kindergarten to Maryland at no charge. To achieve this, MSDE would use the existing draft of Maryland's "Preschool for All Business Plan" as the basis of consultation with county government regarding the contents, costs and staged implementation of the plan.
March 5, 2009
The Washington Post
To help struggling schools, the federal government will use stimulus funding to encourage states to expand school days, reward good teachers, fire bad ones and measure how students perform compared with peers in India and China, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said yesterday. The stimulus law, which will channel about $100 billion to public schools, universities and early childhood education programs nationwide, will help prevent teacher layoffs, overhaul aging schools and educate low-income children.
March 3, 2009
KUSA TV, Denver CO
Coloradans interested in learning more about early childhood services in the state have a new one-stop resource online. The Early Childhood Colorado Information Clearinghouse includes information for parents, professionals, agencies and anyone who is interested in issues involving young children.
March 2, 2009
The Baltimore Sun
The General Assembly is considering a bill that would direct the State Department of Education to finalize a plan to gradually expand pre-K eligibility. Such a plan would ask officials to estimate the cost of prekindergarten expansion using existing facilities that provide high-quality early childhood education programs for 3- and 4-year-olds. Child advocates and educators hope Maryland will eventually provide free public pre-K for every family that wants it.
March 1, 2009
The New York Times
This Morris County community of 6,000 residents and two schools has been among a growing number of suburban districts in New Jersey expanding into public preschool, seeing the benefits of starting early to teach children learning and social skills. Now, more programs may be on the horizon, under an ambitious — some say overly ambitious — plan approved by Gov. Jon S. Corzine and the State Legislature in last year's new school funding formula.
March 1, 2009
The New York Times
Neuroscience has shown that brains develop faster between birth and age 3 than during any other period of life, and that social interaction fosters such neurological development. So, if babies spend a significant amount of time during their early years in forward-facing strollers, might it impede their language learning?
March 1, 2009
Chicago Tribune
Before deciding which preschool suits their child's needs, some parents ask themselves whether preschool suits their child's needs. No laws require universal participation, and the quality of programs varies even within neighborhoods. But Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, says decades of studies point to the cognitive and social benefits of pre-kindergarten programs.

Resources

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) has launched a series of publications and a web page focusing on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and its implementation. The new series provides policy recommendations for spending Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to help more families and improve state economies.
This article in the April 2009 issue of American Behavioral Scientist makes the case that quantity of media exposure to children is less important than the media content and form. Daniel R. Anderson and Katherine G. Hanson, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, write that despite often cited studies, we know very little about the consequences of children's exposure to electronic media.
This article from Pediatrics reports on a long-term study of 872 children whose mothers reported the number of hours their children watched television in a 24-hour period at various ages. Children were assessed at age 3. The authors concluded that television viewing in infancy does not seem to be associated with language or visual motor skills at 3 years of age.
Meghan W. Stuhlman and Robert C. Pianta, University of Virginia, analyzed profiles of more than 800 first-grade classrooms across the country in order to present a typology of first grades. They identified four classroom types ranging from low to high quality and found that characteristics such as teachers' years of experience and class size were not differentially related to the four classroom types.
Read their results at http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/593936