Volume 9, Issue 24

December 17, 2010

Hot Topics

When the latest round of PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores were released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last week, it didn't take long for education watchers to speculate as to why American 15-year-olds continue to perform well below many other industrialized countries in reading, math and science. Many identify various aspects of K-12 education but when one looks at the policies of Shanghai, China and Finland, the two top performers, both offer high-quality preschool education to all children. NIEER co-directors Ellen Frede and Steve Barnett say this is no surprise since the availability of preschool education is a strong predictor of differences across countries in PISA scores. That's the subject of their blog post this week on the Preschool Matters … Today!
A study by Tarjei Havnes, University of Oslo and Magne Mogstad, Statistics Norway, found that Norway's universal child care system had positive effects of the earnings distribution in adulthood for children who attended. They also found that measuring mean impacts of the universal program misses a lot: While child care had a small and insignificant mean impact, effects were positive over the bulk of the earnings distribution, and had sizable impacts below the median. They say this is an important point since their findings could not have been identified by studying meant impacts, the latter being the focus of previous empirical studies of universal child care.
Anxious to increase the quality of the teacher force, policymakers are pushing to use children's test scores for as much as 50 percent of the basis for evaluating teachers through a modeling process known as Value Added Assessment. Recent reports underscore potential dangers of using this approach. A new National Education Policy Center brief says using VAA can be a mistake since research suggests modeling alone is an invalid and unwise basis for making high-stakes decisions such as firing teachers or granting tenure.

An Economic Policy Institute brief says VAA estimates have been unstable, with one study finding that among teachers ranked in the top 20 percent of effectiveness in the first year, fewer than a third were in that top group the next year.

A new report from The Brookings Institution maintains that the correct response to these concerns is to improve value-added measures continually and to use them wisely, not to discard or ignore the data.
A recent report from The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop documents the growing trend among young children to engage in play sessions using applications downloaded to mobile devices such as iPhones. The sessions, most often occurring when the devices are passed to the kids by siblings or adults, last between 5 and 20 minutes and consist primarily of playing games. The report says there is evidence the kids are learning, citing research on the Martha Speaks: Dog Party and Super Why apps that focus on literacy skills. Positive effects were found for children as young as age 3. The report also provides guidelines for app creators and family members with young children.
The Telegraph reports that a study by Durham University found that the reforms such as a new pre-K curriculum introduced to the British system of early education by the previous government had no significant impact on 5-year-olds' literacy and numeracy scores. The researchers analyzed assessments of 117,000 children over eight years. The U.K. opened about 3,500 Sure Start centers during the years the Labour government was in power. While not a formal evaluation of the government's policies, the study does raise questions. Christine Merrell at Durham’s Center for Evaluation and Monitoring said the findings reinforce her concern that the poorest families are not accessing the full range of early education opportunities available to them.
We're happy to welcome economist Timothy Bartik at The Upjohn Institute to the early childhood blogosphere. He launched his investinginkids blog just this week, weighing in with two excellent posts looking at early childhood education in the context of economic development. Bartik's work has been extensively cited both in Michigan and nationally and his book Investing in Kids is due out in January.

Calendar

February 5, 2011 - February 8, 2011
Columbus, OH – The theme of this year's professional development conference is "Building a Literacy Future."
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.
May 2, 2011 - May 5, 2011
Greensboro, NC – The National Smart Start Conference is hailed as the nation's largest conference devoted to early education systems and strategies.

Early Education News Roundup

December 17, 2010
Education Week
So educators may never get to see a second round of the Investing in Innovation program, which helps districts scale-up promising practices, or a brand new fund to help states improve early childhood education.
December 16, 2010
MinnPost.com
Minnesota's first and most pressing need is to improve the quality of Minnesota's early-learning offerings. Considering that half of Minnesota children currently are not being prepared for school, we obviously have our work cut out for us.
December 16, 2010
St. Petersburg Times
The Children's Movement of Florida's legislative priorities include providing health insurance for more children, strengthening preschool curriculum standards and increasing mentoring programs.
December 15, 2010
The Oklahoman
Board members unanimously approved a new school calendar with a shorter summer break, an agreement to bring promising young teaching talent to the district, and agreed to expand the number of children served in all-day prekindergarten programs.
December 14, 2010
The Daily Astorian, Astoria, OR
Research shows early childhood education helps children succeed in school, so they are more likely to go to college, more likely to enter the workforce and are less likely to commit crimes and enter the criminal justice system. A better-educated tax-paying workforce makes for a stronger economy.
December 13, 2010
The Star-Advertiser, Honolulu, HI
Latest figures show a drop in the percentage of kindergartners statewide who attended preschool in the past two years. The number of kindergartners from low-income households has risen by 12 percent since the 2006-07 school year to 51 percent. Without preschool experience, children are more likely to fall behind in kindergarten and continue to struggle in future years.
December 10, 2010
Gloucester County Times, Woodbury, NJ
Increasingly, districts are offering inclusion classes, generally with some kind of in-class support for the child with special needs. Those in the fields of education and psychology see this as an important trend.
December 10, 2010
Las Cruces Sun-News
New Mexico's pre-kindergarten program is experiencing its first significant funding decrease since the program began in fiscal year 2006, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Center on the States.
December 10, 2010
The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, MS
While Mississippi struggles with budget issues and tries to keep up with funding the basics in education, it still cannot ignore a long-time pressing need - early childhood education.
December 9, 2010
The Providence Journal
Statewide, 77 child-care centers, preschools and home-based child-care programs that serve more than 1,800 children have joined a rating system as part of an effort to improve the quality of early-learning programs for young children.
December 7, 2010
The Washington Times
Even as state legislators slice budgets for 2011, many lawmakers have crossed party lines to boost or maintain state spending on early child education programs, according to a report. The upbeat preschool funding report was released from Pre-K Now, a project of the Pew Center on the States.
December 5, 2010
The New York Times
Sixty billion dollars a year would also pay for universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, with relatively small class sizes. Jane Waldfogel, a Columbia University professor, estimates that such a plan would cost between $46 billion and $56 billion a year, depending on class size.

Resources

This ring bound guide is the latest in a series of educational resource guides developed by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation's Community Investment Collaborative for Kids (CICK). It details environmentally-sound building design and facility management practices tailored specifically to the needs of child care centers. It cites the advantages of green design, including reduced operating costs and enhanced health protection and provides detailed advice on design, maintenance, financing and ownership of green facilities.
This updated policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics published in the November issue of Pediatrics updates the organization's recommendations published in 1999. It reflects the dramatic changes in the media landscape over the past decade, expanding the definition of media and includes questions pediatricians should as in their practices. Also included are recommendations for parents, schools, the federal government and foundations.
This review examines the Heartland Institute's report ranking states on student achievement, education expenditures, and adherence to learning standards, as well as a ranking based on an average of the first three. The rankings are based on indices created by the report's authors, and the report highlights the top- and lowest-performing states for each of the indices. The report assigns letter grades to each of the states (plus DC), with a forced distribution: 10 states are assigned A's, B's, C's, and D's, and 11 states must get F's. The report explains how the indices were devised but does not cite any research or provide rationales to support the methodological approach used in their creation. The report acknowledges that it does not control for state variations in demographic or other factors. It nevertheless presents conclusions concerning quality, and it recommends school choice as a remedy. The report's policy recommendations are undermined by the flaws in the report's methodological approaches, its limited and partisan selection of research references, and a clear disconnect between the recommendations and the report's findings.
This study from the Centers for Disease Control looks at state licensing regulations for children in child care centers, small family child care homes and group homes, analyzing 13 dimensions related to nutrition, physical activity and media use. It found that opportunities exist for strengthening state regulation to prevent childhood obesity. Only two states, Michigan and West Virginia, specified that food served should be consistent with Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Only nine states set specific minimum lengths of time children should be outdoors and only eight states set specific time limits on screen time per day or per week in small family child care homes.
This paper by Jane Waldfogel at Columbia University and London School of Economics describes recent efforts to reduce child poverty by Britain, drawing on her book, Britain's War on Poverty. In 1999, then Prime Minister Tony Blair made a pledge to end child poverty, and over the subsequent decade, he and Gordon Brown (initially as Chancellor, and later as Prime Minister) carried out an ambitious and multi-faceted anti-poverty campaign. The paper argues that although their New Labour government did not succeed in ending child poverty, they did make a substantial dent in it, reducing child poverty by more than half if measured in the absolute terms used in the United States.