Early Education in the News
House Speaker Bob DeLeo is done talking about the value of preschool education. It’s time to get it right in Massachusetts.
This week DeLeo began meeting with a group of business leaders to develop a plan on how the state could increase not only access to early education but improve quality. His goal: Come up with a set of recommendations that can be turned into legislation or new programs by the next budget cycle.
More than expanding charter schools, reforming preschool could be one of the most important education initiatives for the Commonwealth in decades. Study after study indicates that kids who are schooled at an early age graduate from high school and college at higher rates than those who do not. They are also less likely to abuse drugs, end up in jail, or rely on public assistance.
Yet in the fight for scarce public dollars, early education has been low on the priority list, overshadowed by the needs in K-12 and public colleges.
More funding is needed to achieve greater curriculum alignment between preschool and the early school years, so that what students learn in kindergarten through 3rd grade builds on what they learned in preschool, a new study says.
Strong leadership by district officials knowledgeable about quality preschool education is another key to making alignment work, said the study by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), a nonpartisan research group based at Stanford University, UC Davis and the University of Southern California.
Preschool has increasingly come to be viewed as an essential component of an effective education, particularly for lower-income children; that has spurred widespread discussion about the need to align preschool curricula with that of kindergarten and beyond. But consensus on how to define and establish alignment hasn’t been reached.
Last year, the National Academy of Medicine and National Research Council released the seminal Transforming the Workforce report that emphasizes the competencies and qualifications birth to third grade educators need to possess in order to support high-quality learning for young children. The report makes 13 recommendations aimed at bringing about greater educator quality and continuity from birth through early elementary school.
Of all the report’s recommendations, the one that has garnered the most attention is the second, which calls for the development of pathways and timelines for transitioning to a minimum bachelor’s degree requirement with specialized knowledge of ECE for all lead teachers of children from infancy to third grade. The recommendation is based on research suggesting that these qualifications are associated with higher-quality teaching and strong learning environments. But significant challenges exist in realizing this recommendation.
Recently, the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) released a report outlining several of these challenges as well as highlighting some promising practices being utilized by states to train and retain highly educated ECE teachers.
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Speech, Language and Hearing introduces a regionally unique program this fall titled Kids Intensive Language Training (KILT) to offer intensive language therapy to preschool-age children with hearing loss.
Applications are being accepted for the eight available places in the inaugural KILT class. The program is classroom-based and involves the use of auditory-verbal (A-V) therapy principles to encourage children to become independent communicators and to provide them with the necessary skills to succeed in a mainstream educational environment. The program application can be accessed at surveymonkey.com/r/EUKilt.
Participating children will spend 12 weeks working with certified and licensed Edinboro faculty with expertise in the A-V therapy approach. Sessions will be held twice weekly for three hours each in the Governor George Leader Speech and Hearing Center on the EU campus beginning on Sept. 12.
A new report from a non-profit early education advocacy group shows that Kentucky is among states improving in the number of state dollars spent for Pre-Kindergarten education programs.
According to “The State of Preschool Yearbook” by The National Institute for Early Education Research, the 2014-2015 school year saw improvement in state-by-state Pre-K funding across the nation, marking a steady growth in the years following the Great Recession.
Last year, Kentucky spent more than $71,767,000 dollars funding Pre-K programs, equating to $3,835 dollars per enrolled child, ages 3 and 4. This is $360 higher than in 2010. This amount is only money contributed to schools by the state and not from federal funds or other sources.
While the money per student increased, there has been a slight decline in Pre-K enrollment, dropping from 30% in 2010 to 26% last school year.
A local preschool’s work-study grant program lets parents barter their skills for a preschool tuition break, making the process of going back to work a lot easier and more affordable, its director says.
When the Osher Learning Center on 50 Overlook Terrace opened in 2011, the goal was to provide an affordable and nurturing educational environment, where kids learned everything from music, science and art in a "homeschool setting," said director Elisheva Kirschenbaum.
Kirschenbaum said she started Osher, which means joy, rich and wealth in Hebrew, to help parents find a balance between working, supporting their kids and being a part of a community.
“Our approach is to involve the community,” Kirschenbaum said. “When [the kids are] happy, they remember what they learn and that is our goal.”
Kirschenbaum said that, in addition to her, the preschool has another staffed teacher for the 9 students, although several parents contribute what they know to enrich the curriculum and offset the cost of tuition.
Mariana stepped foot into my transitional kindergarten classroom when she was 4 years old, too young to start class.
She knew little to no English, was unsure how to follow class instructions and would hide by my side. Now near the end of the school year, she confidently walks into class to tell me about a book from home, she has friends and initiates activities, and she understands letter and number concepts.
She’s ready for kindergarten this fall thanks to transitional kindergarten.
In spite of significant student benefits and transitional kindergarten’s continued progress statewide, Gov. Jerry Brown’s May revision budget proposes to eliminate transitional kindergarten for up to 125,000 young children like Mariana. Cutting transitional kindergarten also endangers the jobs of thousands of teachers.
Such sweeping changes to California’s early childhood system that cut essential opportunities for children, families and teachers shouldn’t be rushed through the last few weeks of the budget process.
Research reflects what I have seen in my classroom: children in transitional kindergarten have a five-month learning advantage in kindergarten compared to their peers, according to the American Institutes for Research. Transitional kindergartners make real gains in early literacy, math and critical learning skills such as managing behavior and thinking flexibly. The National Institute for Early Education Research’s recent State of Preschool Yearbook highlights transitional kindergarten’s expansion as good news for California and the nation.
To further its commitment to ensuring that all young children can access high-quality early learning experiences, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) announced the launch of Power to the Profession, a national collaboration to set a unifying framework of professional guidelines for early childhood educators—from required competencies and qualifications to career pathways and compensation.
Power to the Profession comes in response to a report by The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8, which found a fragmented early childhood workforce in need of uniform qualifications, career pathways and professional supports. This fragmentation is one of the major contributors to the varying levels of access to and quality of early childhood education programs throughout the country.
Power to the Profession is a two-year initiative to define the professional field of practice that unifies early childhood educators across all states and settings so they can further enrich the lives of children and families.
Funding early childhood education should not be a partisan issue. It’s an investment in the future of the next generation and a crucial component in ensuring the economic growth of our country.
Research shows children who receive early childhood education have better health and education outcomes than their peers who don’t have such access. In the United States, only 4 of 10 children benefit from publicly funded preschool. The numbers are better in Texas, but only 48 percent of 4-year-olds were enrolled in pre-K in the 2014-15 school year.
Texas has provided half-day pre-K to a limited number of 4-year-olds since 1985. To qualify, children must be eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, be homeless, be a part of the foster care system, have a parent on active military duty who was injured or killed on active duty, or not be able to speak or comprehend English.
Last year, the number of students in the Texas public school prekindergarten program was down by 6,738 from the previous year, with an enrollment of 219,488 students. The state could be doing so much more to open the doors of opportunity for the state’s youngest residents.
Cincinnati’s childhood poverty rate is among the worst in the country. But if voters approve, the Queen City could be the first to try an ambitious effort to alleviate some of the earliest obstacles that poverty creates and lift up the next generation. Proponents of the Preschool Promise initiative have been planning for two years to put a tax levy on the ballot that would make Cincinnati the first city in the country to guarantee two years of high-quality preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old. And earlier this year, Cincinnati Public Schools started making plans to put its own education levy on the ballot. After months of negotiating, the two officially teamed up this week, announcing a $48 million tax levy proposal that will go to the ballot box in November. That could be huge for the 47 percent of Cincinnati children younger than 6 who live in poverty. “This opportunity represents a commitment by all to quality equitable education and choice for children and families,” said CPS Board President Ericka Copeland-Dansby at a May 23 board meeting, where the joint levy was officially approved. “It has the potential to transform lives, strengthen neighborhoods and improve the economic vitality of our community. . .”
At the state level, Ohio has also been pouring more resources into preschool.For the 2016-17 school year, the state budget allocated $70 million to pay for preschool for 17,000 kids, more than triple what it funded when Gov. John Kasich took office in 2011. According to an annual report released this month by education nonprofit, National Institute for Early Education Research, less than 5 percent of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in public preschool. The NIEER report ranks Ohio 36th in the country for preschool enrollment. The report’s rankings didn’t factor in the 34,000 Ohio children who are currently in quality-rated private programs. Ohio’s Department of Jobs and Family Services gave out $82 million last year to help private centers to improve programs, and $35 million of that went to programs with ratings of three stars or higher.
Student engagement and positive reinforcement like this, experts say, is a sign of a quality prekindergarten program. The Brooklyn school is one of hundreds of preschools across New York City to receive high marks, according to recent results of the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS). But what makes this center unusual is that it is serves Bushwick, a high-poverty community in which public elementary schools don’t do well on state and city tests. It’s one of the few schools in a high poverty neighborhood to do so – and it’s providing higher quality education than many of its pre-K counterparts in wealthier school districts. . .
Audrey Johnson and schools like it point to one of the most promising ways to narrow the achievement gap between high poverty children and their middle class counterparts – by providing high quality education before children start kindergarten. “Children in low-income houses start anywhere from a year to 18 months behind in language and mathematics and social and emotional development,” said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). “Half the achievement gap we talk about in the third grade and beyond starts before they even get in the door of kindergarten.” In 2014-2015, state funding for pre-K shot up more than $553 million over the previous school year, according to NIEER’s 2015 State Preschool Yearbook, making it the third year in a row that state pre-K funding has increased nationally. Almost two-thirds of the current increase is accounted for by New York where Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to provide preschool for all eligible children, an estimated 73,000 youngsters.
Across the country, states spent $6.2 billion on pre-K programs in 2014-15, a $553 million increase. The city of Boise is helping to fund a pre-K pilot program in the Boise School District. These programs served nearly 1.4 million students, up more than 37,000 from the previous year.
The National Institute for Early Education Research chronicled these increases in a recent report — and noted something that isn’t news to Idahoans. Idaho remains one of only eight states without state-funded pre-K. (Earlier this year, another report said Idaho was one of only five states that does not fund pre-K). “Idaho’s economic future depends on early investment in its youngest citizens,” Institute Director Steve Barnett said in a news release. “Ensuring that every child has access to high-quality preschool can help to pave the way for their success in school, on the job, and in Idaho communities.”
For the third school year, D.C. was ranked first in the nation for Pre-K per-student funding and enrollment. Sara Mead, a D.C. Public Charter School Board member and Pre-K expert, believes the numerous choices of 120 public charter schools and traditional charter schools helped D.C.’s universal Pre-K program claim the top spot. “Having that variety of options is really valuable,” said Mead. Every year, the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University releases a report comparing Pre-K in the states and D.C.. The report highlights Pre-K enrollment, spending and quality standards, putting accountability for students and tax dollars into the spotlight.
A few states and cities offer universal Pre-K at age 4, but D.C. stands out for offering it at age three. This spike in enrollment began after the D.C. Council passed the Pre-K Enhancement and Expansion Act of 2008. Today, D.C. schools enroll 83 percent of 3-year-olds and 90 percent of 4-year-olds, according to Mead. Nationwide, only 5 percent of 3-year-olds attend Pre-K. Based on MySchoolDC data, all 120 schools offering Pre-K include both 3- and 4-year-olds. D.C. spends far more per-student for Pre-K than the $4,489 national average. Per-student spending for Pre-K totaled $17,509 in 2015, not far off from the $19,504 per-student for K-12.
he National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recognized Mississippi’s Early Learning Collaboratives (ELC) in its 2015 State of Preschool yearbook for meeting all 10 quality standards for early childhood education, which puts Mississippi among only five states in the nation that meet all 10 benchmarks. The NIEER report presents data on the state of pre-K programs nationally as well as breakdowns of each state’s progress in providing high-quality pre-K services.
“This recognition from the National Institute for Early Education Research affirms that Mississippi’s Early Learning Collaboratives are helping children get a strong start for success in school and life,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “I commend all of the teachers, administrators and community partners who have worked together through the collaboratives to provide children in their communities with high-quality early childhood education.” The Mississippi Legislature passed the 2013 Early Learning Collaborative Act to provide funding to local communities to establish, expand, support and facilitate the successful implementation of quality early childhood education and development services. All ELCs include a lead partner, which can be a public school or other nonprofit group with the expertise and capacity to manage a 4-year-old pre-kindergarten program.
The hidden lesson of the painting activity demonstrates what makes Book Sprouts different from many daytime parenting gatherings. The group, coordinated by the social service agency Children's Bureau, aims to give parents the skills to bolster their children's development and help close the gaps between children who are enrolled in preschool and those who miss out. It’s a widespread problem across L.A. County: child care is hard to find. A recent study found that of the 260,000 3- and 4-year-olds in the county, there are only enough licensed preschool seats for 160,000. This means many children may stay home, or are looked after by a neighbor or relative. And those are the children that Children's Bureau is trying to reach. Its Family Community Enrichment program trains volunteer parents in early childhood basics so they can lead groups like Book Sprouts out in the community.
Genesis Rosa coordinates the Family Enrichment program at Children’s Bureau. When a child is in quality preschool, often parents will be guided by teachers in bolstering their child’s development, Rosa said. But many families have no access to early care experts. “Understanding what your child can do will allow you as a parent to understand them even more,” Rosa said.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Too Small to Fail, the National Head Start Association, and the National Association for Family Child Care launch “STRIVE for 5: Talk, Read, Sing Early Learning Boot Camp” to provide educators with engaging, user-friendly resources to create language-rich early learning environments.
Global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) and Too Small to Fail, in partnership with the National Head Start Association (NHSA) and the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC), announces STRIVE for 5, a hands-on bilingual (English/Spanish) program designed to provide early educators instant tools and ideas to promote children’s language development and improve the quality of early learning environments. The goal of STRIVE for 5 is to equip early educators with concrete resources to support the growth and development of young children from infancy to age five—along with hands-on materials and strategies to engage parents and families.
The program is divided into five user-friendly segments, with key information and tools to help educators create a vocabulary-rich early learning environment and enrich daily moments with activities like talking, reading, and singing.
Hundreds of preschoolers in the Springfield City School District will be able to attend classes for free next year as it plans to spend $2.4 million on early childhood education.
The commitment to fund free preschool beyond what state grants cover comes from the district’s belief that it’s the key to turning around poor test scores, Superintendent Bob Hill said.
“Philosophically and based on current research, the district strongly supports and is willing to invest in the effects of early childhood education,” he said.
But new research studying Tennessee’s public preschool has questioned the long-term value of early education programs. Hill, though, said it will be critical for a district like Springfield.
“In a high poverty district, it is vitally important to provide preschool opportunities to allow all students to enter kindergarten on equal footing,” he said.
Springfield failed to meet a single performance indicator on the state report card each of the past two years.
Springfield was awarded nearly $1.2 million from the Ohio Department of Education to serve 293 economically disadvantaged 4-year-olds through both Head Start classrooms and the district’s in-house preschool program.
Idaho was among eight U.S. states without a state-funded preschool program last school year, according to new report.
“The State of Preschool” is a yearly report from the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.
Other states that don’t have a preschool program are Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
Nationwide, there was slight improvement in funding levels and the number of participating children, but many 3 and 4-year-olds still don’t have access to preschool.
Here in Idaho, “Pay for Success” legislation passed in 2015 allows private funders to invest in social programs such as early education.
Head Start programs offer preschool for low-income families, the report notes, but there’s not statewide funding dedicated to providing preschool education.
It's mid-morning, and Evevett Fugate has been up all night. She takes her youngest, Ovalia, to preschool class for 4-year-olds, then picks her up at 11 a.m.
A new free preschool in Flint will mitigate lead effects for young children by providing services to fight the impact that lead exposure has had on them.
A free nationally accredited preschool will be available at Brownell Holmes Stern Academy through the Great Expectations pilot program. The school district and the University of Michigan-Flint are running the program through their Early Childhood and Development Center. Flint schools will finish work on the third classroom this month.
The college Early Childhood Development Center has a waiting list of 300, but families with children ages 3-5 will use the services at no cost through the partnership between the UM-Flint and the Flint Community Schools.
"We all know this early education is critically important for our children," said Flint Community Schools Superintendent Bilal Tawwab. "It always has been but given the lead crisis our community it's even more critical to activate children's minds and bodies to combat the effects of lead exposure."
Currently 20 children are enrolled in Great Expectations. The district will expand that to 50 children and the hope is to eventually have 250 students enrolled. Regular meals and snacks will be offered, as well as additional fruits and vegetables through the day. There will also be various fitness programs.