Early Education in the News
For the third year in a row, both Republican and Democratic policymakers are making significant investments in state-funded preschool programs, according to a January analysis of 2014-15 appropriations from the Education Commission of the States.
A new year-round preschool aims to better prepare migrant children for school in what organizers are calling a first-of-its-kind program in Idaho.
The private-public partnership between the Cassia County School District and the Community Council of Idaho, a nonprofit that serves low-income people, especially Latinos, could serve as a model for other programs across the state, organizers said. And more important, it will put migrant children on equal footing by the time they start traditional school.
According to multiple National Institute for Early Education Research studies, children who attend high-quality preschool programs enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies and stronger basic math skills than those who do not. This “early edge” creates a ripple effect for children, building their education on a solid foundation and leading to greater success in life.
You have probably heard about what is called the “word gap” found in many low-income children, who were found in a famous 1995 research study to be exposed to 30 million fewer words than their more fortunate peers by age 3, and that this deficit affects literacy development. The word gap has been cited by many experts as a key reason that at-risk children need focused literacy instruction. In this post, Elizabeth A. Gilbert explains that there is a related problem: Many early childhood educators have the same problem. Gilbert is the coordinator of the “Learn at Work Early Childhood Educator Program Labor” in the Labor Management Workplace Education Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
In a state and country where access to early childhood education is uneven, children of college-educated parents can be exposed to millions more words during their first few years of life than those of less-educated families.
The disparities that emerge before children enter a kindergarten classroom underscore the grim reality of American education: Parental income remains a strong predictor of a child's success. . .
Government support for prekindergarten programs around the country has been expanding over the past two decades, since states like Oklahoma and Georgia first experimented with universal preschool programs in the 1990s. Nationally, around 40 percent of 4-year-olds now attend a preschool program supported by either state or federal funds. Most of those are run by state governments, whose investments in early childhood education vary widely from $1.3 million in Rhode Island to more than $750 million in Texas, according to data from the National Institute for Early Education Research.
After years of legislative inattention, early education is finally getting the traction it deserves in Minnesota. Last session, lawmakers approved state-supported all-day kindergarten for all 5-year-olds. Before that, the state funded need-based scholarships to send 3- and 4-year-olds to approved, high-quality preschool programs.
The 2015 Legislature has the opportunity to make more progress for preschoolers based on the general — and often bipartisan — support for some of the ideas that have already been introduced. One of those proposals, which calls for state-funded, school-based programs for all 4-year-olds, should be modified. Rather than approving a universal program, lawmakers should fund expansion of the current scholarship program targeted to lower-income students.
The Feb. 6 editorial “Invest in early education” is right to say that universal early childhood education is valuable, but wrong to say that Massachusetts cannot afford it. What we cannot afford is to fail to implement such a program. Every year we put it off, we suffer more long-term losses in economic growth.
Adults who have received high-quality early education are generally more productive, earn more, pay more taxes, rely less on public services, and are less likely to go to prison, which can cost an estimated $50,000 per year. Beyond the money, lack of universal early-education programs hampers equality of opportunity and leads to an incalculable loss in the quality of lives of our children.
A bill introduced in the General Assembly last month would increase funding for new full-day kindergarten programs beginning next fall.
Seven Rhode Island communities — Cranston, Johnston, Warwick, Coventry, East Greenwich, North Kingstown and Tiverton — do not offer full-day kindergarten programs to all students. Four of those districts — Cranston, Johnston, Coventry and Tiverton — offer none of their students full-day kindergarten.
Under current law, full-day kindergarten programs that will start in the 2015-2016 school year will receive baseline funds, which differ by district, during their first year. The amount will gradually increase over a three-year period to a maximum. The new legislation, sponsored by Sen. Hanna Gallo, D-Cranston and West Warwick, would accelerate funding to these kindergarten programs so that they receive the maximum during the first year.
State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz announced a bill to implement universal preschool last month.
“An Act Relative to Universal Pre-K Access” would create universal access to pre-school education for 3- and 4-year-olds, through public or private schools. The bill would create state funding following the same formula that already supports local school systems, like Boston Public Schools, and it would require some financial contribution from municipalities.
Chang-Díaz told the Gazette that municipalities would have to decide whether they want to commit to the plan.
As a 1999 report from theAmerican Federation of Teachers put it, "Any child who doesn't learn to read early and well will not easily master other skills and knowledge and is unlikely to ever flourish in school or life." In fact, research shows that the vast majority of first-graders who struggle with reading remain weak readers throughout the rest of their years in school. Moreover, children who are not reading well by third grade are four times more likely to eventually drop out of school, which in turn has devastating consequences for their future employment, earnings and other aspects of life. In short, there are few happy endings for kids who don't learn how to read early and well.
In San Antonio's Harlandale school district, pre-kindergarten students learn English and Spanish together. They help one another through instructions and assist each other in the language they are most familiar with, a structure that they'll stick with until they reach sixth grade. Similar programs can be found in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere as more and more parents want their children to speak more than one language. But as children under 5 are increasingly Latinos with Spanish spoken at home, such pre-K programs are becoming more vital.
Surprisingly though, when policies surrounding early education are discussed - as they increasingly are - there is limited focus on young children who are expanding their vocabularies in general, while learning to do so in more than one language, said Conor Williams, a senior researcher at New America Education Policy Program.
Our "Tools of the Trade" series is taking a look at some of the iconic objects that form a vital part of our educational lives. For an upcoming piece, I'm reporting on how young children learn through that most basic of preschool education tools: simple wooden blocks.
About 45 people attended a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues breakfast held at the Hager Hall Conference & Event Center in Hagerstown to discuss why businesses should support efforts to improve preschool education in Washington County.
The Hagerstown Rotary Club sponsored the event, which featured speaker Caitlin Codella, policy director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Center for Education and Workforce, as well as local information presented by Dave Hanlin, chairman of the Rotary Literacy Task Force.
Hanlin pointed out that 66 percent of Washington County kindergarten students were fully ready to learn, compared to 83 percent statewide, according to the 2013-2014 Maryland Model for School Readiness. That was the lowest percentage in the state, he said.
At this point, you’ve probably already heard all about how public spending on high-quality preschool helps poor kids achieve more later in life and improves the government’s bottom line as a result. Asresearch from Nobel economics laureate James J. Heckman has showed, early investment in disadvantaged children improves academic achievements, career prospects and, ultimately, their lifetime income, which brings in more tax dollars. It also reduces public spending on criminal justice, remedial education, health care, and safety-net programs that disproportionately get used by people who grew up poor. Heckman’s work suggests that a dollar spent on high-quality early-childhood education programs produces a higher return on investment than does almost any major alternative.
But that’s looking only at the effect of early-childhood education programs on kids. Improving access to high-quality child care and preschool offers even bigger returns when you also consider their effect on parents.
That’s because they can help parents who want to work stay attached to the labor force, thereby improving their lifetime earning potential, too.
Principal Jenny Love said the school provides a high-quality, multi-tiered instruction system and interventions are matched to each students' needs. She said they monitor student progress constantly, evaluating data to identify assessment and intervention practices ranging from Tier 1 to 3, with third tier students receiving more intensive instruction in groups of no more than five. That approach and an instructional model designed to help students become thinkers coupled with literacy and math programs, is why the high-poverty school was named an Academic State Champ by Bridge Magazine Tuesday, Feb. 10. The building ranked No. 3 out of 1,208 Michigan elementary schools and one of the top 25 overachieving schools at No. 9. . .
Shannon Ayers, associate research professor for the National Institute for Early Education Research and Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes, said the focus primary education is receiving at the nation and state level will help make sure the foundation is there to provide the support for all children to be successful in elementary and middle and high school. She said several of the approaches to teaching and learning being employed by West Michigan's champs are proven to be effective strategies. "NIEER is working on a project implementing effective instruction guidelines for schools and teachers in New Jersey to think about including, Response to Intervention frameworks, differentiating instruction, student assessment, cross-content lessons and project-based learning."
Idaho is one of just six states that does not fund early childhood education, like preschool. A group of people who made passionate appeals to lawmakers Tuesday want to change that. According to a state test of incoming kindergartners, 54 percent of them don't have the reading skills necessary to start kindergarten. So, on day one, about half of the kids in Idaho are already behind.
Although ECS finds that national spending is increasing, the National Institute for Early Education Research’s (NIEER) Preschool Yearbook may differ, based on how they calculate pre-k allocations. NIEER has not yet released a report for the 2014 year, but discrepancies could arise. In previous reports, ECS’s estimates have proven a bit more optimistic in comparison to NIEER’s. In their report for the 2012-13 school year, ECS noted that Rhode Island’s pre-K program was funded at $1.45 million. Opposed to what is promised to state programs within state budget plans, NIEER data track what is truly spent. In the 2013 Preschool Yearbook, NIEER reported Rhode Island actually spent a little over $1.3 million, falling short of planned funds.
NIEER explains that lack of information surrounding local funds and locally allocated federal funds makes it difficult to determine how much is actually spent on pre-K in each state. Furthermore, states may not allocate funds as they planned: they sometimes use leftover funds to phase out old programs or for other expenditures. And, it’s important to note that the fiscal year versus the actual school year does not coincide, which can leave disparities between appropriations and actual spending.
Although different, both reports show state support for pre-K expansion.
It was sometimes dry and technical, and always quite civil in a House committee last week, with legislators and officials from Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration professing devotion to Minnesota’s children and especially the 15 percent of children living in poverty. Roiling beneath the surface, however, was the next great policy debate not just here but nationally — the outcome of which is as uncertain as are its politics: child care and education.
Although the fight over the Affordable Care Act continues, Democrats are moving on, and it seems likely that expanded and perhaps universal prekindergarten education and child care will be their next major policy goal. Many Republicans see in this wasteful government spending and the usurpation of the family in favor of the state.
Paying for a new city-sponsored preschool program could get tricky for the Indianapolis City-County Council. Under a proposal the city could consider this week using about $2 million from a reserve fund for the first year. A plan has yet to be figured where the rest of the city’s share of $20 million over five years will come from. The overall plan is to spend $40 million on preschool through a public-private partnership among the city, businesses and philanthropy groups to serve 1,000 poor children. It waspassed the council by a wide margin in December after months debate leading to acompromise between council Democrats and Republican Mayor Greg Ballard.
Children's advocates say they're "cautiously optimistic" about Gov. Rick Scott's budget recommendations for the coming spending year, which contain relatively few cuts to programs that serve Florida's children. Last week, Scott touted his "historic" proposals to increase funding for public schools to $7,176 per student and Everglades restoration by more than $5 billion over the next 20 years, including $300 million in the coming budget year.
In comparison, the governor's proposed boost to voluntary pre-kindergarten of $46 per student would bring the total to $2,483 apiece. That means Florida would remain well below the national average of $4,026 per student in 2013, the last year for which the National Institute for Early Education Research had figures available.