Volume 9, Issue 8

April 28, 2010

Hot Topics

The new edition of NIEER's annual State of Preschool yearbook will be released next Tuesday, May 4 at the AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. As anticipated, the new edition fills in the blanks about how pre-K is faring as the states cope with the recession and it also represents a new high in terms of data collected. Our research staff has added new categories on curriculum and family involvement to our state-by-state database. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
An article in the journal Science reports that when children receive more effective instruction in early reading, they will tend to develop at their optimal learning trajectories but when instruction is less effective, children's learning potential is not optimized and the genetic differences that make it possible for some kids to read better than others are left unrealized. Said another way, poor teaching impedes the ability of children to reach their potential. In conducting the study Florida State University researchers followed 280 identical and 526 fraternal twin pairs in the first and second grades.
The K-12 Common Core State Standards proposed for comment by the Center for Best Practices at the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have received plenty of feedback from the early education community. The mainstream consensus seems to be that while they are step in the right direction, there needs to be significant modification to accommodate children's learning in the early years. This week, NIEER co-director Ellen Frede's blog post is about achieving a "Goldilocks" set of standards in Preschool Matters … Today!
The Florida Senate has agreed to a House plan that cuts the state's Voluntary Prekindergarten Program by less than 1 percent rather than the 15 percent called for in a previous legislative proposal. The old proposal would have forced programs to increase class sizes to as many as 24 kids in a pre-K classroom. Nationally, Florida ranks near the bottom in state spending for pre-K. Current funding is about $20 million less than it was when the program was launched in 2005 even though VPK now serves about 40,000 more kids, reports the Orlando Sentinel's Leslie Postal.
Education Week reports that if approved by the state board of education, new rules proposed by the Illinois education agency would require districts to survey parents of preschoolers to determine language spoken at home, screen the kids for English proficiency, and provide transitional bilingual education in preschools where 20 or more pupils with limited English proficiency speak the same native language.
After undergoing a record five consecutive quarters of declines, tax revenues to the states are currently at roughly the same level as they were 10 years ago, while during that period the nation's population has increased by approximately 10 percent, says a new report from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. However, the severity of the declines has moderated. The National Association of Realtors reports that home purchases increased by 6.8 percent in March and home prices rose 4 percent. Meanwhile, the Labor Department says initial claims for unemployment have begun falling.
The U.S. Department of Education is embarked on a listening tour to discuss critical topics in early learning. The meetings, which some see as a reaction to criticism that the Obama blueprint for re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is light on early education, take place in Washington, D.C., Denver, CO, Orlando, FL, and Chicago, IL.

Calendar

May 4, 2010 - May 7, 2010
San Francisco, CA – At this conference, attendees will explore issues and share insights related to working with children, youth, and families.
June 6, 2010 - June 9, 2010
Phoenix, AZ – The theme for this year's conference is "Emotional Intelligence: A 21st Century Skill for Children and Adults."
June 8, 2010 - June 9, 2010
Perthshire, Scotland – This conference will feature leaders in outdoor experiences who will share their thinking about the conference theme "A Child's Right to be Heard."
June 14, 2010 - June 16, 2010
Lake Geneva, WI – This conference is targeted for professionals who work with children from birth through age 5.
June 22, 2010 - June 24, 2010
Orlando, FL – This professional development event covers four approaches to better teaching and learning.
June 29, 2010 - July 1, 2010
New Brunswick, NJ – The Rutgers University Institute for Improving Student Achievement's Summer Institute 2010 will begin a series of professional development sessions based on McREL's research on the effects of leadership on student achievement.
July 11, 2010 - July 14, 2010
Columbus, OH – The conference aims to guide participants towards the development of innovative strategies integrating early learning in elementary schools.
July 11, 2010 - July 14, 2010
Riga, Latvia – This conference will discuss research, evidence-based practices, and innovations in special education and inclusive services.
July 15, 2010 - July 17, 2010
Nashville, TN – Topics addressed at this conference for family child care providers include child-based curriculum, policies, and quality improvement.
July 27, 2010 - July 29, 2010
Atlanta, GA – At this conference, participants will learn about the Piramide Method of Early Learning as a framework for early care and learning.

Early Education News Roundup

April 22, 2010
The Kansas City Star
Missouri senators have endorsed a plan that would merge the state's two education oversight boards into one responsible for education from kindergarten through doctoral programs.
April 21, 2010
Lansing State Journal, Lansing, MI
But even as educators and others recognize the importance of focusing on early childhood enrichment, tight state and local budgets are making it tough to maintain current programs and start new ones.
April 20, 2010
The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, MA
Word play through rhyme, poetry, song and repetition is important because it reinforces the patterns and parts of word sounds. This is known as phonological awareness, which children need in order read.
April 20, 2010
WJXT, Jacksonville, FL
With every letter and every activity, the goal of Voluntary Prekindergarten is to get children ready for elementary school at no cost to parents. But a new proposal to slash VPK funding could affect children and the quality of their education.
April 19, 2010
The Providence Journal, Providence, RI
A first-ever study of childcare centers in Rhode Island shows that only 10 percent of preschool classrooms and 4 percent of infant-toddler rooms provide "high-quality" programs that nurture development through purposeful interactions between adults and youngsters.
April 19, 2010
Los Angeles Times
Children enrolled in Los Angeles Universal Preschool programs made significant improvements in the social and emotional skills needed to do well in kindergarten, according to a study released Monday. The gains were especially pronounced for English language learners, the study showed.
April 18, 2010
Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, MA
The stories show that many preschool children focus intently on the words they hear and that most are primarily dependent on parents for clarification. Preschool years can, in fact, be a "perfect storm," a short window of opportunity in which factors come together so parents can best provide the basis of language growth.
April 16, 2010
Chicago Tribune
The governor's proposal would slash the state's early childhood education block grant by 16 percent, which means 6,000 students in Chicago public schools could be shut out of the Preschool for All program, which targets academically at-risk children. Though not mandatory, Preschool for All is hailed for giving 3- and 4-year-olds a jump-start with its 2 1/2 hours a day of free instruction.
April 15, 2010
Brattleboro Reformer, Brattleboro, VT
Just like every other division in the Agency of Human Services, early child care is facing cuts as the state tries to balance its budget. Early child care advocates understand that money is tight in Montpelier this year, but this week they are reminding lawmakers and business leaders that dollars taken away from programs around the state trickle up into other parts of Vermont's economy.
April 13, 2010
Kalamazoo Gazette, Kalamazoo, MI
Kindergarten readiness isn't strictly a matter of age, say the experts. Instead, it involves a combination of cognitive, emotional, social and physical factors that can affect a child's academic success.
April 11, 2010
The Topeka Capital-Journal
Proposed cuts to early childhood programs have come as lawmakers grapple with how best to eliminate a budget shortfall in Kansas exceeding $400 million. Both House and Senate proposals for closing the budget gap include cuts for early childhood education.

Resources

This report from Brookings and The Urban Institute provides a first-time analysis of the nation's current spending on pre-kindergartners and kindergartners by examining 2008 federal expenditures from more than 100 federal programs on children ages 3 through 5. Findings show that six programs accounted for approximately two-thirds of all federal expenditures on this age group in 2008: Head Start, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and three tax programs (the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and the dependent exemption). Programs that specifically focus on the care and education of children ages 3 through 5 represent 23 percent of total federal expenditures.
This report from Dutko Research contains a state-by-state analysis of the 37 gubernatorial races along with information on education governance within each state. Analyses include information on the current governor, primary candidates, filing deadlines, primary dates, polling data, and predictions regarding outcomes and/or which way states are "leaning."
This article in the Harvard Education Letter explains how school districts can support new teachers and raise their level of effectiveness early in their careers and as a result, improve student outcomes across the board. The authors maintain that instructionally intensive, high-quality mentoring programs are a promising strategy to support new teacher development. The underlying philosophy of this approach is that when new teachers don't achieve at high levels, it is not because they aren't trying hard enough nor because they don't care about the kids. Rather, it's that they don't yet have the skills or knowledge to provide the deep, complex level of instruction that will engage, motivate, and inspire their students to succeed.
This report by Cynthia Chiong at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop summarizes a 2009 workshop in which experts in cognition, developmental psychology, educational technology, and game design discussed and developed strategies to use intergenerational play to accelerate learning for children who are struggling to master literacy skills in the primary grades. It also includes an exploratory report on intergenerational gaming using board games and gaming consoles such as the Wii.