Early Education in the News
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to provide universal preschool to the city’s 4-year-olds has so far disproportionately benefited children from middle- and upper-income families, according to a report released Wednesday that the mayor’s office is disputing. The report questions whether the new slots are being allocated fairly and whether the imbalance could exacerbate the inequalities and achievement gap that the program seeks to address. . .
W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University who has seen the report, also questioned the geographically based analysis and said it could be misleading, since it does not reflect the actual number of low-income studnets that are served in each place. The report suggests that the imbalance is tied to the greater availability of classroom space in more affluent neighborhoods and a stronger demand expressed by more economically secure families.
Federal and state policymakers can pursue ten effective policies immediately to help parents and children break out of the cycle of poverty, according to a new report by Ascend at the Aspen Institute. . . . The report, Top 10 for 2-Gen, outlines six principles and ten specific policies to guide the design and use of two-generation approaches. The recommendations span early education, post-secondary education, economic assets and health and well-being. Informed by a growing field of innovative practitioners and policymakers, the policies work within the existing legislative and funding landscape rather than seeking new funding or legislation.
The recommendations include:
- strengthening family and parent supports in the Head Start and Early Head Start programs;
- increasing support for economic security outcomes in home visiting programs;
- reforming financial aid programs to better help enrolled student parents; and
- redesigning Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for 21st century families; and
- leveraging provisions in the Affordable Care Act for family health and economic security.
Lawmakers should act quickly to expand a preschool pilot program – one that’s not even yet underway – when they meet for their budget-writing session next year, business and nonprofit leaders said Monday.
“We simply can’t afford to let this session be one of inaction,” said Connie Bond Stuart, a regional president at PNC Bank, which has pledged $500,000 to a pre-kindergarten program in Central Indiana. Stuart told the Education Study Committee that “some will advise you to wait” until experts can study the impact of the five-county pilot, which is expected to begin early next year. But she said the business and philanthropic communities are enthusiastic about moving forward now.
“I urge you to use the upcoming budget session to continue the momentum,” Stuart said.
Indiana is one of just a handful of states that – until this year – didn’t use state money to fund pre-kindergarten programs. Even, now the state has earmarked just $10 million for programs in Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties. Those counties were chosen from among 19 that applied to participate.
Governor Tom Corbett today announced that more than $9.8 million has been awarded to 32 early education providers in 27 counties across the state through the Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program. In July, Corbett signed into law the state budget that increased state funding for Pre-K Counts by $10 million to $97.3 million – a 12 percent increase. Pre-K Counts provides half-day and full-day pre-kindergarten services to Pennsylvania children who are: between age three and the beginning age of kindergarten; at risk of facing challenges in school; living in families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($67,050 for a family of four); and who may be English language learners or have disabilities or developmental delays.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration plans to use an emerging form of financing, one that links payback to lenders on the success of the initiatives being funded, to expand early childhood education programs in Chicago. The mayor's office said Tuesday that it will use close to $17 million of what are known as "social impact bonds," in addition to $4.5 million in state funds and about $10 million in capital improvement money from next year's budget, to enroll more low-income children in pre-kindergarten over the next four years.
In North Carolina public schools, formal assessments do not begin until third grade, but many students develop learning problems long before then. That’s why education leaders say they are rolling out a statewide plan to begin assessing students in the earlier years. Now, that does not mean five- and six-year-olds will have more paper and pencil tests. Instead, the responsibility will fall on teachers to track the development of their students. . .
Russolese and almost 250 kindergarten teachers are part of a state pilot program that’s encouraging them to do more of this hands-on formative assessment – to be more intentional about recording work samples, conversations and activities. The hope is that they’ll be able to gain a better understanding of how their students develop.
Last week, President Obama took the stage at Northwestern University and announced a mission to improve the workforce with universal pre-K, saying, “By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool.” The line was buried in a speech rich with rhetoric on a whole range of policy areas, but the president was light on details. (For more reporting on the speech, check out Education Week’s Lillian Mongeau.) The details, though, are actually pretty important, because providing high-quality pre-K to 6 million children by 2020 will be no light lift. . .
It’s hard to say how many children are enrolled in pre-K that would meet even most, if not all of those quality standards. According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, of the 53 state-funded pre-K programs in 40 states plus Washington, D.C., most meet only a few of those requirements. All 53 are aligned with state early learning standards; but just 30 require bachelor’s degrees for teachers, and only 36 provide onsite screening and support services.
Not everyone can afford to be a preschool teacher. A college degree, in any major, significantly increases your lifetime earning potential, the study found. Some do more than others. But all do more than Calfee’s.The Hamilton Project researchers analyzed career earnings for 80 undergraduate majors from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and found that, at every career stage, college graduates as a group fare better than workers whose educations didn’t continue after high school. What’s less obvious, and perhaps more useful when picking a major: Median lifetime pay for college graduates varies greatly, depending on what they studied.
This year New York City joins the states of New Jersey and Connecticut in requiring children in licensed day-care centers and preschools to receive the influenza vaccination. Rhode Island expects to implement a similar requirement next year.
The moves follow mandates by medical facilities and a number of states to make sure health-care workers are immunized against the flu. Mandatory flu vaccines generally have exemptions for medical, religious and sometimes loosely defined “personal” reasons.
“School entry requirements have proven to be the best way to vaccinate children,” said Alexandra Stewart, an associate professor at Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, who has studied immunizations. “It’s a good way to catch people.”
Like a lot of other people in Indiana these days, the General Assembly is taking a close look at pre-k and early childhood education this session.
The legislature’s Interim Study Committee on Education met Monday, charged with studying a host of topics described in HEA 1004, the legislation that established, among other things, Indiana’s first state-funded pre-k pilot program. Many of the remarks at that meeting reiterated the need for pre-k in Indiana, as well as funding to support it – along with a few recommendations for the committee to consider.
. . .75 percent of the 17-24 year olds in this country are unable to serve in the military due to three main problems: they don’t meet the educational requirements; they have criminal records; or they are too overweight. Nearly one in four high school graduates in America who want to join the Army are unable to because their scores are too low to pass the military’s basic entry exam. And another one-fourth of our young people don’t even make it through high school in time to enlist.
Research shows that early childhood education is the best way to address this national security issue. But no matter what career path our children choose, it is clear that the learning that occurs from cradle to kindergarten will affect their ability to succeed later on.
Unfortunately, too many children today are not receiving the necessary development skills to set them up for success, either because their parents don’t have the resources, the time, the education, etc.
SEIU Local 925 and AFT-Washington, unions which together represent about 1,500 preschool teachers and child-care workers, have contributed more than $1 million to the campaign behind Seattle Proposition No. 1A.
Prop 1A would establish a public-private training institute — likely union-led — fast-track a $15 minimum wage for preschool workers, seek to reduce childcare costs for all Seattle families to 10 percent of household income and make other changes. It doesn’t include a funding mechanism.
Seattle voters will be asked to choose between Prop 1A and City Hall-backed Proposition No. 1B, which would use a four-year, $58 million property tax levy to fund a pilot program subsidizing preschool for up to 2,000 3- and 4-year olds.
The Prop 1B campaign is called Quality Pre-K for Our Kids.
From Seattle to New York, elected officials are calling for more children to attend publicly funded preschool. President Barack Obama, lawmakers and local officials from both sides of the aisle agree on the benefits of prekindergarten — the catch is how to pay for it. That is especially true of the “high-quality” programs critical to achieving the long-term benefits touted by advocates, such as lower school dropout rates, reduced costs to the criminal justice system and higher wages. . .
Nationwide, enrollment in publicly funded preschool has exploded over the past decade. From the 2001-02 school year to 2011-12, the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in state-funded preschool increased from 14 percent to 28 percent, according to The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University, although enrollment stalled in 2011-12. While state spending on preschool has also increased, from $3.47 billion to $5.12 billion over the same decade, the dollars have not kept pace with enrollment, according to NIEER, causing per-child spending to drop by more than 23 percent, adjusting for inflation.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to truancy or use the court system. But truancy doesn’t tell the whole story. Beginning in kindergarten (or even preschool), chronic absence can predict that children won’t read proficiently by the end of third grade, especially if absenteeism persists for more than one year. By middle and high school, chronic absence is a warning sign that students might drop out of high school. And if too many students miss too much school, the classroom churn can slow learning for everyone.
Preschool can lift children from poverty. Top high schools prepare students for college. A college degree boosts pay over a lifetime. And the U.S. economy would grow faster if more people stayed in school longer. Plenty of data back them up. But the data also show something else: Wealthier parents have been stepping up education spending so aggressively that they’re widening the nation’s wealth gap. When the Great Recession struck in late 2007 and squeezed most family budgets, the top 10 percent of earners — with incomes averaging $253,146 — went in a different direction: They doubled down on their kids’ futures. . .
Wealthier parents can also afford high-quality day care, which better prepares children for kindergarten, said Steven Barnett, director at the National Institute for Early Education Research.
As a conversation unfolds in Massachusetts and around the country on the value of pre-kindergarten learning and whether it should be incorporated into public school education, interviews with early childhood educators on the Island reveals a similar conversation is quietly taking place here. Marney Toole, a longtime early childhood educator who coordinates the council for young children on the Island, said the idea of universal preschool is expected to be on the table for discussion this year. Across the water in Mashpee, universal preschool is being offered for the first time this year to all four year olds. Cost can be a barrier. Nearly all Island preschools are private and cost anywhere from $800 to upwards of $1,000 a month for full-time enrollment. The Vineyard school system runs the only public preschool on the Island, Project Headway, which began in 1981 and is primarily for students with special needs. Students without special needs attend as well, but they pay tuition. This year, there are 14 students with individual education plans (IEPs) and 16 peer models enrolled at Project Headway. . .
As a result of a push-down effect from the upper grades, kindergarten teachers must make sure they are preparing their students for first and second grade and beyond, educators said. This means more time spent writing, reading and developing math skills, though Ms. Searle said they do make time — 30 to 45 minutes per day — for play.
This fall we're welcoming more than 300 three- and four-year olds at Head Start sites in Los Angeles and Burbank. Head Start is the federal school readiness program that serves a million low-income children across the country. Head Start is also the brilliant and enduring product of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, which miraculously survived the politics and fashions of the last 50 years. . .
What about Head Start's outcomes? Does it have lasting impact on children or is it another waste of taxpayer money? That's about as useful as asking whether or not High School works. Studies can support either point of view. What's most important is this: quality programs produce quality outcomes. And of course substandard programs produce poor outcomes. Another consideration: Head Start has been the driving force in improving child outcomes, because every bump in the road has spurred improvements and innovation. While most school systems are struggling with huge numbers of English language learners, Head Start is a leader in the field. And what public school system requires failing schools to recompete when they don't deliver quality education to their students?
Local leaders and early childhood education experts made a pitch to support investing in early childhood education as an economic tool. Phillip Peterson, co-chairman of ReadyNation and a partner at Aon Hewitt in Pennsylvania, said almost every state in the United States has a business roundtable talking about the importance of early childhood education initiatives.
"Business knows the single most important factor in the workforce is human capital," he said. "U.S. worker capabilities are declining, and more workers are coming from other countries. Many of those workers are also going to school in the United States. The best option for Indiana and for the U.S. is to invest in people, young children and families."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) announced Thursday that the California Department of Education has allocated $67 million to add 7,500 preschool slots for low-income Californians. “This is a great investment in our future. The expansion of high-quality preschool gives more children the opportunity to obtain the emotional and social skills they need to become lifelong learners,” Torlakson said. “It will help them succeed in school, at the workplace, and in their communities.”
These funds are part of the $264 million that will be spent on expanding early childhood education this budget year, which includes adding a total of 11,500 preschool slots and 1,000 slots with priority given to infants and toddlers. Eventually, the state will be creating preschool opportunities for an additional 31,500 young children.
Lily Endowment Inc., Early Learning Indiana and United Way of Central Indiana will continue their longstanding commitment to early childhood education in Indiana. The organizations are working together to improve the quality of programs for children from birth to age five. Lily has made a grant of $20 million to Early Learning Indiana to allow an increase in the quality and quantity of early childhood education opportunities across Indiana.