Early Education in the News
After decades of exponential growth in the gap of kindergarten academic readiness between poor students and their wealthier peers, that fissure is finally closing.
Between 1998 and 2010, the difference in kindergarten readiness between high- and low-income children narrowed by 10 percent to 16 percent, according to a study published Friday in AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.
Previously, that academic achievement gap between poor and wealthy children had grown by about 40 percent since the 1970s.
Children of color are now a majority of all public school students and will soon be a majority of all children in America yet children’s books and the publishing industry have failed to keep up with the rainbow of our children’s faces and cultures and needs.
Children of color need to be able to see themselves in the books they read. Just as importantly, all children need to be exposed to a wide range of books that reflect the true diversity of our nation and world as they really are.
Head Start will begin a new school year in Prince George’s County on Monday, operated by a Denver-based organization that the federal government often turns to when local providers get into trouble.
Federal officials revoked the Prince George’s County school system’s status as the grantee for $6.4 million in Head Start funds earlier this month, citing deficiencies in reporting alleged child abuse and a failure to address the problems that led to at least three incidents.
The early-childhood education program serves more than 932 economically-disadvantaged children in Prince George’s between the ages of 3 and 5.
This is one of the wealthiest states in the union. But thousands of children here attend schools that are among the worst in the country. While students in higher-income towns such as Greenwich and Darien have easy access to guidance counselors, school psychologists, personal laptops, and up-to-date textbooks, those in high-poverty areas like Bridgeport and New Britain don’t. Such districts tend to have more students in need of extra help, and yet they have fewer guidance counselors, tutors, and psychologists, lower-paid teachers, more dilapidated facilities and bigger class sizes than wealthier districts, according to an ongoing lawsuit. Greenwich spends $6,000 more per pupil per year than Bridgeport does, according to the State Department of Education.
The discrepancies occur largely because public school districts in Connecticut, and in much of America, are run by local cities and towns and are funded by local property taxes. High-poverty areas like Bridgeport and New Britain have lower home values and collect less taxes, and so can’t raise as much money as a place like Darien or Greenwich, where homes are worth millions of dollars. Plaintiffs in a decade-old lawsuit in Connecticut, which heard closing arguments earlier this month, argue that the state should be required to ameliorate these discrepancies. Filed by a coalition of parents, students, teachers, unions, and other residents in 2005, the lawsuit, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell, will decide whether inequality in school funding violates the state’s constitution.
In the landscape of Indiana education politics, it’s rare to find a topic people on opposite political and ideological sides agree on. But over the last few years, one such topic has come forward: affordable pre-k.
Most of the people working toward this goal agree the state should offer funding to make that possible. But opinions diverge there, over how much funding and who should qualify.
Some believe every child in the state should attend pre-k on the state’s dime, others think we should focus on low-income families.
And this discussion is in the public spotlight now, with the upcoming election and the 2017 General Assembly determining a new two year budget.
Next year, San Diego Unified will offer preschool to all families. All families who can afford it, that is. Earlier this week, Mayor Kevin Faulconer joined Superintendent Cindy Marten to announce a “game changing” initiative to that would expand access to preschool. Faulconer and the city didn’t actually help fund the preschool initiative, called Pre-K for All.
District officials have long touted the quality of its preschool programs, but until now those seats were limited to families who meet strict income eligibility standards – which only covers the very poorest San Diegans. It’s ridiculously hard to qualify – and stay qualified – for free preschool. A family of four, where mom and dad work full-time but earn minimum wage, could actually make too much money to attend free preschool.
So this year the district will try something different. It will open up a certain number of spots to parents who make above the income cap but are willing to pay for a district-run preschool.
Costs range from $530 a month for a half-day program to $1,060 a month for full-day spots. Anyone who makes above the income cap will pay a flat fee for preschool, and pay extra if they can’t pick up their kids until 6 p.m. The annual registration fee is $150.
District officials say that’s cheaper than what parents would pay for private preschools in many San Diego neighborhoods. According to data from the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network, the average cost of preschool in San Diego County was $9,952 a year, or about $830 a month, in 2014.
There are very few unchallenged successes in New Jersey's long effort to improve school performance, but preschool is one of them.
Calling our state-funded preschools "baby-sitting" programs, as Gov. Christie has done, is just plain ignorant. The fact is, New Jersey is among the top states in national rankings of preschool quality, and research shows the results are lasting.
By the time they reached fourth or fifth grade, kids who attended pre-K in our poorest cities were, on average, three-quarters of an academic year ahead of their peers who didn't, according to a promising 2013 study.
A new study by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and Marshall University finds that kids who go to preschool are ahead of those who have no pre-K experience in every measure.
Since legislation was passed in 2002 to make preschool available to all families through the universal pre-K program, more children are now getting an early start to success.
Paula Volansky has worked as a teacher for 17 years and said preschool is promising."It has been really beneficial. They are seeing that it is an important part of getting into kindergarten. They need to know certain things, so it helps everyone. They are really promoting it here and I do believe that it is very, very important. You can see the difference in kids who haven't has preschool," said Paula Volansky, teacher at Pleasant Day Schools.
More than 109,000 U.S. students received some form of corporal punishment in 2013-14, including paddling and swatting, reports Education Week. After analyzing the most recent federal civil rights data, they found that more than 4,000 schools in 21 states across the country are still using corporal punishment as a form of discipline.
Nineteen states still allow corporal punishment in public schools -- although parental permission is often required -- including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming. The recent federal civil rights data shows that corporal punishment is still used in some states where it's currently banned.
The data also shows that black students disproportionately receive physical discipline as opposed to white students. Black students make up 22% of enrollment in schools using corporal punishment, and make up 38% of the population that receives this form of punishment. White students make up 60% of the population in schools using corporal punishment and only 50% of those that receive it.
The first children of Head Start are old enough now to have children of their own. They’ve moved through high school — if they were able to get that far — and some much farther than that. They’ve entered the workforce and formed their own families.
That means it’s increasingly possible to track the long-term effects of a federal program, created in the mid-1960s, that sought to give 3- and 4-year-olds from struggling families an early lift out of poverty.
A new analysis from the Hamilton Project suggests that their lives today are measurably better in some important ways than those of poor children who never enrolled in the program. Their chances of finishing high school, attending college and earning postsecondary degrees or certificates were higher.
As adults, blacks in particular rated better on indicators of noncognitive skills such as planning and problem-solving. And as parents, the children of Head Start appear to invest more in their own children, suggesting that years after the government’s initial investment, the program could indirectly touch a second generation.
Soon many of our nation’s young children will be starting school for the first time. What they will likely find is something dramatically different from what their parents experienced at their age. Kindergartens and pre-K classrooms have changed. There is less play, less art and music, less child choice, more teacher-led instruction, worksheets, and testing than a generation ago. Studies tell us that these changes, although pervasive, are most evident in schools serving high percentages of low-income children of color.
The pressure to teach academic skills in pre-K and kindergarten has been increasing since the passage of the No Child Left Behind act 15 years ago. Today, many young children are required to sit in chairs, sometimes for long periods of time, as a teacher instructs them. This goes against their natural impulse to learn actively through play where they are fully engaged–body, mind, and spirit.
Play is an engine driving children to build ideas, learn skills and develop capacities they need in life. Kids all over the world play and no one has to teach them how. In play children develop problem solving skills, social and emotional awareness, self-regulation, imagination and inner resilience. When kids play with blocks, for example, they build concepts in math and science that provide a solid foundation for later academic learning. No two children play alike; they develop at different rates and their different cultures and life experiences shape their play. But all children learn through play.
Five members of the Prince George's County school board are calling for the board's chair and vice-chair to resign. The fallout comes after the county lost a $6.5 million federal grant for its Head Start program following a federal investigation into allegations of student abuse.
The county's public schools system and board of education were told that the grant was terminated due to failure to "timely correct one or more deficiencies," a spokesperson said last week.
The program was apparently under a federal investigation for months after a review by the Administration for Children and Families allegedly revealed poor instructor training and alleged abuse of students.
In a letter to County Executive Rushern Baker III dated Monday, five school board members expressed their lack of confidence in the leadership of Board Chair Segun Eubanks and Vice Chair Carolyn Boston. They criticized the handling of an incident involving the alleged abuse of 3- to 5-year-old children, saying the board was not informed of the allegations until an emergency conference call held Aug. 17.
At La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark, staff are preparing for the new school year where they expect over 600 kids to enroll in their head start and preschool programs. Executive Director Ray Ocasio knows about Gov. Chris Christie’s so-called Fairness Formula and, like almost every urban-based preschool provider, he doesn’t think much of it.
But the governor says he’s dead serious about turning the state’s school funding formula on its head and that includes no special protections for the Abbott-decision mandated full-day preschool, which has created early childhood education opportunities for thousands of kids across the state, especially in poorer, urban districts like Newark. Ocasio says his programs have already suffered from flat funding from the state for almost six years.
Gloria Jerez runs one of La Casa’s three early childhood centers. She says a cut from the state would be catastrophic to her program. She says without full-day preschool, hundreds of Newark kids would fall even further behind. She says her program will not be able to accommodate the same number of students as it does currently.
But Christie — who has said all along that he considers preschool little more than a babysitting service — says Abbott districts need to sink or swim without what he says is a funding imbalance created by the Supreme Court’s Abbott decision. But advocates point to studies that say kids who have access to preschool do better socially, academically and even physically than kids who don’t.
Any child in England who has turned 3 by Sept. 1 is guaranteed 15 hours a week of free childcare or preschool for 38 weeks a year, or 570 hours total, paid for by the national government.
“We don’t think of it as socialism at all,” said the Oxford University professor Edward Melhuish, who studies child development and was instrumental in conducting the research that largely led to England’s current policies. “We think of it as common sense.”
Apparently, so do most parents—94 percent of whom take the government up on its offer of free education starting at age 3, according to government data. At age 4, 99 percent of children have started “reception,” the English version of kindergarten. Most 4-year-olds attend reception at their local primary school, but parents can choose to send their 3-year-old to a private center, a publicly funded nursery, a state-funded primary school, or a home-based daycare provider. Parents can also spread their 570 hours out over all 52 weeks of the year at centers with year-round enrollment options. Parents who need more coverage pay the difference between tuition and the amount covered by the government.
During the first few years of life, a child learns so much about themselves and the world around them, and parents are their first teachers. Parents, at their best, teach their children how to speak, how to walk, how to feed themselves. They teach them the alphabet, shapes and colors, and in some instances how to count and spell very simple words.
But for healthy development, children need active stimulation and interaction with others. This is where early childhood education is the most beneficial. In trying to identify what quality early learning should look like, it’s not always easy to find a model for success.
But New York City has moved to the forefront in offering some useful examples and good ideas for others to consider and emulate. In the last two years the Big Apple has made tremendous strides in accommodating all of the city’s public school 4-year-olds in high-quality preschool classrooms.
First-year findings in a long-term National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and Marshall University study of young students and early education classrooms in West Virginia reveal performance advantages among children attending Pre-K and provide useful information on classroom quality.
Children who attended Pre-K outperformed those who had no Pre-K experience in every measure
Benefits of Pre-K were most profound in print knowledge
Classroom quality averages all exceed minimal quality, and several demonstrate higher quality
On average, classrooms demonstrated high quality in fostering a nurturing and safe environment
The initial West Virginia Universal Pre-K Evaluation showed, on average, children with Pre-K experience outperformed those without Pre-K in every measure. Benefits were “large and statistically significant,” with the widest margin in print knowledge.
“We recognize that our state’s future depends on early investment in our youngest citizens,” said State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano. “We must ensure that every child has access to high-quality preschool to build the foundation for success.”
By not protecting preschool funding, Christie would allow the money currently spent for three- and four-year olds in districts like Irvington and Camden to be sent to districts such as Montclair and Cherry Hill to lower property taxes.
While that may please homeowners in highly taxed communities and critics of public preschool, it would come at the expense of one of New Jersey's most effective school reforms, said Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers.
"The benefits of high quality pre-K are an order of magnitude larger than the cost," said Barnett, a professor and an economist. "Taking it away from the kids who need it most is not the solution to the problem."
,,, as Pennsylvania grapples with a heroin epidemic fueled by cheap access to the drug and the overprescription of painkillers that act as a gateway. But seldom do families speak publicly about addiction and its impact on children, given the stigma and shame that surrounds it.
Instead, the story of drug abuse's reach is often kept to hospital intensive care units, where babies born dependent on opiates cry inconsolably as their first weeks of life are spent in withdrawal. Or in the halls of social work, where caseworkers struggle to keep families together while ensuring that mom or dad's drug problem doesn't bring their children harm....
The children are enrolled in SafeStart, a Head Start program in east Allentown that serves 64 at-risk children, the majority of whom were born to mothers who abused drugs or alcohol while pregnant.
Since the children are often sensitive to light and sound, the center is decorated in muted colors and lights are kept low.
Therapists are on hand, and in each classroom there is a one-way mirror. This is used by caseworkers and others who must observe the children and report their findings to a judge.
As Cincinnati Public Schools tries to dramatically expand preschool, Ohio is rolling out a policy change that could mean less funding for full-day care for low-income families around the state.
Barring a last-minute reversal, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services will forbid agencies from layering state subsidies for daycare on top of federal Head Start funding on Sept. 3.
Most kindergarten programs were, until recently, more social and less academic from what I witnessed last school year as a literacy tutor for full-day kindergarteners in St. Paul. One person’s reaction to my position says a lot: “Literacy tutoring? How much literacy tutoring can you do in kindergarten?!”