Early Education in the News
Kansas falls short in helping children before they reach kindergarten but is making gains, according to a report released Wednesday. Pre-K Now ranks Kansas as one of the five worst states in the nation for parents seeking a high-quality, state-funded pre-kindergarten program. Neighboring Oklahoma ranked among the best in the nation.
Responding to reports of serious problems caused in family life by repeated deployments, the Department of Defense has expanded a Missouri early childhood program to a dozen military installations and could expand it much further. The Heroes at Home program takes the pre-existing Parents as Teachers program, which uses trained parents to help mentor families of new parents and teach them parenting skills as well as identify programs, and modifies it to apply to specific stresses of the military lifestyle.
Virginia's state budget for pre-kindergarten education grew by 13 percent to $60 million this fiscal year. The two-year budget includes another increase to $68 million next fiscal year. But with a state budget shortfall that some estimates put near $1 billion, it's unclear whether that funding will be trimmed.
Despite a 150 percent increase in funding for pre-kindergarten programs in the past three years, Colorado still ranks near the bottom in program quality and enrollment, according to a national report released Wednesday. The Colorado Preschool Program, which focuses on children from low-income and at-risk families, in 2007 enrolled only 15 percent of 4-year-olds and 3 percent of 3-year-olds who could benefit from the early educational help, according to Pre-K Now, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group.
Follow-up studies of children who have been through a Head Start program have shown immediate and significant improvement in intelligence, an advantage over children of similar backgrounds who did not attend Head Start. Head Start has made real differences for 25 million children in 40-plus years, but if it is not followed by continuing support for at-risk children, its effects will not be as profound as they could be.
Pre-K Now, with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts, released "Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal Year 2009," an annual state-by-state analysis of legislative support for pre-k, showing that despite worsening economic conditions nationwide, the majority of states increased their investment in pre-kindergarten programs. Thirty-two states added $316 million to early learning budgets, allowing about 46,000 more 3- and 4-year-olds to have access to pre-k.
Research indicating that learning two languages stimulates intellectual development was also behind Kathryn and Riccardo Stocco's decision to raise their children bilingual. Some area schools do offer languages to preschool-age children.
Studies show that young children who experience high quality early care and education are more likely to have good physical-emotional-mental health, have higher self-esteem, have greater speech and language skills, succeed academically and attend college, have higher earnings as adults, own their own homes, and contribute to Maine's tax base. Students who experience high quality early care and education are less likely to experience emotional and mental health problems, require remedial education, drop out of school, become teen parents, engage in criminal behavior as teens and adults, abuse drugs, and become dependent on welfare.
Gov. Jon Corzine has asked the court to essentially remove Abbott from the state's laws and mandates, including court-ordered requirements in the 31 so-called Abbott districts for preschool, instructional reforms and extra services such as counselors and tutoring.
In New York City, a decentralized enrollment system, along with a tussle between the city and the state over spending rules, could cause the city to forfeit millions of dollars in state pre-K funding – despite strong demand for services. One problem is that state money comes with restrictions that make it difficult to use, according to city education officials and child advocates.
Hedge fund managers, CEOs and chamber of commerce presidents may not seem like obvious advocates for the expansion of social programs, but they've become perhaps the most enthusiastic and effective supporters of preschool. They see the issue in dollars and cents, and they're meeting in Telluride to hone their economic argument as government budgets tighten and policymakers face tough choices about what to fund.
Children need strong families, good early learning experiences, good health and supportive communities to succeed. Study after study shows that a child who starts kindergarten with the social, emotional and cognitive skills needed for success is more likely to do well in school, graduate and go on to college — and is more likely to become the kind of worker that helps our community compete for the world-class jobs of tomorrow.
Connecticut is one of five states in the country working with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Education Commission of the States to develop policies that would improve children's transition from preschool to kindergarten. Providing a seamless bridge between early learning and public school education is key in a state where about three-quarters of children attend some form of preschool by age 4, said Janice Gruendel, the governor's senior policy adviser on children and youth and co-chair of the Connecticut Early Childhood Education Cabinet.
[Founder of Scope View Strategic Planning Bill] Millett compared the skills children learn in their early years to the launching of a shuttle: If they don't begin learning when they're young — before they're 4, even — then their kindergarten through high school years won't be successful. If those aren't, post-secondary school won't and then the work force that society depends on won't be successful, either.
Getting a child ready for success later in life doesn't mean buying educational toys, compact discs or DVDs. Instead, it's about nurturing the more than 700 connections being made in the brain every second — responding to what their brains are doing naturally.
In an era of high-stakes testing and education reforms and revolutions, research has repeatedly proved that one simple parenting technique is among the most effective. Children who are read aloud to by parents get a head start in language and literacy skills and go to school better prepared.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, pre-school not only helps provide the math and early reading skills children will need in the first grade, but it also helps them learn how to respect and cooperate with other kids. And experts say the pre-school years are crucial because 90 percent of a child's brain development happens by age three, and their fundamental personality is set by age five.
Preschool programs and day care centers have been studied extensively by researchers, and the reports are usually a mixed bag of risks and benefits. But researchers agree it is critical that child care programs be of high quality and staffed by well-trained teachers who are responsive to children's developmental needs.
The study of 2,558 children said the positive effects of both quality primary schools and preschools "were sufficiently large enough to be important for any government wishing to maximize education achievement." That ought to make the rapid expansion of pre-K a high enough priority for Massachusetts to make universal access a reality.
Two local elementary schools are among 10 in the state that will participate in a two-year pilot program to form a stronger link between preschools and the public schools they feed into. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton are each contributing $100,000 for the two-year program, with 10 schools in the first year and an additional 10 added in the second year.