Early Education in the News
As the curtain begins to close on the 113th Congress, lawmakers showcased a brief burst of bipartisanship to push forward on two education measures that had been languishing in the legislative pipeline, one that underwrites child care for low-income families and another that directs federal education research.
Though neither bill is a blockbuster—and one got snared in wrangling over a single provision—the fact that they made the short list of actionable items last week just before the pre-election recess was impressive given the number of high-profile competing interests.
Sixty-five percent of Alabama kids under age 6 have both parents in the work force.
So while their parents work, many of those children spend their days at child care centers, preschool or kindergarten.
The child care and early education industries are critical not just to those 192,000 children, but also the state's economy, contended a new report released by a group arguing for more investment, and higher standards, in early care programs.
In an attempt to improve preschool programs, the state is making significant changes this fall as it implements Act 3, which the Legislature approved in 2012 to revamp early childhood education. Louisiana began focusing on early childhood education under former Gov. Mike Foster, and now ranks 15th nationally for access by 4-year-olds to preschool, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. In 2002, only 12 percent of 4-year-olds in Louisiana were enrolled in preschool, according to the NIEER. Between 2008 and 2013, that figure hit a high of 33 percent. But it dipped to 30 percent in 2012-13. But the passage of Act 3 was seen as a good sign. "We are encouraged that Louisiana's commitment to quality standards for pre-K has weathered multiple challenges over recent years and remains focused on improving early learning outcomes," NIEER Director Steven Barnett said in May. Additional resources will be needed, though, "if the state is to achieve its goal that all children enter kindergarten ready to learn," he said.
“On the whole, children in NC Pre-K exceed normal expectations for the rate of developmental growth, both while in the program and afterward in kindergarten,” said Ellen Peisner-Feinberg, director of FPG’s National Pre-K and Early Learning Evaluation Center and lead author of the report. “But one of our key conclusions was that those children who enter the pre-k program with lower levels of English proficiency make gains at an even greater rate than the other students.”
As important is the institute’s finding that NC Pre-K, designed at its 2001 inception to be a high-quality program, is paying off for all groups. “Children are progressing at an even greater rate during their participation in NC Pre-K than expected for normal developmental growth,” Peisner-Feinberg said. “Our research found growth in language and literacy skills, math skills, general knowledge, and social skills.” Further, the research shows that children enrolled in the state’s pre-k program continued to make gains even after leaving it. At the end of third grade, children from low-income families who had attended pre-k had higher reading and math scores on the N.C. end-of-grade (EOG) tests than similar children who had not attended the state’s program, she said.
In a rare bipartisan compromise, the House of Representatives passed a reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant program Monday. The Senate passed its version in March, and the compromise means President Barack Obama will see the final bill before the end of the session. The new legislation offers vouchers to low-income families that will allow them to obtain child care from their choice of providers, including faith-based organizations, according to a statement released by the Education & the Workforce Committee.
A recent report argues that a Washington, D.C., charter pre-school is particularly successful. The report then seeks to leverage that contention as strong support for a recommendation to open many more charter pre-schools nationwide, as an optional way to expand access to early education. W. Steven Barnett and Cynthia E. Lamy, both of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University, reviewed Seeds of Achievement: AppleTree’s Early Childhood D.C. Charter Schools, by Cara Stillings Candal and published by the Pioneer Institute. The review was undertaken for the Think Twice think tank review project, of the National Education Policy Center, which has published the review today. NEPC is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. “While the AppleTree model may well be as effective as the Pioneer authors suggest, this report lacks rigorous evidence regarding the model’s development, implementation, cost and effectiveness,” write Barnett and Lamy in their review.
"What we know is that if kids have access to high-quality pre-K, then they're already off to a beautiful start," Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. told the children and more than 200 advocates and providers who packed the square. "Quite frankly, it's the difference between reading at a third-grade level and not. That's a big indicator for us for future success of a child."
The rally was sponsored by Pre-K for PA, a group that seeks to increase state funding for more early-childhood education. The state makes early-childhood education available to less than 20 percent of the state's 3- and 4-year-olds, rally organizers said.
The Louisiana Department of Education and the Department of Children and Family Services today outlined proposed policies and strategies to complete the unification of Louisiana's early childhood system by the fall 2015 deadline required by Act 3 of the 2012 legislative session.
Through Early Childhood Care and Education Networks, early childhood education providers - child care, Head Start, and pre-kindergarten - in parishes statewide have collaborated for two years to set unified expectations for teachers and providers; coordinate enrollment processes; and train educators.
Gov. Steve Bullock’s plan to expand access to preschool will cost an estimated $37 million over the next two years, officials said Tuesday. The cost estimate is among the new details released about the proposal, which is expected to be one of the governor’s major policy initiatives for the 2015 Legislature. The proposal, to be included in Bullock’s November budget, will establish a grant pipeline for school districts interested in creating or expanding a local pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds, said education policy adviser Shannon O’Brien.
As with any transformative creation, both our railroad system and Head Start have faced challenges and opportunities and responded with innovation. The railroads have seen the addition of new modes of transportation -- automobiles and trucks led to the development of the nation's highway system, and airports were built to accommodate air traffic. . .
Tremendous innovation has occurred during the 49 years since Head Start burst on the scene, designed to open wide the opportunity for low-income and at-risk children, the opportunity to change their life trajectory and to let them reach for the American Dream. Head Start's unique design was based on research that asserted in order to be able and ready to learn, children must be healthy and nourished, able to see, hear, chew their food, and respect each other.
The designers of Head Start also advanced a then radical idea - now confirmed byUniversity of Chicago research - that high parent involvement was an important element of future success.
In a shift for a state that has shunned other federal education initiatives like Common Core and Race to the Top, Texas will participate in a signature Obama administration program focused on early childhood education. “One way to begin closing the achievement gap in Texas is to better prepare children who are entering our public schools,” Williams, a Republican appointee of Gov.Rick Perry,said in a statementwhen the Texas Education Agency announced last week that it would apply for its share of $160 million in total federal funds earmarked to help states expand preschool programs.
“With many high-quality pre-K programs already established in our communities, this federal grant opportunity allows an avenue to enhance and build upon that success,” Williams added.
The poverty rate declined last year for the first time since 2006, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday. But at the same time, it said, there was no statistically significant change in the number of poor people or in income for the typical American household.
The report showed significant improvements for children. The poverty rate for children under 18 declined last year for the first time since 2000, the bureau said, and the number of children in poverty fell by 1.4 million, to 14.7 million.
Over all, the bureau said, 14.5 percent of Americans were living in poverty last year, down from 15 percent in 2012.
Mayor Bill de Blasio came to Queens last week on a whirlwind tour of the five boroughs to usher in his pre-K program for 51,500 children. He and his entourage visited the Home Sweet Home pre-K center in Fresh Meadows, which has been in need of programs for its growing population of 4-year-olds. It’s far too early to see what kind of impact the pre-K classes will have on school testing, graduation rates and applications to the city’s select high schools, where black and Hispanic students are underrepresented. But based on early childhood education research, the greater availability of pre-K for most of the city’s kids should provide vital preparation for the many years of school that follow and introduce the youngest New Yorkers to the wonders of learning.
A majority of states—thirty-two in all—are interested in the U.S. Department of Education's new Preschool Development Grant program, which is aimed at helping states beef up and expand their early childhood offerings. States had until late last week to submit an "intent to apply" with the department.
Under the bill, called the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act, low-income families receive assistance from the program mostly in the form of the vouchers, which they can use at a child care facility of their choice, including religious institutions.
The early childhood world has changed in big ways since the child care law was last reauthorized in 1996: State-funded pre-K programs for low-income families have risen to popularity, and a new body of research suggests that early education — including child care — is crucial to brain development.
The bill focuses on common sense updates, not ambitious early-education investments that have been floated by Democrats. It would make modest-but-overdue changes: Adding mandatory background checks for child care center staff, better health and safety requirements and more information for parents about their child care options, for example.
The application process is underway for parents to receive part of a $1 million grant to send their children to preschool programs in Las Vegas.
For the fourth consecutive year, Windsong Trust, a private foundation for children’s education, awarded the grant to United Way of Southern Nevada. It will provide 250 scholarships for preschoolers and cover training and professional development fees for 135 teachers.
A new survey of early childhood education teachers shows that mindfulness is linked with alleviating lasting physical and emotional effects of childhood adversity.
The findings are especially important because adults who were abused or neglected as children typically experience poorer health, according to Robert Whitaker, professor of public health and pediatrics at Temple University.
“Previous research has shown that childhood traumas worsen adult health through changes in how the body responds to stress,” says Whitaker, who led the new study in Preventative Medicine. He adds that some people might adopt poor health behaviors, like smoking, to cope with stress.
Kindergarten is the foundation for learning the new standards that will follow students for the rest of their education. The push is part of an effort to strengthen the U.S. education system in the face of growing global competition and to make sure students are prepared for careers when they graduate. But critics argue the tougher academics are rigid, pushing children too far, and when they are not developmentally appropriate. . .
"I don't think it's a necessarily a bad turn we've taken," Shannon Ayers, an assistant research professor at National Institute for Early Education Research. "What we're finding, folks are kind of clinging to this false dichotomy," Ayers said "... You can be academic rigorously but also be developmentally appropriate." Both Ayers and McLaughlin emphasize the importance of play -- organic learning.
If the great majority of our children are well equipped to thrive in the 21st century economy, then it’s likely our state and nation will thrive as well. The reverse also is true: If they struggle, we’ll all struggle. Invest in our children for the sake of economic gain? That may sound crass to some, but it’s an important answer as to why this city (and eventually the state) needs to ensure that every child has access to high-quality preschool programs. Based on decades of research, the return on that investment almost certainly will be rich, and long lasting.
States applying for the newest federal early-learning grant competition will be more likely to clinch the federal funds if the proposals include a strong parent-engagement component, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Tuesday. "Parents' voices have to be heard on this," he said. "Having parents talk about the need, talk about the demand, it's imperative."