Early Education in the News

June 29, 2015

Alabama leads the nation in pre-K development, and for the last nine years its voluntary First Class Pre-K program has met the 10 quality benchmarks established by the National Institute for Early Education Research. That measures teacher training, staff-child ratios, support services and more.

And Alabama is also one of 18 states awarded a competitive Preschool Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

In Baldwin County nine years ago, there were six pre-K sites, according to Pam Magee, federal programs coordinator for the Baldwin County school system. And in the 2015-2016 school year that number will hit 25, which includes Title I schools and those funded by the state Department of Children's Affairs, which administers First Class Pre-K grants...

Including the program at Orange Beach, 450 students will be enrolled in pre-K throughout the Baldwin County public school sites, leaving at least 200 students relegated to waiting lists. The longest waiting lists are for the larger county sites, such as those in Bay Minette, Foley and Robertsdale...

Some sites have both OSR- and Title I-funded sites, and in all $1,098,000 in grant money funds the 25 sites.

Times Argus
June 29, 2015

Few education policy proposals have been adopted as widely and enthusiastically as preschool education. With near universal agreement, early education has been embraced across the political spectrum. This consensus was forged from “gold standard” research, conducted over decades, which almost universally found both academic and social benefits. One of the most attractive findings was that universal preschool education would help close the achievement gap. It would give needy children the kinds of opportunities that their more fortunate peers were routinely provided.

In Vermont’s version, the new preschool law (Act 166) provides for 10 hours of pre-school instruction per week for all children, for 35 weeks during the regular school year. In essence, the local school district pays tuition to any state-approved public or private provider. (School districts may designate a pre-school region). For the coming year, the district pays $3,000 per student. Any additional hours are paid by the parents. For the child previously not provided any service, this is certainly a step forward...

Unfortunately, Vermont’s new law has a number of devilish details that need fixing or else we will weld into place a system that inadvertently increases, rather than reduces, socioeconomic segregation.
It is certainly timely that the state has formed a child-care commission, which,it is hoped, will address these concerns. Without timely attention, the supreme irony is that programs whose very purpose is to alleviate and compensate for inequitable educational opportunities, would have the perverse effect of worsening these very inequalities. But these problems can be fixed. Sliding and progressive scales, greater uniformity in staffing requirements, financial requirements, and greater support for one equitable public stream are parts of the solution.
US News & World Report
June 29, 2015

Over the past 20 years, states have significantly increased investments in state-funded pre-K. Although state spending on pre-K faltered during the Great Recession, states have begun spending again on pre-K. And the Obama administration has supported programs to supplement and encourage state pre-K investments. The resumed expansion of state pre-K funding has the potential to improve school readiness for thousands of youngsters. But debate over these policies is often marred by common misconceptions about state pre-K programs. Here are a few:

State pre-K is universal pre-K. The terms "state pre-K" and "universal pre-K" are often used interchangeably in public debates. The perception that state pre-K means universal pre-K sometimes leads to opposition from critics who believe pre-K funds should be targeted to the lowest-income children. But in fact, most state pre-K programs are far from universal. Nearly half of states with state pre-K programs limit enrollment to low-income children. Furthermore, many state pre-K programs do not serve all eligible children. In 2014, of the 41 states with state-funded pre-K programs (a figure which included the District of Columbia), only nine served more than half of all 4-year-olds in the state, and 11 served less than 10 percent. Only three states – FloridaGeorgia and Oklahoma – truly have universal pre-K programs.
Washington Times
June 26, 2015
Even at age 4, Everett Baldwin Jr. was more than the staff at Brighter DayCare and Preschool could handle.
In his classroom, he was always on the move. He had more problems than other children his age with sharing and completing tasks. He preferred to play alone...

Organizations such as United 4 Children will send specialists into day cares to observe challenging behaviors in children and offer solutions to teachers. Parents as Teachers also has a contract with the Normandy Schools Collaborative to screen children younger than 5.

But what makes this effort different is the on-site, ongoing support and consultation at the child care centers, which often have high turnover.

“Without this help, we couldn’t have kept him. We were ill-equipped. We didn’t have the expertise,” Williams said.

Developmental screening of children in their early years can identify potentially serious problems or delays, experts say.

But about half the children who need help don’t get it until they enroll in elementary school, when key opportunities for early treatment and prevention of disabilities have been missed, according to the Centers for Disease Control.


Business Wire
June 26, 2015

Camille Maben, Executive Director of First 5 California, praised Governor Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins for their budget agreement today that commits $265 million to improve the lives of children and provides a foundation to rebuild our early learning system.

“With the addition of 7,000 additional preschool slots and 6,800 child care slots, the Governor and Legislature recognize California’s children and families need more access to high-quality child care,” said Ms. Maben.
June 26, 2015
During his recent visit at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, President Obama praised mayors from Seattle and Indianapolis for their universal Pre-K programs.
He also saluted the 34 states who “have increased funding for preschool, helping give more young people the early education they need for lifelong success.”
The president’s praise of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard pre-K efforts failed to mention Ballard’s commitment to expanding educational choices, which gives parents more options to determine their children’s “lifelong success.” Since he was elected in 2012, Ballard more than doubled the number of charter schools, which has proved their efficiency...
How essential is pre-school toward a child’s “lifelong success”? There certainly are many studies that claim it is. One from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University says that not only are the effects of pre-k still felt as late as grade 3, but every dollar invested in such programs can yield over seven dollars in benefits.


June 25, 2015

Queen Anne’s Early Childhood Advisory Council was established in 2012 through an initiative to create a statewide infrastructure of county-specific early childhood councils. The statewide movement resulted from nearly $50 million in early childhood education funding through the national Race to the Top fund, grant program jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

Today Queen Anne’s Early Childhood Advisory Council includes nearly 30 local government agencies and non-profit organizations. To learn about the Council or its partner agencies, visitFacebook.com/QACearlylearning or email qaearlychildhood@gmail.com

NBC News
June 25, 2015

Recently a group of leaders, researchers and activists arrived at Chicago's Erikson Institute to attend an Early Learning Symposium, with the aim of boosting Latino educational outcomes. Organized by The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH), "Fulfilling America's Future: Research, Practice & Policy Advancing Early Childhood Education for Hispanics" continued the ongoing national conversation about Latinos and education, including the importance of family engagement and increasing STEM.

This two-day summit took place just a few months before the Initiative celebrates its 25th Anniversary. Hispanics are playing a pivotal role in the transformation of American education. Latinos represent almost 1 out of 4 Pre-K through 12 public school students. Though there has been significant progress in early education since the Initiative was founded in 1990 there is still a lot to accomplish. Currently only 45.4% of 3 and 4-year old Latinos are enrolled in early learning programs.

Huffington Post
June 24, 2015

This is the second of my two-part post on kindergarten readiness. Read Kindergarten Readiness, Part 1, which focused on physical, behavioral, and social abilities.

In this post, I will share many of the early academic indicators of kindergarten readiness. The list is by no means comprehensive, but it will provide families with an understanding of what will be expected of their child and offer tips to help them prepare their child for a successful transition to kindergarten.

Kindergarten-Readiness IndicatorListens to and understands stories

What Families Can Do:
• Begin to read board books to your child as an infant.
• Read the complete story first, for enjoyment, without interruptions.
• During additional readings, ask questions about the story, and encourage your child to ask questions.
• Let your child turn pages, showing that he knows it is a story.
• Gradually introduce longer books that require more patience and focus.

89.3 KPCC
June 24, 2015
The Los Angeles Unified school board blessed Superintendent Ramon Cortines' $8 billion spending plan Tuesday, funneling a $820 million increase in state funding next school year into teacher raises, maintenance and other programs cut during the recession.
As California's education budget grows to $53 billion, L.A Unified is one of many school districts using its share to shore up operations after years of recession-era cuts, among them layoffs of thousands of teachers, librarians and nurses from district schools...
But advocates chide the district for failing to seize the opportunity to seed new and improved services for the district's more than 500,000 high-needs students, those who are English learners, foster youth and children from low-income families...
The superintendent also oversaw negotiations with the teachers union and signed off on a 10 percent raise and large pension and healthcare packages. The cost of employing the district's more than 250,000 teachers is ratcheting up $124 million to more than $2 billion next year.
The Columbus Dispatch
June 23, 2015

More 4-year-olds from low-income and working families will have the opportunity to for a pre-kindergarten education, the Columbus City Council decided on Monday.

The council approved $4.2 million for a program Mayor Michael B. Coleman created to prepare children for kindergarten. That’s about $800,000 more than the previous school year.

The city allocated $3.4 million last year to fund 350 slots for 4-year-olds.

“The goal is universal access to high-quality pre-K for all children living in the city of Columbus,” said Rhonda Johnson, the city’s education director.

June 23, 2015
Registration kicks off bright and early at 8:30 AM on Tuesday for 300 newly created pre-school spots in the Little Rock School District.
The spots reserved for four year-olds in LRSD will expand the state's already largest pre-kindergarten education provider. 
LRSD pre-k expansion was funded by a federal grant facilitated by Arkansas Department of Health & Human Services. The four-year grant supports greater access to early childhood education for children in priority communities like Little Rock. 
Dr. Karen James, director of Early Childhood Education programming for LRSD, said there is a sustainability portion to the application submitted to receive grant money from DHS – the plan to continue to grow the pre-k options the Little Rock School District offers. 
NJ Spotlight
June 22, 2015
New Jersey holds a unique position in the national discussion about public preschool.
For the better part of a decade, the state has been seen as having one of the nation’s more generous models of publicly funded preschool, one largely spawned by the Abbott v. Burke school-equity rulings and serving more than 40,000 children in more than 30 of the state’s neediest districts...
In itself, the event held in Hamilton made some news. Speaking in one of the panels, state Senate President Steve Sweeney called expanded preschool one of his “top five” priorities, no small announcement from a man who not only runs the upper chamber but also is widely expected to run for governor in 2017.
The discussion was equally noteworthy for the feelings it evoked among the state’s preschool movement, which applauded New Jersey’s progress so far but also identified wide gaps in services...
Among those who crafted the Obama administration’s federal standards under the Race to the Top competition, Jones said now virtually every state has standards in place for early childhood education, and New Jersey remains a leader.
“New Jersey’s standards are really quite good, and one of the things is to keep remembering that is what you want to keep going back to,” she said.


NY Times
June 22, 2015
Children as young as age 3 will intervene on behalf of a victim, reacting as if victimized themselves, scientists have found.
With toys, cookies and puppets, Keith Jensen, a psychologist at the University of Manchester in England, and his colleagues tried to judge how much concern 3- and 5-year-olds had for others, and whether they had a sense of so-called restorative justice.
Jefferson Public Radio
June 22, 2015
Oregon has the lowest high school graduation rate of any state, less than 69 percent in 2013. The state's long-term plan to improve graduation rates starts really early - with preschoolers...
Research shows preschool builds a foundation for literacy. Oregon students who are strong readers by third grade graduate 77 percent of the time. If they’re not? The Oregon graduation rate is 53 percent.
“Kids who are in high-quality preschool — particularly low-income kids — are far more likely to graduate from high school,” said Swati Adarkar of the Portland-based Children’s Institute. “They’re far more likely to go on to college, they’re far more likely not to need special education as they go on in the elementary grades. These are all huge game-changers.”
Economic Policy Institute
June 19, 2015

This study seeks to broaden the debate by examining the education gaps that exist even before children enter formal schooling in kindergarten, and showing that the gaps extend to noncognitive skills, which are also critical for adulthood outcomes (Heckman 2008; Heckman & Kautz 2012). Regarding the analysis of early education gaps, this paper is modeled on Lee and Burkam’s 2002 monograph Inequality at the Starting Gate: Social Background Differences in Achievement as Children Begin School, which found that cognitive gaps between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds and races and ethnicities were both sizeable and statistically significant at school entry in kindergarten.1 This is important for policymakers because, if unaddressed, there is the potential that gaps persist over time and compound. Such early-in-life inequalities point to the need for substantial interventions to reduce them, including early educational interventions, to ensure that children arrive in kindergarten ready to learn and for compensatory policies to support these children throughout the school years (from kindergarten through 12th grade). Moreover, the social and economic disadvantages that generate these gaps should be addressed directly and eliminated through social and economic policies, not just education policies (Morsy and Rothstein 2015; Putman 2015; Rothstein 2004).


Tampa Bay Times
June 19, 2015

Coane is a member of Mission: Readiness, a group of more than 500 retired generals and admirals concerned about the nation's education system. He was the perfect keynote speaker for the United Way's Early Literacy Initiative luncheon and the core of his message was simple: Add national security to the list of reasons we need to improve education and convince state leaders to create a quality preK program.

How do national security and education relate?...

"Nearly three-quarters of our nation's young adults could walk into a recruiting station in downtown Tampa today and be turned away because they cannot meet the minimum qualifications to serve," said Coane, citing a Department of Defense study. "The primary reasons: They are either too poorly educated, they are unhealthy, they have a criminal record or some combination of all three."

And if we don't have a large pool ready to serve in the military, then we also don't have a large pool ready to meet the needs of businesses...

But you say the state has a voluntary prekindergarten program? Yes, but Coane stressed that if it's not a quality program, you're throwing money down the drain.

Trenam Kemker attorney Robert Buesing, vice chairman of the Hillsborough Early Learning Coalition, noted that although states like Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina meet all 10 quality standards set by the National Institute for Early Education Research, Florida meets only three of them.

GSA Business
June 19, 2015

A $50,000 grant will be used to extend a Clemson University program that teaches preschool caregivers methods to assist children with analytical skills and problem solving. The PNC Foundation grant aims to address the “changing needs of an economy that is increasingly based on knowledge and skills,” a foundation representative said...

The grant for the program, Building Environments for Early Mathematics Success, will help pay for professional development, classroom site and home visits and a period of feedback and reflection, said Sandra Linder, project director and associate professor of early childhood mathematics education.
Ed Source
June 19, 2015

The state’s largest school district plans to offer full-day classes and save thousands of school spaces for more low-income 4-year-olds in new transitional kindergarten classes, which will eventually replace a popular preschool program slated for elimination.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is set Tuesday to approve a budget that includes $14.3 million to expand its transitional kindergarten with new classes designed for children who turn 5 after Dec. 2. The current transitional kindergarten program is geared for children who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2.

Under Los Angeles Unified’s plan, about 2,800 additional transitional kindergarten spaces would be available for 4-year-olds in 117 schools in the fall. In 2016-17, the remaining 173 preschool sites would convert to transitional kindergartens.

June 18, 2015

When Democrats talk up universal pre-K, they often look to an unlikely place: red states. Georgia and Oklahoma both have big, publicly funded, and popular pre-K programs. This means Clinton can argue that pre-K is a bipartisan priority.

"Governors and state legislatures across the country are discovering the value of preschool. And this is bipartisan," Clinton said in New Hampshire. "You know, one of the states with a universal pre-K program in America is Oklahoma, about as red a state as you can get. But they have figured it out, the government and business leaders and families like, that this is a smart investment for them."

The programs in Oklahoma and Georgia were originally created by Democrats: Oklahoma's by a Democratic legislator and Georgia's by then-Democratic Gov. Zell Miller, who later switched parties. They've thrived since in red states with bipartisan support.