Early Education in the News
In a recent article for the Brookings Institution, Ruth Curran Neild, acting director of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), argued that educational research is on the right track. The one thing it lacks, she says, is adequate funding. I totally agree. Of course there are improvements that could be made to education policies and practices, but the part of the education field working on using science to improve outcomes for children is very much going in the right direction. Many are frustrated that it is not getting there fast enough, but we need more wind in our sails, not a change of course.
What has radically changed over the past 15 years is that there is now far more support than there once was for randomized evaluations of replicable programs and practices, and as a result we are collectively building a strong set of studies that use the kinds of designs common in medicine and agriculture but not, until recently, in education. We recently published a review of research on early childhood programs, in which we located 32 studies of 22 different programs. Twenty-nine of the studies used randomized designs, thanks primarily to funding and leadership from a federal investment called Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research (PCER).
Philadelphia's soda tax battle has gone full-on presidential.
Following comments former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made in Philadelphia Wednesday in support of Mayor Kenney's a proposed tax on sugary drinks to universal fund pre-K education, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Thursday he's against the tax.
Kenney's proposal calls for a 3-cents per ounce tax on all non-diet sodas, sweetened teas, sports drinks, sugary juices and other beverages that contain sugar.
Clinton on Wednesday said, "I'm very supportive of the mayor's proposal to tax soda to get universal preschool for kids. I mean, we need universal preschool. And if that's a way to do it, that's how we should do it."
Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES), a leader in developing Digital Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum and school design, has been named a partner in the Federal government's new Early Education STEM initiative.
TIES is the first organization to deliberately build a Fab Lab – a maker space that uses digital design and fabrication to build STEM skills and creativity – for early childhood. In March 2016, The Bay Area Discovery Museum, in partnership with TIES and FableVision, launched the world's first Fab Lab for young learners (ages 3 to 10) to help them navigate the design process from concept to production, and turn their ideas into reality.
According to the Department of Defense, 71 percent of all young Alaskans between the ages of 17 and 24 are unable to join the military, primarily because they are too poorly educated, too overweight, or have a record of crime or drug abuse. This matches the national rate. The National Commission on the Future of the Army recently warned of a “small pool of talent, and it is likely to shrink even more,” leading to “potential future challenges for military recruiting.” While there is no single solution to this problem, research highlighted by the national security organization Mission: Readiness shows that high-quality pre-K can address the major disqualifiers for military service by helping to boost graduation rates, deter youth from crime and reduce obesity rates. Long-term studies of early-education programs show impressive education and crime prevention outcomes. For example, children who participated in Michigan’s Perry Preschool were 44 percent more likely to graduate from high school. Another study found that children left out of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers program were 70 percent more likely than participants to be arrested for a violent crime by age 18.
Since quality is the key to early education’s benefits, the good news is that Alaska’s state pre-K program meets all 10 quality benchmarks from the National Institute for Early Education Research. The bad news is that the state Legislature has cut funding for this program, which currently serves only 3 percent of Alaska’s 4-year-olds. I urge state lawmakers to restore the $2 million for pre-K to help ensure that young Alaskans can “be all they can be” in college, the civilian workforce or the military for those who choose to serve.
A new report estimates that the economic toll on Los Angeles County from the loss of funding for thousands of preschool seats later this year will be almost $600 million annually. Funding for nearly 11,000 preschool seats is going to run out in June when Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) loses its backing from the public early years agency First 5 L.A. But the report, by the independent research organization the Institute for Child Success, looked at the impact beyond lost educational opportunities. “The cost of cutting high quality pre-K in Los Angeles county will exceed the program dollars saved,” said ICS executive vice president Joe Waters.
LAUP currently spends $59.1 million on preschool contracts that fund 11,000 seats. After the First 5 LA funding expires, LAUP's budget will drop from $93.5 million to $29.9 million. . . “By 2020, two-thirds of U.S. jobs will require at least some post-secondary education," the report states. "But, at present, only 19 percent of L.A. County 11th graders are ready for English coursework at a California state college and only 13 percent are prepared for college coursework in math.” Without preschool, children may be even less successful in school leading to a future of low paying jobs, which also impacts economic activity and productivity.
During the next few weeks the Minnesota House and Senate will hear from both parents and children’s groups urging support for a successful effort to ensure that more young children start school “ready to learn.” First instituted in 2007, that effort brought what’s known as a Quality Rating System (QRS) to child care and preschool programs — enabling parents to select programs that offer the nurturing and high-quality teaching their children deserve. High-quality child care and early-learning programs are a vital first step toward solving these challenges. Study after study shows that participation in quality preschool can lead to a range of positive outcomes, including fewer behavior problems, improved school readiness, reduced special education, and academic benefits that may last well into elementary school, high school and beyond. This research is based on state programs similar to those offered here in Minnesota, and on two studies that followed children who participated in quality programs in Michigan and Illinois and found that they were far less apt than nonparticipants to become involved in crime and more likely to graduate from high school.
For these reasons and more, Minnesota’s law enforcement and retired military leaders are longtime advocates for quality early-childhood experiences. Right now, our efforts are focused on sustaining the QRS system, because it can lead to better outcomes for children while also helping providers to boost the quality of their programs.
Quality preschool is often cited as the critical ingredient for children to be ready for kindergarten, but for impoverished children, the challenges go beyond just the lack of access to early education. But activating philanthropy to work in collaboration with social service providers can help more fully address children's needs before they start preschool, researchers attending a conference at the University of Southern California said Wednesday. . .
Painter said for kids to learn, they have to be healthy, something that is taken for granted in more well-off neighborhoods. But for poor kids, education is often seen as the single magic-bullet when in fact they need more. “It’s not just a school intervention; it’s not just universal preschool intervention,” Painter said. “It starts in terms of reducing the amount of low birth [weight] babies. That means that mothers in poor neighborhoods need to have access to the proper services so that their babies are healthy.”
Florida education officials want to take a “pause” this fall in providing ratings for the state’s free Voluntary Pre-kindergarten (VPK) program. They’d like to skip out on this responsibility next year, as well. Good. Let them. They tried replacing a so-so ratings system with a more expansive, computer-based one in 2014, and the technology blew up in their faces. They tried, and failed, again last fall. This is sad news for parents of 4-year-olds trying to find the best option for their preschooler. But no ratings are better than bad ratings. Because if the state can’t reliably say which preschools properly preparing their kids for kindergarten, then these parents are better off seeking help elsewhere. . .
All the more disappointing that the state has dropped the ball on assessing providers. The readiness ratings were intended to address quality. Parents could go online to find a preschool’s score. The readiness ratings were calculated using two types of evaluations within 30 days of preschoolers arriving in kindergarten. Again, not perfect. But a necessary tool given Florida’s approach to measuring that quality — allowing parents to choose what quality looks like and what preschool is best for them. But as Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, told Isger, “So, if you don’t give parents that feedback, then you really don’t have anything.”
Mayor Bill Peduto wants to give every child in Pittsburgh access to pre-K education.
“If I had a magic wand and I could give one thing to the city right now, it would be pre-K education for every child, so that by the time they start kindergarten, they all start along together,” Peduto said Thursday morning as he introduced a presentation on early childhood development from Pitt researchers.
Alongside Peduto and Pitt’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement Kathy Humphrey, a panel of four Pitt researchers and community leaders spoke in the Connolly Ballroom on Thursday morning about the importance of discussing race with young children. Pitt’s Office of Child Development, Center for Urban Education and Supporting Early Education and Development lab sponsored the researchers’ report, called “Understanding PRIDE in Pittsburgh: Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education in Pittsburgh.”
The report, which the School of Education published in late March, showed that messages regarding race often impact children by the time they’re 3 years old.
There is bipartisan agreement that the state's early childhood system is broken. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed overhauling it, but his proposal doesn't have the support of experts and leaders in the field. Now two new reports reinforce the myriad of problems with the current system and present alternative suggestions for improving the lot of children under the age of five.
A new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute finds the high cost of child care to be a significant reason why families with small children nationwide are not feeling the bounties of the economic recovery. According to the report, two major economic issues – income inequality and a slowdown in the growth of productivity – would both benefit from investments in the early childhood field. “American productivity would improve with a better-educated and healthier future workforce,” the report states. “Inequality would be immediately reduced as resources to provide quality child care are progressively made available to families with children.” In arriving at these findings, the report authors looked at the costs that make up a basic family budget nationwide: rent, healthcare, food, etc. Child care was a significant cost in many states, including California.
During the election season, politicians highlight the differences between parties. It is hard to think of two politicos more different than Julián Castro, secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Gov. Greg Abbott. One works in the Obama administration, while the other repeatedly sued the same administration. But they have one thing in common: Both have attached their political fortunes to our state’s youngest learners.
Castro and Abbott are the grandfathers of a statewide movement to expand access to quality pre-kindergarten. As mayor of San Antonio, Castro made expansion of quality pre-kindergarten a priority. In the last session of the Legislature, Abbott made quality pre-kindergarten his top legislative priority despite fierce resistance from the tea party wing of the Republican Party. Pre-kindergarten is not liberal or conservative. Pre-kindergarten is just smart business.
Commitment to early childhood does not begin and end with pre-kindergarten. Texas spends hundreds of millions annually to support early childhood programs at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). These efforts have almost no coordination.
Reading, writing, and math are just some of the subjects kids at Kinder Care learn about every day, but there is something else they learn that is not in a school book.
"It's not just about educating the children academically. We have so many kids that don't know how to get along with others. They come into the program. We teach them how to get along with others," said Teacher Katrina Saverin.
Last year, the state cut five slots from Kinder Care. Saverin said the school and the community can't afford to lose anymore.
"If they don't have those life skills and the budget is cut, then we have five kids that could be on the streets doing drugs, robbing, raping, killing," explained Saverin. "So, it's important to keep this program, so that we can meet those needs early."
Kindergarten isn’t just singing and games anymore.
While the qualification to enter school is the same – being 5 years old as of Sept. 10 – today’s kindergartners spend their days learning letters, reading their first books, counting, following multistep instructions, developing problem-solving skills and much more.
Many can’t sit still, stand in line or don’t know how to interact with other kids.
“If they can’t master those skills, then they struggle,” Family Connections’ Lori Ekhart said. “It’s challenging for a teacher with 20 students to have even a few students who aren’t prepared. It takes her time away from other students.”
People following news about pre-K may be experiencing a similar sense of whiplash. Earlier this month, the Center for American Progress published a report, written by researchers from the National Institute for Early Education Research, that analyzed data from high-quality pre-K programs and concluded that participation in quality pre-K could virtually close the achievement gap for black and Hispanic students in reading and halve it in math.
This week, however, the American Enterprise Institute synthesized research on 10 early childhood programs and concluded we don't know whether pre-K works at all. Do these conflicting findings just reflect the polarized ideological positions of their respective institutions? It's enough to make an observer throw up one's hands and just eat a donut.
Yet when we put these conflicting analyses in the context of the lived experience of early childhood providers and children as they currently exist in the United States, the confusion falls away and it all makes sense.