Early Education in the News
"If your program isn't very good, you can't expect it to have long-term impact on kids," says Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. He helped create the benchmarks that many states use to measure the quality of their pre-K programs.
Barnett says Tennessee's program looks good on paper but that the state made a few key mistakes when it scaled the program up to more than 900 classrooms across 95 counties. First, it created no mechanism for quality control to make sure teachers were following best practices from one end of the state to the other. Also, Barnett says, the state underfunded the program.
Yet, the big picture, research-wise, includes the studies that found excellent results for very high quality programs too. And then there is another study, of the much larger Chicago Parent Center program, that found the same benefits as the Perry and Abecedarian studies, though on a slightly smaller scale.
“In context, it is a warning,” Barnett said of the Tennessee study. “You have to do [preschool] well. You have to put the time money and effort into making it truly high quality if you want to get big initial gains and long term results. It’s hard work.”
Today, lessons learned from childhood resonate in the work Bell is doing as one of two Carlisle Area School District administrators trained in a framework for understanding poverty developed by Ruby Payne. A researcher and career educator, she is a leading expert on the effect poverty has on families and children.
An effort is underway within the school district to raise awareness of this plight so that faculty and staff could be better equipped to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in life.
Bell volunteered to be trained in the framework so the district could offer a more flexible schedule of professional development classes to reach a larger number of teachers.
“I just saw it as an opportunity to help our kids in poverty,” Bell said. Much of the emphasis of the training has been on trying to work with students in the context of what Payne called “hidden rules.”
The report by the New America Foundation focuses on whether California has the policies and rigorous teacher training to meet the "demands of a growing, more diverse population."
Currently, 53 percent of the state's infants and toddlers are Latino and almost half are low-income. For an early education teacher, this means a cookie-cutter approach to the first years of school is not likely the best one, according to the report.
The report, authored by Sarah Jackson, said a lot of work needs to be done to raise the quality of teaching and ensure California’s pre-K teachers are adequately trained given the changing demographics among students.
A long-term cardiovascular health promotion program initiated in preschool with children as young as 3 years old had a significant beneficial effect on lifestyle-related behaviors and measures of adiposity, the results of a new study show.
Preschool-aged children exposed to the Spanish health-promotion program significantly improved their thinking and behavior related to diet, physical activity, and the body/heart, with the largest improvements observed in scores assessing physical activity. Children in the intervention arm also improved their knowledge, attitudes, and habits (KAH)—as assessed by a cumulative KAH score—related to diet but less so for body and heart health.
In a book published last week, Too Many Children Left Behind, the authors — a combination of social scientists and economists — detail how low-income children are far behind their middle class peers in their educational development before they enter school and emphasize the importance of pre-K access. As family backgrounds become lower income, proficiency in math fades, the authors write, and gaps in academic performance don’t change very much over time:
“Children from families with low-educated parents begin school with a massive disadvantage in terms of their basic academic capabilities, and they are not able to close even a portion of that gap by the start of high school. Disadvantage from the preschool period appears to persist unchallenged throughout the school years,” they write.
Williams agrees. “Public investment here done well could raise quality and it could raise the professional standards of the education force of the United States. Right now, there are tiers in the system where we have the very cheapest care but usually the lowest quality going to the children who often need the best and highest quality,” he said.
“The stats prove themselves: If we don’t have the early childhood development, then we don’t have the first-, second-graders reading at sufficient levels or doing basic math at sufficient levels; then by third grade, if they’re not at sufficient levels, we know we’ve lost them most likely for life,” McCrory told the crowd of about 100 business, education and nonprofit leaders, some of whom traveled from as far away as Clay County.
“We are putting more money into pre-K; that’s through my department, Health and Human Services,” the governor said. “Pre-K is extremely, extremely important.
Educating and caring for Georgia’s youngest children is a $2.45 billion industry and one worthy of public support, state early childhood officials say.
The state’s Department of Early Care and Learning will release a study today supporting its case for increased public funding. The study comes after Gov. Nathan Deal announced he wants to spend$50 million to reverse cuts to Georgia’s pre-kindergarten program that increased class sizes and cut teacher pay.
Preschools typically leave math for grade school, in the belief that 4- and 5-year-olds aren't old enough to understand what 7 stands for. Decades of brain science now show that waiting is a mistake. Even in the crib, research shows, infants can tell the difference between eight dots and 16 using an innate number sense we share with other species that helps us make some size comparisons without counting. By the time they are preschool age, students like the ones in Alfonzo's class can grasp simple addition - three beads plus four beads makes seven beads - even if they can't yet write the equations. They're getting a strong start in math with games and playful activities that show all the ways they can use numbers and shapes to describe and measure differences and relationships between things.
The students - many of them never separated from their parents - would be here for 25 hours a week instead of the usual 10, starting today. . .
Not much has changed in the past dozen years. It’s been half days and flat funding, forcing Nevada school districts to fight over $3.3 million in grants each year to reach only 1,400 students in a few schools. That’s just 1.5 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds.
But that’s changing. Nevada pre-school funding is tripling this year, reflecting a trend taking shape in American public education: Preschool is shedding its prefix, quickly becoming just another part of “school.” Nationwide, more than a quarter of 4-year-olds are now in state-funded preschool programs, according to a report released this spring by the U.S. Department of Education, tracking states’ voluntary shift. From 2003 to 2013, states increased their investment in preschool by more than 200 percent. The increase continued last year as 28 states put $1 billion more into early education.
I'm a considerable fan of early childhood education. Megan McArdle says she's tentatively in favor too, but "I am opposed to blind boosterism of such programs, the kind that confidently predicts marvelous results from thin empirical evidence, and briskly proceeds to demand huge sums be spent accordingly." I'm tempted to say this is a straw-man argument, but maybe not. There are a lot of cheerleaders out there. In any case, she offers a useful corrective for anyone who thinks the evidence in favor of universal preschool is open and shut. So what should we do?
In a new Brookings Institution paper, Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst and Ellie Klein claim that the Obama administration’s proposal for a new federal universal preschool program significantly overstates how much it would cost to enable all four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families to attend free pre-K. . .
Setting aside whether a $2.6 billion annual gap in federal spending between the administration and Brookings estimates is sizeable enough to warrant the degree of consternation expressed by Whitehurst and Klein, the paper omits a crucial consideration and makes several claims that require a response.
According to a report released by Child Care Aware of America, Rhode Island ranks 14th in a list of states with the least affordable child care for infants; 9th in least affordable care for a four-year old; and 25th in the cost of care for a school-aged child. Not surprisingly, New York is the least affordable state for all three categories of child care.
Why is this important? First, over 12 million children younger than age 5 in the United States attend some form of child care each week. Second, access to quality child care impacts more than parents: employee absenteeism due to child care issues costs businesses more than $3 billion each year. Parents whose children are enrolled in high-quality, reliable child care centers often have higher engagement at work.
Lotte Bailyn, professor emeritus at the MIT Sloan School of Management notes that for young families, “Child care is so expensive that there is very little discretionary money for consumption. It may be one of the things contributing to the slowness of our recovery and pulling down demand.” Faced with the high costs, some parents choose to stay home with their young children instead, reducing both their family income and our workforce.
And of course, research has shown that there are huge benefits for children who attend high-quality early childhood education centers. Because children’s brains undergo drastic change between the ages of birth and three years, the experiences they have during those years can be critical. As mentioned in a previous column, for every dollar spent in early childhood, there is a return on investment of $8.59.
Last year, the Washington Post declared that “The U.S. ranks last in every measure when it comes to family policy, in 10 charts.” Examples cited include: the U.S. is one of only three countries to offer no paid maternity leave; the U.S. has high child care costs shouldered by parents alone; and our country has no ban on mandatory overtime, no mandate that workers have rest, and no national vacation policy. This lack of support for working families manifests itself in many ways.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Shakira called on the world leaders on Tuesday to make investments in early childhood development as the lasting effects of stress on the brains of children have been exposed by new scientific discoveries.
"More than 100 million children are out of school and 159 million boys and girls under five are physically and cognitively stunted due to a lack of care and proper nutrition," said Shakira.
"Every year that passes without us making significant investment in early childhood development and initiatives that address these issues, millions of kids will be born into the same cycle of poverty and lack of opportunity," she added.
The Census Bureau last week released its annual report on poverty in America.
About one in six American families live in poverty. But poverty doesn’t hit all Americans equally. Among white Americans, about one in ten live in poverty, but among Black Americans, it’s more than one in four. It’s nearly one in four among Hispanics.
And among children of any race, it’s one in five.
These statistics have remained essentially unchanged for the last four years, even as America officially was in recovery from the recession.
Calls for continued funding for the Preschool Development Grants Program came Monday from United States Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard following authored spending bills earlier this year by the House and Senate that would eliminate the grants. Under the spending bills, funding would be cut off from the grant’s last two years.
Senator Schatz says that children missing out on a preschool education will enter kindergarten lacking the preparation they need to be ready for school and lifelong success.
“The Preschool Development Grant has helped Hawai‘i expand access to high-quality preschool for hundreds of children who would otherwise miss out on the well-documented benefits of early education,” Senator Schatz said. “Funding for this grant will run out next year, which would stop the progress that has been made all across our state.
Education is today more critical than ever. College has become virtually a precondition for upward mobility. Men with only a high school diploma earn about a fifth less than they did 35 years ago. The gap between the earnings of students with a college degree and those without one is bigger than ever.
And yet American higher education is increasingly the preserve of the elite. The sons and daughters of college-educated parents are more than twice as likely to go to college as the children of high school graduates and seven times as likely as those of high school dropouts.
Only 5 percent of Americans ages 25 to 34 whose parents didn’t finish high school have a college degree. By comparison, the average across 20 rich countries in an analysis by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is almost 20 percent.
A strong early education can often lead to a lot of great things later in life, including less need for repeating a grade and a reduction in remedial classes to help students catch up to their peers according to Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.
“There’s increases in high school graduation and also decreases in behavior problems, delinquency and crime and all of those things contribute to increased employment, higher earnings, decreased welfare dependency and also we find a decreased engagement in risky behaviors like smoking, drug use and even improvements in health behaviors,” Barnett said.
New Jersey has the best early education system in the country, but poorer urban areas are still struggling to improve, according to another expert who testified.
“Pre-school is an important investment not only in the future of our children, but of our state,” said Cecilia Zalkind, Advocates for Children of New Jersey executive director. “It sounds trite to say that, but it’s really true.
Congressman John K. Delaney (MD-6) has filed legislation to create nationwide access to free pre-K for four-year-old children. The Early Learning Act provides state governments with federal funding to establish or expand their pre-K programs. Delaney’s legislation makes access to free pre-K for all a reality in all 50 states.
The legislation establishes The Early Education Trust Fund which will distribute block grants to participating states. The Early Education Trust Fund will be funded by a 1.5% increase on individual income, dividends and capital gains above $500,000. This provides states with up to $8,000 in funding per student, per year for pre-k.
Educators, researchers and entrepreneurs like Hosford are taking that analogy very seriously. They're arguing that the basic skills of coding, such as sequencing, pattern recognition and if/then conditional logic, should be introduced alongside or even before traditional reading, writing and math.
To Hosford, this early introduction is key to broadening participation in STEM disciplines. "If we were teaching coding like reading and math, we would break it down into bite-size chunks, make it more fun with songs and stories, and give students two decades to reach mastery," Hosford says. "With coding we throw you in the deep end in high school or college and are surprised when most kids drown."
According to this thinking, the skill sets required for coding and the three Rs will all reinforce each other. And the engaging nature of many gamelike tech tools will help draw in young learners who may not be as inspired by traditional lessons. And there is some evidence for both of these claims.