Early Education in the News

July 9, 2015

On April 29, 2015, SRCD was represented by Drs. Kimberly Brenneman and Alissa Lange at a congressional poster exhibition and reception on Investments in STEM Research and Education: Fueling American InnovationDr. Alissa Lange, who is at the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University, and Dr. Kimberly Brenneman who previously worked with Dr. Lange at NIEER and now works at the Heising-Simons Foundation, presented a poster on STEM Professional Development for Early Childhood Teachers. Their NSF-supported research involves the development and preliminary testing of a professional development approach that integrates high-quality math and science instruction for all learners with supports for preschool dual language learners.

Think Progress
July 8, 2015

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey (D) is offering an amendment to the bipartisan rewrite of No Child Left Behind that would provide universal pre-K for five years. The amendment would close the corporate tax inversions loophole in order to fund it. That would provide around $30 billion in funding, which Casey’s office based off of the $33.5 billion that would be saved if the Stop Corporate Inversions Act of 2014 passed. . .

Forty percent of kids in pre-K had programs that met less than half of NIEER’s quality standards. Last year’s report showed that for the first time since NIEER reported on pre-K programs in 2002, the number of children enrolled in those programs fell in the 2012-2013 school year, with 9,160 fewer four-year-olds in pre-K programs.

89.3 KPCC
July 8, 2015

Support for universal preschool is spreading around the country, but relatively few places have set up systems where all kids from infants to 5-year-olds can attend child care. That's not the case in Scandinavian countries like Norway and Denmark where early child care for all has been around for decades and is taken for granted by taxpayers.

School Library Journal
July 7, 2015

While these library programs are often provided on a drop-in, come-and-go basis, a summer program at the New Brunswick (NJ) Free Public Library is taking another step toward a more structured format.Math and Science Story Time (MASST) uses stories, songs, and activities to engage preschoolers and their parents in math and science concepts drawn from the New Jersey Department of Education Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards.

Developed by Alissa Lange, an assistant research professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, the program runs for eight weeks and features themes, such as “Do You Know How Plants Grow?” and “Are You Taller Than a Tiger?” Lange considered offering free books to families who attended at least four sessions as an incentive. But then she decided to give them a book to take home after each session that was related to the topic, and complemented the handout given to parents with ideas for at-home activities.

“We wanted to capitalize on this opportunity to get more high-quality, age-appropriate, bilingual or Spanish-language STEM-themed books into the home—especially books on topics that the children were already excited about,” Lange says. “It was the most well-attended program at the children’s library, apart from their annual summer reading kickoff event, and the only Spanish-language program available.” Lange is now working on linking MASST to local preschool classrooms—almost as an extension of the curriculum—since preschool teachers bring their classes into the library once a week anyway during the spring.

July 7, 2015

Minnesota's widely debated preschool scholarship program may reach fewer children next year despite millions in new spending.

The anticipated dip in recipients may be short-lived. It would follow Monday's announcement by Brenda Cassellius, state education commissioner, that she will increase the scholarship cap to $7,500 per student.

That means eligible families receiving assistance will likely get more money to cover the cost of public and private preschool programs. The scholarships are aimed at boosting kindergarten readiness to close the achievement gap between poor and minority students and their classmates.

July 6, 2015

A new McKell Institute report shows Australia is being left behind by other developed nations that treat childcare as a vital early childhood education opportunity for all, and not simply 'babysitting' for mothers returning to the workforce. he report, Baby Steps or Giant Strides?, authored by leading national early childhood experts from the University of New South Wales Professor Deborah Brennan and Dr Elizabeth Adamson, identifies serious flaws with the Federal Government's new childcare package, announced in the latest federal budget. . .

"The government's new policy treats childcare as a regrettable necessity, required mainly to get women back into the workforce. Globally, however, early childhood education and care is seen as critical not just in promoting workforce participation, but in creating foundations for learning. It's seen as a means of boosting the capacity of the rising generation to contribute to national prosperity, and creating happy lives for the children of today.

July 6, 2015

Idaho lawmakers could to be asked next January to come up with money for preschool programs designed to prepare children for kindergarten.

A coalition of working and former Idaho CEOs and other advocates of early childhood education hopes to present a proposal that would seek state dollars to help pay for community-based preschool.

It would be the third straight year that a request for preschool funding has come before the Legislature. For the past two years, and in earlier years, lawmakers were unwilling to put up money. They were concerned that state-supported preschool would trample on parents' rights and responsibilities to take care of early childhood education needs in their own families, and they did not want to risk pulling money out of public education to support it.

July 6, 2015

Congressional leaders are attempting to pass a reworked bill reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA) would reauthorize ESEA and “continue annual measurements of academic progress of students while restoring to states, school districts, classroom teachers, and parents the responsibility of deciding what to do about improving student achievement, which should produce fewer tests and more appropriate ways to measure student achievement,” said the aide. “[This is the] most effective path to advance higher state standards, better teaching, and real accountability. . . ”

Snell and McCluskey both say ESEA is not the place to increase funding of early childhood education, as the bill’s language suggests.

“Early education should not be addressed through ESEA,” Snell said. “There are myriad other early education funding streams from the federal government, from Head Start to the Early Education block grant. They should not be duplicated in K–12 funding. Any changes, expansions, or improvements to early education should be done by first streamlining and coalescing the existing federal early education programs.”

Rutland Herald
July 6, 2015

About a third of all Vermont school districts are moving ahead this fall with universal access to public pre-kindergarten, and many other districts aren’t far behind in complying with legislation that mandates universal pre-K by the 2016-17 school year.

Passed last year, Act 166 requires every school district to provide access to at least 10 hours per week of free pre-K for all children ages 3 to 5 not in kindergarten during the school year, either by running an in-house program or paying tuition to independent providers.

In November, school districts were granted a one-year extension to comply. Agency of Education officials realized they couldn’t set the law’s administrative rules in time for districts to use them while budgeting for the 2015-16 school year.

July 6, 2015

It’s official: Child care providers play an integral role in setting the stage for children’s future success.

“In the past 20 years there has been a huge influx of preschool studies that have honed in on the science behind education and improving child outcomes,” says Shannon Riley-Ayers, an early childhood research professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. In looking at how teachers provide emotional and instructional support, enhance cognitive development and approach educating the whole child, one thing became abundantly clear: “Teaching quality is a big component” toward long-term student success, she reports.

That’s why it’s imperative to select just the right child care provider for your preschooler. As monumental as the task is, however, the search doesn’t have to be stressful if you know what to look for.

School Library Journal
July 2, 2015
Last fall, the Queens Library in New York City became what is thought to be the first library in the country to open a pre–K class, in its Woodhaven branch. Teachers Andrea Clemente and Lisa Bohme meet with their students in a spacious room on the ground floor and are taking full advantage of the library’s resources. The children’s librarian visits the students frequently, playing his guitar and teaching them how to use iPads. The students have also had visits from subject-area experts, such as the science exhibit supervisor for the library system. Of course, they also have access to books, lots of books.
“On a weekly basis we take the children to the library so they can pick a book to take home for the weekend,” Clemente says. “They look forward to this activity every week.”...
The Queens program is part of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to serve more than 73,000 four-year-olds in universal pre–K. The fact that schools have limited space for additional classrooms is not standing in the way. To meet the goal, the city is bringing pre–K to non-traditional spaces, with public libraries taking a role...

Libraries are also becoming providers of STEM-focused experiences for adults and children, through science exhibitions and out-of-school programs such as maker spaces and robotics workshops. These services are considered critical in supporting children’s learning and attracting them to STEM-related careers.

While these library programs are often provided on a drop-in, come-and-go basis, a summer program at the New Brunswick (NJ) Free Public Library is taking another step toward a more structured format.Math and Science Story Time (MASST) uses stories, songs, and activities to engage preschoolers and their parents in math and science concepts drawn from the New Jersey Department of Education Preschool Teaching and Learning Standards.

Developed by Alissa Lange, an assistant research professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, the program runs for eight weeks and features themes, such as “Do You Know How Plants Grow?” and “Are You Taller Than a Tiger?” Lange considered offering free books to families who attended at least four sessions as an incentive. But then she decided to give them a book to take home after each session that was related to the topic, and complemented the handout given to parents with ideas for at-home activities...

It’s a winning situation for everyone, [Nick Buron] says, adding that the pre–K parents often arrive every day with other children in tow. “When you provide universal pre–K, you’re really able to help the whole family,” he says. “These are our customers as well.”

With the Queens Library showing how a partnership between the library and a growing pre–K system can work, it’s likely that other communities will implement similar models in the future. Not only can libraries help meet the demand for space, but, as Neuman says, opening pre–K classes in libraries “would send an important message about the power of literacy and books to promote learning.”

Washington Post
July 2, 2015

Can kids really learn as much from “Sesame Street” as from preschool?

Recently, a new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research titled “Early Childhood Education by MOOC: Lessons From Sesame Street,” prompted media stories, including one in The Washington Post, saying that “Sesame Street” can be as effective as preschool in lifting student achievement...

The authors examine differences in access to “Sesame Street” when and after it was first launched in 1969 in areas of the United States that had VHF, and other areas that had the weaker UHF, which did not reliably carry the station that broadcast the show. This comparison in broadcast strength was then matched with what the research said were student outcomes in an effort to show that kids in those areas where the show was broadcast had better academic outcomes that were statistically significant than in those areas where the broadcast signal was weak and where it was likely the kids didn’t see as much of “Sesame Street.”

The authors said they did not actually know whether kids in either group watched “Sesame Street”; just that it was more available, and that they were able to factor out other causes for the difference in  outcomes for students...

In fact, there is at best scant evidence that blended learning is a successful model. Besides that, Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, wrote in an e-mail:

To believe their results you have to believe that TV teaching through Sesame Street has a much deeper and more profound effect on the child than a teacher. What is the theory that would explain this?  They do not have a theory or explain how their results are consistent with the larger body of knowledge about learning and teaching. This is the most disturbing aspect of the paper.

Office of Gov. Mark Dayton & Lt. Gov. Tina Smith
July 2, 2015
During the 2015 Legislative Session, Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature made important new investments in E-12 education. Many of those new investments take effect today, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. The $525 million investment enacted this year will increase funding for every Minnesota classroom, improve early learning opportunities, improve literacy, and provide needed new resources for American Indian education and English language learners. New school funding enacted this session is directed toward strategies proven to help close achievement gaps, raise graduation rates, and improve career and college readiness.
“This year, we made important new investments in education that will improve educational opportunities for students across Minnesota,” said Governor Dayton. “We have a lot more work to do to close achievement gaps in Minnesota, and provide excellent educations for every student. I will remain fiercely committed to that important work in the years ahead.”
“We have made significant progress in our work to provide an excellent education to every child in Minnesota,” said Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. “The investments in our youngest learners, in our American Indian students and in our students learning English will help us to further reduce achievement gaps and prepare kids for career and college.”
The following is a summary of new education investments made this session, and the impact those investments will have on Minnesota students, families, and teachers...
July 1, 2015
Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced Friday a set of rights that would help parents demand high quality education for their children. Speaking at the 2015 National Parent Teacher Association Convention and Expo in North Carolina, Duncan said every parent must be able to demand from their kids' schools.
He said the three rights, which cover preschool to college, "must belong to every family in America -- and I hope you'll demand that your leaders in elected or appointed offices deliver on them."
The three educational rights include high standards in a well-resourced school, free quality preschool, and affordable quality college, Rebecca Klein of The Huffington Post reported.
"They come together as a set of rights that students must have at three pivotal stages of their life, to prepare them for success in college and careers and as engaged, productive citizens," said Duncan during his speech.
July 1, 2015
Mayor Nutter yesterday introduced the members of a new commission tasked with devising a plan to expand the city's high-quality preschool options and fund it.
The city's Commission on Universal Pre-K - overwhelmingly approved by voters in May - consists of 17 members, including five appointed by the mayor and five by City Council. The Rev. Sharon Easterling, head of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, and Loretta Sweet Jemmott, vice president of Health and Health Equity at Drexel University, will serve as co-chairs.
Advocates say research shows early childhood learning is critical to making sure children start school prepared...
The commission will hold monthly meetings, gather public input and submit a final report with recommendations to the mayor and City Council in April. Among the questions it must tackle are how much it costs to provide high-quality preschool, what kind of training is needed and how long it would take to implement a citywide plan. But the biggest question of all, Easterling said, will be how to pay for the plan.  


June 30, 2015
More working families than ever are spending more of their income on child care than any other household expense.
For many parents the cost is greater than housing, transportation or utilities.  In some places its even more expensive than college. And with rising child care costs the number of parents paying more for care than anything else is going up, according to the newly released Child Care in America: 2015 State Fact Sheets from Child Care Aware of America.
“We are in a child care crisis,” says Michelle  McCready, deputy director of policy Child Care Aware of America. “Child care costs are on the rise for American families and parents are spending the majority of their family budget on it.”
KY Forward
June 30, 2015

Nearly $1 million in grants have been awarded to 55 Community Early Childhood Councils covering 84 Kentucky counties to promote school readiness for children. Twenty-seven additional councils covering 33 counties have been invited to apply for the remaining funds of more than $280,000 bringing the total award to more than $1.25 million.
“Every community has unique needs and strengths,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “These grants allow communities across the Commonwealth to mobilize around improving outcomes for children. Investments in early childhood education are so important to grow Kentucky’s next generation of leaders. It is imperative to the future of Kentucky that our children get the best possible start in school and in life.”
Just last week Beshear joined early childhood professionals and community leaders to ensure Kentucky families can now be assured of the quality of their early learning and child care choices by ceremonially sign House Bill 234, a measure that expands and enhances Kentucky’s quality rating system for early care and education programs.

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.