Early Education in the News
The method, called “formative assessment,” isn’t about paper-and-pen standardized testing, or pulling a student out of a classroom and drilling on what he or she knows after each lesson is taught. It’s a teacher’s constant observation of how a child is learning and developing in various ways — with a goal of using that information to guide and tailor instruction. Next year the new process will spread to more classrooms and will eventually be in use in every public elementary school across the state. It is an outgrowth of a $70 million Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant awarded to North Carolina by the federal government and also is part of legislation enacted by state lawmakers. The plan was recommended by a think tank composed of teachers, parents and scholars from seven universities in North Carolina. The group worked for about a year to devise the program, which moves North Carolina away from testing that some experts say is developmentally inappropriate for young children.
Before students start kindergarten, they should be able to recognize the letters in their names, count to 10 and engage in a conversation. But more than 40 percent of Mississippi kindergartners begin school unprepared, according to a 2013 survey of their teachers.
Mississippi KIDS COUNT released last fall the results of the first statewide survey of Mississippi’s public school kindergarten teachers. Respondents estimated that 41 percent of their students were not “kindergarten ready” and identified that as the top challenge they face. Increased access to high-quality pre-K would go a long way toward improving that, they said.
The city is beginning to hammer out the details of the subsidized preschool program Seattle voters approved two weeks ago. At a news conference Wednesday, Mayor Ed Murray announced the first two members of an advisory group that will lay out recommendations for things like how the city should select care providers. "They’ll work on curriculum development, how we’ll deal with student enrollment as we scale this up, the process of deciding what is the best way to evaluate the program as we go forward to be sure that we’re doing this right, getting it right; so not only these children succeed, but we can go back to the voters to expand this program," Murray said.
Less than half of all 3- and 4-year-olds across the country are enrolled in any sort of early education, largely because of how pricey these programs can be. That’s a shame, advocates argue, considering the research showing the positive, long-term impact a quality early-education experience can have on a child’s life—all the more so if that child comes from a low-income family. In particular, these advocates want every child to have the opportunity to attend prekindergarten. "Pre-k" and "preschool" are often used interchangeably in education circles and by the news media. (Even I, admittedly, have treated the words as synonyms.) After all, the two can mean the same thing: schooling that happens prior to kindergarten. But rarely do politicians who’ve declared early education a top priority say they want to expand access to preschool. It’s all about the single year that precedes kindergarten: pre-k. That lexical distinction reveals how politicized early education is, Cuban says. It also highlights the growing emphasis placed on the quality and accountability of early education programs and the widespread belief that access to early learning should be a basic government function—something to which every child is entitled. And this is deliberate. . .
A number of states offer universal pre-k, pre-k for all 4-year-olds, while most target it at specific populations. (Nine states lack any form of state-funded pre-k.) A few states have as many as three-fourths of their 4-year-olds participating in government-funded pre-k, including Oklahoma, Florida, and Vermont. But nationally, just a small fraction of 4-year-olds participate in those kinds of programs: 28 percent, according to 2012-13 data from the National Institute for Early Education Research, or NIEER.
We Americans love children.
Indeed, we love them so much that, on average, child care workers earn almost as much per hour ($10.33) as workers who care for animals ($10.82),according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.
We love them so much that only 38 percent of American 3-year-olds are enrolled in education programs. The average is 70 percent among the 34 industrialized countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
So if politicians are genuinely looking for a bipartisan issue to break through the Washington gridlock, here’s a suggestion: invest in early education.
Most people agree that “choice” is a good thing. But when it comes to choosing a child care provider, many Vermont parents may not feel like they have much choice available to them. And that’s something we need to change.
In a rural state, access to child care is a challenge
We know from our experience talking with parents that they tend to look for a provider they’ve heard about from friends or family, or is close to their home or convenient to their workplace. In many of Vermont’s small communities there may be only a handful of providers — some licensed, some not. Many of the higher quality providers have waiting lists or are simply unaffordable to families. (Many working families spend from 27 to 33 percent of their total income to pay for child care.) So parents end up patching together child care options, trying to make it work for their family.
The Louisiana Department of Education today announced that all remaining school districts, along with child care and Head Start partners, submitted applications to participate in cohort 3 of the Early Childhood Care and Education Network, meaning 100 percent of the state's school districts have sought to unify their early childhood systems ahead of the fall 2015 deadline. Applications from the final 36 districts will be reviewed for funding over the next two months and will receive notice as to grant awards in January. Thirty-four school systems and partners are part of cohort 1 or cohort 2.
Nearly half of all child-care workers are so poor that they qualify for public assistance like food stamps, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit, according to the report, “Worthy Work, STILL Unliveable Wages,” an update of a 1989 national child care staff study. “We pay our child-care workers on par with the people who park our cars, walk our dogs and flip our hamburgers. Is that really what we want for the people who are teaching our young children and getting them ready for school?” said Deborah Phillips, a psychology professor at Georgetown University and one of the report authors in both 1989 and 2014. “There is such a disparity between what parents pay and what teachers earn. Even having studied this for the past 25 years, it’s still shocking to me.” Of the more than 600 teachers and staff members whom Phillips and her co-authors surveyed, three-fourths worried about having enough money to pay their monthly bills. Nearly half felt anxious about having enough food for their families. Poorly paid teachers and staff, the report notes, have led to higher teacher turnover rates, less continuity, and more instability and chaos for children.
A recent small-scale trial by New York University researcher Susan B. Neuman, who served in the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush, found that giving a group of preschoolers the chance to play for just 15 minutes a day on a popular app called Learn with Homer(www.learnwithhomer.com) improved their reading skills 74% in a six-week summer period — without the help of a teacher.
By the end of the summer sessions, the 95 low-income students in federally-funded Head Start classrooms in Brooklyn outpaced their peers on several key reading skills, including so-called "phonological awareness," the ability to recognize what makes up oral language and to be able to play with it — recognizing, for instance, that two words begin or end with the same sound.
But Barnett, who supports the universal model and believes pre-k should be integrated into the K-12 system, pointed in part to the value children gain from interacting with peers who come from different backgrounds. He also stressed that middle-class kids struggle, too. Many of the country’s existing private preschools are little more than glorified daycare centers.
"While the impacts of preschool may not be as large for middle-income kids, they’re still substantive," Barnett said. "We’d be more successful in dealing with the problems of school failure, poor health, crime if we had programs for everybody than we would if we serve just low-income kids." Barnett and other experts also pointed to the political advantages of universal pre-k.
Three statewide organizations – Children’s Trust of South Carolina, the Institute for Child Success and United Way Association of South Carolina – along with statewide partners presented at a luncheon today the policy road map for South Carolina to create a brighter future for young children and their families. The2015 Early Childhood Common Agenda for South Carolina reflects months of work from a coalition of experts and offers specific recommendations to build a smart, comprehensive early childhood system for children 0-5 years old. Jim Squires, senior research fellow at National Institute for Early Education Research, delivered the keynote message at the luncheon.
“If there is one area where we can find common ground, it is promoting the well-being of our young children,” Squires said. “Common sense and research converge to demonstrate the importance of supporting the development and learning of every young child, including the pivotal roles played by responsive parenting and healthy communities. We have the opportunity and responsibility to act on all levels – from the home to the classroom to the State House – to make South Carolina an even better place to raise a child. Fortunately, we have the knowledge to make it happen now.”
If we want to continue making progress, we have to start in the earliest years of a child’s life,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel pronounced emphatically before a packed chamber on October 15, as part of the education component of his 2015 Budget Address to the City Council. “So we have to reach them early and make sure they arrive for kindergarten ready to learn.” For families living on the South and West sides of the city, this plan carries particular significance—this is where the bulk of early childhood program development will take place. $9.4 million worth of capital investment is slated to expand opportunities at ten sites, selected to benefit neighborhoods where the need for more pre-K opportunities is most keenly felt. In 2015, this investment aims to provide half-day preschool opportunities for 1,500 four-year-olds at no cost to families. A $17 million corporate Social Impact Bond over the next four years intends to raise that number to 2,620. According to 2013 census figures, there are approximately 71,500 students eligible for preschool in the City of Chicago, with only fifty-six percent enrolled in some kind of early childhood education program.
Twenty-five years after the first National Child Care Staffing Study, a new studyfound that not much has changed. The study found those who work as preschool teachers have fared somewhat better, as their wages have increased 15 percent since 1997. However, childcare workers still earn less than adults who take care of animals and barely more than fast food cooks. The median hourly wage for a teacher working with children from birth to five years old was $10.60 an hour in 2012. The median hourly wage jumped to $16 an hour in school-sponsored pre-kindergarten and $11.90 in Head Start programs. The state has mandated that by 2015 at least 50 percent of the state-subsidized early childhood programs have teachers with bachelor’s degrees. However, the degree required didn’t come with any incentive to increase their pay.
The need to improve early childhood education in the state has caught the attention of Mississippi’s business community. While different groups are taking different approaches to help Mississippi’s earliest learners, MBB’s tactic is to aid those already working in the field. Instead of creating new programs, it provides support to existing centers – focusing on instruction, materials, business practices and parent outreach. Championed by the Mississippi Economic Council, MBB raised $7 million from businesses and foundations over its first four years. Now it operates entirely on state funding. It has received $3 million from the state for each of the past two years. Along with another $6 million to the new early learning collaborative program, that represents the first public funds Mississippi has spent on pre-K.
Starting today, Indiana’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning (OECOSL) is officially inviting high-quality, early learning providers in Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh Counties to apply to be among the first “On My Way Pre-K” providers in the state of Indiana. Requirements for eligible providers, the application and other forms are now posted to OECOSL’s On My Way Pre-K website.
On My Way Pre-K is the new name of Indiana’s state-funded prekindergarten pilot program, which will award grants to 4-year-olds from low-income families who live in one of the five pilot counties. These families can use the grants to access a high-quality prekindergarten program in the school year before they begin kindergarten. Families who receive a grant may use it at any approved On My Way Pre-K provider.
Investing in pre-kindergarten education pays off for everyone. Cleveland's PRE4CLE pre-K expansion initiative was lauded recently as a national model by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and by Roberto J. Rodríguez, deputy assistant for education to President Barack Obama as a member of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Giving children the right start to their education has never been more relevant. A ManpowerGroup study showed that 49 percent of employers struggle to fill jobs because too many job-seekers lack the right skills. In a world economy increasingly fueled by a knowledge-based workforce, the solution is to help prepare at-risk children for the challenges ahead so they enter kindergarten on par with their more economically secure peers.
Act 166 of 2014 takes effect July 1, 2015, which means school districts are developing their fiscal year 2015 budget with prekindergarten as part of that budget. Here’s why we know it will help: Early intervention and early education lead to better outcomes. Act 166 requires PreK programs to meet quality standards and be held accountable, and provides families with multiple options for PreK.
The Senate Monday gave final congressional approval to legislation reauthorizing the federal government's Child Care Development block grant. The vote was 88-1 and the bill is probably the last education legislation to be adopted by the current Congress.
The bill, which authorizes $5.3 billion in federal child care assistance annually, requires background checks for all child care providers and at least one annual inspection of child care facilities. But it gives states wide discretion on how to allocate the funding.
One provision, added by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., requires states to develop disaster plans for child care centers -- to avoid the kind of situation that occurred during Hurricane Katrina.
Each state takes a unique approach to pre-K. Here is a look at what a few other states offer in state-funded pre-school programs.
The problem for local school districts and for others in providing comprehensive pre-K education is a lack of funding. For years, Mississippi was the only Southeastern state not to have a state-supported early childhood education program and one of a few in the nation not to have a program. During the 2013 session, the Legislature provided $3 million in state funds to continue Building Blocks and $3 million to fund a pilot program where the state Department of Education would work with local collaborative groups (including local schools) in an effort to provide quality pre-kindergarten program. The plan was for the funding to increase for the pilot program in the coming years. But during the 2014 session, Building Blocks and the pilot program were level-funded at $3 million each.