Volume 15, Issue 20

Hot Topics

Got Teachers?

Meeting the needs of children during the first years of life so they can achieve their potential recently captured headlines around the world. From who should be teaching, to providing “nurturing care” and measuring outcomes, US and international attention is focused on early childhood education.

A recent Education Week article cites “A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand and Shortages in the U.S.,” a new report from Linda Darling-Hammond’s Learning Policy Institute, that describes a shortage of qualified teachers, not a shortage of warm bodies willing to stand up in front of a class of students.  Such concerns are shared by the early childhood education community, which must overcome both low wages and lack of respect for a role some mistakenly consider babysitting.

“Imagine for a moment that we think of qualified teachers as people who have what it takes to get students ready for college and career by the time they leave high school,” writes Marc Tucker in Ed Week. “The critics point out that the nation produces twice as many elementary school teachers as the schools can absorb every year and cite that data as evidence that there is no shortage of qualified elementary school teachers. I beg to differ. Far too many of our elementary school teachers are coming from teachers colleges that will take anyone with a high school diploma.  But a large fraction of those high school graduates have only a very shaky command of middle school math, cannot do high school math, are very poor writers and cannot comprehend a text written at the 12th grade level.  I would like to know how the critics could maintain that people with high school records like that could be considered qualified to teach elementary school.”

Think Globally…

Earlychildhood captured the international spotlight recently when UNICEF and WHO joined the venerable UK medical journal The Lancet to launch the 2016 Lancet Early Childhood Development Series exploring new scientific evidence for interventions. Early childhood development has been universally endorsed in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and this series emphasizes ‘nurturing care,’ especially of children below three years of age, and interventions focused on health and nutrition.

To provide nurturing care for their children, families need policies, programs, and services from their communities and governments—some of which are readily available and could be expanded to deliver supportive early childhood development services at as little as an additional 50 cents per child each year, according to The Lancet.

…Act Locally

US educators are grappling with incorporating preschool as part of their birth-to-third grade continuum under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA also allows states to design their own accountability systems and to determine consequences.

Recent publications offer some guidance and encouragement. ESSA: Early Childhood Requirements and Opportunities reviews ESSA from an early learning perspective, bringing together in one place the sections of the law that explicitly reference early learning along with provisions in the law that, while not explicitly addressing early learning, may have implications and/or provide opportunities for furthering access to high quality early childhood experiences. The National Association of State Boards of Education also issued a report helping policymakers incorporate early education a foundational element under ESSA.

In “Grading Schools: How States Should Define ‘School Quality’ Under the Every Student Succeeds Act,” author Chad Aldeman argues that accountability systems are a state’s best tool to signal what it values and how schools should be working to improve. The paper presents a roadmap for states to use ESSA as an opportunity to do accountability better, not just differently.

This month, NIEER begins publishing our newsletter every Friday, so you get more information, more often. Please let us know if you have suggestions or submissions for our Preschool Matters Today! blog. You can follow NIEER every day via Twitter and Facebook.

New on Preschool Matters…Today!

Lost in Translation: State PreK Must Meet Needs of Dual Language Learners

by GG Weisenfeld

As educators, we are continually striving to close the well-researched and identified achievement gaps, including those between children who speak a language other than English at home and children who speak only English…For the first time, the National Institute for Early Education Research 2015 State of Preschool Yearbook provides an in-depth look at state pre-K policies related to these dual language learners (DLLs).

Addressing the particular needs of young DLLs requires the adoption of new policies and practices. Children cannot learn if they are scared, do not feel welcome, or cannot communicate with their teachers. A National Institute for Early Education Research study shows these children benefit most when instruction is provided in both English and their home language without sacrificing English language skill building.


Engaging Parents, Developing Leaders: A Self-Assessment Webinar Oct. 13

Melissa Dahlin, of the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes, co-hosts this webinar focused on improving family engagement.

Find out more about the newly published self-assessment and planning tool for nonprofits and schools, “Engaging Parents, Developing Leaders”, published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in August, 2016. Shelly Waters Boots, co-author, will offer insights into the development of the tool and ways to use it to assess and improve current practice. Join us on Thursday, October 13 from 3:00-4:00 pm ET for Engaging Parents, Developing Leaders: A Self-Assessment.

Is universal pre-K worth the cost?

A new working paper released by the Upjohn Institute and Georgetown University’s Center for Research on Children in the United States suggests that the benefits of universal pre-K exceed the costs of administering such programs. This study, which I co-authored, examines the Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) universal pre-K program in Oklahoma. We found that the benefits (specifically, increased earnings and reduced crime of TPS pre-K participants as adults) outweigh program costs by almost 2-to-1. That is, for every $1 spent on TPS universal pre-K, there is a societal gain of $1.89.

These findings are significant because they represent one of the most accurate estimates to date of the benefits and costs of universal pre-K. Read Child Trends blog.

New Report Shows Solid Start to Pre-K Grant Program But More Work To Do

Texans Care for Children recently released “Ensuring the Success of HB 4 & Texas Students: A Preliminary Analysis of the Texas High Quality Pre-k Grant Program, providing a new analysis of school district participation in the grant program and policy recommendations.

Established by the Legislature and Governor Greg Abbott last year, the new pre-k grant program is providing participating school districts with grants for the 2016-2017 school year to improve pre-k effectiveness for currently eligible children.

Ready for Kindergarten! Survey

Since 2000, Vermont has gathered information on the readiness of children entering kindergarten by surveying kindergarten teachers about their students’ knowledge and skills within the first six to ten weeks of school. The effort to measure school readiness is a collaborative project of the Vermont Agency of Education (AOE), the Department for Children and Families, and the Department of Health and various surveys for assessing schools’ readiness have been conducted since this effort began. After extensive expert review, the new Ready for Kindergarten! Survey (R4K!S) has been adopted.

The Kids in Columbus Study (KICS)

About 29,000 children in Columbus live in extreme poverty. Each year, the City of Columbus invests almost $18 million in resources aimed at improving the health and well-being of low-income children and their families. However, the impact of this investment on child outcomes is not clear. Yet, to date, there have been no long-term studies of how low-income families with young children access and use community resources in Franklin County, Ohio. The goal of the Kids in Columbus Study (KICS) is to learn more about low-income families with young children over a five-year period to better understand how these families access and use community resources in Franklin County, Ohio.

NIEER Activities

Successful Early Learning-to-Kindergarten Transitions Webinar Oct. 14

Going from preschool or other early learning settings into kindergarten is a milestone event for more than 3.5 million children and their families each year. Research shows that children who are academically, socially, and emotionally prepared to enter kindergarten are more likely to do better in school and in life.

Dr. Shannon Riley-Ayers of the National Institute for Early Education Research will present three components that support a child’s successful transition to school: leadership, effective instruction, and family and community engagement. Register today for the webinar to be held Friday Oct. 14 3-4:30 pm EST

CEELO Update

Birth to Grade Three Peer Exchange – September 2016

CEELO hosted educators from nearly a dozen states for a peer exchange examining several compelling early learning initiatives underway across the country, along with a new study Building State P-3 Systems: Learning from Leading States.

The report, by David Jacobsen, provides three case studies to address a central question: How can states support P–3 system building at both state and local levels? The three case-study states—Massachusetts, Oregon, and Pennsylvania—were chosen based on their experience implementing P–3 state policies and developing significant grant programs to fund regional and local P–3 partnerships.

Materials from the peer exchange, along with webinar slides and recording, are now available on the CEELO website.

Early Education News Roundup

To unite our country, we must invest in kids

Friday, October 7, 2016
(The Hill )

In this most unpredictable election year, the only thing we can know for sure is that, regardless of who wins, our nation will be in serious need of healing and unity.  The campaign has exposed deep divisions. Many will still exist once the campaign is over. We will need to find at least some small patches of common ground upon which to build and go forward. That’s easier said than done given genuine ideological differences  and a political and media culture committed to fanning the flames.

One place to look is toward the needs of our children, who represent our future.

Don’t Forget the Early Elementary Years

Friday, October 7, 2016
(US News & World Report)

The early elementary years – from kindergarten through third grade – are particularly important ones in children’s schooling. Parents and teachers know that children acquire new skills and knowledge rapidly during these years. Research shows that average annual learning gains for children in grades K-2 are dramatically greater than those for subsequent years of school. Moreover, the outcomes of early elementary education, particularly whether or not a child can read proficiently by third grade, are a powerful predictor of later school and life outcomes.

The Lancet: Policies and programs to support early child development a ‘wise investment’

Thursday, October 6, 2016
(Health Medicine Network)

The first 1000 days in a child’s life, starting from conception, are recognized as a crucial period of development, yet many children are exposed to poor sanitation, infections, lack of nurturing care and inadequate stimulation during this period. New estimates suggest that children who do not meet their developmental potential may forfeit up to a quarter of average adult earning capacity, and that the overall cost to countries can be as much as two times their national expenditure on health.

The findings come from a new three paper Series on Early Childhood Development, published in The Lancet, which sets out the importance of providing nurturing care – defined as care which promotes health, nutrition, security and safety, and early learning – in helping children achieve their developmental potential. While most families provide this care for their children, many cannot because of poverty, poor working conditions, violence or lack of supportive policies.

The authors find there is good evidence supporting programmes for early childhood development – from Sure Start in the UK, Early Head Start in the USA to Chile’s Crece Contigo, or Grade R in South Africa (paper 3, panel 2) – but that many programmes are challenged by inadequate and uncertain funding or lack of resources.

“Increasing numbers of children are surviving, but begin life at a disadvantage because they do not receive the nurturing care they need. Political prioritisation, legislation and financing of early childhood development programmes are key to ensuring their success,” says Series author Professor Linda Richter, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

As Governors, Kaine and Pence Aimed for Expanded Early-Childhood Education

Wednesday, October 5, 2016
(Education Week)

Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, the Democratic and Republican nominees for vice president, may not have much in common politically, and we’re likely to see that demonstrated during tonight’s sole vice presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va.

But they do share this: Both Pence and Kaine campaigned for governor on a promise to dramatically expand access to prekindergarten in their respective states, and both ended up having to scale back those ambitions in the face of political or financial headwinds.

Features of High Quality Pre-K Programs and Systems: Taking Stock and Growing the Evidence Base

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
(Mathematica Center for Improving Research Evidence)

On Thursday, October 6, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. (ET) at Mathematica’s Washington, DC, office or via live webcast, Mathematica’s Center for Improving Research Evidence and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will co-host a policy forum and webinar to discuss the common features of high quality pre-K programs. State and federal policymakers, agency staff, education administrators, and researchers are invited to join us as we explore the evidence base for these programs and discuss the critical policy and programmatic issues related to pre-K education.

Is This as Good as Childcare Gets?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
(The Atlantic)

…Massachusetts actually ranks as one of the best states in providing affordable, high-quality, and accessible early care and education in the Care Index, a data and methodology collaboration between Care.com, the largest online market for care, and New America, a nonpartisan think tank. Though quality is difficult to measure, 38 percent of centers and family homes are nationally accredited for quality, one of the higher rates in the country. And indeed, Massachusetts has made positive moves toward improving its early care and education system. It was one of the first states to form a dedicated Department of Early Education and Care so childcare could be monitored and funded as an aspect of education. The state has had a Quality Rating and Improvement System in place since 2011, setting guidelines for what is believed to be  high-quality childcare.

However, The Care Index found that the cost of childcare in Massachusetts is extremely high, averaging $13,208 a year in childcare establishments, nearly equal to the average cost of rent in the state, even as the caregivers still earn poverty wages. The cost for infant care is even higher—$16,682 a year, more than a quarter of the state’s median household income, and nearly 90 percent of a minimum-wage worker’s earnings. This high cost presents serious challenges to parents struggling to pay for care and to providers, who often operate on paper-thin margins to survive….

Average child-care costs exceed in-state college tuitions nationwide

Thursday, September 29, 2016
(The Washington Post)

If paying for child care has come to feel for many American families like putting a child through college, there’s a reason for that.

The average annual cost of full-time, center-based child care in the United States now exceeds the average annual cost of in-state tuition, according to a “Care Index” released Tuesday by New America, a think tank in Washington, D.C. That amount, of $9,589 per child, represents nearly a fifth of annual median household income and 85 percent of the yearly median cost of rent.

Despite the high costs, day-care workers are paid poverty wages, turnover is high, and only a small percentage of centers are nationally accredited, a marker of quality.

“The short version,” the report said, “is that the early care and learning system isn’t working. For anyone.”

Study: Students in New York City’s Pre-K for All program show learning gains

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New York City’s universal pre-K program is paying off in more ways than one, according to a set of reports released Tuesday.

An independent research firm hired by the city’s Department of Education found that families are highly satisfied with the program, which now serves more than 70,000 students, and that most teachers are happy with their jobs. Notably, the research — which was done with help from New York University — also found that students were gaining measurable academic skills.

Students at the 75 UPK sites studied gained seven months of learning in just five-and-a-half months. More than 70 percent of the children assessed performed at or above national averages in early literacy; in early math skills, it was 62 percent.

Trump vs. Clinton: The Numbers Behind the Two Candidates’ Childcare Proposals

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
(Pacific Standard)

The conversation at the presidential debate has kicked off with childcare — one area where both candidates actually have fully fleshed policy agendas. Hillary Clinton’s plan relies on a combination of tax credits and government investments in childcare programs and would cap childcare spending at 10 percent of a family’s income, whereas Donald Trump’s plan relies exclusively on tax deductions and credits to make childcare more affordable.