Early Education in the News

Clinton Foundation
May 24, 2016

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Too Small to Fail, the National Head Start Association, and the National Association for Family Child Care launch “STRIVE for 5: Talk, Read, Sing Early Learning Boot Camp” to provide educators with engaging, user-friendly resources to create language-rich early learning environments.

Global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) and Too Small to Fail, in partnership with the National Head Start Association (NHSA) and the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC), announces STRIVE for 5, a hands-on bilingual (English/Spanish) program designed to provide early educators instant tools and ideas to promote children’s language development and improve the quality of early learning environments. The goal of STRIVE for 5 is to equip early educators with concrete resources to support the growth and development of young children from infancy to age five—along with hands-on materials and strategies to engage parents and families.

The program is divided into five user-friendly segments, with key information and tools to help educators create a vocabulary-rich early learning environment and enrich daily moments with activities like talking, reading, and singing. 

May 24, 2016

Hundreds of preschoolers in the Springfield City School District will be able to attend classes for free next year as it plans to spend $2.4 million on early childhood education.

The commitment to fund free preschool beyond what state grants cover comes from the district’s belief that it’s the key to turning around poor test scores, Superintendent Bob Hill said.

“Philosophically and based on current research, the district strongly supports and is willing to invest in the effects of early childhood education,” he said.

But new research studying Tennessee’s public preschool has questioned the long-term value of early education programs. Hill, though, said it will be critical for a district like Springfield.

“In a high poverty district, it is vitally important to provide preschool opportunities to allow all students to enter kindergarten on equal footing,” he said.

Springfield failed to meet a single performance indicator on the state report card each of the past two years.

Springfield was awarded nearly $1.2 million from the Ohio Department of Education to serve 293 economically disadvantaged 4-year-olds through both Head Start classrooms and the district’s in-house preschool program.

May 24, 2016

Idaho was among eight U.S. states without a state-funded preschool program last school year, according to new report.

“The State of Preschool” is a yearly report from the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

Other states that don’t have a preschool program are Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Nationwide, there was slight improvement in funding levels and the number of participating children, but many 3 and 4-year-olds still don’t have access to preschool.

Here in Idaho, “Pay for Success” legislation passed in 2015 allows private funders to invest in social programs such as early education.

Head Start programs offer preschool for low-income families, the report notes, but there’s not statewide funding dedicated to providing preschool education.


The Des Moines Register
May 24, 2016

It's mid-morning, and Evevett Fugate has been up all night. She takes her youngest, Ovalia, to preschool class for 4-year-olds, then picks her up at 11 a.m.

Although Fugate's overnight work allows her to attend school activities, she has enrolled Ovalia in early childhood programs since age 2 because she knows how vital is it for children to get an early jump on kindergarten, whether it be learning letters or picking up social skills.
"I always told my grandma that if I ever had kids, that my focus would be on them the way she focused on me,” Fugate said.
Unlike Ovalia, about one-third of Iowa children — many of them from lower-income and minority families — do not attend any form of preschool. They often enter kindergarten already trailing their classmates academically, not knowing their numbers, how to tie their shoes, or that sentences flow left to right.
For many minority children, the learning gap will only grow wider throughout their education, stunting their earning potential as adults. “It’s definitely a tragedy,” said Betty Andrews, the president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP.
Iowa's largest and most pervasive achievement divide is between black children and their white peers, statewide education data show — a gap that’s existed for decades in Iowa and shows little to no improvement.


May 19, 2016

A new free preschool in Flint will mitigate lead effects for young children by providing services to fight the impact that lead exposure has had on them.

A free nationally accredited preschool will be available at Brownell Holmes Stern Academy through the Great Expectations pilot program.  The school district and the University of Michigan-Flint are running the program through their Early Childhood and Development Center. Flint schools will finish work on the third classroom this month.

The college Early Childhood Development Center has a waiting list of 300, but families with children ages 3-5 will use the services at no cost through the partnership between the UM-Flint and the Flint Community Schools.

"We all know this early education is critically important for our children," said Flint Community Schools Superintendent Bilal Tawwab. "It always has been but given the lead crisis our community it's even more critical to activate children's minds and bodies to combat the effects of lead exposure."

Currently 20 children are enrolled in Great Expectations.  The district will expand that to 50 children and the hope is to eventually have 250 students enrolled. Regular meals and snacks will be offered, as well as additional fruits and vegetables through the day.  There will also be various fitness programs.


The Christian Science Monitor
May 19, 2016

A new early childhood program that seeks to promote research and teaching in the field of child development is underway at Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), thanks to a $35.5 million gift from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation.

The donation, HGSE's single biggest donation to date, will put Harvard at the forefront of research into effective, accessible early childhood education, school officials said.

"It's one of the most significant investments in early childhood education," HGSE dean James Ryan told The Boston Globe. "I think it will give us the capacity to tackle some of the most important issues and challenges in early childhood education, which are basically about how you create high quality pre-K for all kids."

For years, studies have emphasized the importance of early childhood education, or ECE, for laying the foundations of lifelong learning and development. Yet about half of the country's 3- to 4-year-olds aren't enrolled in full-day schools, often because of parents' financial restrictions. 

"There's a great deal of really promising evidence about the benefits of high-quality pre-K," Dean Ryan told Harvard Magazine. "But there aren't enough high-quality pre-K programs, and there's not enough clarity on the essential components of a high-quality pre-K program. The initiative will take the evidence about the benefits of pre-K and build capacity in the field to make sure high-quality pre-K is available to all kids."

The donation comes as awareness of the merits of preschool and pre-K is gaining momentum, with several cities attempting to fund more accessible programming. Many advocates, however, feel that philanthropists have given less attention to a pre-K foundation, compared to efforts in funding K-12 programs. 

May 19, 2016

Just call him Adaptive Learning Elmo.

The Sesame Street icon and his peers — all longtime staples of early childhood educational programming — will soon draw on IBM Watson cognitive computing technology to personalize preschool learning experiences.

The three-year collaboration between IBM and nonprofit Sesame Workshop will tap teachers, researchers, technologists, performers and other experts in their fields to determine how Watson’s natural language processing, data mining, pattern recognition and other advanced capabilities might best serve preschoolers.

“The center effort is about building deeply engaging learning experiences that are meant to assist the teacher or the caregiver,” IBM Master Inventor Satya Nitta says in a company video. Nitta is also the program leader of the Cognitive Learning Content research group at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

Research and development for the project is already underway, with IBM and Sesame Workshop testing interactive learning platforms and interfaces before releasing prototypes to key education and technology leaders.

Sesame Workshop’s expertise in education and storytelling will form the final pieces of the puzzle. The nonprofit has spent more than 45 years researching children’s brain development, using insights to create educational content that reaches children of all socio-economic backgrounds.

In an IBM blog post, Sesame Workshop CEO Jeff Dunn says the partnership with IBM will take the Sesame Street brand’s successes a step further.

“Television reaches every kid with the same programming in the same way,” he writes. “But we know that kids learn differently from one another and that they need — and deserve — a new approach that takes each one of them into consideration.”

A Watson-enabled learning platform could be the solution.

“This project will be a great equalizer, ultimately providing children from all backgrounds with the opportunity for meaningful, personalized education in their most formative years,” Dunn adds.

NBC Local 15
May 18, 2016

Governor Robert Bentley on Tuesday announced over 150 new grants that will provide more than 2,700 additional Alabama four-year-olds with access to high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten."Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten is a proven program that prepares students for success," Governor Robert Bentley said. "Only 20 percent of Alabama's four-year-olds are currently enrolled in the First Class program. Along with the support of legislative funding, we will continue to expand access to this program until every Alabama parent who wants their child to attend has access. I appreciate the staff at the Department of Early Childhood Education for working hard to help organizations receive grants." 

The grants announced by Governor Bentley will expand Alabama's First Class voluntary pre-k program to more schools, faith-based preschools, child care centers, Head Start locations, and other new and expanding pre-k sites across the state. Grants were awarded based on several criteria including local needs, local demand and assurances of high quality standards at the new and expanding pre-k sites. Each grantee is required to supplement the grant award with an amount equal to or greater than 25% of the award amount. Remaining grants will be allocated to additional sites based on various needs in the near future.

Rocket News
May 17, 2016

One of the most cost-effective ways to increase equity in education and expand opportunity to our nation’s children is to invest in high-quality preschool for our youngest learners – and not just some of them, but all of them. Federal- and state-led efforts over the past seven-and-a-half years have helped our country make progress toward this goal. In 2009, only 38 statesoffered children access to state-funded preschool, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called for all children to have access to high-quality, state-supported preschool. Since the President’s announcement, all but four states offer preschool to young children and nearly 40 states and Washington, D.C., have invested more than an additional $1.5 billion in support of preschool.

Despite these promising developments, a new report from NIEER shows that thousands of children from low- and middle-income families in communities across the country still do not have access to quality preschool.

Indeed, NIEER’s analysis shows that access to high-quality preschool in the United States remains low and unequal. In fact, according to the new NIEER report, three states with large populations of minority children – California, Florida, and Texas – have among the largest programs but the weakest quality standards for preschools. Florida and Texas also funded preschool for fewer children in 2014-2015, as compared to the previous year.

The Colorado Independent
May 17, 2016

Colorado has sunk closer to the bottom of the pack for state preschool funding, according to an annual report card released Thursday.

The state, which spends a paltry amount on preschool per pupil compared to top-scorers like Washington, DC, dropped from 35 to 41 in 2015. Only South Carolina and Mississippi spent less per child than Colorado. Eight other states with no publicly funded preschool programs weren’t ranked.

On a measure of 4-year-old preschool access, Colorado’s ranking stayed exactly the same: No. 22. That’s even with a small increase in 2015 in the number of 4-year-olds participating in the Colorado Preschool Program.

The state-by-state comparisons, put out by the National Institute for Early Education Research, also revealed that Colorado meets six of 10 benchmarks designed to judge preschool quality. That number—the same as neighboring Kansas and lower than Nebraska and New Mexico —is unchanged from the previous year.

Among the quality benchmarks that Colorado failed to meet are two on preschool teacher credentials— one specifying that teachers have a bachelor’s degree and the other that assistant teachers have a child development associate degree. In Colorado, early childhood teachers are required to have the associate degree and there is no minimum credential for assistant teachers.

Education News
May 17, 2016

In 2014-2015, the number of students in state-funded preschools in the US rose to almost 1.4 million – an increase of 37,167 students from the previous year. Overall, 29% of 3, 4, and 5-year-olds are enrolled in state-funded preschool programs.

A report released from the National Institute for Early Education Research found a wide range of per-pupil spending programs. For example, New Jersey spends $12,149 for each child enrolled in pre-K compared with $2,304 in Florida and $1,981 in South Carolina.

State funding for pre-K rose by $553 million overall in the 2014-15 year. Spending in New York, which implemented universal pre-K education in New York City under Mayor Bill de Blasio, accounted for two-thirds of that increase.

The authors of the report say New York City “provides an example of a city that successfully worked with its state to move an entire state forward, though it remains to be seen how much and how fast progress is extended to the rest of New York state.”

Karen Matthews of the The Big Story writes that the Institute, which advocates early childhood education, is under contract with the National Center for Education Statistics. The report tracks the quality of measures such as class sizes and teacher-training requirements.

May 17, 2016

Tday the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its 2015 State of Preschool yearbook. This annual report presents helpful data on the state of pre-K programs nationally as well as breakdowns of each state’s progress in providing high-quality pre-K services to three- and four-year-olds.

The report details modest gains in pre-K access, quality, and funding across the nation. Average state spending per child enrolled in pre-K increased by $287 in 2015 to a national average of $4,489 per child. This is the third straight year in which average spending has increased, though average spending levels are still lower than they were in 2002 and 2004 (as depicted below). Nationwide, state spending on pre-K rose by about $553 million in 2015, an increase of 10 percent. It’s important to note however, that two-thirds of this funding increase is the result of New York City’s rapid expansion of full-day pre-K under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The number of students enrolled in state-funded pre-K grew modestly in 2015, with an increase of about 37,000 children bringing the total of all children nationwide enrolled in state-funded pre-K to almost 1.4 million. Most of the enrollment gains produced as a result of the New York City pre-K expansion were canceled out by enrollment cuts in other states. Most of the enrollment growth came from three-year-olds, with only about 7,000 more four-year-olds served in 2015 compared to the previous year.

As shown in the graph below, the percentage of the national population of three-year-olds enrolled in state-funded pre-K modestly increased from 4 to 5 percent, while the percentage of four-year-olds remained flat at 29 percent. Steve Barnett, the Director of NIEER, expressed exasperation at the slow pace of government support for pre-K, writing that at the current rate of growth “it will be another 50 years before states can reach all low-income children at age four, and it will take 150 years to reach 75 percent of all four-year-olds.”

Michigan Radio
May 17, 2016

The Flint public school district is expanding early childhood education programs. 

The three-, four- and five-year-olds at the Great Expectations Early Childhood Program at Holmes STEM Academy are the lucky ones. The waiting list to get into this program is hundreds of names long.

But Superintendent Bilal Tawwab says the University of Michigan-Flint is working to expand the program, which he says is critical.

“It always had been, but given the lead in our community is even more critical to activate children’s minds and bodies to combat the effects of lead exposure,” says Tawwab. 

Studies have shown early education and nutrition programs help counter the effects of lead in the body.

“We offer learning opportunities through every chance we get in the classroom,” says teacher Shauna Philips.   

Ashley Smith’s four-year-old daughter Tionna is part of the Great Expectations program. Smith says her daughter is developmentally delayed, and this program is very important for her.

“Having this available is amazing,” Smith says. “I have to bribe her to come home at the end of the day.”

But until now, it’s been very difficult to get their pre-school age children into the program. The waiting list is about 300 names long.

West Hawaii Today
May 16, 2016

State funded pre-kindergarten education still has a long way to go in Hawaii despite significant progress in 2014-15, according to a report by the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research located at Rutgers University and made available by a press release from the Hawaii Children’s Action Network. Hawaii’s Executive Office on Early Learning (EOEL) launched a pre-K program in 2014-15, allowing the state’s inclusion in The State of Preschool Report for the first time this year. In its initial year, the EOEL’s program served 365 students in 20 classrooms across 18 schools. Those numbers rose in 2015-16, when the program served 420 4-year-old students in 21 classrooms across 19 schools.

“Hawaii’s economic future depends on early investment in its youngest citizens,” said Deborah Zysman, Executive Director for Hawaii Children’s Action Network. Hawaii ranked seventh in the country in the area of state spending and ninth in all reported spending, but those numbers are per capita figures, not total spending. Each state-sponsored classroom is located within a public school, as Hawaii state law prohibits public funding of privately run preschool programs.

Albuquerque Journal
May 16, 2016

 New Mexico has made strides on pre-kindergarten education, climbing from 28th to 18th in the nation for spending on pre-K programs. The new 2015 State Preschool Yearbook, released last week by Rutgers University’s National Institute of Early Education Research, complimented the state’s “significant progress through a concerted effort to increase enrollment and funding and improve quality.”

A total of 8,397 4-year-olds participated in New Mexico pre-K during the 2014-2015 school year at a cost of $39.6 million, according to the report – a boost from the 7,674 enrolled the year before at a budget of $27.2 million. State spending was $4,722 per child, slightly above the $4,489 national average. In addition, New Mexico met NIEER’s standard on eight of 10 pre-K quality measures, falling short only on degree requirements for teachers and assistant teachers.

Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera said the results reflect her administration’s commitment to early learning. “It shows that we have been responsible in our scaling, but aggressive,” Skandera told the Journal . “We are investing where it matters most and seeing more and more students have the opportunity to participate in pre-K and keeping the quality high, while still increasing the number of students participating and increasing our investments every year.”

Pensacola News Journal
May 16, 2016

The man who is at the top of the state’s heap when it comes to early learning acknowledges the limitations when it comes to talking about what quality should look like. And how a parent can get guidance about how to make a good choice. “Quite candidly, it’s just as challenging as a state administrator,” says Rodney MacKinnon, executive director of the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning. “It’s a complicated issue that has a lot of underlying conflicts in it.” MacKinnon’s office offers a “quality checklist” they encourage parents to use when evaluating a child care center. It recommends visiting at least three centers before choosing one.

“A lot of the things are hard to quantify,” MacKinnon says. “If you walk into a center and the staff are happy, organized, they’re friendly with the parents, who along with the children, are the customer, they have an intentional lesson plan, these things speak to a passion for caring about the kids in a deliberative and intentional manner.

May 16, 2016

Recently the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its annual State of Preschool 2015 report, which ranked Oklahoma fourth in the nation in preschool access for 4-year-olds. While Oklahoma maintained its ranking from the previous school year, the state fell from 26th to 28th in state funding. Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, highlighted the importance of pre-k to Oklahoma’s schoolchildren.

“Oklahoma continues to distinguish itself as a national leader in early childhood education, even while doing more with less. But we have more work to do,” she said. “A parent is a child’s first, and most important, teacher. While we recognize that a nurturing home is every child’s first classroom, in a state with high poverty, access to early childhood education is crucial to shaping the future trajectory of all learners. We are committed to building on our established foundations in order to further positive outcomes for our youngest generation.”

Wisconsin Public Radio
May 16, 2016

Wisconsin ranks sixth in the country for access to free preschool programs for 4-year-olds, according to the annual State of Preschool report from the National Institute of Early Education Research. The institute found 64 percent of Wisconsin 4-year-olds were enrolled in state-funded preschool in 2015, down from 66 percent in 2014 but still more than double the national average of 29 percent. An additional 7 percent of 4-year-olds were enrolled in Head Start, a free, federally funded preschool program for children from low-income households. . .

Part of the reason for Wisconsin’s high rate of preschool attendance is the state’s 4-year-old kindergarten, or 4K,  program. Free, voluntary schooling for 4-year-olds was written into the state’s constitution in 1848. In 2015 95 percent of the state’s eligible school districts offered 4K. School districts that opt to offer the part-time program receive state funds equal to about half the support they receive for older students. Despite the high participation numbers however, the 4K program hit only five of the institute's 10 quality benchmarks, like class sizes of 20 students or fewer.

May 13, 2016

For the tenth year in a row, Alabama’s state-funded, high-quality and voluntary First Class Pre-K program was named the nation’s highest quality pre-kindergarten program. Today’s announcement was made by the National Institute for Early Childhood Education, which annually ranks state pre-k programs for quality based on ten measures. Alabama’s voluntary pre-k program is one of only ten states in the nation to meet or exceed all ten NIEER benchmarks, and only the second state to do so in ten consecutive years. Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is managed by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance and its Pre-K Task Force, which advocates for the expansion of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program, applauded today’s announcement while pointing out that too many families who want to enroll their four-year-old in the program still lack access to a classroom in their community. “We congratulate state leaders and Alabama First Class Pre-K teachers for building and maintaining the nation's highest quality pre-k program," said Bob Powers, president of The Eufaula Agency and the co-chair of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance. "It takes a strong commitment from everyone involved to reach this milestone for ten consecutive years."

Huffington Post
May 13, 2016

Slowly but steadily, states are making progress in the number of students they serve in high-quality, state-funded pre-kindergarten programs. However, this progress is uneven, and leaves out droves of impressionable learners. On Thursday, the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University released its annual report on the state of preschool across America. The group has been tracking the number of children served by public preschool programs since the 2001-2002 school year. The latest report looks at the 2014 -2015 school year and presents an uneven picture of how the country is doing when it comes to serving little learners, although there are some bright spots. . . 

“State pre-K is still far from where it needs to be to ensure that all children receive a high quality education during the year (or two) before kindergarten,” says the report. “If young children are to receive the high quality education that leaves a sustained impact, state policies will have to change. Standards must be raised. Funding should be increased and stabilized. This will happen only if policy makers recognize that high quality pre-K is a necessity, not a luxury that can be passed over when the budget gets tight.”