Early Education in the News

Alaska Public Media
December 22, 2015

The governor’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of a $2 million pre-kindergarten program, which serves six school districts in Anchorage, Juneau, and Western Alaska. Alaska was one of just 12 states in the U.S. without state-funded pre-kindergarten when it started a pilot program in 2009. The pre-K program is free to qualifying low-income families and, according to Deputy Education Commissioner Les Morse, has seen considerable success in its six-year run.

“There is solid data around its success,” Morse said. “We specifically looked at various different assessments on students in terms of their’ performance as well as the delivery by districts. It’s really been very successful. The largest problem with the program is that we really haven’t been able to grow it. So it really continues to serve the same number of students and the same dollar amount that it did during its pilot phase.”

The Atlantic
December 21, 2015

Media attention to the cognitive potential of early childhood has a way of exacerbating such worries, but the actual academic consensus on the components of high-quality early education tells another story. According to experts such as the Yale professor Edward Zigler, a leader in child-development and early-education policy for half a century, the best preschool programs share several features: They provide ample opportunities for young children to use and hear complex, interactive language; their curriculum supports a wide range of school-readiness goals that include social and emotional skills and active learning; they encourage meaningful family involvement; and they have knowledgeable and well-qualified teachers.

As an early-childhood educator, I’ve clocked many hours in many preschool classrooms, and I have found that I can pretty quickly take the temperature from the looks on kids’ faces, the ratio of table space to open areas, and the amount of conversation going on in either. In a high-quality program, adults are building relationships with the children and paying close attention to their thought processes and, by extension, their communication. They’re finding ways to make the children think out loud.

The real focus in the preschool years should be not just on vocabulary and reading, but on talking and listening.

The Baltimore Sun
December 21, 2015

Not all that long ago, early childhood education meant the first three grades of elementary school. Very few schools had kindergarten programs and even fewer offered pre-kindergarten programs. Today, all Maryland school systems offer kindergarten programs and pre-kindergarten programs for at least the most disadvantaged 4 year olds. It is now time for Maryland to continue to lead the way in early childhood education by expanding innovative programs that start at birth and continue through age 3.

KTOO Public Media
December 21, 2015

Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed budget calls for the elimination of a $2 million pre-kindergarten program, which serves six school districts in Anchorage, Juneau and Western Alaska.

Alaska was one of just 12 states in the U.S. without state-funded pre-kindergarten when it started a pilot program in 2009.

The pre-K program is free to qualifying low-income families and, according to Deputy Education Commissioner Les Morse, has seen considerable success in its six-year run.

“There is solid data around its success,” said Morse. “We specifically looked at various different assessments on students in terms of their performance as well as the delivery by districts. It’s really been very successful. The largest problem with the program is that we really haven’t been able to grow it. So it really continues to serve the same number of students and the same dollar amount that it did during its pilot phase.”

Wyoming Public Media
December 21, 2015

In its last meeting before the upcoming budget session, the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee forwarded a bill that could expand early childhood education in some school districts.

Districts apply for grant money through a program called BRIDGES—and are allowed to spend that money on afterschool and summer programming. The new legislation would also allow districts to spend that money on early learning, if they choose.

Wyoming Kids First executive director Becca Steinhoff says it’s a step in the right direction.

Bennington Banner
December 21, 2015

Early childhood education in Vermont received a boost when in 2014 the state legislature passed, and Gov. Peter Shumlin signed, Act 166, which "requires all Vermont school districts to provide universal publicly funded pre-kindergarten education for a minimum of 10 hours per week for 35 weeks annually for all 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children who are not enrolled in kindergarten," according to the Vermont Agency of Education website.

Although school districts may opt to postpone full implementation until July 1, 2016, the need for licensed early education teachers already exceeds supply.

The Early Childhood Education program at the Windham Regional Career Center is expanding its course offerings, providing students with access to a career ladder in ECE.

Education World
December 21, 2015

Analysis from Brookings Nonresident Senior Fellow John, T. Bruer indicates that on the subject of using science to improve education, research is more effective than using neuroscience. The paper, titled Research Base for Improved Classroom Learning: Brain or Behavior? found that traditional education research is more effective in improving classroom learning outcomes as opposed to the recently favored method of using educational neuroscience data. Part of the reason behind this, however, could be because educational neuroscience is a young, still-developing field. - See more at: http://www.educationworld.com/a_news/education-research-more-beneficial-...

NJ Spotlight
December 18, 2015

New Jersey’s publicly-funded preschool program is considered a national model for high quality – for some 50,000 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds living in 35 towns. But as NJ Spotlight’s preschool series points out, there is zero guarantee of quality for the 350,000 other children attending a patchwork of licensed and unlicensed preschools across the state. It can cost a family more to send a child to preschool than to community college, which puts quality out of reach for many. These hundreds of thousands of children are attending programs that may or may not be effective, at an age that is widely recognized as critical for their development and, therefore, our state’s future.

NJ Spotlight
December 18, 2015

Seven years after a proposal to expand New Jersey’s much-touted public pre-K program was approved, the state may be getting close to actually funding the plan, at least in part. Democratic legislators have unveiled an ambitious initiative that would bring preschool to an additional 17 disadvantaged districts at a cost of $165 million over two years. But they will have to overcome opposition from Gov. Christie Christie and many Republicans who are staunch critics of any expansion. The opponents describe the state preschool program as an expensive, ineffective, and unfair example of government overreach, one that pours public funds into poor urban communities while struggling residents of suburbs and towns get nothing but mounting local tax bills.

“What we have essentially is a very expensive program, and New Jersey really can't pay its bills right now, for example the pension system, and we're looking to expand government,” said Sen. Mike Doherty (R-Warren), a fierce critic of the state’s Abbott schools program. “You just can't keep expanding government when you can't pay your bills at the present moment.”

Both sides are armed with statistics that prove their points, as well as pointed arguments that dismiss their opponent’s studies and findings. Both groups draw their convictions from an ongoing national debate about the role of government in early education, and both say the direction the state takes on preschool in the near future could have a significant impact on the state’s economic future.

Medical Daily
December 17, 2015

Poverty may prove to be an especially poor home for a maturing central nervous system to grow up in, suggests a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and partners.

The study, published Wednesday in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that the children of families with low socioeconomic status were more likely to harbor signs of neurological impairment than children from more privileged backgrounds. Worse still, these gaps in functioning between the two groups, though small, only appeared to grow larger as the children became older. That might leave the poorest children the most vulnerable to later learning difficulties or mental health problems.  

December 17, 2015

Only in the past two decades has depression in children been taken seriously. Now, it’s becoming clear that kids as young as three can have major depression. That’s due largely to the work of Dr. Joan Luby, the director of the Early Emotional Development Program at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who is credited with spurring the small but growing body of evidence that preschoolers can experience depression and be successfully treated.

“Nobody believed preschoolers could get depressed,” says Luby. “People generally assumed children under the age of six were too developmentally immature to experience the core emotions of depression. I am not sure the zeitgeist has changed as dramatically is it probably should, given the data that’s available.”

December 17, 2015

As the new governor of Kentucky takes over, it’s worth reminding ourselves how critical early childhood education has become to our state —and this commitment needs to continue.

Providing excellent early childhood programs is a statewide priority that truly transcends politics. In fact, a regional commission on early childhood issues that I chaired found much agreement on early childhood investment strategies by leaders with all sorts of perspectives.

Washington Post
December 17, 2015
Wealthy parents aren't just able to send their kids to top pre-schools—they can also purchase the latest learning technology and ensure their children experience as many museums, concerts and other cultural experiences as possible. Low-income parents, on the other hand, don't have that opportunity. Instead, they're often left to face the reality of sending their kids to schools without having had the chance to provide an edifying experience at home.

That might sound foreboding if not hyperbolic, but it's a serious and widespread problem in the United States, where poor kids enter school already a year behind the kids of wealthier parents. That deficit is among the largest in the developed world, and it can be extraordinarily difficult to narrow later in life.

This is one of the key takeaways from a new book about how United States is failing its children. The book, called Too Many Children Left Behind, is written by Columbia University professor Jane Waldfogel, a long-time researcher of poverty and inequality. And it will force almost anyone to reflect on the impact of unchecked inequality on children.


NJ Spotlight
December 16, 2015

“We work with the parents, we work with the community, we do health, we do dental, we do nutrition. Ours is an all-around family-and-child kind of program -- whereas a school is a school,” said Ruhl, the nonprofit’s executive director. “We have social-service staff, we have health staff, we have a registered dietitian. We have a lot of agreements with other agencies, so if our families need mental-health services or help with rent or any of that, we have resources at our fingertips,” she said. “The philosophy is, the whole family has to be ready for school, not just the child.”

That, said Ruhl, is the difference between a federally funded Head Start program like hers and a regular preschool. For 16,000 children in New Jersey and more than a million across the country, Head Start centers offer learning and socialization to help them overcome the barriers associated with poverty, at the same time that the support staff work to foster family stability.

Many of the Head Starts in New Jersey are also Abbott preschools. Through that program, which provides pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-olds in 35 disadvantaged school districts, the state shares the cost of eligible Head Start centers. The participating centers must also meet the Abbott standards, such as small class sizes and teachers with bachelor degrees and preschool certification.

Head Start has been hugely popular since it was started in 1965, maintaining support from both Republican and Democratic administrations. Its budget has steadily climbed to $8.6 billion, and President Barack Obama wants to add another $1.5 billion so every center can offer full-day care over a full school year in order to boost the benefits.

Seattle Times
December 16, 2015

I WAS proud to stand with Democrats and Republicans in the White House last week and represent Washington state students and families as President Obama signed an education bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), into law.

The broken No Child Left Behind law is finally gone. Our new law is a huge step forward for students and schools. But the work hasn’t ended — far from it. . .

I am especially proud that one of my top priorities, expanding access to preschool for more of our youngest learners, was included in the new law. As a former preschool teacher, I know that helping more kids start kindergarten on a strong footing is one of the smartest investments our country can make. I fought hard to include investments in preschool, and ESSA marks the first time that the nation’s primary education law includes dedicated funding to expand access to early childhood education.

December 16, 2015

The city is well on its way to achieving its short-term goal of having 2,000 more kids enrolled in highly-rated pre-school classes by next year. But it's still a long way from its ultimate goal of making strong preschools available for all families that want it. The PRE4CLE partnership between the Cleveland school district and more than 30 community organizations released an update Tuesday on its plan to greatly improve preschool opportunities for Cleveland's three- and four-year-olds.

It's a plan tied closely to the school district's improvement efforts and which aims to have kids better prepared to learn in kindergarten and beyond. The district and its partners have worked together on a three-pronged approach to add more quality opportunities -- adding more seats in highly-rated pre-schools, encouraging more private pre-schools to be rated by the state and making sure families know about openings in strong schools.

All three, according to PRE4CLE leaders, contributed to having more than 1,200 more kids in highly-rated pre-schools this year than in 2013. "We made great strides in increasing the number of high-quality preschool seats available to Cleveland's children," PRE4CLE's 2015 annual report states. "In fact, we're more than halfway to our overall goal of creating and filling 2,000 new seats in our first two years."

NJ Spotlight
December 15, 2015

New Jersey’s long history of state-funded preschool may have opened another chapter yesterday with Senate President Stephen Sweeney’s proposed public investment plan that would include more than $165 million over two years in expanded preschool and other early-childhood programs.

Significant details are still to be worked out -- and the political and financial prospects are even more uncertain. Sweeney’s expected run for governor in 2017 certainly plays into the calculus as well.

But if enacted, the proposal from Sweeney and other Democratic leaders yesterday could be the first noteworthy expansion of the state’s landmark program since the late 2000s, and among the largest since the state Supreme Court first ordered universal preschool for New Jersey’s 31 poorest cities

Yahoo Parenting
December 15, 2015

There’s no shortage of research on the benefits of preschool. It not only gives kids an introduction to the school environment they will be a part of for the better part of two decades, but also provides opportunities to develop social skills, among many other benefits. From learning how to wait your turn to knowing the days of the week, preschool programs can provide plenty of useful education. Well-designed programs have been known to provide long-term success in school, including better test scores, lower chances of grade repetition, and higher educational achievement overall.

The Guardian
December 14, 2015

Children of all backgrounds who receive a preschool education are almost twice as likely to go on to sit AS-levels, according to a study by Oxford University.

The research, funded by the government’s department for education, also found that children who go to preschool were significantly more likely to take four or more AS-levels, suggesting that far more preschoolers end up taking an academic route into university than those who do not have the same educational start.

Preschool, also known as nursery school, refers to an educational establishment that offers early education to under-fives prior to the start of primary school.

Children who experience stimulated learning activities at home – such as singing and nursery rhymes, learning the alphabet, reading, playing with numbers and letters, or going on visits to the library – when they are under five are also more likely to achieve better A-level grades, researchers found.

The study is the latest report to be published as part of the EPPSE (effective preschool, primary and secondary education) project, launched in 1997. It followed 3,000 children from the age of three to 18 to identify the factors that can predict a child’s academic success, particularly the effects of a preschool education and a child’s early years home environment.

Seattle Times
December 14, 2015

Seattle’s new, subsidized preschool program has met its first-year goals — for enrollment, number of classrooms, and the racial and income diversity of students, according to the city’s education and early learning department.

Voters approved a $58 million property-tax levy last year to make preschool in the city more affordable and higher quality. The idea is to chip away at persistent academic achievement gaps between children who get lots of learning opportunities at home and those who don’t, which tends to mirror economic and racial divisions.

The tax pays for a four-year program, which advocates hope will demonstrate the value of early learning.  By the 2018-19 school year, it will have 2,000 students enrolled in 100 classrooms.