Early Education in the News
Families are the first educators of their children. Babies achieve their developmental milestones with the encouragement of their parents, siblings and caregivers. Toddlers develop imitative behaviors early on by observing the actions of their parents in daily life. Eventually, parents decide to educate their children through public, private or home school environments. The concept of universal preschool is to make access to pre-kindergarten education available to all families. . .
Members of the North Dakota Senate voted 33-14 in favor of Senate Bill 2151, which would provide $6 million in grant money to fund as many as 6,000 preschool children. In the bill, $1,000 would be available for each eligible child, which would cover roughly half the cost of the program. A total of $1,500 would be available per child from low-income households. The Tribune editorial board supports this bill as a means to put all children on equal footing in their education. We would not be in favor of mandatory preschool.
Across the U.S., we are witnessing two major trends involving children under age 5. First, more and more parents are sending their children to pre-kindergarten outside of the home. Second, more and more children are being born to immigrant parents.
There’s nothing inherently worrisome about either of these trends, except that they don’t converge. Despite new evidence underscoring the benefits of pre-kindergarten for immigrants’ children, many of whom are still learning English when they enter kindergarten, they are the least likely to be enrolled.
The universal preschool program Seattle voters said yes to last November is starting to take shape. As it works out the details, the City is getting a lot of advice from Boston. That city, which is home to world renowned universities, is also considered a national leader in early childhood education since it launched its preschool program in 2005.
Jason Sachs, the Director of Early Childhood Education with Boston Public Schools, gave a presentation to Seattle City Council’s education committee. “Quality, quality, quality, I really think who the teacher is and what the teacher teaches is going to be critical. And how it’s evaluated is also going to be critical,” said Sachs.
Researchers say what’s happening in Boston is working. By the 3rd grade, the children who got that extra year in the classroom performed 30% better than their peers who didn’t get that experience.
With many bills filed in the Legislature to expand funding for pre-K, the conversation thankfully seems to have shifted from if, to when. Now more attention needs to be directed to the question of how. Educators and lawmakers seem to agree that high-quality pre-K is a good investment, but they disagree about what constitutes high-quality. A working definition: High-quality pre-K needs to foster effective teacher-student interactions, adopt learning standards to drive instruction and rely on hands-on professional development for teachers.
Pre-K in Texas meets only two out of 10 quality standards suggested by the National Institute for Early Education Research, a national research group. But we don't need academic research to guide us as to whether existing Texas standards for pre-K are too low.
Children who start preschool by age 3 have been shown by a variety of national studies to achieve higher scores in vocabulary, reading and math. Yet a handful of other studies raised questions about benefits of 3-year-old preschool, including some that found that poor-quality programs can have a negative effect on children, the CRC-PSC report said.
There is growing bipartisan interest in educating and developing the minds of children well before kindergarten. Universal preschool has emerged as a major policy initiative among public officials ranging from President Obama and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, to Gov. Rick Snyder and Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and likely presidential candidate, though the focus is mostly on educating 4-year-olds. Two years ago, Snyder and a Republican-led legislature approved the nation's largest expansion of high-quality preschool for 4 year olds through the Great Start Readiness Program. The state's $65-million annual investment followed a 2012 Bridge report, "Michigan's forgotten 4-year-olds," which revealed that nearly 30,000 Michigan 4-year-olds who qualified for free preschool were being excluded from the program, largely due to lack of state funding. Among 3-year-olds, only 1-in-4 of at-risk children in Michigan are enrolled in preschool. The CRC-PSC report estimates more than 48,000 at-risk children this age could benefit from earlier pre-K, but their families can't afford private preschool programs.
Seattle is rolling out its plan for universal preschool, which begins in the fall.
There are concerns about who can enroll. Anyone living in Seattle with a three or four-year-old can apply, likely in June. But the city is accepting applicants for providers based on two main priorities -- if they are in under-performing areas and low income families. Seattle is starting out with 14 classrooms, including 90 three-year-olds and 190 four-year-olds. The program is free for families under the 300% poverty level. A family of four making $70,000 is free if accepted. A family of four making $75,000 must pay $1,300 per year.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) wants to provide universal pre-kindergarten to all children across the nation. Casey's bill, the Prepare All Kids Act, was unveiled Wednesday by the senator. It would provide one year of voluntary, high quality prekindergarten to all children. As universal pre-k advances in states such as Oklahoma and New York, Casey's bill aims to create a federal model. "Investing in early education will help children learn more now so they can earn more later," said the senator in a news release.
According to an earlier CAP report, even among middle- and upper-class families, 25 percent of all kindergarteners are not school-ready – they may not know any letters, numbers, or colors, for example.
“While the United States as a whole has become an increasingly educated country over time, very significant educational disparities exist between whites and people of color,” the report states. “Since the majority of infants are children of color, improving the continuum of early childhood programs available to children under age 3 and their families provides an opportunity to stifle these disparities before they begin.”
Data suggests that without intervention to beef up early education programs, this generation may not be able to meet economic demands to maintain the United States as a world leader.
Most of the criticisms of early childhood education fail to hold water, but that is not to say that all early childhood educational experiences are created equal. With Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser having dampened any expectations for additional education funding, it is important that we understand the evidence around high impact early childhood education and maximize any investment in early childhood education.
Access to early education has been shown to mitigate serious problems of substance abuse, aggression and violence and to contribute to behavioral health and overall well-being – all issues cited by Speaker DeLeo.
The idea that lower-income children principally benefit from early childhood education is based on a predominant misconception that poverty alone is to blame for the achievement gap. Positive, responsive relationships, rich in quality time and communication, are what influence and shape a child’s growing brain and development. Children hunger for nurturance, connection, limit setting and love; those are family characteristics that are not necessarily linked to income. Children from middle- and high-income families can benefit from high quality early learning experiences.
Senator Bob Casey announced Wednesday his bill that would provide universal prekindergarten to children across the country.
States would have the option to be a part of the program, and all children would get a year of pre-K. There will be an emphasis on children from families with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
I want every child in the state of Alabama to have the opportunity to get a quality First Class Pre-K Education. Our First Class Pre-K program is one of the best state-run programs in the country. Last fall in Alabama more than 7,000 4-year-olds across the state were given the opportunity to go to preschool for free.
For the eighth year in a row, Alabama's First Class Voluntary Pre-K program is one of only five in the country that met all the quality benchmarks set out by the National Institute for Early Education Research.
We must continue to expand our Pre-K program because it makes a real difference in the lives and the education of Alabama's children. Last year, children who attended our First Class Pre-K program were less likely to fail a grade in school, and across all grades, they consistently scored higher in reading and in math than those who did not attend. Yet only 12 percent of four-year-olds in Alabama have access to First Class Volunteer Pre-K. That is why once again we must continue to increase funding as we continue to expand this opportunity.
I want every parent to know, that at the end of my term, there will be a First Class Pre-K classroom available for their child.
The whole time those babies and toddlers brains are learning about cause and effect, positive interaction and concentration, gravity and symmetry, and developing brain synapses at the rate of 700 a second—which will form the literal building blocks of children’s learning in the future. So while businesses invest heavily in partnerships with high schools and colleges, it may be too late. Studies show attending quality pre-kindergarten increases high school graduation by 31 percent and employment by 23 percent, according ReadyNation/America’s Edge, a national advocacy group for early childhood education as an economic driver.
Therefore, says early childhood experts, babies and toddlers offer the best return on investment. Numerous economic studies have calculated a return of $7 for each dollar invested in early childhood education through savings on remedial education and grade repetition, as well as increasing productivity and earnings in adulthood. Early childhood education advocates are making the case to businesses that childcare is a critical workforce issue akin to health insurance and retirement savings when it comes to worker productivity and satisfaction.
When Gov. Wolf delivered his first budget address this month to a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate, he made his highest priority clear: investing in public education.
"We are starting with education," he said, "because, in many ways, education is at the core of everything else that we want to achieve."
The governor also made clear that early-childhood education is the essential starting point for building a quality education. Wolf plans to expand access to early education by increasing the number of children in prekindergarten by 75 percent as part of a larger strategy to move Pennsylvania toward pre-K for all 3- and 4-year olds.
Research shows that 85 percent of children's brains are developed by age 3, yet our country spends an inadequate amount of time and money on educating children in their early years.
Florida is among the best in the nation in pre-kindergarten access, but ranks 35th in state spending, according to a 2013 report by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The report found the state met just three of 10 benchmarks related to early learning standards, falling short in categories such as teacher degrees and training. Only Texas met fewer standards.
In a pilot program reported to be the first in northeast Indiana, preschool children will be monitored through third grade to improve the preschools where they started their education.
Working with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, the United Way of Allen County is pioneering a data-sharing agreement between three local preschools and Southwick Elementary that will take preschool education one step closer to ensuring kindergarten preparedness, a predictor for school success and beyond. The children starting kindergarten in the fall will be tracked for academic progress. The data – scores on a variety of screening tests – will go back to the preschools so they can improve their educational programs.
For the first few years of life, 700 to 1,000 new neural connections form every second. Each child’s experiences determine which connections form, which are strengthened and which are pruned away, according to Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. One of the skills being built are what Harvard researchers refer to as executive function, the ability of a brain to “filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.”
It’s one of the building blocks that researchers say is crucial for learning and adult success. According to the Center on the Developing Child, development of executive function skills skyrocket as a four-year-old.
For the third year in a row, both Republican and Democratic policymakers are making significant investments in state-funded preschool programs, according to a January analysis of 2014-15 appropriations from the Education Commission of the States.
A new year-round preschool aims to better prepare migrant children for school in what organizers are calling a first-of-its-kind program in Idaho.
The private-public partnership between the Cassia County School District and the Community Council of Idaho, a nonprofit that serves low-income people, especially Latinos, could serve as a model for other programs across the state, organizers said. And more important, it will put migrant children on equal footing by the time they start traditional school.
According to multiple National Institute for Early Education Research studies, children who attend high-quality preschool programs enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies and stronger basic math skills than those who do not. This “early edge” creates a ripple effect for children, building their education on a solid foundation and leading to greater success in life.
You have probably heard about what is called the “word gap” found in many low-income children, who were found in a famous 1995 research study to be exposed to 30 million fewer words than their more fortunate peers by age 3, and that this deficit affects literacy development. The word gap has been cited by many experts as a key reason that at-risk children need focused literacy instruction. In this post, Elizabeth A. Gilbert explains that there is a related problem: Many early childhood educators have the same problem. Gilbert is the coordinator of the “Learn at Work Early Childhood Educator Program Labor” in the Labor Management Workplace Education Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.