Early Education in the News
The Mississippi Board of Education is abandoning incremental goals in favor of big ones, according to a strategic plan released Thursday. And while Superintendent Carey Wright and others have been trying to round up enough money to incrementally expand Mississippi's recently created state preschool program, now the goal is to provide high quality preschool to every child.
Gov. Jay Inslee has a plan for putting $2.3 billion more into preschool through college education and workforce training and for meeting the state’s obligation to the Supreme Court a year early. On Monday, he announced his education policy initiatives at a town-hall style meeting in person in Bellevue and on video screens in Moses Lake, Spokane and Tacoma.
As part of President Barack Obama's efforts to support early education, Virginia was awarded a large federal preschool expansion grant and Winchester was one of the many locations selected.
$17.5 million was awarded to the state and Winchester Public Schools requested $4 million.
Several factors played a role in determining which locations qualified for the grant such as: level of poverty, percentage of children entering the state's literacy level and the number of at-risk four-year-olds.
A growing body of research has found that high-quality pre-K programs can teach children important classroom skills like how to raise their hands and pay attention, as well as boost reading and math skills. Data released earlier this year found that two-thirds of Mississippi's students start kindergarten unprepared and are less likely to be proficient readers by third grade. For years, Mississippi's students of all ages have scored at or near the bottom on national standardized reading and math tests.
Many educators say that, to improve later outcomes, Mississippi must first improve early education. Nationwide, about 28 percent of 4-year-olds attend state-funded preschool programs according to the National Institute for Early Education Research, although access and quality vary greatly.
As of 2013, 10 states did not offer preschool, while states like Oklahoma and Florida provided pre-K to more than 74 percent of their 4-year-olds. Some states have high-quality programs as evidenced by such traits as ensuring teachers hold bachelor's degrees and enforcing small class sizes. Other states meet few of these high-quality guidelines.
“People end up using ‘universal’ to cover the notion that they want to serve more than just poor kids and maybe they want to open it up to all kids,” said Steve Barnett, the director of National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. “But that doesn’t mean they’re going to serve everybody.”
In many places, including Chicago, promises of universal programs extend only to low-income families, but other cities have branded “universal” preschool as being accessible to families of all income levels. Some districts are picking
up the full tab for preschool classes, but others, such as Denver, call their programs universal but don’t promise to cover all costs. And many other programs that are billed as universal fall far short of serving every student, at least right now. For example, West Virginia passed a universal preschool bill this year while emphasizing that not all children would be served for at least a decade.
The numbers are in, and it looks like interest is high for the first phase of Indiana’s first state-funded preschool program. More than 1,600 applications came in from families interested in taking part inOn My Way Pre-K, which will launch infour of the five selected pilot counties – Allen, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh – in a few weeks. That number far exceeds capacity. The state originally intended to enroll between 350 and 400 children in those four communities. Lemons says due to the high interest, the FSSA is trying to see if they can make room for a few extra spaces.
The Maryland State Education Association is calling on the State Board of Education to suspend its Kindergarten Readiness Assessments, arguing that teachers lose too much instructional time administering the new computer-based tests and are not receiving useful data to improve teaching and learning. Betty Weller, the president of the teachers union, said the MSEA fielded numerous complaints from teachers after they started administering the test this fall. The union wants the state to halt the testing until issues surrounding the assessment and its implementation are resolved.
Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute of Early Education at Rutgers University, said teachers nationwide have had similar complaints. “Every state is grappling with the same issues,” he said. But Barnett said the assessments provide education policy experts the tools they need to determine what type of reforms should be considered for early education; what type of support children need before they go to kindergarten; and a base line of a student’s skills as he or she moves through elementary school.
Thousands of early child-care providers and educators ask themselves the same questions each day as they care for and educate nearly 12.5 million children under age five. They will soon care for millions more under two new federal initiatives set in place within the past month: a $1 billion initiative announced Wednesday to provide public and private grants to states to expand their pre-kindergarten programs, which is part of a $75 billion package calledPreschool for All to create universal pre-K education for 4-year-old children, and thereauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), a block of funds totaling $5.3 billion for early child-care centers and schools for children ages 1-to-4 nationwide. These federal initiatives will allow states to allocate more funds to further train caretakers and teachers, to improve and enforce safety and health standards, to provide new education materials, and to create more vouchers for low-income families to enroll their children in early childhood programs. But amid the cheering for these laws and the progress they represent, one critical element of quality childhood education remains noticeably absent from the conversation: funding to pay much more to teacher and caretakers, some of the lowest-paid workers in the country. Federal early child-care and education policies must require states to raise caretaker and teacher salaries, or else qualified workers will continue to struggle, earn less than they deserve for this vital work, or leave the field, while the children—at their most critical development stage—will receive lower-quality care.
President Barack Obama is embarking on a $1 billion package that will provide public and private funding for US preschool programs during a summit on early childhood education. The Obama administration is also set to launch its “Invest in US” campaign in the hopes of increasing private investment in the programs. A promotional campaign will include the voices of a number of celebrities including Shakira, Jennifer Garner and John Legend. The package will see 75% of its funding coming from existing government grant programs. Almost four dozen private sector companies, including LEGO and PVH Corp, who owns such clothing lines as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, have each promised donations of over $300 million put together. According to the Education Department, the new grants will give 63,000 children access to early childhood education programs in the coming year.
Meisner, who has spent decades working in early-childhood education, said these kids often don’t have the same opportunities for early learning and social interaction that kids from more affluent families have. That means they might start elementary school with fewer skills than their peers.
Tacoma is trying to close the gap. The district now offers preschool at 30 of its 35 elementary schools.
Free programs include Head Start, a federally funded program for low-income children who are at least 3 years old, and ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program), a similar program funded by the state. Both have the same goals: early learning, family support, parent involvement, and child health and nutrition.
We now know there’s an “achievement gap.” This “achievement gap” in lower-income families (and perhaps high-stress families) can be found in the skills of children as young as nine months old. This means that the neuro development in these young children starts lagging and continues to lag until the beginning of school. Children of higher income families simply start out ahead.
The numbers can’t lie. According to the report, “The Economics of Early Childhood Investments,” about 60 percent of three- and four-year-olds whose mothers have a college degree are enrolled in preschool, compared to about 40 percent of children whose mothers did not complete high school.
McClelland and Postl cited research which shows that 85% of a child’s brain development occurs by age five yet only 5% of public education dollars are spent on early childhood education. The National Institute for Early Education Research reports that children who participate in full-day prekindergarten programs are better prepared for kindergarten than children who participate in half-day programs and that children who are not reading at grade-level by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school. They cite evidence which indicates that participation in high quality pre-kindergarten programs has been shown to be effective in helping children read at grade-level by the third grade.
Seven months ago, we addressed a “good and bad news” situation for Alabama’s First Class voluntary pre-kindergarten program. The National Institute for Early Education Research praised the program as one of only four in the U.S. that met all its quality standards, something it actually has done for eight straight years. However, the institute also noted its limited scope; just 6 percent of Alabama’s 4-year-olds participated in 2012-13, the school year studied.
Since then, the Legislature has increased Pre-K funding to $38.5 million annually, and state grants have helped establish additional classroom sites throughout much of the state, including Etowah and other Northeast Alabama counties. The program now serves twice as many children, although only the most optimistic “glass half full” advocate would launch fireworks over a 12 percent participation rate. That’s about to change, however, thanks to a big chunk of federal money.
So say a growing number of businesses, foundations, organizations and state and local leaders of children in their first five years (from birth to age 5). Today, President Obama announced over $750 million in federal funding for early learning programs through the Preschool Development Grants and Early Head Start-Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnerships as well as calling for the expansion of early childhood opportunities for children across the country through public and private commitments to investment in early childhood programs and research.
Texas was not a winner of the big prize that would have garnered up to $120 million over four years for universal preschool. HHS announced awards for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership and Early Head Start Expansion grants designated for expanding and improving preschool. The feds granted Texas programs approximately $30 million. The largest chunk of government dollars will go to San Antonio and Edinburg, each receiving $7.4 million. Early Head Start is the pre-preschool version of Head Start. Head Start's Program Standards or the National Institute for Early Education Research are cited as the program's benchmarks, Breitbart Texas reported. This kind of pre-K also comes with a mandate for voluntary home visits.
New Jersey should be required to provide more school aid and universal preschool for 16 mostly poor, rural districts, including four in Ocean County, attorneys representing the districts argued in court Thursday. The Education Law Center — which represented Lakewood, Lakehurst, Ocean Township (Waretown), and Little Egg Harbor schools in addition to the other “Bacon” districts — said the districts are unable to provide an adequate education to their students due to cuts in state funding.
Governor Pat Quinn today announced that Illinois has won an $80 million federal investment in early childhood education. Illinois will receive $20 million annually for four years through the Preschool Development Grants competition, which is part of President Obama's call in 2013 to expand access to high-quality preschool to every child in America. Thirty-six states competed for a total of $250 million annually over four years to provide children from low-income households with access to early childhood education. The announcement is part of Governor Quinn's Birth to Five Initiative, which expands access to early learning opportunities.
"Providing high-quality early childhood education is a game changer for our economy," Governor Quinn said. "While Illinois currently leads the nation in the number of three-year-olds in preschool, we have much more work to do. This major investment in Illinois' littlest will have a big impact in many of our communities. Every child, no matter where they live, deserves the opportunity to succeed in life."
Reading aloud introduces more and different words into the vocabulary of both parent and child at a time when the child's brain is growing at its fastest. Researchers have found that 86 percent to 98 percent of a child's vocabulary by age 3 consists of words used by his or her parents. It's no wonder, then, that young kids of professional parents know twice as many words as the kids of low-income parents. By age 4, the average child in a poor family might have experienced 13 million fewer words than the average child in a working-class family. Between the highest and lowest ends of the economic spectrum, there could be a 30-million-word gap in children before they reach kindergarten, according to psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risely, who published their findings in 2003. She and millions of other parents share the same dilemma: How do we give our kids the best start possible when most of their early exposure to the world comes from us? It's a lot of pressure on parents, whether they dream of a future Rhodes Scholar or struggle just to keep their children fed and clothed.
Declaring early childhood education “one of the best investments we can make,” President Barack Obama on Wednesday followed up on a promise to expand early education opportunities for tens of thousands of children by announcing $1 billion in public-private spending on programs for young learners.
Obama said that less than one-third of 4-year-olds are enrolled in preschool and blamed the high cost of these programs for essentially shutting off access to poorer infants, toddlers and preschoolers. He said studies repeatedly show that children who are educated early in life are more likely to finish their educations, avoid the criminal justice system, hold good jobs and have stable families. All those factors are good for the U.S. and its economy overall, Obama said.
Why were Rhode Island officials so excited when the White House announced Wednesday that the state had won a $2.3-million federal grant for its preschool program?
Because the influx of funds will help expand one of the most successful state-funded pre-K programs in the country from 17 sites to 60 sites over the next five years, tripling the number of classroom seats offered to four-year-olds across the state.