Early Education in the News

District Administration
May 27, 2016

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.

My San Antonio
May 27, 2016

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.

The Christian Science Monitor
May 26, 2016

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.

May 26, 2016

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.”

May 26, 2016

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.   

May 25, 2016

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.

May 25, 2016

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.


89.3 KPCC Southern California Public Radio
May 25, 2016

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.

May 24, 2016

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.


The Des Moines Register
May 24, 2016

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.

Although Fugate's overnight work allows her to attend school activities, she has enrolled Ovalia in early childhood programs since age 2 because she knows how vital is it for children to get an early jump on kindergarten, whether it be learning letters or picking up social skills.
"I always told my grandma that if I ever had kids, that my focus would be on them the way she focused on me,” Fugate said.
Unlike Ovalia, about one-third of Iowa children — many of them from lower-income and minority families — do not attend any form of preschool. They often enter kindergarten already trailing their classmates academically, not knowing their numbers, how to tie their shoes, or that sentences flow left to right.
For many minority children, the learning gap will only grow wider throughout their education, stunting their earning potential as adults. “It’s definitely a tragedy,” said Betty Andrews, the president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP.
Iowa's largest and most pervasive achievement divide is between black children and their white peers, statewide education data show — a gap that’s existed for decades in Iowa and shows little to no improvement.


Clinton Foundation
May 24, 2016

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. 

May 24, 2016

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.

May 19, 2016

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.


The Christian Science Monitor
May 19, 2016

A new early childhood program that seeks to promote research and teaching in the field of child development is underway at Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), thanks to a $35.5 million gift from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation.

The donation, HGSE's single biggest donation to date, will put Harvard at the forefront of research into effective, accessible early childhood education, school officials said.

"It's one of the most significant investments in early childhood education," HGSE dean James Ryan told The Boston Globe. "I think it will give us the capacity to tackle some of the most important issues and challenges in early childhood education, which are basically about how you create high quality pre-K for all kids."

For years, studies have emphasized the importance of early childhood education, or ECE, for laying the foundations of lifelong learning and development. Yet about half of the country's 3- to 4-year-olds aren't enrolled in full-day schools, often because of parents' financial restrictions. 

"There's a great deal of really promising evidence about the benefits of high-quality pre-K," Dean Ryan told Harvard Magazine. "But there aren't enough high-quality pre-K programs, and there's not enough clarity on the essential components of a high-quality pre-K program. The initiative will take the evidence about the benefits of pre-K and build capacity in the field to make sure high-quality pre-K is available to all kids."

The donation comes as awareness of the merits of preschool and pre-K is gaining momentum, with several cities attempting to fund more accessible programming. Many advocates, however, feel that philanthropists have given less attention to a pre-K foundation, compared to efforts in funding K-12 programs. 

May 19, 2016

Just call him Adaptive Learning Elmo.

The Sesame Street icon and his peers — all longtime staples of early childhood educational programming — will soon draw on IBM Watson cognitive computing technology to personalize preschool learning experiences.

The three-year collaboration between IBM and nonprofit Sesame Workshop will tap teachers, researchers, technologists, performers and other experts in their fields to determine how Watson’s natural language processing, data mining, pattern recognition and other advanced capabilities might best serve preschoolers.

“The center effort is about building deeply engaging learning experiences that are meant to assist the teacher or the caregiver,” IBM Master Inventor Satya Nitta says in a company video. Nitta is also the program leader of the Cognitive Learning Content research group at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center.

Research and development for the project is already underway, with IBM and Sesame Workshop testing interactive learning platforms and interfaces before releasing prototypes to key education and technology leaders.

Sesame Workshop’s expertise in education and storytelling will form the final pieces of the puzzle. The nonprofit has spent more than 45 years researching children’s brain development, using insights to create educational content that reaches children of all socio-economic backgrounds.

In an IBM blog post, Sesame Workshop CEO Jeff Dunn says the partnership with IBM will take the Sesame Street brand’s successes a step further.

“Television reaches every kid with the same programming in the same way,” he writes. “But we know that kids learn differently from one another and that they need — and deserve — a new approach that takes each one of them into consideration.”

A Watson-enabled learning platform could be the solution.

“This project will be a great equalizer, ultimately providing children from all backgrounds with the opportunity for meaningful, personalized education in their most formative years,” Dunn adds.

NBC Local 15
May 18, 2016

Governor Robert Bentley on Tuesday announced over 150 new grants that will provide more than 2,700 additional Alabama four-year-olds with access to high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten."Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten is a proven program that prepares students for success," Governor Robert Bentley said. "Only 20 percent of Alabama's four-year-olds are currently enrolled in the First Class program. Along with the support of legislative funding, we will continue to expand access to this program until every Alabama parent who wants their child to attend has access. I appreciate the staff at the Department of Early Childhood Education for working hard to help organizations receive grants." 

The grants announced by Governor Bentley will expand Alabama's First Class voluntary pre-k program to more schools, faith-based preschools, child care centers, Head Start locations, and other new and expanding pre-k sites across the state. Grants were awarded based on several criteria including local needs, local demand and assurances of high quality standards at the new and expanding pre-k sites. Each grantee is required to supplement the grant award with an amount equal to or greater than 25% of the award amount. Remaining grants will be allocated to additional sites based on various needs in the near future.

Rocket News
May 17, 2016

One of the most cost-effective ways to increase equity in education and expand opportunity to our nation’s children is to invest in high-quality preschool for our youngest learners – and not just some of them, but all of them. Federal- and state-led efforts over the past seven-and-a-half years have helped our country make progress toward this goal. In 2009, only 38 statesoffered children access to state-funded preschool, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called for all children to have access to high-quality, state-supported preschool. Since the President’s announcement, all but four states offer preschool to young children and nearly 40 states and Washington, D.C., have invested more than an additional $1.5 billion in support of preschool.

Despite these promising developments, a new report from NIEER shows that thousands of children from low- and middle-income families in communities across the country still do not have access to quality preschool.

Indeed, NIEER’s analysis shows that access to high-quality preschool in the United States remains low and unequal. In fact, according to the new NIEER report, three states with large populations of minority children – California, Florida, and Texas – have among the largest programs but the weakest quality standards for preschools. Florida and Texas also funded preschool for fewer children in 2014-2015, as compared to the previous year.

The Colorado Independent
May 17, 2016

Colorado has sunk closer to the bottom of the pack for state preschool funding, according to an annual report card released Thursday.

The state, which spends a paltry amount on preschool per pupil compared to top-scorers like Washington, DC, dropped from 35 to 41 in 2015. Only South Carolina and Mississippi spent less per child than Colorado. Eight other states with no publicly funded preschool programs weren’t ranked.

On a measure of 4-year-old preschool access, Colorado’s ranking stayed exactly the same: No. 22. That’s even with a small increase in 2015 in the number of 4-year-olds participating in the Colorado Preschool Program.

The state-by-state comparisons, put out by the National Institute for Early Education Research, also revealed that Colorado meets six of 10 benchmarks designed to judge preschool quality. That number—the same as neighboring Kansas and lower than Nebraska and New Mexico —is unchanged from the previous year.

Among the quality benchmarks that Colorado failed to meet are two on preschool teacher credentials— one specifying that teachers have a bachelor’s degree and the other that assistant teachers have a child development associate degree. In Colorado, early childhood teachers are required to have the associate degree and there is no minimum credential for assistant teachers.

Education News
May 17, 2016

In 2014-2015, the number of students in state-funded preschools in the US rose to almost 1.4 million – an increase of 37,167 students from the previous year. Overall, 29% of 3, 4, and 5-year-olds are enrolled in state-funded preschool programs.

A report released from the National Institute for Early Education Research found a wide range of per-pupil spending programs. For example, New Jersey spends $12,149 for each child enrolled in pre-K compared with $2,304 in Florida and $1,981 in South Carolina.

State funding for pre-K rose by $553 million overall in the 2014-15 year. Spending in New York, which implemented universal pre-K education in New York City under Mayor Bill de Blasio, accounted for two-thirds of that increase.

The authors of the report say New York City “provides an example of a city that successfully worked with its state to move an entire state forward, though it remains to be seen how much and how fast progress is extended to the rest of New York state.”

Karen Matthews of the The Big Story writes that the Institute, which advocates early childhood education, is under contract with the National Center for Education Statistics. The report tracks the quality of measures such as class sizes and teacher-training requirements.

May 17, 2016

Tday the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its 2015 State of Preschool yearbook. This annual report presents helpful 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 to three- and four-year-olds.

The report details modest gains in pre-K access, quality, and funding across the nation. Average state spending per child enrolled in pre-K increased by $287 in 2015 to a national average of $4,489 per child. This is the third straight year in which average spending has increased, though average spending levels are still lower than they were in 2002 and 2004 (as depicted below). Nationwide, state spending on pre-K rose by about $553 million in 2015, an increase of 10 percent. It’s important to note however, that two-thirds of this funding increase is the result of New York City’s rapid expansion of full-day pre-K under the leadership of Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The number of students enrolled in state-funded pre-K grew modestly in 2015, with an increase of about 37,000 children bringing the total of all children nationwide enrolled in state-funded pre-K to almost 1.4 million. Most of the enrollment gains produced as a result of the New York City pre-K expansion were canceled out by enrollment cuts in other states. Most of the enrollment growth came from three-year-olds, with only about 7,000 more four-year-olds served in 2015 compared to the previous year.

As shown in the graph below, the percentage of the national population of three-year-olds enrolled in state-funded pre-K modestly increased from 4 to 5 percent, while the percentage of four-year-olds remained flat at 29 percent. Steve Barnett, the Director of NIEER, expressed exasperation at the slow pace of government support for pre-K, writing that at the current rate of growth “it will be another 50 years before states can reach all low-income children at age four, and it will take 150 years to reach 75 percent of all four-year-olds.”