Early Education in the News
If we want to continue making progress, we have to start in the earliest years of a child’s life,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel pronounced emphatically before a packed chamber on October 15, as part of the education component of his 2015 Budget Address to the City Council. “So we have to reach them early and make sure they arrive for kindergarten ready to learn.” For families living on the South and West sides of the city, this plan carries particular significance—this is where the bulk of early childhood program development will take place. $9.4 million worth of capital investment is slated to expand opportunities at ten sites, selected to benefit neighborhoods where the need for more pre-K opportunities is most keenly felt. In 2015, this investment aims to provide half-day preschool opportunities for 1,500 four-year-olds at no cost to families. A $17 million corporate Social Impact Bond over the next four years intends to raise that number to 2,620. According to 2013 census figures, there are approximately 71,500 students eligible for preschool in the City of Chicago, with only fifty-six percent enrolled in some kind of early childhood education program.
Twenty-five years after the first National Child Care Staffing Study, a new studyfound that not much has changed. The study found those who work as preschool teachers have fared somewhat better, as their wages have increased 15 percent since 1997. However, childcare workers still earn less than adults who take care of animals and barely more than fast food cooks. The median hourly wage for a teacher working with children from birth to five years old was $10.60 an hour in 2012. The median hourly wage jumped to $16 an hour in school-sponsored pre-kindergarten and $11.90 in Head Start programs. The state has mandated that by 2015 at least 50 percent of the state-subsidized early childhood programs have teachers with bachelor’s degrees. However, the degree required didn’t come with any incentive to increase their pay.
The need to improve early childhood education in the state has caught the attention of Mississippi’s business community. While different groups are taking different approaches to help Mississippi’s earliest learners, MBB’s tactic is to aid those already working in the field. Instead of creating new programs, it provides support to existing centers – focusing on instruction, materials, business practices and parent outreach. Championed by the Mississippi Economic Council, MBB raised $7 million from businesses and foundations over its first four years. Now it operates entirely on state funding. It has received $3 million from the state for each of the past two years. Along with another $6 million to the new early learning collaborative program, that represents the first public funds Mississippi has spent on pre-K.
The Louisiana Department of Education today announced that all remaining school districts, along with child care and Head Start partners, submitted applications to participate in cohort 3 of the Early Childhood Care and Education Network, meaning 100 percent of the state's school districts have sought to unify their early childhood systems ahead of the fall 2015 deadline. Applications from the final 36 districts will be reviewed for funding over the next two months and will receive notice as to grant awards in January. Thirty-four school systems and partners are part of cohort 1 or cohort 2.
Nearly half of all child-care workers are so poor that they qualify for public assistance like food stamps, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit, according to the report, “Worthy Work, STILL Unliveable Wages,” an update of a 1989 national child care staff study. “We pay our child-care workers on par with the people who park our cars, walk our dogs and flip our hamburgers. Is that really what we want for the people who are teaching our young children and getting them ready for school?” said Deborah Phillips, a psychology professor at Georgetown University and one of the report authors in both 1989 and 2014. “There is such a disparity between what parents pay and what teachers earn. Even having studied this for the past 25 years, it’s still shocking to me.” Of the more than 600 teachers and staff members whom Phillips and her co-authors surveyed, three-fourths worried about having enough money to pay their monthly bills. Nearly half felt anxious about having enough food for their families. Poorly paid teachers and staff, the report notes, have led to higher teacher turnover rates, less continuity, and more instability and chaos for children.
A recent small-scale trial by New York University researcher Susan B. Neuman, who served in the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush, found that giving a group of preschoolers the chance to play for just 15 minutes a day on a popular app called Learn with Homer(www.learnwithhomer.com) improved their reading skills 74% in a six-week summer period — without the help of a teacher.
By the end of the summer sessions, the 95 low-income students in federally-funded Head Start classrooms in Brooklyn outpaced their peers on several key reading skills, including so-called "phonological awareness," the ability to recognize what makes up oral language and to be able to play with it — recognizing, for instance, that two words begin or end with the same sound.
Investing in pre-kindergarten education pays off for everyone. Cleveland's PRE4CLE pre-K expansion initiative was lauded recently as a national model by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and by Roberto J. Rodríguez, deputy assistant for education to President Barack Obama as a member of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Giving children the right start to their education has never been more relevant. A ManpowerGroup study showed that 49 percent of employers struggle to fill jobs because too many job-seekers lack the right skills. In a world economy increasingly fueled by a knowledge-based workforce, the solution is to help prepare at-risk children for the challenges ahead so they enter kindergarten on par with their more economically secure peers.
Act 166 of 2014 takes effect July 1, 2015, which means school districts are developing their fiscal year 2015 budget with prekindergarten as part of that budget. Here’s why we know it will help: Early intervention and early education lead to better outcomes. Act 166 requires PreK programs to meet quality standards and be held accountable, and provides families with multiple options for PreK.
The Senate Monday gave final congressional approval to legislation reauthorizing the federal government's Child Care Development block grant. The vote was 88-1 and the bill is probably the last education legislation to be adopted by the current Congress.
The bill, which authorizes $5.3 billion in federal child care assistance annually, requires background checks for all child care providers and at least one annual inspection of child care facilities. But it gives states wide discretion on how to allocate the funding.
One provision, added by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., requires states to develop disaster plans for child care centers -- to avoid the kind of situation that occurred during Hurricane Katrina.
Starting today, Indiana’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning (OECOSL) is officially inviting high-quality, early learning providers in Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh Counties to apply to be among the first “On My Way Pre-K” providers in the state of Indiana. Requirements for eligible providers, the application and other forms are now posted to OECOSL’s On My Way Pre-K website.
On My Way Pre-K is the new name of Indiana’s state-funded prekindergarten pilot program, which will award grants to 4-year-olds from low-income families who live in one of the five pilot counties. These families can use the grants to access a high-quality prekindergarten program in the school year before they begin kindergarten. Families who receive a grant may use it at any approved On My Way Pre-K provider.
Indy is close — last mile of a long journey close — to marking a monumental achievement for hundreds of children with profound needs. Yet it’s more critical than ever for political, business and nonprofit leaders to pull together and push forward in ensuring that the city finally invest in high-quality early childhood education for kids from low-income families.
Mississippi’s efforts to improve its schools are beginning too late, some say. The best place for the state to spark its embattled education system may be in the space before its children even start school. Citing research that people’s brains grow most rapidly during the first three to five years of their lives, advocates say this critical time frame is largely ignored in school improvement efforts. . .
Neighboring Louisiana spends nearly $86 million more each year and Tennessee almost $80 million more, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.
A study by The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University found that ruling has led to dramatic improvements in both the quality of pre-K classrooms and the performance of children. NIEER found those who attended the program made strong gains in language, literacy and math at kindergarten entry and that those gains held for students in fourth- and fifth-grades. For students who were in the pre-K program for two years, the effects were large enough to close about half of the achievement gap between low-income children and their more advantaged peers. NIEER also estimated that Abbott pre-K reduced grade repetition from 19 percent to 12 percent and special education from 17 percent to 12 percent, through fifth grade. . .
Each state takes a unique approach to pre-K. Here is a look at what a few other states offer in state-funded pre-school programs.
The problem for local school districts and for others in providing comprehensive pre-K education is a lack of funding. For years, Mississippi was the only Southeastern state not to have a state-supported early childhood education program and one of a few in the nation not to have a program. During the 2013 session, the Legislature provided $3 million in state funds to continue Building Blocks and $3 million to fund a pilot program where the state Department of Education would work with local collaborative groups (including local schools) in an effort to provide quality pre-kindergarten program. The plan was for the funding to increase for the pilot program in the coming years. But during the 2014 session, Building Blocks and the pilot program were level-funded at $3 million each.
One of the earliest indicators of a child’s future success is the number of words he or she hears prior to kindergarten. Language development begins with the interplay of words between the parent and child and helps nurture vocabulary, which is considered the building block of education. The frequency and richness of natural conversation in a child’s first years plays a key role in development.
Gov. Jack Markell is touting the importance of not only providing better access to early childhood education, but also giving their families more financial stability. In his weekly message, Markell says about 50 early learning centers are partnering with an initiative called $tand By Me connecting financial education coaches with workers and parents. “$tand By Me has already worked with 200 employees of these centers because our early childhood workers will best provide for our kids when they can experience financial security in their own lives and we plan to help hundreds of parents and guardians of our young children in the coming year,” said Markell.
He notes there’s nationwide interest in the program after federal officials recently visited the program. Financial education services in the program are also available throughout the state.
New state rules to oversee public prekindergarten schools and teacher certification were adopted by the Montana Board of Public Education Friday in a move that creates a framework for accountability for such programs should they receive funding from the 2015 Legislature. The board unanimously approved three sets of rules during its regular meeting in Helena, each with implications for early childhood education. They include requirements for class size, hours of instruction and content knowledge, as well as an early childhood educator license and teacher preparation standards.
With research showing language gaps between the children of affluent parents and those from low-income families emerging at an early age, educators have puzzled over how best to reach parents and guide them to do things like read to their children and talk to them regularly. A new study shows that mobile technology may offer a cheap and effective solution. The research, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research this month, found that preschoolers whose parents received text messages with brief tips on reading to their children or helping them sound out letters and words performed better on literacy tests than children whose parents did not receive such messages. Pediatricians are now advising parents to read daily to their children from birth. Some communities are developing academic curriculums for home visitors to share with parents of babies and toddlers, while other groups are mounting public information campaigns for parents on the importance of talking, reading and singing. But many of these efforts do not necessarily target parents at the moments when they are most likely to use the information.
U.S. lawmakers are pretty polarized these days, but they seem to agree investing in early education pays off. Studies show kids who go to school early have a better chance of graduating from high school and are less likely to commit crimes. So hundreds of education researchers wrote an open letter to policymakers urging them to prioritize early education.
Steve Barnett signed the letter. He’s the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. He’s optimistic Congress will increase access to classroom instruction for children under the age of five.
“I’m hopeful because the public is highly supportive, because it isn’t a partisan issue, and because there is substantial consensus in the scientific community about the importance of good early childhood programs,” he says.