Early Education in the News

The Hill (Op-Ed)
September 10, 2015

The desire by all voters to prioritize early childhood education is clear; it is not a topic that can be labeled as progressive or conservative. Fifty-nine percent of survey respondents said they would be more likely to support a presidential candidate who came out in favor of increased early childhood education spending. That figure cuts across partisan and demographic lines, with several critical voting subgroups asserting that this issue could define their vote. 

Voters believe the facts about early education, which accounts for this broad-based support. Investments in the early years lay the foundation for success in school, career and life. They pay dividends for society with higher literacy and graduation rates, reduced crime statistics and a more educated, better-prepared workforce. Moreover, expanding access to high-quality education for young kids is the most effective way to close the growing opportunity gap in our country. 

Daily News
September 10, 2015

Mayor de Blasio kicked off the school year Wednesday — marking the first time ever that every child who wanted to start pre-kindergarten was given a seat.

Some 65,504 4-year-olds are now enrolled in full day pre-K — up from about 50,000 last year and 20,000 before de Blasio took office with universal pre-K as the top item on his agenda.

September 10, 2015

Indiana's decision to close its state-funded preschool pilot program to 4-year-olds who are not legal U.S. residents has drawn national attention and raised sticky questions about the access of such children to education before they reach kindergarten.

The news organization Chalkbeat Indiana reported in August about the restriction on undocumented children, which Indiana officials say puts the program in line with rules governing other social service programs in the state. The preschool pilot is now in its first full year of operation.

"It would not be terribly surprising if there were calls in other states to limit access to this scarce resource," said Margie McHugh, the director of the Migration Policy Institute's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. In that role, she focuses on educational quality and access. "Even though there's generally strong bipartisan support for expansion of pre-K services, the immigration conversation is such a hot-button one."

September 9, 2015

Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Jack Conway shares his plan for education. The Democratic candidate spoke at Louisville's Main Free Public Library downtown Tuesday morning.

Conway says he wants to expand early childhood education and make it available to more kids. 

Hartford Courant
September 9, 2015

It's a question parents have long had to answer: Should they send their child to kindergarten at age 5, or wait a year until they believe their child is ready? Last school year, one in 12 children old enough to attend kindergarten was not enrolled. And while the parents of many of those children may hope the extra year of preschool and development will mean their children are better prepared for school or ahead of their classmates when they start kindergarten, state officials at the Office of Early Childhood want to outlaw the practice. State law allows parents to have their children start kindergarten when they are as young as 4 years and 8 months old. But parents can also wait until their child is 6 or 7 to enroll.

Narrowing the age span — as the state agency recommends — would largely impact the state's most affluent towns. For example, one in four students in Darien, New Canaan and Wilton kindergarten classrooms could have enrolled one year earlier. Such a shift is likely to generate pushback from parents. "To me, this really should be a parent's choice. Does the parent believe the child is going to be successful? That's what it should come down to," said Elizabeth Hagerty-Ross, who spoke as a parent and not as the chairwoman of Darien's school board.

New England Public Radio
September 9, 2015

In New York City, some 65,000 children have enrolled in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new, universal preschool program. To put that number in context, that’s more than all the public school students — in all grades — in either Washington, D.C. or Boston. Free pre-K for all 4-year-olds was a key de Blasio campaign promise.

The effort puts New York City at the forefront of a movement that has yet to take hold in many American cities. The price is high. De Blasio’s program costs roughly $400 million a year. And making sure preschool is “high quality” isn’t just expensive, it’s a logistical challenge: recruiting and vetting teachers and determining which private providers meet the city’s standard.

Robert Siegel, host of NPR’s All Things Considered, spoke with Mayor de Blasio today about the city’s pre-K rollout and ongoing efforts to register students. 

Route Fifty
September 8, 2015

Policymakers in Minnesota, like many across the country, have been impressed by studies that show early education can improve a child’s life and save taxpayers money over the long term. But while there’s a growing consensus on the value of preschool, states disagree on where the programs should be based, who should run them, or how the government should support them. . . 

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University surveys state administrators every year to find out whether states have a preschool program and how much they spend per child. Over 65 percent of 4-year-olds in Florida, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Vermont participated in a state-supported program last year. NIEER calculates that between state programs and Head Start, a federal program for poor families, 41.5 percent of 4-year-olds nationwide attend publicly funded preschool.

Gant Daily
September 8, 2015

We need to reshape the primary years and re-envision the elementary school. The K-5 model starts too late and is usually disconnected from early care and education providers such as pre-K centers. Instead, primary education should start at age 3, and each year of a young child’s life should be marked by teachers who work together, grade by grade, to offer age-appropriate and research-based learning experiences up through third grade.

This does not mean shoving little kids into schools made for big kids. In fact, a re-envisioned elementary model can include classrooms that are situated off campus and run by community organizations. What matters is not the location so much as the fact that their teachers and leaders work in tandem with those in other grades.

Today there is a false assumption that by age 5, children leave early childhood behind. That leads educators to make misguided attempts to make kindergarten and early grade classrooms resemble those for older students. But research on children’s development shows the benefits of guided play, exploration, read-alouds and socializations continue at least through age 8. Kids need to be taught in small groups and through hands-on activities.

High Plains Public Radio
September 8, 2015

 . . . Jose agrees. He says preschool gave him a big jump-start: "Once I got into kindergarten and first grade, I knew how to count, read ... and everything got easier from there."

Researchers who've been studying preschoolers in Tulsa say the same is true for most of the children who entered the city's pre-K program in 2005. "These children did show huge gains in early math and early literacy skills," says Deborah Phillips, a developmental psychologist at Georgetown University has been overseeing the study. "They were more likely to be engaged in school, less timid in the classroom and more attentive."

Phillips didn't just look at grades and test scores. Her team looked at student mobility, whether kids were in advanced or special education classes. They examined retention rates, absenteeism and they even surveyed students' attitudes about school. Researchers then compared these eighth graders to a large sample of Tulsa eighth and seventh graders who did not attend preschool. They found that those students were not doing nearly as well. These findings are important because Tulsa's program is considered a model for high-quality preschool programs nationwide, and the city has received extensive funding from the state to make it so. Phillips says her research now shows precisely how children have benefited over time.

Chalkbeat Colorado
September 3, 2015

The reception in the marbled lobby of the Colorado Trust building was for adults, but all about kids.

Little kids to be exact.

They are the focus of the brightly colored brochure that was officially unveiled on Wednesday evening and will soon find its way onto the desks of early childhood policymakers, advocates and educators—including K-12 administrators—across the state.

Officially called the Early Childhood Colorado Framework, the document outlines the state’s strategies and goals around early childhood education, health and family support.

The new framework is a simpler, more streamlined version of one first released in 2008. The revision cost about $100,000, with the money coming from the state and six foundations.


Daily Journal
September 3, 2015

 American Federation of Teachersnational president Randi Weingarten is scheduled to unveil a plan aimed at expanding early childhood education in New Mexico amid a stalemate over funding.

Weingarten is slated Thursday to join Democratic Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez at a Los Ranchos De Albuquerque preschool to discuss efforts to put pressure on state lawmakers and Gov. Susana Martinez to expand the program.

San Antonio Express News
September 3, 2015

Texas began its own preschool program in 1985. Students are eligible if they come from low-income households, know English as a second language, are in foster care, are homeless or have parents who are active-duty military.

“Some of the issues with Texas pre-K is that we offer it to a lot of kids but compared to other states it’s low quality,” said Christopher Brown, an associate professor of early childhood education at UT.

Brown noted that there is no cap on the number of students who can be in a class, adding with a laugh, “Have you been around 4-year-olds?”

Bipartisan support for House Bill 130 in 2009 would have changed that. Carried by a Republican, Rep. Diane Patrick of Arlington, it aimed to gradually increase teaching qualifications for the state’s program and reduce the ratio of children to teachers in a classroom. Then-Gov. Rick Perry vetoed it.

Support for pre-K has grown over the years but support for public funding of its expansion has tended to break along party lines, with conservatives questioning its effectiveness or calling it needlessly expensive and not government’s job.

Washington Post
September 2, 2015

Here is a new post from pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom, author of a number of popular posts on this blog, including “Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today,” as well as “The right — and surprisingly wrong — ways to get kids to sit still in class” and “How schools ruined recess.” Hanscom is the founder of TimberNook, a nature-based development program designed to foster creativity and independent play outdoors in New England. . .

Research continues to point out that young children learn best through meaningful play experiences, yet many preschools are transitioning from play-based learning to becoming more academic in nature. A preschool teacher recently wrote to me: “I have preschoolers and even I feel pressure to push them at this young age. On top of that, teachers have so much pressure to document and justify what they do and why they do it, the relaxed playful environment is compromised. We continue to do the best we can for the kid’s sake, while trying to fit into the ever-growing restraints we must work within.”

September 1, 2015

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday he has appointed Rep. Ross Hunter, the House budget writer, to be the new director of the Department of Early Learning.

The former Microsoft executive has been involved in education policy debates for most of his 13 years in the state Legislature. Hunter replaces Bette Hyde, who in March said she was retiring after six years leading the department.

CBS Philly
September 1, 2015

As the state budget impasse enters its third month, “Pre-K Counts” and “Head Start” supplemental grants are among the funds being held hostage in the budget stalemate.

Erinn Finn with ‘Today’s Child’ in Delaware County says without state funding to pay for supplies and 14 teachers’ salaries and benefits:

“We did have to take out a loan this past month.”

Chicago Sun-Times
September 1, 2015

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he will apply $9 million in city funds toward prekindergarten programs next year to partially make up for child care cuts wrought by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The mayor said the funds should allow 5,000 children, who would no longer be eligible under new rules put in place by Rauner’s administration, to remain in full-day preschool.

Those rules will eliminate state subsidies for 90 percent of Illinois families who previously would have qualified for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program by drastically lowering income limits.

August 31, 2015

Gov. Nathan Deal wants to spend $50 million next year to start reversing changes he engineered to a lottery-funded early-childhood program aimed at keeping HOPE programs from going bankrupt that also led to waves of teachers leaving pre-kindergarten classes and tarnished its national reputation.

The governor said in an interview that the specifics are still in the works but that the funding would reduce class sizes in pre-k programs and increase the salaries for teachers and assistant teachers.

August 31, 2015

 The University of Mississippi School of Education is offering a new online master's degree in early childhood education. The Master of Education program is designed to prepare professional educators for a variety of roles within the field. . .

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, several studies show quality preschool programs can produce lasting gains in academic achievement, including gains in reading and mathematics. Studies also show an estimated $7 return on every $1 invested in public pre-K education in the form of long-term cost savings.

The 30-credit degree program includes a program track that leads to licensure from the Mississippi Department of Education. Coursework within the program will cover child development, theoretical foundations, educational research, the integration of arts and play in pre-K learning, contemporary issues and more.

August 31, 2015

The cost of childcare is bankrupting America’s parents. But providing free, universal childcare for all parents is easily affordable by simply cutting a small handful of military programs whose absence almost nobody would notice.

High-quality childcare and early childhood education are largely inaccessible to middle-class parents such as Richmond-Smith, who doesn’t qualify for federal childcare subsidies under programs such as Head Start. To qualify, a family of four needs to make less than the incredibly outdated federal poverty limit of $22,000. Worse still, families that do qualify for a low-income childcare subsidy have to get in line — according to Richmond-Smith, more than 500 low-income families are on the Head Start waiting list in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In 2010, Head Start workers were penalized for enrolling middle-class families who couldn’t afford childcare, but didn’t meet federal qualifications for subsidies. One solution for funding free childcare for all parents could be found by simply cutting out Pentagon waste that nobody would notice

Los Angeles Times
August 31, 2015

Understanding all the pre-kindergarten programs can be daunting for parents in L.A. these days. L.A. Unified has some new programs — with new names — that can be a challenge to navigate for what is typically a family's first foray into public education.

Children in the U.S. are not required to attend school before kindergarten; many, including Californians, aren't required to enter school until they're 6 and past preschool age.

But it's important for children to be in a classroom setting before they turn 5, according to educators and researchers. In California and Los Angeles, that has resulted in a hodgepodge of pre-kindergarten programs. The newest one in LAUSD and in some other California districts is called expanded transitional kindergarten.