Early Education in the News

The Washington Post
May 13, 2016

Universal quality pre-kindergarten has been gaining support around the country for years now, with solid research showing that it has real and lasting benefits for children — despite what critics argue. But, according to a new report, there is a real problem  — while states are making real progress, others are moving at a snail’s pace.

The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University just released its “The State of Preschool 2015,” which details national and state-level data on preschool access and other issues. (You can read it in full here or below.) In this post, W. Steven Barnett, a Board of Governors professor and director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, writes about the report’s findings. You can also see key findings at the bottom of the post.

Education Week
May 12, 2016

Total spending on public preschool has surpassed pre-recession levels for the first time since the 2008 downturn, adjusting for inflation, according to the latest data release from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), a think tank in New Jersey focused on early education. 

The 42 states with public preschool programs and the District of Columbia spent $6.2 billion to serve 1.4 million 3- and 4-year-olds in the 2014-15 school year. Total enrollment increased by a single percentage point, from 28 percent to 29 percent of 4-year-olds and from 4 percent to 5 percent of 3-year-olds, since 2010.

"This year's rate of progress is not enough to bring high quality pre-K to every child any time soon," the report concludes.

Some states are making big strides, though. New York City's new universal preschool programfor 4-year-olds had a notable impact on this year's findings. The city alone enrolled more than 12,000 additional children in preschool in 2014-15. Including enrollment increases outside the state capital, New York state accounted for two-thirds of the national spending increase and enrolled 5 percent more children in 2014-15 than in 2013-14.

The District of Columbia, Florida,Oklahoma, Vermont, and West Virginia lead the country in preschool access for 4-year-olds. Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming continue to not have a state preschool program, though several of these states do have local, district-based programs.

ABC News
May 12, 2016

The number of 3- and 4-year-olds in state-funded classrooms rose slightly during the 2014-15 school year to almost 1.4 million, according to a national preschool report released Thursday.

The report from the National Institute for Early Education Research found a wide range in per-pupil spending and quality of programs, with New Jersey spending $12,149 for each child enrolled in pre-K compared with $2,304 in Florida and $1,981 in South Carolina.

Total enrollment in 2014-2015 increased by 37,167 from the previous year.

Enrollment in state-funded preschool dipped in several states, including Texas, Florida and Wisconsin.

"States announce that they're making some initiative and then the next year they take a couple of steps backward," said Steve Barnett, director of the early education institute, which is based at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "If states simply never went backward, the rates of progress would be much, much faster."

The institute, which advocates for early childhood education, is under contract with the National Center for Education Statistics to conduct an annual preschool survey.

The report tracks quality measures such as class sizes and teacher-training requirements. Several states including California, Florida and Texas do not require preschool teachers to have a college degree.

Santa Fe New Mexican
May 12, 2016

A new report on early childhood education lauds New Mexico, a state that regularly ranks at the bottom of national surveys on child well-being, for increasing its investments in pre-kindergarten programs and increasing its pre-K enrollment.

The state moved up 10 spots in the 2015 State Preschool Yearbook, a report by the National Institute of Early Education Research at Rutgers University. New Mexico improved to 18 from 28 among states, largely because of its commitment to increasing funds for early education — one of the most divisive political issues in the state. Eight states, the report noted, weren’t included because they have no state preschool programs.

The report comes as state officials and early childhood advocates told lawmakers on the Legislative Finance Committee about plans to continue expanding the state’s pre-K programs.

The State Preschool Yearbook was released Thursday. According to an early draft obtained by The New Mexican on Wednesday, New Mexico PreK, the state’s early education program, met eight out of 10 minimum quality standards set by the institute. The report also gives the state credit for supporting dual-language programs at the pre-K level.

In 2014-15, New Mexico had 8,397 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-K programs — up 9.4 percent, or about 725 students, from the previous year. Total spending on pre-K, based on 2014-15 data, was almost $40 million.

 

Marketplace
May 12, 2016

For publicly funded preschool, last year was a good year. In some schools.

The National Institute for Early Education Research has just released its annual The State of Preschool report. Spending per child is up, enrollment is up slightly and more states met the benchmarks for quality standards.

But that good report card depends on where you live.  

“Access to high-quality pre-K remains low and highly unequal,” said Steve Barnett, director of the the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Some states like New York are making major gains. "In two years, New York has achieved, in the expansion of high-quality, full-day pre-K, what the country as a whole might take 150 years to achieve," Barnett said. "And that really is a New York minute."

Oklahoma has provided universal pre-K for many years. And Washington, D.C. has moved to the head of the pack for raising its standards of quality. 

But three of the country’s largest states — California, Florida and Texas — have among the country’s weakest quality standards, the report says. And both Florida and Texas cut funding for public preschool last year and the year before. 

There are consequences for inadequate funding. “Kids who start a year, a year and a half behind, don’t catch up by third grade,” Barnett said.

U.S. News & World Report
May 11, 2016

At first glance, the new poll results Gallup released last week on early childhood and higher education seem pretty straightforward. Reported with the headline "Americans Buy Free Pre-K; Split on Tuition-Free College," the poll found that 59 percent of Americans now support free early childhood programs while less than half (47 percent) support free college tuition. But a closer look behind Gallup's "Free Pre-K" headline reveals something peculiar: The poll didn't ask about pre-K. It asked about "child care and pre-kindergarten programs," encompassing a range of programs for children from birth to age 5. So in fact, Gallup has no idea if 59 percent of Americans support public pre-K, because their poll didn't ask that question.

This isn't the first time Gallup has gotten its headlines and questions confused in polls on early childhood. In 2014, it reported poll findings that "70% Favor Federal Funds To Expand Pre-K Education," concluding: "The public seems to agree with Obama's push for expanding preschool education in more areas of the country." A subsequent U.S. News & World Report article entitled "Americans Favor Federal Support of Pre-K" cited the poll as public backing of Obama's proposal to "make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old," adding an enthusiastic comment from Randi Weingarten, president of one of the two national teachers unions, reiterating broad support for adding pre-K to the nation's schools. But just like the 2016 version, the 2014 poll didn't ask respondents even one question about pre-K. What it did ask them was their views on "high-quality preschool programs," which include child care, home visiting and other early education programs for children from birth to age 5.

International Business Times
May 11, 2016

Babies do more than pee, poop, coo and cuddle. They also cost — a lot.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton took on the climbing cost of raising a child Tuesday in a package of proposals aimed at improving child care in the United States. Her plan, to be revealed at a campaign stop in Kentucky, would increase child care workers’ pay and expand home visit programs, the Huffington Post reported. It would also make it so no family spends more than 10 percent of its income on child care, which has been called the largest annual household expense for American families.

Clinton’s campaign hadn’t yet said Tuesday how it planned to pay for the plan, which an aide told the Wall Street Journal would include mixing federal spending with tax breaks. But the sheer fact that Clinton is introducing the topic into the 2016 presidential race could accomplish something on its own: ​It could spread more awareness about the high cost of child care. 

PBS Newshour
May 11, 2016

 A new report due out later this week from the National Institute on Early Education Research finds that a number of states are struggling to find ways to improve access to high quality pre-kindergarten.

Tonight, we look at a unique approach taken by a preschool in Seattle, Washington. It’s giving children life lessons that go beyond the classroom, and providing a unique opportunity to seniors.

Cincinnati.com
May 9, 2016

Half of Bobbie Hedrick's salary goes towards paying for daycare. "As a single parent, I can attest to how difficult it is to make ends meet with the high costs (of child care)," she said.The Warsaw, Kentucky resident said she spends roughly $750 a month just to make sure her two kids have quality supervision while she is at work. The cost and availability of child care doesn't affect only those with children in daycare. It's one of two key reasons why all kinds of companies across the Cincinnati region are having a hard time finding the right candidates to fill the area's 25,000 unfilled jobs. (The other overarching local problem, no matter the sector in which an employer operates, is a lack of public transportation to job sites.)

Columbia Daily Tribune
May 9, 2016

Raise Your Hand for Kids turned in 320,000 signatures Saturday to place its proposal on the November ballot. The petition needs about 168,000 signatures from registered voters. If passed by voters, it would raise about $300 million annually, with the bulk of the funds going to grants supporting pre-kindergarten education programs offered by public schools and private organizations.

About a quarter of the money will go to health programs for young children and smoking cessation programs.

The Columbia Chronicle
May 9, 2016

A recent study from the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis highlights how students’ socioeconomic status and race relate to their educational development, according to an April 29 New York Times article.

The study indicates that students low on the socioeconomic spectrum perform as much as three grade levels behind where they should be. It also revealed race-related disparities in grade levels even among students of the same socioeconomic background.

San Antonio Express News
May 8, 2016

With Elmo and Cookie Monster in his corner, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro is hoping to boost support for pre-kindergarten programs across the country with a bipartisan caucus that draws on San Antonio’s experiences with childhood learning.

Castro, D-San Antonio, is spearheading the new Congressional Pre-K Caucus at a time when states and localities are struggling to fund pre-K programs and skepticism still exists.

Times Daily
May 8, 2016

The expansion of the state’s pre-kindergarten program could mean more classes offered to local 4-year-olds.

The Alabama Legislature approved a $16 million expansion of the state’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program, with funding coming from the Education Trust Fund budget.

Gov. Robert Bentley originally asked for a $20 million increase, but Pre-K advocates said they are pleased with the $16 million appropriation which, combined with a $17.5 million federal Preschool Development Grant, will add 155 additional classrooms around the state for next school year.

 

 

The Huffington Post [Op-Ed]
May 6, 2016

Early educators are quite literally shaping the future - our children’s future, our families’ future, and the future of our economy—and they’re a key part of our nation’s teaching workforce. Indeed, the National Academies of Sciences asserts that working with children under five requires as complex knowledge and skills as teaching older children. Yet our nation’s early educators are often struggling to feed their own families due to stagnant, unlivable wages. Many child care workers earn only the minimum wage. The median wage for all child care workers didn’t reach $15.00 per hour in a single state. Not surprisingly, early educators report high levels of economic worry. A study in one state found that nearly 50 percent of teachers reported worrying about having enough food for their families, including many teachers who had a college degree. According to the most recent, comprehensive national study, the median wage for an early educator with a bachelor’s degree or higher working in center-based programs was just $13.50 per hour.

Nearly one half of those employed as child care workers live in families relying on at least one federal income support, such as food stamps, to augment their low wages and meet their families’ needs — this is double the national average for workers in the U.S. Reliance on these supports is highest among those with children under five.

Thomas B. Fordham Institute
May 5, 2016

Under President Obama’s stewardship, initiatives to expand access to high-quality early childhood programs have sparked heated political debate. Aiming to ground policy makers and education leaders in this conversation, a recent report from the American Enterprise Institute examines the effectiveness of early childhood education by analyzing and summarizing studies of the country’s ten best-known pre-K programs. It finds that high-quality pre-K works for some students, but the research is inconclusive as to whether it’s beneficial for all.

The report starts with an overview of the four most common research methodologies used to evaluate pre-K programs. These include assessing a program’s long-term impact with Randomized Control Trials, i.e., randomly assigning students to either a program (treatment) or non-program (control) group to measure differences in outcomes; comparing results for participating pre-K students against those for children who were eligible for pre-K but did not enroll; comparing results for participating students with a comparison group based on observable characteristics; and comparing outcomes for pre-K participants before and after the program.

One of the most positive takeaways from the research is that low-income children reap short-term and long-term benefits from high-quality pre-K programs. In Boston’s program, for example, students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch showed larger gains in math and cognitive skills when entering kindergarten. Low-income, high-risk children who attended the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Abecedarian Project were three times more likely to have earned a college degree—and 42 percent more likely to be employed full-time—than those who did not. And researchers focusing on the Perry Preschool Program in Ypsilanti, Michigan, noticed positive impacts on educational attainment and employment for low-income students. At age twenty-seven, male and female graduates were at least 30 percent more likely to receive their high school diploma or GED.

ESchool News
May 5, 2016

Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES), a developer of digital fabrication laboratories (fab labs) and STEM curriculum and school design, has been named a partner in the Federal government’s new Early Education STEM initiative.

TIES is among a group of leaders who participated in April’s Early Learning Symposium hosted by The White House, in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services and Invest in US. The event highlighted the importance of promoting active STEM learning for our youngest children and to celebrate a broad range of public- and private-sector leaders committed to promoting STEM learning across the country.

In March 2016, The Bay Area Discovery Museum, in partnership with TIES and FableVision, launched the world’s first Fab Lab for young learners (ages 3 to 10) to help them navigate the design process from concept to production, and turn their ideas into reality.

Building on this work, TIES has made a commitment to bring early childhood Fab Labs to schools, daycares, museums and other settings serving the country’s youngest learners. As part of this initiative, TIES, in partnership with The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) at Virginia Tech, will prototype these labs in two Head Start programs with the intent to build a scalable model that will enable all Head Starts throughout the country to have early childhood Fab Labs.

U.S. News & World Report
May 5, 2016

If a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members, the United States just received an incredibly unflattering judgment. A new study published by the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund, or UNICEF, ranked the wealthiest countries of the world by the well-being of their most disadvantaged children. Out of 41 countries, the U.S. ranked No. 18 overall. For context, the U.S. ranks No. 1 in total wealth. The study took a comprehensive approach, comparing the gap between children at the very bottom to those in the middle across a range of criteria – including household income, educational achievement and self-reported health and life satisfaction. The central question was this: How far do countries let those at the very bottom fall? In the United States, the answer seems to be distressingly far. . .

Investments in programs like guaranteed universal early childhood education, or pre-K, could improve prospects for children at the bottom. Currently the United States ranks No. 26 in preschool participation and No. 21 in total investment in early childhood education relative to country wealth. Universal pre-K is not a radical idea. President Obama proposed such a plan in his 2013 State of the Union address. And earlier this year, I coauthored a plan for how it could be funded by closing the carried interest loophole, a tax break for hedge fund managers so egregious that even Donald Trump says he supports closing it. Unfortunately, the prospects for passing that plan in the near term look grim. On a further sour note, even universal pre-K wouldn't close the gap between kids from affluent families and those from poorer families.

MetroParent Daily
May 5, 2016

Think it’s time for your child to go to preschool? Maybe you’re not sure if your little one should go to preschool. And anyway, how much does it cost to send them to an early childhood program? For all of these questions, the local early ed experts have answers!

The Atlantic
May 5, 2016

A group of scholars at Harvard University is spearheading a campaign to make sure the early-childhood programs policymakers put in place to disrupt intergenerational poverty are backed by the latest science. The idea sounds entirely reasonable, but it’s all too rare in practice, says Jack P. Shonkoff, the director of the university’s Center on the Developing Child and the chair of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. That’s because program grants and policies are generally structured in ways that incentivize “positive” results. Agreements along the lines of, “We’ll give you funding to test this specific policy intervention and if you can prove it worked in three years, we’ll give you more,” are standard. Shonkoff and his colleagues think that model needs a major update. On Wednesday, the center will publish a report that calls for an online and in-person network that uses recent advances in scientists’ understanding of the way young brains grow to create and test early-childhood interventions. “The absence of a science-based R&D platform in the early childhood field threatens the future of all children, families, and communities whose challenges are not being addressed adequately by existing policies and programs,” write the authors.

 

The 74 Million
May 4, 2016
The White House Tuesday released a report celebrating a host of national accomplishments in K-12 education that should be no surprise to anyone who has taken even a passing interest in national education policy over the last seven years. At the top of the list: preschool, higher standards, and increased graduation rates. The report – timed to coincide with Teacher Appreciation Day – also highlights the administration’s work to support and protect educators. (Appreciating teachers: The 74 spends a day with a special educator in Washington, D.C.)
 
“Our teachers deserve credit for each of our accomplishments and the progress we’re continuing to make, from better early education and higher standards to better student performance and higher graduation rates,” the president wrote in a foreword to the report. “They are passionate about helping our students realize the best versions of themselves so our country can become the best version of itself. Time and again our teachers have met this solemn responsibility, even as we’ve asked more of them than ever before.”
 
Some achievements the administration highlighted in the 60-page report:
 
Preschool: Thirty-eight states offered public preschool programs at the start of the Obama administration, up to 46 now, the administration said. States have invested an additional $1.5 billion in preschool since the president’s 2013 State of the Union speech, during which he pushed for a large-scale preschool program. Federal investment in state programs has now surpassed $750 million, and support for Head Start has increased by $4 billion, according to the report. Nationally, though, Congress never passed a program that would serve all low-income four-year-olds. And only 29 percent of four-year-olds were enrolled in state-funded programs in 2014, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.
 
Aiding Educators: And of course, on this Teacher Appreciation Day, the administration showcased the ways it has improved pathways in teaching — and invested in educators.
In the earliest days of his administration, Obama pushed for a $60 billion investment in schools to help keep teachers in classrooms as state and local budgets were slashed in the wake of the Great Recession. They’ve since poured $2.7 billion into competitive grants for teacher training, brought teachers and principals into the Education Department as full-time employees to help influence policy, and called for a STEM master teacher corps, which became law under ESSA.

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