Early Education in the News
Several charter schools in Hawaii are opening tuition-free preschool programs with the help of federal money.
Last December, the U.S. Department of Education gave Hawaii a $14.8 million preschool development grant to pay for pre-K programs for low-income children. The development grants, of which there were five total, were awarded to states with either small publicly-funded preschool programs or none at all. Thirteen additional states that have existing preschool programs were awarded expansion grants.
The Boise School District is in its second summer of offering Kindergarten Readiness on its own, after the United Way of Treasure Valley funded a similar class for three years. The district is using $36,000 in taxpayer funds to teach 119 children at four elementary schools, said Ann Farris, district regional director for the Boise High School area . The children are spending nearly four hours a day, five days a week, for four weeks ending Friday.
State law prohibits schools from spending state money on early childhood education. The Boise district gets its money through a local property tax that dates back to before Idaho was a state. Most Idaho school districts lack that taxing authority.
Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have legislation that allows charter schools as well as state-funded preschool programs, and 32 of those jurisdictions have at least one charter school serving preschoolers, but state policies present a barrier to charter preschools in many jurisdictions, according to a new report from The Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
The report, "Charter Schools and Pre-K: Where State Policies Create Barriers to Collaboration," argues that charter preschools have the potential to improve educational outcomes for low-income students and identifies which states allow charter elementary schools to offer state-funded pre-kindergarten programs, how many charter schools serve preschoolers, and what barriers exist to prevent charter schools from offering pre-kindergarten programs.
Interestingly, one of the first MOOCs that attempted to address the educational needs of preschoolers has hardly been studied. As economists Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine noted in recent research at the National Bureau of Economic Research: "In essence, Sesame Street was the first MOOC. Although MOOCs differ in what they entail, Sesame Street satisfies the basic feature of electronic transmission of online educational material. Both Sesame Street and MOOCs provide educational interventions at a fraction of the cost of more traditional classroom settings."
Their research attempts to do two things: examine whether MOOCs can improve educational outcomes, and assess the degree to which early intervention programs can promote student success later in life.
At college career fairs around the country, eager business and finance majors don their best professional look and tote crisp copies of their resumes for a chance to be recruited by a Wall Street firm. But is Goldman Sachs leading an effort to start recruiting future analysts and stockbrokers in preschool?
Over the last several years, the investment-banking giant has thrown its weight—and millions of dollars—behind the expansion of preschool. Now, as the federal education law makes its way toward a reauthorization that for years seemed unlikely, advocates of universal preschool are hoping to convince lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that expansion of early childhood education is possible—even if it means joining forces with Wall Street.
Day care centers offer developmental programs, and kindergarten schools provide instructive programs for specific age groups of children. The teacher-child ratio in day care centers varies depending on the age groups of the children. Most kindergarten programs have one certified teacher and one teacher assistant for each class group. In both types of programs, the teachers and other staff are required to maintain open communication with parents, and to inform parents of the progress and development of their children.
Common sense might suggest that the best early-childhood programs would do better financially. But a new study finds that providers in Southeastern Pennsylvania have little fiscal incentive to reach for high quality.
A Nonprofit Finance Fund study of nearly 150 early-care and education programs in the Philadelphia area found that all of them – no matter their quality rating – operate on razor-thin margins.
So for operators, it's more of a moral choice than a fiscal one to offer robust programming run by college-educated, certified teachers.
"There's a disconnect between our 21st century knowledge about early childhood teaching and these 20th century wages," says Phillips. "We desperately need educated young people to be working with young children, but they look at this job and say, 'It's a pathway to poverty. I can't pay my student loans if I do this.' " . . . "Policymakers and the business community are all now turning to early childhood education as one of the best investments we can make," says Phillips. "But if you don't pay adequate wages, you undermine the very thing that produces that value."
These findings add to a growing body of evidence — including long-term studies drawn from data in New Zealand and Britain — that have profound implications for educators. These studies suggest that if we want many more children to lead fulfilling and productive lives, it’s not enough for schools to focus exclusively on academics. Indeed, one of the most powerful and cost-effective interventions is to help children develop core social and emotional strengths like self-management, self-awareness and social awareness — strengths that are necessary for students to fully benefit from their education, and succeed in many other areas of life.
More than 11 million children under age 5 are in some form of child care in the United States, according to Child Care Aware of America's “Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2014 Report.”
For those families, the average cost of center-based day care ticks in at $11,666 annually, or just short of $1,000 a month, reports the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies.
The numbers often equal or exceed other major expenses, including the cost of transportation, food and even rent or mortgage.
The importance of early education is not disputed. Eighty percent of a child’s brain is developed by age 3, and kids born into punishing environments, who aren’t talked to and read to, are 18 months behind their peers by age 4, “a gap that almost never is going to be made up,” says Mark Shriver, president of Save the Children Action Network, who considers access to quality preschool “the most important social justice question of the day.”
Politicians agree that quality preschool is good and perhaps even necessary. But when it comes to government picking up the tab, that’s where everyone falls silent except maybe Bernie Sanders, who would raise taxes to pay for lots of things. With Republicans controlling at least one chamber of Congress for the foreseeable future, if liberals want to see expanded preschool in their lifetime, they will have to get creative.
The latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, that’s before Congress more formally addresses early education and adds a competitive grant program to help states align their early education system with K-12 schools.
The U.S. Senate’s version of the bill, which passed with bipartisan support (81-17), “ensures that federal funds can be used for early education,” including support for preschool teachers and English learners. In the past, districts were able to use funds for low-income students, referred to as Title I funding under the ESEA, to provide programs for children from birth to age 5, but that ability was never formally stated in the law.
High-quality early childhood education is an investment this country needs to make in order to give all kids a strong start. A comprehensive, national early childhood education program would add $2 trillion to the annual GDP within a generation, according to the Brookings Institution.
Investing in our children will reduce poverty, change lives and strengthen our communities and our economy. Our next president, regardless of which side of the aisle he or she may come from, must invest in kids.
From city halls to Congress, political leaders are embracing the potential benefits of early childhood education. And it's none too soon. As a nation, we're behind the curve. Just last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined two education leaders in the U.S. House – Reps. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y., and Bobby Scott, D-Va. – to pen an article highlighting America's weak standing (31 out of 39) among advanced countries when it comes to preschool enrollment for 4-year-olds.
What other countries know – and what we're just catching on to – is that early childhood education can yield a high return on investment. Most prominently, Nobel Laureate James Heckman has shown that early childhood investments improve cognitive development; build the so-called soft skills – such as motivation and self-control – that children need for lifelong success; and reduce the social costs associated with fighting crime and poverty.
Gov. Mark Dayton is already laying out his priorities for next year’s budget session – saying he won’t sign any tax cut proposals from Republicans without an increase in funding for early childhood education programs.
Dayton, a DFLer, pushed lawmakers in the just-ended legislative session to approve hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for universal preschool for all children in the state. In the end, he got a boost of $525 million for general education funding, but very little was specifically allotted to preschool programs. . .
Dayton said making preschool available to more children is key to closing that achievement gap, WCCO reports.
“I want to lay down the marker that we’re not done here,” Dayton said, according to the Associated Press, although he didn’t provide any specifics about the new funding he would seek.
The deck is already stacked against children living in poverty, and now, there's growing evidence that living in poverty can negatively affect children's brains.
A study by researchers from universities in Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina found poverty can diminish the brain's gray matter — the tissue that processes information.
The reduction in gray matter volume was found throughout the brain but most noticeably in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe and hippocampus –– areas tied to learning. . .
They argued funding should be increased for programs that help those below the poverty line — but the effectiveness of those programs has been debated.
The Head Start program said its funding has been reduced the past few years, leading to 53,000 children being cut from the program. This year, the budget has been restored, but future cuts are feared.
For the past several weeks, much of Washington has focused on the Senate's efforts to pass a bill to replace No Child Left Behind. While the discussion has focused on many important topics, the primary education setting for 12 million children has not been part of the conversation: child care.
When policymakers discuss education, child care is rarely mentioned. And to some extent, that is understandable. Most child care in the U.S. is poor or mediocre when it comes to quality and is designed to enable parents to work rather than to educate children. At the same time, the majority of young children under five have working parents and spend a considerable amount of their formative years in child care. If we want children to be adequately prepared for success in elementary school, we must invest in helping families access high-quality child care.
That’s according to Charlotte Webb, coordinator of elementary education for the state Department of Education and state leader for the West Virginia Leaders of Literacy: Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a statewide initiative that seeks to raise the third-grade proficiency rate among Mountain State students who qualify for free or reduced lunch to 66 percent over the next five school years.
. . .We are pleased that there is widespread bipartisan support for increased investment in high-quality early childhood education programs in this year’s state budget. Both Gov. Tom Wolf and House and Senate Republicans have proposed significant investments in these programs — $120 million and $30 million, respectively.
Such an investment would help many additional at-risk children gain access to curricula and services critical for developing into the skilled workers of tomorrow. . .
So, how do we help employers find workers to suit their needs? An important answer lies in quality early childhood education. Approximately 90 percent of the brain is developed by age 5. Tests measuring different forms of executive function skills indicate that these skills begin to develop shortly after birth, with ages 3 to 5 being a window of opportunity for the most dramatic growth.
Kindergartners who share, cooperate and are helpful are more likely to have a college degree and a job 20 years later than children who lack those social skills, according to a new study. Kids who get along well with others also are less likely to have substance-abuse problems and run-ins with the law. The research, which involved tracking nearly 800 students for two decades, suggests that specific social-emotional skills among young children can be powerful predictors for success later in life. . .
Steven Barnett, the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, said the study shows that schools can’t just be concerned with teaching social-emotional skills — that’s too broad a category. The study did not find strong correlations between aggressive behavior, for example, and later life outcomes. “We’ve got to be very fine-tuned about what exactly it is we need to help kids with,” he said.