Volume 8, Issue 8

April 8, 2009

Hot Topics

NIEER's annual analysis of state-funded preschool programs, released today at the Oyster-Adams Bilingual School in Washington, D.C., shows impressive expansion in enrollment and spending. Key findings in The State of Preschool 2008 include these:

• Enrollment increased by more than 108,000 children. More than 1.1 million children attended state-funded preschool education, 973,178 at age 4 alone.

• Thirty-three of the 38 states with state-funded programs increased enrollment.

• Based on NIEER's Quality Standards Checklist, 11 states improved the quality of their preschool programs. Only one fell back.

• State funding for pre-K rose to almost $4.6 billion. Funding for state pre-K from all reported sources exceeded $5.2 billion, an increase of nearly $1 billion (23 percent) over the previous year.

The new yearbook is available online.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined NIEER Director Steve Barnett for the yearbook release. "Early childhood education is an economic stimulus package," he told the crowd. Duncan underscored the need for high-quality programs if they are to be effective and outlined the various ways the economic stimulus package invests in early education, from expanding Head Start and Early Head Start to doing more for children with special needs to providing first time parents with home visits.

Duncan said President Obama's Zero to Five initiative supported by the fiscal year 2010 budget will leverage investments in early childhood education across the country to increase program quality, support coordination among programs and provide parents with information to choose the best programs for their children. He reiterated the president's plan to establish a Presidential Early Learning Council to examine better ways to integrate preschool programs and resources. "We are eager to listen ... but we are also issuing a challenge," Duncan said, referring to the need to raise program quality and the administration's plan to issue Early Learning Challenge Grants to reward quality and innovation. "Your preschool yearbook shows even though the quality of state preschool is up, five states meet fewer than half of the NIEER quality benchmarks. That's five too many," he said. Video of the yearbook release is available from C-SPAN.
The difficult economy and sharply declining state revenues have combined to darken the outlook for the immediate future of state-funded preschool, NIEER Director Steve Barnett warned the group. He pointed out that in most states expenditures on pre-K are entirely discretionary and therefore easier to cut than expenditures for K-12 education. Barnett warned that several of the biggest states are considering enrollment cuts, reductions in program standards, and/or postponement of expansion plans — this despite the availability of new federal stimulus funds. Nine states have already cut funding for state pre-K and more have cuts under consideration. Perhaps the most disastrous proposal so far is legislation in the North Carolina Senate that proposes to zero out funding to the North Carolina Department of Education for More at Four, one of only two programs in the country that meets all 10 of NIEER's benchmarks for quality standards. The state Senate would substitute more poorly funded services through child care, though supposedly with the same standards.

Barnett pointed out that state pre-K receives no direct help from the federal stimulus package and that a new federal program to support state pre-K would be a big plus for expanding quality and enrollment. "We propose that the federal government commit to doubling the rate of growth in state pre-K while raising state quality standards so that by the year 2020 all 4-year-olds in America will have access to a good education," Barnett said. To do this, he said the federal government should match state spending with up to $2,500 for every additional child enrolled in state pre-K programs meeting basic quality standards. In addition, the federal government should facilitate increased integration of child care, Head Start, and state pre-K. NIEER's news release is available online.

Calendar

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.
April 22, 2009 - April 25, 2009
Orlando, FL - This conference is designed to increase the professionalism of the child care industry.
May 5, 2009 - May 8, 2009
Greensboro, NC – The National Smart Start Conference is devoted to exchanging ideas about early education systems and strategies.
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."
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 20, 2009 - July 25, 2009
Cork, Ireland – The theme for the IFDCO’s Conference is "Celebrating Quality Family Childcare."

Early Education News Roundup

April 8, 2009
The New York Times
One of the most drastic expansions of public education in recent American history unfolded quietly in this decade, as dozens of states added free pre-kindergarten classes to their traditional kindergarten to high school offerings.
April 8, 2009
The Wall Street Journal
Daily playtimes are a centerpiece of the curriculum used in Ms. Randle's Head Start classroom, "Tools of the Mind" -- which incorporates training in "executive function," or the mental ability to control impulses and focus on new information, into children's routine.
April 2, 2009
The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC
North Carolina leaders have for some time recognized the critical role of early education in improving the later lives of young children. High-quality early education programs reduce the need for later remedial services, increase completion rates of high school and higher education, lower the rate of "retention in grade" and generally help those children who participate to lead more productive lives. The General Assembly is considering changes in our services to young children that will undo years of progress that have led to improved school performance.
March 30, 2009
Times Herald-Record, Middletown, NY
Early intervention and preschool special education programs were created to solve problems for children before they enter the public school system. Successful early intervention can decrease school failure and crime and increase economic productivity, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.
March 30, 2009
Akron Beacon Journal, Akron, OH
Public schools in Ohio and across the nation need to do more to help youngsters make the move from preschool to kindergarten, according to a report released today by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Education Commission of the States.
March 29, 2009
The Grand Rapids Press, Grand Rapids, MI
How do you know if a child is ready for kindergarten? That's a loaded question among educators, but the Ready For School Council in the Holland-Zeeland area is determined to come up with a common definition since Michigan school officials have not.
March 27, 2009
Education Week
Advocates for early-childhood education are taking President Obama at his word that the billions of dollars for programs like Head Start included in the recent economic-stimulus package are merely a "down payment" on future expansion. So, while other education officials are weighing the risks of starting new programs with federal money that may dry up in two years, early-childhood programs are ramping up for expansion after years of being underfunded, their supporters say.
March 26, 2009
The Star-Ledger
A Superior Court judge declared the state's school-funding formula constitutional yesterday, ruling in favor of the Corzine administration and against advocates for poor students. The decision could abolish the controversial Abbott program, which has sent billions of state tax dollars to 31 low-income districts including Elizabeth, Perth Amboy and Newark.

Resources

This report by Carly Shuler at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop makes the case that education leaders should not overlook the role mobile technologies can play in developing human capital. Shuler writes that despite public concern about the disruptive influence mobile devices can have in schools there is reason to be excited about their potential. She recommends a series of action steps to consider and describes innovative approaches to education through mobile devices now in development.
This publication from the Albert Shanker Institute addresses key areas of preschool content from a curriculum point of view. In four chapters, it addresses oral language, pre-literacy, mathematics, and science. Each chapter indicates appropriate accomplishments for pre-K children, effective instructional practices, key components of a strong curriculum and suggestions for working with English Language Learners.