Early Education in the News
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?!”
As we celebrate Team USA’s success setting world records and earning medals at the 2016 summer Olympics, we cannot escape the fact America has fallen off a world-class pace in education.
The United States used to be a world leader in college graduation. As recently as 1995 we were number one, but we have made relatively little progress since then while the rest of the world has picked up its pace. By 2014, we were 19th out of 28 developed countries — clearly not a medal contender.
At the other end of the education spectrum — preschool — which is my specialty, the United States has made little to no progress in the past decade and seems to be going nowhere fast while other countries have moved far ahead.
A state plan to change how Ohio pays for child care and early learning has some concerned that services will be diminished for thousands of poor children.
The policy change would save $12 million a year, money state officials say will be reinvested in Ohio’s child-care system. But critics say it also will cost tens of millions more in federal matching dollars.
The state argues that the current system allows some child-care providers to be paid twice — once from the state and again through the federally funded Head Start preschool program. But Head Start officials say the children are receiving additional services.
Federal officials have terminated a $6.4 million grant that funds the Head Start program in Prince George’s County, Md., after a review found that teachers used corporal punishment and humiliated children in the early-education program for children from low-income families.
Authorities noted that county school officials did not appropriately address problems discovered within the program, including when staff forced a 3-year-old in wet clothing to mop up his own urine in front of the class — as a teacher texted a photo to the child’s parent. They also found that Head Start staff made two children who played during nap time hold heavy objects over their heads for an extended period. In another case, a 5-year-old left a school unnoticed and walked home alone.
The findings came as part of a notification to school officials that the county’s Head Start grant would be terminated because of a failure to “timely correct one or more deficiencies” for which it had been put on notice. The decision means that the Prince George’s school system, which serves a large number of minority children living in poverty, is no longer eligible to apply for federal funding for the program that serves preschoolers and includes health, nutrition and parent-involvement services.
As children go back to school, it’s important to remember that school readiness includes not only cognitive and academic skills, but also learning style, physical well-being and social and emotional skills. The responsibility for school readiness resides not only with the child, but also with families, schools and communities.
Recent research on brain development points to the importance of early relationships and experiences in building the neural connections that constitute learning. These experiences, if positive and supportive, help build confidence and resilience in young children. Negative experiences and environments serve as toxic stressors; these adverse childhood experiences are risk factors for long-term physical and mental health problems.
With grants barely a month old, some conservative lawmakers are already questioning whether the state will get its money worth from the $116 million Texas is investing to ramp up pre-K efforts.
The Senate Education Committee listened to an update on the prekindergarten grants aimed at boosting early childhood education in the state, one of Gov. Greg Abbott's emergency items during the last legislative session.
"We knew that we could do better with pre-K. Everyone knew that," said Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, who sponsored the legislation. Campbell cautioned her colleagues to be patient as the grants start to roll out but said the state needs to make sure it's spending money wisely. That's why stepped up reporting on pre-K progress will be required.
Zoe Hanson, the young mother of a year old infant, was feeling down: She and her husband Scott had just moved to Pacifica near San Francisco, to an apartment in a “crumbly house,” a tract home, that, nevertheless, at $3,000 a month, was untenably expensive. She didn’t have a job and didn’t know where to put her child while she looked for work.
Hanson and other middle class and rural parents are on the receiving end of an emerging type of unequal system that could be called daycare inequality.
A coalition of business, government, education and philanthropic leaders say they are determined to push state lawmakers to expand state-funded preschool in the upcoming legislative session. “All IN 4 Pre-K” is a new advocacy group that includes Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, outgoing Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Early Learning Indiana. Lechleiter says the state's pre-k pilot program is not enough to meet demand. He says only 2,300 families of low-income three- and four- year olds in five counties received scholarships in the past two years. “We believe that families and their children in all of Indiana’s 92 counties should have access to high quality, early learning environments,” he says. The group members say they will directly lobby lawmakers to pass new laws in 2017.
There are, New York City public school principal Kristina Beecher discovered, an awful lot of types of play blocks. There are wooden blocks, cardboard blocks, magnetic blocks, clear plastic blocks, number blocks, letter blocks, and fish-shaped blocks, to name a few. And all of them are advertised as the best possible blocks for outfitting a preschool classroom.
Such choices have been faced by principals like Beecher across the city in the last two years as New York has moved to accommodate all of the city’s public school 4-year-olds in high quality preschool classrooms. Between the 2013-14 school year and the 2015-16 school year, the city added about 16,000 preschool students and 2,000 teachers. “We believe that preschool is an integral part of the public school system and public school should be universally available because every child can benefit from it,” said Josh Wallack, Deputy Chancellor of New York City’s Department of Education. “Therefore, preschool should be universal.”
The changes have come with new money and support to ensure that the city is not only offering preschool to all, but top quality preschool to all. Teachers — many of whom are veterans of the city’s smaller, existing preschool program — have been asked to change their classrooms and step-up their teaching to improve the overall caliber of the program. In particular, classrooms are now held to the standards laid out in the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS), a tool designed to evaluate preschool classroom environments. After a mixed review in 2014-15, P.S. 3 teachers were advised to add more dress-up options in their dramatic play area, purchase outdoor play equipment like tricycles and grow their block collection.
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have released ambitious plans aimed at cutting the costs of child care in America, signaling that in this election, one of the most hotly contested groups might be those pushing strollers.
The Center for Early Learning at Silicon Valley Community Foundation announced today that it will receive a $1.5 million grant from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a national project of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation.
The grant will support an ambitious three-year effort to make early learning for California’s youngest children a state budget and policy priority. Specifically, the Center will partner with legislators, scholars and community leaders to promote research, public opinion data and key messages that make the case for increased investments in high-quality early learning programs.
California currently ranks 28 out of 42 states in access to preschool programs for 4-year-olds, according to a 2015 report from the National Institute for Early Education Research. The report also found that California’s early .education quality standards are among the nation’s worst. These facts are unsurprising given that nearly $1 billion in funding has been cut from the state’s budget for preschool programs since 2008. Recently, through the advocacy of SVCF and other statewide leaders, the state has committed to reinvest $500 million into early learning programs over the next four years
The real problem is not that child care costs too much, but that we as a society have failed to acknowledge that caring for children is demanding, labor-intensive and therefore costly.
State child care subsidies, designed to help low-income working families afford care, typically pay providers far less than the typical costs of care, let alone the costs of quality programs. The typical state-funded preschool program spends just $4,489 per child, less than half the per-pupil spending in K-12 public schools, even though many state pre-K programs offer a full-school day (or longer) program and employ teachers with bachelor's degrees. Head Start, the federal program for children in poverty, provides more funding than the typical state pre-K program, but less than K-12 schools, while also requiring extensive additional health, family engagement and comprehensive supports that K-12 schools don't offer.
The hard reality is that giving all our children quality care that supports their development and prepares them to succeed in school requires someone – whether parents, government, or someone else – to spend much more on young children than we currently do.
Early childhood education is essential for success later in life, and every state needs solid resources to reinforce the benefits of schooling.
Oklahoma has seen the results of making early childhood education a priority. Children are excelling at rapid rates in their earliest stages, and are more prepared for the rigors of each level of schooling. It's a statistic we're proud of, and is the result of collective work across all levels of government, as well as the diligent efforts of private organizations.
People are quick to see the negative in Congress every day, and hardly realize there is bipartisanship in our work. Rest assured, Congress takes education very seriously. One of the most bipartisan issues quite frankly is education — especially education at the earliest stages. We passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, in a bipartisan manner, to improve and maintain education standards, including early education. There's never a disagreement or misunderstanding that our nation's underserved children need all the resources they can get, and that they should have access to a quality and effective education. That's an issue I think everyone can agree on.
NIEER is seeking submissions to a special issue of the Journal of Applied Research on Children (JARC) focused on Research and Progress in Early Education and Early Brain Development, to be edited by NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett and AllisonFriedman-Krauss, assistant research director professor. JARC is published by CHILDREN AT RISK and the Texas Medical Center Library and edited by the CHILDREN AT RISK Institute.
Topics could include new trends, developmentally appropriate practices, social and emotional wellbeing, engaging children and families, identifying Childhood Adversities (ACEs), language development, immigrant education, technology integration, and how our institutions and communities contribute to improved child outcomes. The CHILDREN AT RISK Institute is seeking articles that include data-oriented evidence on the most pressing early brain and education related issues and what programs and policies are needed to combat these issues.
We encourage interested authors to submit an abstract or letter of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org by August 22, 2016. To view past issues of the journal or to submit a manuscript, click here. If you have questions, please contact Dr. Friedman-Krauss.
One of the most pressing issues with mass incarceration is the school-to-prison pipeline and the current education system. One of the most effective ways at reducing incarceration is ensuring that as many people as possible have access to quality education throughout their lives, beginning as early as possible.
Universal Pre-Kindergarten programs have a range of demonstrable benefits, from ensuring school readiness, to lessening the likelihood of special education needs, to longer term effects such as higher earning potential, and reduced risk of incarceration.
Pre-K programs ensure school readiness, higher levels of literacy and other skills, and works towards reducing the achievement gap. Universal Pre-K is equally as critical. While the earliest Pre-K programs targeted only low income and at-risk children and families - who receive the most benefit from these programs - Universal Pre-K has benefits for middle and upper class children as well. Integration in these programs also ensures that a broad range of demographics are brought together, reducing segregation based on wealth or race, and reducing prejudice.
Gov. Jay Nixon awarded nearly $1 million to an early childhood education project in New Madrid on Wednesday, another event in a growing statewide conversation over early learning. He made another $1 million grant in Salisbury later in the day.
In addition to Nixon’s grants through Missouri Start Smart, this summer he signed a bill to allow Missouri to rate preschools and in the past he called for pre-kindergarten learning to be funded through the foundation formula.
These actions joined Tuesday’s certification of an initiative petition designed to raise money for early childhood education as advocates seek to raise what they see as Missouri’s lagging efforts.
Wednesday’s action joined $23.1 million in Missouri Start Smart grants that have been awarded for 24 projects across the state. That’s just a drop in the bucket compared to an estimated $300 million the Early Childhood Health and Education Amendment could provide.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services plans to ban a funding mechanism that allows preschools to receive money from multiple public sources. It's a policy change that could save the state about $12 million annually.
But it has Cuyahoga County preschool providers – particularly those serving children in poverty — scrambling to figure out how to deal with an estimated $2 million reduction in funding, weeks before the school year is scheduled to begin.
The state views the funding mechanism as a double-dipping of sorts, and claims some preschool providers have been receiving "dual payments" from both state child care coffers and the federal government's Head Start program, according to an Aug. 1 memo from Job and Family Services Director Cynthia Dungey. The memo, which was sent to advisors for Gov. John Kasich, explains that the department will rectify the problem by enforcing a rule in the Ohio Administrative Code, "which ensures that if a state or federal program is providing payment for a specific child the publicly funded child care program will not pay for the same time period."
While 74 school districts and charter schools will participate in an initial round of state-funded preschool, more than 100 districts were turned down, Minnesota education officials announced Monday.
That gulf between demand and available funding prompted Gov. Mark Dayton to renew his call for more money for what has been one of his top priorities.
"The fact that more than half could not be funded to me is the impetus for why the program needs to be expanded in the next biennium," Dayton said at a news conference announcing which districts would share in the $25 million preschool appropriation.
Preschool run through public schools should especially benefit English language learners and special education students, said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. "The school system is the only educational system we have that can provide the supports that preschool programs need to be high-quality," he said.
Fifty-one years ago this summer, former President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the launch of Head Start in the White House Rose Garden.
“Five and six year old children are inheritors of poverty’s curse and not its creators,” Johnson told his audience as he explained that the federal government would be, for the first time, funding education and health services for children living in poverty in the form of a public preschool program. That first summer, according to a press release from the time, the program was to serve 530,000 children in 11,000 centers at a cost of $112 million, or $857 million in today’s dollars.
“This program this year means that 30 million man-years — the combined life span of these youngsters — will be spent productively and rewardingly, rather than wasted in tax-supported institutions or in welfare-supported lethargy,” Johnson promised.
But has that come to pass?
Over the last 25 years, hundreds of studies have produced evidence of the impacts of early education on learning and development. These developmental results translate into very long-term improvements: increased employment and earnings, decreased dependence on public welfare, decreases in risky behaviors like teen pregnancy, smoking and drug use, and improved mental health.
These improvements in development and adult success have implications for public expenditures resulting in cost savings in education, social services, the criminal justice system, and health care. Of course, it is not just the government cost savings that are important, but the improvements in the quality of life.