Early Education in the News
As thousands of children swarmed back to public schools Tuesday in Wisconsin, the smallest of the bunch headed somewhere equally important: Early education centers. In Milwaukee, that included Next Door, a longtime provider of federally financed Head Start programs for low-income families with infants as young as 6 weeks, to 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children in preschool. Because of a major shake-up recently in how the federal government awards Head Start grants, Next Door welcomed 420 additional 3- and 4-year-old children Tuesday at its new building at N. 53rd St. and W. Capitol Drive. Milwaukee Public Schools and other urban districts are often criticized for the overall low reading and math achievement of their children, particularly those from low-income and/or minority backgrounds. . .
But the gap in achievement between these students and their white peers often starts long before they have contact with a traditional school district. Next Door is trying to bridge that birth-to-preschool gap.
The saying, “Everything I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” may be truer than you think. Adding to the long list of reasons why good nutrition is important during the preschool years, a new study finds that little kids’ brains need massive amounts of glucose during those pre-K years to develop properly; and that's one big reason why childhood lasts as long as it does.
New schedules are just one of many changes ahead for the nation's largest school system this year, the first to be kicked off by Mayor Bill de Blasio and his Chancellor Carmen Fariña. They have expanded free preschool, given some schools more freedom to experiment and promised a spirit of collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers.
As students across the US begin a new school year, education topics from the Common Core to charter schools are prominent in the news. New York City’s public schools are no exception. After a period of activity aimed at reforming New York’s schools under the leadership of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, many wondered how the transition to Mayor Bill de Blasio would affect the city’s students. Would de Blasio be able to implement his campaign promises in education, most notably his commitment to send all New York City children to Pre-kindergarten (Pre-K)?
The de Blasio administration is in the process of hiring an independent research firm at a cost of about $2 million to conduct two studies on the implementation and results of its signature pre-kindergarten plan, Capital has learned. The study looking at the programs' implementation will use a random sample of 200 pre-K sites around the city. Education officials also told Capital that the firm will use two national standards for early childhood evaluation, the CLASS system and theEnvironment Rating Scale, for its data collection on pre-K quality. The firm will conduct interviews and convene focus groups with pre-K employees; review attendance and demographic data; and eventually compare performance for pre-K and non-pre-K students for the first two years of the expanded program.
On Thursday, more than 50,000 4-year-olds in New York City get to go to full-day kindergarten. The best part? It's free, in a place where early education is the most expensive in the nation, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, says many working low-income families previously had to rely on family or neighbors for childcare, which can be unreliable. He says for middle class families, universal pre-K frees up money for them to buy more stuff, take more vacations, and spend more on a mortgage. "You could maybe do some more saving for college," he says.
The state has retooled its kindergarten readiness assessment this year to measure students' social skills and whether they can perform fine-motor tasks, like hold a pencil properly. As all kindergarten teachers will do this year, Hilbert will spend as much time teaching in the first few weeks as she will observing student behavior. "Without some of those core social pieces, it's going to be really hard for them to learn what we're expected to teach because we do a lot of working together and taking turns, sharing supplies and material," she said. "So that maturity is required." A new report card, the Transition Skills Summary or TSS, documents Summit County preschoolers' academic, social and physical abilities. The information is relayed to parents, who work with kids over the summer, and kindergarten teachers, who might otherwise not know their incoming class. "Our goal by 2016: we'd like every child who leaves preschool to get the TSS and for the parent to get this report, which details what you can do tomorrow to help prepare your child for kindergarten," said Matt Deevers, a researcher with the Summit Education Initiative.
Mayor de Blasio will ring the morning bell Thursday on his signature program to deliver full-day pre-K to more than 50,000 3- and 4-year-olds. They said it couldn’t be done. In an Op-Ed alongside this column, First Lady Chirlane McCray expresses understandable pride in the administration’s accomplishment — and optimism that the launch of pre-K will be a “game-changer” for early childhood education.
If it truly becomes that, and if the stubborn achievement gap between poor and minority students and their generally better-off white and Asian counterparts shrinks, greatly accelerating learning in all public schools in the process, the de Blasio administration will have accomplished a near-unprecedented feat. Two overarching factors will be key to determining whether de Blasio’s pre-K push produces lasting gains: the quality of the full-day program and a seamless transition from the first year of schooling to those that follow.
Seeking to improve the quality and availability of child care in Mercer County, a city group has launched a program called the “Steps to Quality.”
Child Care Connection will work with 12 child care providers in the county, offering professional development, on-site coaching, mentoring and technical assistance.
“It is our goal to show that intensive intervention with child care providers would make a difference in the quality of the early education opportunities offered to children,” said Nancy Thomson, Child Care Connection’s executive director. “The most critical period of development for a child is the first three years, a time when many children are in child care. As children from low-income families are especially vulnerable, we are focusing on improving the quality of care provided in their communities.”
Most studies show that all-day kindergarten gives students an academic boost through first grade. After that, there’s less consensus.
Full-day kindergarten provides the most long-lasting benefits for poor students, studies show, particularly those learning to speak English and those with special needs.
State education leaders say all-day kindergarten might be the key to reversing the state’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
“When you factor in the work we’ve done with the 0 to 3 population and our work with early learning scholarships for preschool, we feel like all-day kindergarten could really be a game changer,” said Bobbie Burnham, director of early learning services for the state Department of Education.
For the last several months, the Murray Administration has been working to shape the new department responsible for supporting early learning, K-12 and higher education in Seattle. Most of the positions in the new department would be filled by existing city employees moving from Seattle’s Human Services Department, Office for Education and other organizations. Existing functions consolidated into DEEL will include: Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, Comprehensive Child Care Program and other early learning services and initiatives Elementary, Middle School, and High School academic and social support programs School-based health services operated by the city Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative All Families and Education Levy programs.
The inaugural Seattle Times LiveWire event, “The Case for Early Learning,” will bring together brain scientists with expertise in learning that occurs from birth through age five, political leaders who are advocating voluntary, tax-supported universal preschool for all, and others with great expertise on the topic.
The forum, moderated by Seattle Times education reporter John Higgins, will explore:
- The benefits of early childhood education for children
- The implications for improving educational outcomes as children progress through school
- Thoughtful dialogue on how limited public tax resources are allocated across the entire education system
- Choices citizens and elected officials may be forced to make with regard to those public tax resources
Millions of 3- and 4-year-olds will begin preschool this week, but millions of others will not have the same opportunity to benefit from early education. Long-term studies have found that children who attend preschool are more likely to graduate from high school, attend a four-year college, and earn a higher salary. Preschool helps to fulfill education's greatest ideal: All students, whether low-income or affluent, deserve the same chance to build a productive, fulfilling life. . .
In Oregon, roughly half of our children are born poor, and many of them begin kindergarten behind their classmates. As we work to build the economy, we need to create an integrated system that helps families develop healthy, stable households where parents are able to nurture, support and contribute to the education of their children.
The start of public school on Thursday in New York City should be the usual merry scramble of chattering children and stressed (or relieved) parents. There will also be something new: a fresh crop of 4-year-olds, more than 50,000, embarking on the first day of free, full-day, citywide, city-run prekindergarten.
It’s worth pausing to note what an accomplishment this is. Fifty thousand is a small city’s worth of children, each getting a head start on a lifetime of learning. It is so many families saving the cost of day care or private prekindergarten. It is a milestone of education reform.
The earliest years of childhood are crucial. It is when the brain is the most active, forming connections and building a foundation that will have profound implications for a child’s future. This is a critical period that shapes a child’s chances for success in school, the workplace and in other areas of life. It not only is a time that sets the course for the development of language skills and higher cognitive functions, but it also is a time where investment provides significant returns for both the child and community.
Quality early learning helps children thrive. Research shows that early education makes a significant difference in rates of high school graduation, labor force participation and earnings.
When children experience a holistic environment which supports their learning at home and at school, they are more likely to graduate, obtain meaningful jobs and do well over time. In these many ways, they have an opportunity to experience social and economic mobility that may not otherwise be possible.
Prioritizing investment in early childhood education is one of the best things Florida can do to improve education, health and economic outcomes. Recognizing the importance of early childhood education, in 2004 PNC launched Grow Up Great — a $350 million multiyear, multilingual program that has impacted more than 2 million children from birth to age 5.
Dayton and House Democrats hope voters will appreciate investments in education, from preschool through college, even if it took tax increases to get there. Universal all-day kindergarten is the signature piece. Increased state funding is meant to get rid of a patchwork where some schools offered the full-day to kindergartners at district expense while others didn't bother or had parents pay as much as $2,500 to get their children more than half-day.
“If public policy were based just on what we know works, universal pre-kindergarten education would already be the law of the land,” a Seattle Times editorial put it. “But such a utopia is not to be found. The Washington legislature is moving, slowly, in that direction; Congress, less so. Cities have begun to redefine the public duty to the tiniest of students.”
The mayor aims to get at least 53,000 youngsters in classrooms for the inaugural year. So far, just over 50,000 kids have signed up.
On this edition of “Inside Story,” we ask whether New York’s emphasis on universal pre-K is a worthwhile priority and if it is possible to measure the payback.
On a day when Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to showcase news that the city's full-day preschool program had signed up 30,000 children more than last year, he fielded questions on Thursday about why hundreds of contracts for centers hadn't been delivered to the comptroller for review. . . . The mayor brought top aides to a news conference to help address Comptroller Scott M. Stringer's complaint on Wednesday that he had received only 141 of roughly 500 center contracts he should have gotten from the education department for vetting.
The mayor said the delay in delivering contracts had "zero impact" on safety, and that his staff had been working to inspect sites and ensure they were ready to welcome more than 50,000 students. His administration said only five sites had health violations outstanding that needed to be addressed immediately, and any centers with unresolved problems wouldn't open.