Early Education in the News
Mr. Obama also is seeking $500 million in federal matching funds that would encourage states and districts to devote a larger share of their Title I money to prekindergarten programs. And he has asked for $300 million to help states better integrate early-childhood programs.
Early care and education is literally the foundation for all subsequent school success. Many national studies show the value of quality early learning experiences, and an important Minnesota study conducted by the state Department of Human Services demonstrated that children in quality child care are measurably more "ready for K" than are children who lack that opportunity.
The answer is to integrate, says Shannon Riley-Ayers, assistant research professor for the National Institute of Early Education. Absorbing written information doesn't have to come only by the way of books; you can promote literacy to your children by engaging in various hands-on activities, many of which are available or sponsored through your local libraries.
The push in the Texas House of Representatives for full-day prekindergarten classes had the weight of 100 members behind it before a vote was ever taken. [But] it will be up to the 10-member conference committee negotiating the budget to say if the state will make a major new investment in prekindergarten.
The Anchorage School Board will look at how to spend about $60 million in federal stimulus money over the next two years on Monday, and some educators would like to see the money used to develop pre-kindergarten programs.
The state Department of Education will be starting a new evaluation of the effectiveness of Tennessee's voluntary pre-K program next month. The five-year, $6 million study is being funded by a grant from U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Science.
The nation's 9- and 13-year-olds are doing better in math and reading than in the early 1970s, but average scores for students approaching high school graduation haven't budged, according to test results released today.
Despite solid evidence that preschool can have lasting effects on children, even curbing dropout rates and slimming the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their classmates, there is no uniform system for funding it. The fates of different preschools and their different programs will vary dramatically depending on where they get their money, and whether they can find ways to tap the stimulus.
Of the 38 states that sponsor pre-K classes, Texas is the only one that doesn't cap student-to-teacher ratios. Pre-K programs, including Head Start, are among the best, most cost-effective ways to propel disadvantaged kids into academic success — but studies show that pre-K works its magic only when the program is of high quality, with trained teachers and a low student-to-teacher ratio.
Utah legislators and educators should look closely at an early-childhood learning program created by a law written and promoted by the company the state is now paying $2.5 million to provide preschoolers with computer software.
[Pre-K teacher Vickie] Floyd has kept track of Jamarion and the 19 other students in her class since August, through portfolios of their work and other brief, two- to five-minute assessments. In two weeks, she'll review some of the data collected throughout the year to help parents and other administrators decide whether Jamarion or other students need seven more weeks of school.
Private nursery schools have enjoyed robust enrollment in recent years, often having long waiting lists in many suburbs around the region. But directors at private nursery schools said they are concerned that the faltering economy and listless real estate market were contributing to a dip in applications and enrollments.
Although school districts have until 2011 to provide full-day kindergarten, many already are there or are on their way, a state official said. To date, the state has 24 districts not offering any full-day sections.
More than half a million 4-year-olds are obese, and the numbers are even more startling among children of color, according to a government study published this month in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The troubling findings also show that young children are becoming obese before they enroll in school, which is when they are more likely to eat unhealthful meals and vending-machine snacks and soda.
Children ages 4 and 5 are supposed to use the program for 15 minutes a day, five days a week, until they enter kindergarten. A cast of cartoon characters guide kids through short exercises about counting, sorting, letter sounds and vocabulary, among other things.
As one of 12 states without state-sponsored preschool, Indiana is missing the mark when it comes to improving education and student achievement.
Experts say all children can benefit from a high-quality early learning program to prepare them for academic success in elementary school and beyond. A state advisory board has recently crafted a set of recommendations for the state's newest agenda: to find and enroll those children who are considered the most at-risk and would benefit the most from preschool, but who are often hard to reach for a variety of reasons.
It is not that we are failing across the board. There are huge numbers of exciting education innovations in America today — from new modes of teacher compensation to charter schools to school districts scattered around the country that are showing real improvements based on better methods, better principals and higher standards. The problem is that they are too scattered — leaving all kinds of achievement gaps between whites, African-Americans, Latinos and different income levels.
In 1998, Hollywood actor and filmmaker Rob Reiner championed the California Children and Families First Act, which put a 50-cent-a-pack tax on cigarettes to fund an early childhood development program. Proposition 1D would shift nearly $1.7 billion over the next five years -- about 70% of the cigarette tax's revenue during that period -- to help balance the state general fund.
Preschool programs funded by some states are in danger of becoming casualties of the recession, with long-term ramifications to the education of American children. Such cutbacks may solve immediate budget problems but canceling them comes at a high cost too.