Early Education in the News
At La Casa de Don Pedro in Newark, staff are preparing for the new school year where they expect over 600 kids to enroll in their head start and preschool programs. Executive Director Ray Ocasio knows about Gov. Chris Christie’s so-called Fairness Formula and, like almost every urban-based preschool provider, he doesn’t think much of it.
But the governor says he’s dead serious about turning the state’s school funding formula on its head and that includes no special protections for the Abbott-decision mandated full-day preschool, which has created early childhood education opportunities for thousands of kids across the state, especially in poorer, urban districts like Newark. Ocasio says his programs have already suffered from flat funding from the state for almost six years.
Gloria Jerez runs one of La Casa’s three early childhood centers. She says a cut from the state would be catastrophic to her program. She says without full-day preschool, hundreds of Newark kids would fall even further behind. She says her program will not be able to accommodate the same number of students as it does currently.
But Christie — who has said all along that he considers preschool little more than a babysitting service — says Abbott districts need to sink or swim without what he says is a funding imbalance created by the Supreme Court’s Abbott decision. But advocates point to studies that say kids who have access to preschool do better socially, academically and even physically than kids who don’t.
Any child in England who has turned 3 by Sept. 1 is guaranteed 15 hours a week of free childcare or preschool for 38 weeks a year, or 570 hours total, paid for by the national government.
“We don’t think of it as socialism at all,” said the Oxford University professor Edward Melhuish, who studies child development and was instrumental in conducting the research that largely led to England’s current policies. “We think of it as common sense.”
Apparently, so do most parents—94 percent of whom take the government up on its offer of free education starting at age 3, according to government data. At age 4, 99 percent of children have started “reception,” the English version of kindergarten. Most 4-year-olds attend reception at their local primary school, but parents can choose to send their 3-year-old to a private center, a publicly funded nursery, a state-funded primary school, or a home-based daycare provider. Parents can also spread their 570 hours out over all 52 weeks of the year at centers with year-round enrollment options. Parents who need more coverage pay the difference between tuition and the amount covered by the government.
During the first few years of life, a child learns so much about themselves and the world around them, and parents are their first teachers. Parents, at their best, teach their children how to speak, how to walk, how to feed themselves. They teach them the alphabet, shapes and colors, and in some instances how to count and spell very simple words.
But for healthy development, children need active stimulation and interaction with others. This is where early childhood education is the most beneficial. In trying to identify what quality early learning should look like, it’s not always easy to find a model for success.
But New York City has moved to the forefront in offering some useful examples and good ideas for others to consider and emulate. In the last two years the Big Apple has made tremendous strides in accommodating all of the city’s public school 4-year-olds in high-quality preschool classrooms.
First-year findings in a long-term National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and Marshall University study of young students and early education classrooms in West Virginia reveal performance advantages among children attending Pre-K and provide useful information on classroom quality.
Children who attended Pre-K outperformed those who had no Pre-K experience in every measure
Benefits of Pre-K were most profound in print knowledge
Classroom quality averages all exceed minimal quality, and several demonstrate higher quality
On average, classrooms demonstrated high quality in fostering a nurturing and safe environment
The initial West Virginia Universal Pre-K Evaluation showed, on average, children with Pre-K experience outperformed those without Pre-K in every measure. Benefits were “large and statistically significant,” with the widest margin in print knowledge.
“We recognize that our state’s future depends on early investment in our youngest citizens,” said State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano. “We must ensure that every child has access to high-quality preschool to build the foundation for success.”
By not protecting preschool funding, Christie would allow the money currently spent for three- and four-year olds in districts like Irvington and Camden to be sent to districts such as Montclair and Cherry Hill to lower property taxes.
While that may please homeowners in highly taxed communities and critics of public preschool, it would come at the expense of one of New Jersey's most effective school reforms, said Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers.
"The benefits of high quality pre-K are an order of magnitude larger than the cost," said Barnett, a professor and an economist. "Taking it away from the kids who need it most is not the solution to the problem."
,,, as Pennsylvania grapples with a heroin epidemic fueled by cheap access to the drug and the overprescription of painkillers that act as a gateway. But seldom do families speak publicly about addiction and its impact on children, given the stigma and shame that surrounds it.
Instead, the story of drug abuse's reach is often kept to hospital intensive care units, where babies born dependent on opiates cry inconsolably as their first weeks of life are spent in withdrawal. Or in the halls of social work, where caseworkers struggle to keep families together while ensuring that mom or dad's drug problem doesn't bring their children harm....
The children are enrolled in SafeStart, a Head Start program in east Allentown that serves 64 at-risk children, the majority of whom were born to mothers who abused drugs or alcohol while pregnant.
Since the children are often sensitive to light and sound, the center is decorated in muted colors and lights are kept low.
Therapists are on hand, and in each classroom there is a one-way mirror. This is used by caseworkers and others who must observe the children and report their findings to a judge.
As Cincinnati Public Schools tries to dramatically expand preschool, Ohio is rolling out a policy change that could mean less funding for full-day care for low-income families around the state.
Barring a last-minute reversal, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services will forbid agencies from layering state subsidies for daycare on top of federal Head Start funding on Sept. 3.
Most kindergarten programs were, until recently, more social and less academic from what I witnessed last school year as a literacy tutor for full-day kindergarteners in St. Paul. One person’s reaction to my position says a lot: “Literacy tutoring? How much literacy tutoring can you do in kindergarten?!”
As we celebrate Team USA’s success setting world records and earning medals at the 2016 summer Olympics, we cannot escape the fact America has fallen off a world-class pace in education.
The United States used to be a world leader in college graduation. As recently as 1995 we were number one, but we have made relatively little progress since then while the rest of the world has picked up its pace. By 2014, we were 19th out of 28 developed countries — clearly not a medal contender.
At the other end of the education spectrum — preschool — which is my specialty, the United States has made little to no progress in the past decade and seems to be going nowhere fast while other countries have moved far ahead.
A state plan to change how Ohio pays for child care and early learning has some concerned that services will be diminished for thousands of poor children.
The policy change would save $12 million a year, money state officials say will be reinvested in Ohio’s child-care system. But critics say it also will cost tens of millions more in federal matching dollars.
The state argues that the current system allows some child-care providers to be paid twice — once from the state and again through the federally funded Head Start preschool program. But Head Start officials say the children are receiving additional services.
Federal officials have terminated a $6.4 million grant that funds the Head Start program in Prince George’s County, Md., after a review found that teachers used corporal punishment and humiliated children in the early-education program for children from low-income families.
Authorities noted that county school officials did not appropriately address problems discovered within the program, including when staff forced a 3-year-old in wet clothing to mop up his own urine in front of the class — as a teacher texted a photo to the child’s parent. They also found that Head Start staff made two children who played during nap time hold heavy objects over their heads for an extended period. In another case, a 5-year-old left a school unnoticed and walked home alone.
The findings came as part of a notification to school officials that the county’s Head Start grant would be terminated because of a failure to “timely correct one or more deficiencies” for which it had been put on notice. The decision means that the Prince George’s school system, which serves a large number of minority children living in poverty, is no longer eligible to apply for federal funding for the program that serves preschoolers and includes health, nutrition and parent-involvement services.
As children go back to school, it’s important to remember that school readiness includes not only cognitive and academic skills, but also learning style, physical well-being and social and emotional skills. The responsibility for school readiness resides not only with the child, but also with families, schools and communities.
Recent research on brain development points to the importance of early relationships and experiences in building the neural connections that constitute learning. These experiences, if positive and supportive, help build confidence and resilience in young children. Negative experiences and environments serve as toxic stressors; these adverse childhood experiences are risk factors for long-term physical and mental health problems.
With grants barely a month old, some conservative lawmakers are already questioning whether the state will get its money worth from the $116 million Texas is investing to ramp up pre-K efforts.
The Senate Education Committee listened to an update on the prekindergarten grants aimed at boosting early childhood education in the state, one of Gov. Greg Abbott's emergency items during the last legislative session.
"We knew that we could do better with pre-K. Everyone knew that," said Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, who sponsored the legislation. Campbell cautioned her colleagues to be patient as the grants start to roll out but said the state needs to make sure it's spending money wisely. That's why stepped up reporting on pre-K progress will be required.
Zoe Hanson, the young mother of a year old infant, was feeling down: She and her husband Scott had just moved to Pacifica near San Francisco, to an apartment in a “crumbly house,” a tract home, that, nevertheless, at $3,000 a month, was untenably expensive. She didn’t have a job and didn’t know where to put her child while she looked for work.
Hanson and other middle class and rural parents are on the receiving end of an emerging type of unequal system that could be called daycare inequality.
A coalition of business, government, education and philanthropic leaders say they are determined to push state lawmakers to expand state-funded preschool in the upcoming legislative session. “All IN 4 Pre-K” is a new advocacy group that includes Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, outgoing Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Early Learning Indiana. Lechleiter says the state's pre-k pilot program is not enough to meet demand. He says only 2,300 families of low-income three- and four- year olds in five counties received scholarships in the past two years. “We believe that families and their children in all of Indiana’s 92 counties should have access to high quality, early learning environments,” he says. The group members say they will directly lobby lawmakers to pass new laws in 2017.
There are, New York City public school principal Kristina Beecher discovered, an awful lot of types of play blocks. There are wooden blocks, cardboard blocks, magnetic blocks, clear plastic blocks, number blocks, letter blocks, and fish-shaped blocks, to name a few. And all of them are advertised as the best possible blocks for outfitting a preschool classroom.
Such choices have been faced by principals like Beecher across the city in the last two years as New York has moved to accommodate all of the city’s public school 4-year-olds in high quality preschool classrooms. Between the 2013-14 school year and the 2015-16 school year, the city added about 16,000 preschool students and 2,000 teachers. “We believe that preschool is an integral part of the public school system and public school should be universally available because every child can benefit from it,” said Josh Wallack, Deputy Chancellor of New York City’s Department of Education. “Therefore, preschool should be universal.”
The changes have come with new money and support to ensure that the city is not only offering preschool to all, but top quality preschool to all. Teachers — many of whom are veterans of the city’s smaller, existing preschool program — have been asked to change their classrooms and step-up their teaching to improve the overall caliber of the program. In particular, classrooms are now held to the standards laid out in the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS), a tool designed to evaluate preschool classroom environments. After a mixed review in 2014-15, P.S. 3 teachers were advised to add more dress-up options in their dramatic play area, purchase outdoor play equipment like tricycles and grow their block collection.
Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have released ambitious plans aimed at cutting the costs of child care in America, signaling that in this election, one of the most hotly contested groups might be those pushing strollers.
The Center for Early Learning at Silicon Valley Community Foundation announced today that it will receive a $1.5 million grant from the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a national project of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation.
The grant will support an ambitious three-year effort to make early learning for California’s youngest children a state budget and policy priority. Specifically, the Center will partner with legislators, scholars and community leaders to promote research, public opinion data and key messages that make the case for increased investments in high-quality early learning programs.
California currently ranks 28 out of 42 states in access to preschool programs for 4-year-olds, according to a 2015 report from the National Institute for Early Education Research. The report also found that California’s early .education quality standards are among the nation’s worst. These facts are unsurprising given that nearly $1 billion in funding has been cut from the state’s budget for preschool programs since 2008. Recently, through the advocacy of SVCF and other statewide leaders, the state has committed to reinvest $500 million into early learning programs over the next four years
The real problem is not that child care costs too much, but that we as a society have failed to acknowledge that caring for children is demanding, labor-intensive and therefore costly.
State child care subsidies, designed to help low-income working families afford care, typically pay providers far less than the typical costs of care, let alone the costs of quality programs. The typical state-funded preschool program spends just $4,489 per child, less than half the per-pupil spending in K-12 public schools, even though many state pre-K programs offer a full-school day (or longer) program and employ teachers with bachelor's degrees. Head Start, the federal program for children in poverty, provides more funding than the typical state pre-K program, but less than K-12 schools, while also requiring extensive additional health, family engagement and comprehensive supports that K-12 schools don't offer.
The hard reality is that giving all our children quality care that supports their development and prepares them to succeed in school requires someone – whether parents, government, or someone else – to spend much more on young children than we currently do.
Early childhood education is essential for success later in life, and every state needs solid resources to reinforce the benefits of schooling.
Oklahoma has seen the results of making early childhood education a priority. Children are excelling at rapid rates in their earliest stages, and are more prepared for the rigors of each level of schooling. It's a statistic we're proud of, and is the result of collective work across all levels of government, as well as the diligent efforts of private organizations.
People are quick to see the negative in Congress every day, and hardly realize there is bipartisanship in our work. Rest assured, Congress takes education very seriously. One of the most bipartisan issues quite frankly is education — especially education at the earliest stages. We passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, in a bipartisan manner, to improve and maintain education standards, including early education. There's never a disagreement or misunderstanding that our nation's underserved children need all the resources they can get, and that they should have access to a quality and effective education. That's an issue I think everyone can agree on.