Volume 9, Issue 21

October 29, 2010

Hot Topics

For years, experts have called for data-driven reform of early childhood programs. That push has gained steam in the wake of bold proposals from the Obama administration and the release of Investing in Children: New Directions in Federal Preschool and Early Childhood Policy, the NIEER/Brookings report, released to critical acclaim in Washington on October 13th. Drawing the attention of many is the recommendation from the co-editors, NIEER Co-Director Steve Barnett and Brookings Senior Fellow Ron Haskins, that calls for the federal government to waive some regulations for Head Start and other programs to foster innovation and more effective program delivery — and to conduct randomized trials on programs operating under the waivers. Lisa Guernsey, director of the early childhood initiative at New America Foundation, discusses the issues in her latest Early Ed Watch blog post.
Preschool in the U.S. narrows the achievement gap by as little as 5 percent — largely due to the prevalence of low-quality programs — at a time when research suggests they could be narrowing it by 30 to 50 percent. That assessment and recommendations to start early education on a new quality-based agenda are part of an article appearing in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The authors are Robert C. Pianta, University of Virginia, Steve Barnett, Rutgers University (and NIEER), Margaret Burchinal, University of North Carolina, and Kathy R. Thornburg, University of Missouri.
The pattern begins in the early grades and continues from there: Last year more than 25 percent of school children in 12 of New York City's 32 school districts were chronically absent, missing more than a month of school per year. In five of those districts, 30 percent of kindergarten through fifth grade kids were absent more than 10 percent of the time. Those statistics and a set of recommendations aimed at addressing the problem appear in a new report from the Center for New York City Affairs.
The U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse is broadening its definition of what constitutes the "gold standard" in research to include regression discontinuity design, a method that uses cut-off points to establish comparison groups rather than randomization. The clearinghouse says some single-case studies also make the grade. Some researchers welcomed the broadening of the standards but others urged caution. Speaking to Education Week, Jon Baron, president of the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, pointed out that there have been few attempts to replicate the results of randomized trials with the other methods.
Do a study in a U.S. city and you get good cooperation if you do things right; do one in Santa Marta, Colombia and you get the keys to the city! That's the report from Milagros Nores who is just back from visiting NIEER's research partners in Colombia, where a new long-term randomized study of preschool education is set to begin. She writes about the study and conditions on the ground in Colombia in our latest post at Preschool Matters … Today!

Calendar

November 3, 2010 - November 6, 2010
Anaheim, CA – This conference will address best practices, innovative programs, and research in child care, child welfare, education, family support, parenting, and youth development.
November 7, 2010 - November 9, 2010
St. Louis, MO -- The annual Parents as Teachers conference will focus this year on the future of early childhood and family support programs.
December 9, 2010 - December 11, 2010
Phoenix, AZ – The annual Zero to Three 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.
April 15, 2011 - April 16, 2011
Denver, CO -- This regional conference will offer workshops covering early childhood education topics relevant to teachers, administrators, researchers, health professionals, and policymakers.

Early Education News Roundup

October 26, 2010
Montgomery Advertiser, Montgomery, AL
Gov. Bob Riley, who will hand the reins of state government over to someone else next year, said that for the state to make bigger gains in increasing the state's graduation rate there must be more investment in early childhood education.
October 24, 2010
The Star Press, Muncie, IN
In terms of investment, we found early childhood education outweighed virtually everything else government could do to boost long-run economic performance and enhance educational outcomes.
October 21, 2010
Press of Atlantic City
The class looks like a typical preschool, but the program has a crucial difference. It's an inclusion class of both able and disabled children, ages 3 to 5. And some of their parents have paid for them to be here.
October 21, 2010
The News & Observer, Raleigh, NC
Just as parents baby-proof the top of the stairs to prevent a dangerous fall, policymakers must protect the economy from making a major misstep. Investments in early childhood education are the economic equivalent to investments in gates for stairs and covers for electrical outlets.
October 20, 2010
The Virginian-Pilot
Virginia was chosen to participate because of its high concentration of military families, a network of community partners willing to work on improving education, and the existence of its Smart Beginnings programs and Star Quality Initiative.
October 19, 2010
The Salt Lake Tribune
The commission rightly emphasized expanded early-childhood education, including all-day kindergarten; better curriculum alignments between public schools and higher education; better use of technology; coordinating curriculum with the needs of the business community; improving teaching; and strengthening post-secondary opportunities.
October 19, 2010
The Hartford Courant
The Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement today proposed dozens of reforms designed to close the state's academic achievement gap, from providing quality preschool education for all low-income students to requiring high school students to pass a test before they can graduate.
October 19, 2010
Los Angeles Times
The program pays child-care costs for working parents who take jobs to move off welfare but can't afford day care. The governor's action means child care for 60,000 families will end Nov. 1 unless a stopgap measure is found.
October 17, 2010
The Tennessean
The Tennessee Comptroller's Office last week issued another in a series of reports on the effectiveness of pre-kindergarten education in Tennessee. The report shows students who participated in the state-funded pre-K program outperformed their peers in kindergarten and first grade. By second grade, the advantage fades, and it's undetectable by third grade.
October 17, 2010
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pennsylvania Department of Education on Friday released a year-end report showing that Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts spent $86.4 million on early learning programs serving nearly 12,000 at-risk children ages 3 and 4 in school districts, Head Start, child care centers and nursery schools in 62 counties in 2009-10. The report noted that more than 98 percent of the children showed "age-appropriate or emerging age-appropriate proficiency" in literacy, numeracy and social skills after attending the programs.
October 14, 2010
The Boston Globe
Play is the occupation of childhood, the way young minds learn, authorities on development say. But as kindergarten programs grow increasingly academic, educators differ on whether preschool play should be molded and focused, or given free rein.
October 13, 2010
Education Week
The Denver Public Schools' advanced-kindergarten program, now in its seventh year, draws families who want a faster academic pace for their children, and it helps retain some who might otherwise choose private schools or other districts.
October 11, 2010
The Washington Post
A recent evaluation sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that at the end of the first year of school, children who had attended Head Start did no better than similar children who did not attend Head Start. The bottom line is that taxpayers get little for their annual investment of $8 billion in Head Start.

Resources

This report urges policymakers to use the latest findings in developmental science to improve student learning. Included are recommendations for teacher preparation programs, national accreditation agencies, states, and the federal government. Its recommendations come from a panel of experts commissioned by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education in 2007.
This report from schoolfundingfairness.org rates the 50 states on the basis of four separate but interrelated indicators — funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort, and public school coverage. The results, say authors David Sciarra of the Education Law Center and Bruce Baker, Rutgers University, show that many states do not fairly allocate education funding to address the needs of their most disadvantaged students.
This paper from the Best Evidence Encyclopedia at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education examines evaluations of 28 preschool curricula that were commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education. The authors conclude that, while there was insufficient evidence to conclude a number of the curricula are not effective, the evaluations showed that six of the curricula had positive effects on children's outcomes.
This brief from Pre-K Now reviews the research in regard to family engagement in children's early learning and spells out the elements of successful family engagement. It also offers policy recommendations and outlines best practices for states on monitoring and supporting family engagement activities, training teachers and administrators, and including parent-representatives in early learning advisory councils.