Early Education in the News
Children enrolled in Los Angeles Universal Preschool programs made significant improvements in the social and emotional skills needed to do well in kindergarten, according to a study released Monday. The gains were especially pronounced for English language learners, the study showed.
Arkansas legislators have put off approval of proposed new, voluntary higher standards for day-care centers, with some citing higher costs that the facilities might have to pay if the standards are made mandatory. The proposed standards, called Better Beginnings, would classify centers as meeting one of three levels of advanced qualifications.
The stories show that many preschool children focus intently on the words they hear and that most are primarily dependent on parents for clarification. Preschool years can, in fact, be a "perfect storm," a short window of opportunity in which factors come together so parents can best provide the basis of language growth.
The governor's proposal would slash the state's early childhood education block grant by 16 percent, which means 6,000 students in Chicago public schools could be shut out of the Preschool for All program, which targets academically at-risk children. Though not mandatory, Preschool for All is hailed for giving 3- and 4-year-olds a jump-start with its 2 1/2 hours a day of free instruction.
Just like every other division in the Agency of Human Services, early child care is facing cuts as the state tries to balance its budget. Early child care advocates understand that money is tight in Montpelier this year, but this week they are reminding lawmakers and business leaders that dollars taken away from programs around the state trickle up into other parts of Vermont's economy.
Kindergarten readiness isn't strictly a matter of age, say the experts. Instead, it involves a combination of cognitive, emotional, social and physical factors that can affect a child's academic success.
Rather than looking for ways to extend the benefits of quality preschool to more impoverished children, lawmakers this year have been considering cuts in funding for licensed child care -- the places where a majority of Minnesota's low-income children receive their only exposure to preschool lessons.
Proposed cuts to early childhood programs have come as lawmakers grapple with how best to eliminate a budget shortfall in Kansas exceeding $400 million. Both House and Senate proposals for closing the budget gap include cuts for early childhood education.
The state may implement a new preschool rating system that would boost accountability, encourage higher quality programs and help parents make more informed decisions. A 13-member advisory committee aimed at improving early childhood learning programs in California is currently collecting data to create a fair, accurate scale that would hold preschools accountable and be understandable for parents.
Though the economic downturn has impacted the state's ability to grow its top rated pre-K program, teachers and advocates say they're not giving up. More than 100 pre-K teachers from all over Alabama rallied on the steps of the state Capitol on Wednesday and thousands more will converge on the city today for the fifth Alabama Pre-K Conference hosted by the state Department of Children's Affairs Office of School Readiness.
The proposal has a $9 billion price tag. But the benefits of expanding childhood education nationally would outweigh the costs, panelists told U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., at a Senate hearing at Morrisville High School Tuesday.
In a move that has escaped much public attention, the Oregon Legislature in its February special session came up with $1 million for the state's first spending on Early Head Start, a program to help prepare disadvantaged children under age 3 for school.
Duggan and Steven Barnett, co-director of NIEER, also said that because pre-kindergartners are not tested before they start the program, there's no way to tell how much they have improved throughout the year. A pre-VPK test would help determine whether VPK itself made the difference.
Two-thirds of Georgia day care center classrooms offer low-quality care for infants and toddlers, according to an independent study released in late March. Preschool programs are generally somewhat better, and the Georgia Pre-K program was found to provide "medium" quality care and education.
As state education officials prepare Massachusetts' application for round two of federal "Race to the Top" funds, it is urgent not only to retain but also to emphasize important initiatives that address early childhood education, one of the most effective strategies to ensure later school success and help close the achievement gap. Economist James Heckman, a Nobel laureate, observes: "Because skills are accumulated starting early and over time, investing in young children is an investment in future productivity."
A recent decision at Audubon Charter School to charge tuition for pre-kindergarteners underscores a broader dilemma: As demand for pre-K mounts, inadequate financing makes it increasingly difficult for public schools to offer the early childhood programs. Meanwhile, some charter schools might drop their pre-K programs altogether if they cannot attract grants or private donations.
Matt Regan worries about two things: high school dropout rates of 25 percent in California and the need to make preschool education a priority. He sees them as inextricably linked, asserting, as many educators do, that a child's enrollment in early education programs significantly increases the likelihood of graduation from high school, success in college and, ultimately, a better life.
Proposals in the both the Kansas House and Senate, if passed, could pull significant amount of dollars away from early childhood programs statewide.
The Des Moines school district has expanded its preschool programs in the past three years, and educators say more students are entering kindergarten prepared to learn, as a result. Officials plan to continue expanding the preschool program next year - despite significant budget cuts that will force the district to eliminate dozens of teachers' jobs.
Funding was reduced midyear to help the state deal with its financial difficulties. Early-education advocates expected the funding to be restored in the 2010-11 budget. The money, however, wasn't included in the House bill approved last week.