Volume 10, Issue 29

November 4, 2011

Hot Topics

When the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated their guidelines, the organization reaffirmed its 1999 recommendation that discouraged television viewing by children under age 2. The AAP's newest policy statement on the topic, "Media Use by Children Younger Than Two Years," comes on the scene at a time when children’s screen options have expanded to include other forms of electronic media, such as computers, video games, tablets, and smartphones. The group once again calls for parents to limit screen time for children under age 2, pointing to additional research showing the negative effects of too much time spent with electronic media at young ages, particularly the sacrifice of time spent engaging in creative play and interacting with people and objects. The AAP also emphasizes that there is no evidence of educational value in television programming aimed for children in this age group and that even having the TV on only as "background noise" is distracting - both for children and adults.

However, despite the AAP's guidelines, the results of a new survey from Common Sense Media show that electronic media are prevalent in the lives of children from birth to age 8. More than a quarter of all screen time is spent with newer digital media, including computers, video games, smartphones, and tablets, with half of all children having access to one of these devices. More specifically, apps on newer mobile devices are increasingly popular, and have been used by 10 percent of infants up to 1 years old, 39 percent of 2- to 4-year-olds, and 52 percent of 5- to 8-year-olds.

NIEER looked at similar developments this past summer in a blog post entitled, "Child's Play: Should Preschoolers Engage with Technology or Good-Old Fashioned Fun?"

Two new developments in the field of special education call for earlier diagnoses of neurobehavioral disorders. New guidelines released by the American Academy of Pediatrics include a recommendation that children as young as 4 can be diagnosed and treated for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). For children this young, the organization suggests behavioral therapy as well as parental training to help treat ADHD. Meanwhile, new research from Michigan State University suggests that an autism diagnosis may be possible earlier than at 2 or 3 years old, as is currently the case. A study found that children who later developed autism exhibited signs as early as age 1. These infants had difficulty paying attention to both a toy and a person at the same time and were less likely to engage in imitating behavior.
New research points to a link between challenging behaviors in preschoolers and bisphenol A (BPA), an additive used in the production of some plastics to make them durable and reusable. Published in the journal Pediatrics, the latest study found a greater likelihood of behavioral problems - including hyperactivity, anxiety, and depression - in 3-year-old children, especially girls, whose mothers had the highest exposures to BPA while pregnant. The same researchers had reported similar findings when the children studied were only 2 years old, and the findings are consistent with animal studies conducted in the past.
Well before they are old enough to burst out "That's not fair!" on the playground, children exhibit a sense of justice, according to a new study. As reported in the Toronto Sun, University of Washington researchers conducted two experiments that found children under the age of 2 already display a sense of fairness. In the first experiment, infants were shown two films, one with food distributed unequally between two people and one with equal portions shared. Infants looked at the video longer when shown the unequal distribution, indicating that this scenario surprised them more. In the second experiment, infants were given two toys and asked to share with a stranger, and two-thirds of the infants were willing to share. When looking at the results of both experiments, the researchers found that 92 percent of the infants willing to share a toy had paid more attention to the film with food unequally allocated.
A separate study from the University of Washington examined brain development in infants exposed to one language at home versus those exposed to two languages. Using measures of electrical brain responses in the study subjects, researchers found that monolingual infants could detect differences between phonetic sounds in any language at 6 months old, but they could no longer make this distinction for languages other than their home one by 10 to 12 months. The reverse was found for bilingual infants, who could not discriminate between phonetic sounds in any language at 6 months old, but were able to do so in two languages by 10 to 12 months. Dr. Patricia Kuhl, one of the researchers involved in the study, explained to The New York Times, "What the study demonstrates is that the variability in bilingual babies' experience keeps them open. They do not show the perceptual narrowing as soon as monolingual babies do. It's another piece of evidence that what you experience shapes the brain."

Another recent study from the University of British Columbia and OECD found that newborns with bilingual mothers are more likely to prefer the mother's two languages over others and are able to separate out the two languages from each other. What this all means is that children are capable of understanding more than one language far earlier than previously thought. Other studies find that preschool education programs can effectively teach in two languages.

New on Preschool Matters...Today!

Read NIEER Director Steve Barnett's blog post on the latest report from the OECD, which studied education levels and their relationship to unemployment rates.

Calendar

November 17, 2011 - November 19, 2011
National Harbor, MD - At this conference, participants will explore research and best practices regarding early intervention and early childhood special education.
November 18, 2011 - November 19, 2011
Melbourne, Australia – The theme for this conference is "Honoring the Child, Honoring Equity 11: Inspiring change(s): insights, challenges, hopes and actions."
December 9, 2011 - December 11, 2011
Washington, DC - Zero to Three's annual conference provides professionals with the opportunity to enhance their knowledge about early childhood development through interactive sessions and networking opportunities with colleagues and leaders in the field.
March 14, 2012 - March 16, 2012
Salt Lake City, UT - At this conference, participants will learn about and discuss research and best practices involving the use of technology in early childhood education.
March 28, 2012 - March 31, 2012
Washington, DC - This conference will challenge attendees to consider how to provide a positive childhood experience for the youth of the world.

Early Education News Roundup

November 3, 2011
The Decatur Daily, Decatur, AL
Decatur is a state pre-K leader. It offers nine pre-K classes, but they are limited to one class of 18 students at each of the city’s seven Title 1 schools and two state-funded classes. A lottery decides which students get in the class. The waiting list is long.
November 1, 2011
The Tampa Tribune
Rule changes for the state's Voluntary Prekindergarten program are meant to ensure all students get the same education, regardless of where they go to school, but some providers say the new standards would judge them unfairly.
November 1, 2011
Journal Review, Crawfordsville, IN
Students at the preschool participate in circle time, learning centers and organized free play. They concentrate on literacy and pre-academic skills, language experiences, social, self-help, fine and gross motor skills, fine arts and dramatic play, sensory exercises, exploration and observation.
November 1, 2011
The Grand Rapids Press
Legislation aimed at giving children more time to develop before entering kindergarten is stirring debate about when a child is most prepared for school and who should make that call.
November 1, 2011
Education Week
In the face of state cutbacks to early-childhood programs, school districts might find themselves wondering whether to invest their own scarce funds in preschool or in full-day kindergarten.
October 30, 2011
The Times-Herald, Newnan, GA
Early childhood education is one of the keys to educational success for our young people. Children who are exposed to books and education at an early age are more likely to succeed than those who have not been on some sort of educational tract before entering kindergarten or first grade.
October 29, 2011
Herald-Review, Grand Rapids, MN
The discussion in Grand Rapids was the second stop on the first day of the Growing Great Minnesota Kids tour, which followed a stop in Duluth earlier in the day. The purpose of the tour is to hold "Kitchen Table Initiatives" in each of the communities throughout the state in order to encourage a greater discussion about early childhood education.
October 28, 2011
Times Record News, Wichita Falls, TX
Making the case for a dollars-and-sense approach to building a better workforce and stronger community, Rich Neimand, early childhood education advocate, spoke to Wichita Falls business leaders Thursday at the Wichita Falls Country Club.
October 25, 2011
The Telegraph, Macon, GA
After six years of study, Georgia is launching a rating system for day cares and Georgia pre-kindergarten programs to help parents identify higher-quality child care.
October 25, 2011
Billings Gazette, Billings, MT
Yellowstone County's chief law enforcement officials gathered Tuesday morning and called on U.S. Sen. Max Baucus and other members of the congressional budget supercommittee to preserve funding for the federal Head Start program.
October 24, 2011
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH
Across Ohio, thousands of children enter kindergarten 18 months behind their classmates in academic skills because their preparation for school is unequal to their peers, particularly those from underserved communities. Educators and school districts continue to work tirelessly to arm students with the knowledge they need for the future, but unless we provide young children with a quality pre-school experience, this community remains at risk of not equipping future generations to address the challenges ahead.
October 24, 2011
The Casper Star-Tribune, Casper, WY
Gov. Matt Mead decided last week that Wyoming would sit out of the latest round of competitive federal education grants. An application prepared by the Wyoming Early Childhood State Advisory Council failed to garner the signatures of the governor and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill.
October 22, 2011
Santa Cruz Sentinel
The state-mandated California English Language Development Test is so challenging, researchers say, that too many California children are being labeled as English learners more because of a lack of maturity than language skills. Only about 6 percent of California's kindergartners who took the test in 2010 were designated English proficient, according to the study, "Classifying California's English Learners: Is the CELDT too blunt an instrument?"

Resources

This report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation emphasizes the need for early education, particularly focusing on early literacy, for future success.
This podcast from the New America Foundation features Kristie Kauerz of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Cathy Grace from the Children's Defense Fund discussing the role of full-day kindergarten in the early childhood education continuum.
This paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research examines the role of early childhood education on college enrollment and graduation, in particular noting that smaller classes in primary school increase the likelihood that students will complete college and earn degrees in STEM, business, or economics.