Early Education in the News
Across the city, preschool directors are gearing up for an unusually ambitious expansion. The program was a major campaign promise of Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the clock is ticking for opening day in September. Many centers were still hunting for staff at July job fairs, outfitting classrooms and training teachers. The city aims to offer 33,000 full-day seats in community centers this fall, up from 3,360 last year. District public schools will have 20,400 full-day spots, up from 16,100.
Yet according to at least one measure out this past week, things are not improving. The prospects continue to be bleak for South Carolina’s children who too often grow up in poverty, with few economic opportunities and with public schools that need to be improved. Schools need to be improved. That starts with funding. It starts with an emphasis on improving reading skills. It starts with increased access to early childhood education. The state has made strides in each of these areas over the past year. Gov. Nikki Haley has advocated for more funding for public education, especially in the realm of technology; the state has implemented a program designed to ensure all third-graders are proficient readers; and discussions continue about furthering expanded access to 4-year-old kindergarten.
New research discovers early childhood depression increases the risk that a child will be depressed throughout their formative school years. Washington University researchers discovered children who had depression as preschoolers were 2.5 times more likely to suffer from the condition in elementary and middle school than kids who were not depressed at very young ages. Prior research has shown that depression in preschoolers is often influenced by a caregiver (mother’s) depression.
Ninety percent of a child's critical brain development occurs between birth and age 5. Children in Mississippi are not required to attend school until age 6. The disconnect between those two facts is the No. 1 concern of early-education advocates in Mississippi. Although data show overwhelmingly that early education is crucial to academic success throughout a child's life, Mississippi has been slow to provide the youngest and poorest kids with the tools to achieve.
While some observers may have brushed it off as mere pandering to the liberal base – and women in particular – before midterm elections, the excitement around these statements is well warranted. Obama’s bear hug of policies like paid family leave and universal child care represents a break with a long, tortured past. The United States very nearly had universal child care. In 1971, both houses of Congress passed the Comprehensive Child Development Act, which would have provided child care at a sliding scale to every child that needed it, the first step toward a universal system. . .
For Florida’s 1 million children growing up in poverty, kindergarten — and even pre-K — is too late to start giving them the help many will need to grow into capable, productive adults. But the message has been slow to reach parents and caregivers — those who can take greatest advantage of that precious and short window. In Florida, where one in four children lives below the federal poverty line and one in nine lives in extreme poverty, child-welfare advocates say few options are available to low-income parents who need quality child care or help in knowing what to do on their own.
Preschoolers with special needs benefit from going to school with children who have strong language skills, according to a new study. Classmates with higher-level language abilities promote language growth in children with disabilities, researchers found. On the other hand, development of language could be delayed if their classmates have weak language skills, they said.
Four prominent Northeast Pennsylvania business and civic leaders recently wrote an op-ed for this publication detailing the many benefits high-quality early learning has for communities — benefits ranging from a stronger, more competitive job market to a decrease in the anti-social behaviors that often fuel social problems and higher crime rates. I have seen children come into our center’s Head Start program who already are woefully behind most of their peers in their learning skills at the age of just 3 or 4. These children often face challenges that are beyond their control and, despite the best efforts of their parents or guardians, lack the resources needed to gain ground during this critical time in their academic, social and emotional development.
High-quality early learning programs like Head Start make a difference in helping these children catch up to their peers and keep up, and it’s a difference that carries over through the rest of their education. I know because I have witnessed it many times.
Preschool sign-ups are well underway, and with a few weeks until the start of school, educators say the earlier you sign your child up, the better. Last school year in Smith County, only 36.8 percent of four-year-olds were enrolled in preschool.
Despite dropping fees for the first time in two years, the Sacramento City Unified School District still has about 650 openings for its free state preschool and Head Start programs for low-income families. California previously required that most families pay fees for half-day state-funded preschool, which serves children ages 3 and 4.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s plan to spend $50 million for preschool for the city’s poorest children will tackle two issues: making sure 1,300 more children can afford to enroll and growing the number quality of centers in the city.
“Our vision is for every child in Indianapolis to have access to a voluntary, high-quality early childhood education that prepares him or her for a successful academic career and success in life,” according to the mayor’s proposal.
The city will invest $25 million in tax dollars, and expects to raise an additional $25 million in matching and philanthropic support, to support the plan. The first scholarships are expected to be awarded to students in 2015-16.
SEATTLE has a ripe opportunity this fall to join the city-driven universal preschool movement, so long as forward progress doesn’t get entangled in local labor politics.
The Seattle Preschool Program will be on the ballot in November. A four-year, $14.5 million-a-year property-tax levy would pay for high-quality instruction for 3- and 4-year-olds. It would have a sliding fee scale to draw in a broad socioeconomic cross-section of the city’s children, and instruction would be based on tested models elsewhere in the county.
Research in Tulsa, Okla., Boston and elsewhere have shown that high-quality instruction for the prekindergarten set provides an academic rocket boost. Mayor Ed Murray believes the city’s plan could ultimately reduce poverty and crime while raising graduation rates.
Detroit has been chosen as one of five cities across the country to pilot a first-of-its-kind national model to bring innovation, quality and impact to children through Head Start and Early Head Start programming. Thrive by Five Detroit, a collaboration comprising Development Centers, Focus: HOPE, Southwest Solutions and Starfish Family Services, will not only serve children but their entire family. Pregnant women may enroll in the program, ensuring their children get the earliest start and caseworkers will help families achieve their goals related to housing, education and employment.
Both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are working on legislature to try to make child care more affordable.
According to the 2013 Child Care Aware report, the highest cost for American families is now their child care. In the past, it was housing, but according to the report, the majority of the country is now paying more to send their child to a facility for care than they are for housing. Nationwide, the average cost for childcare is $12,000. In Pennsylvania, it costs, on average, $10,319 to get infant care.
If Eva and Ernesto Suarez’s infant daughters are not able to attend preschool, they’ll hardly be alone in Santa Cruz County.
According to a new study from Children’s Action Alliance (CAA), an Arizona group that advocates for improvements in education and other programs for children, only 18 percent of the county’s 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool programs, the lowest percentage in the state. CAA research associate Josh Oehler also pointed out that while most Arizona counties saw preschool attendance decline between 2000 and 2012, Santa Cruz’s decline, from 36 to 18 percent, was the steepest.
Arizona overall had the 49th worst preschool participation rates in the country, according to the Arizona Kids Count study, which relied on data sets from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey.
Local education officials and professionals interviewed for this story were unanimously concerned by the findings and offered up a number of possible explanations, including the ongoing effects of the Great Recession, a declining number of preschool providers in the area, and insufficient preschool resources for low-income county residents.
In a preview of what’s to come this fall, three high-level speakers debated Seattle’s proposal to pay for universal preschool in front of a roomful of business leaders. Voters will weigh in Nov. 4 on whether to fund a four-year pilot providing high-quality pre-K education to 2,000 4-year-olds. Total cost: $58 million, to be paid through property-tax increases.
The effort would align Seattle with numerous cities and states funding early-learning initiatives, from San Francisco to Florida. All are responding to compelling evidence about the benefits of preschool for young children. But many are also wrestling with significant questions about the staying power of those gains.
Study after study indicates the importance of helping kids get off to a good start with their schooling. Put simply, kids who learn important base concepts early in life are more likely to excel later. Kids who start off behind tend to fall farther and farther back from the pack.
And that’s why it’s so encouraging to hear the results after the first three years of the Washington County preschool program. This program, geared toward Title I students — low-income and at risk kids — started as a partnership between principals who decided to dedicate a portion of their funding to a preschool rather than in their own classrooms. They looked at the expenditures as an investment in their future students.
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. An at-risk child who lacks these early interactions often enters kindergarten with a vocabulary 18 months behind that of a middle-income child. As the child ages, the gap widens instead of narrowing. The child risks falling so far behind that his or her prospects for graduating high school or finding a meaningful job are greatly diminished.
The number of children attending preschool in South Dakota is going up, but the state still sits behind the national average in attendance. The 2014 Kids Count profile for South Dakota reveals a potentially alarming statistic that over 60-percent of children in South Dakota aren't attending pre-school.
Years of research supports what Carmona knows firsthand. Most children who participate in early education programs are more prepared for kindergarten – academically, socially and emotionally – than those who don’t. Studies have indicated that early education translates into higher graduation rates, better paying jobs and a lower tendency to get in trouble with the law. Yet fewer than three in 10 children in America are enrolled in preschool programs. That is not the case in Oklahoma, one of three states to provide universal early childhood education. Oklahoma passed a law in 1998 that offers a education to every 4-year-old, regardless of family income. Today, 74 percent of Oklahoma’s children take advantage of the law.