Early Education in the News

July 2, 2014

Consider this: The future success of every child is in many ways determined before he or she turns 8. During those early years, how that child learns and develops — mentally, emotionally and socially — is critical. This isn’t a theory. It’s a fact, based on decades of research on the positive effects of quality early-learning experiences on children’s lives. It’s no wonder then that educators, politicians, researchers and families have honed in on early childhood education as a means to invest not only in the future of America, but also to help deter and improve any number of complex social issues.

But despite our ever-increasing understanding of the benefits of early learning, as well as the negative repercussions of neglecting it, high-quality early education programs are not mandated, which means they’re expensive and exclusive — and out of reach of most Americans.

Medical News Today
July 2, 2014

Although it is well documented that lead exposure lowers children's IQ, we know little about its effect on their behavioral and emotional health. Now, a new study shows that emotional and behavioral problems are apparent even at relatively low levels of lead exposure in preschool children, and they go up in line with rising blood lead levels.

Writing in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, Dr. Jianghong Liu of the School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and colleagues report how they analyzed links between blood lead levels in over 1,300 Chinese preschoolers and behavioral and emotional problems, such as showing signs of being anxious, depressed, or aggressive.

Dr. Liu says, "young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead, because lead can affect children's developing nerves and brains."

Seattle News
July 2, 2014

Last week, Seattle City Council members voted to put two preschool and child-care proposals on the November ballot. They also decided to pit the measures—one drawn up by the city, one by a partnership of two unions—against one another. It is, in short, a confusing mess, one that city officials are still trying to sort out, never mind voters. To help, SW spent some time talking to the players involved.

Center for American Progress
July 1, 2014

Buried in the debate over teacher evaluation is a nagging concern about principals. The burden of carrying out teacher-evaluation activities falls squarely on the shoulders of these school administrators. They have to observe teachers—often multiple times per school year—and complete a rubric about the instruction; they also need to complete a post-observation conversation with each teacher. These activities, while essential to improve education, are a radical shift in principals’ responsibilities, which have historically focused on administrative tasks rather than instructional support.

Principals are feeling the change in their scope of work. In a recent national survey, 69 percent of principals said their responsibilities had changed in the past five years, and 75 percent said their job had become too complex.

Daily Reporter
July 1, 2014

Dozens of local councils have been awarded grants to help promote school readiness for young children.

Gov. Steve Beshear's office said more than $1 million was announced Monday for 64 Community Early Childhood Councils covering 88 counties. The grants were awarded through the Governor's Office of Early Childhood.

Albuquerque Journal
July 1, 2014

New Mexico has some terrific local business leaders. We just don’t have nearly enough of them. A recent interview with Arthur J. Rolnick reveals the good things that happen when a state has enough leaders who have enough resources to effect change.

Rolnick is a senior fellow and co-director of the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota, where he got his doctorate in economics. He was in Albuquerque on Monday to address the second annual Kids Count Conference, sponsored by New Mexico Voices for Children.

Rolnick, a former senior vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, has calculated that investments in early childhood programs like home visits by nurses and pre-kindergarten schooling produce a return of between 10 and 18 percent. He says recent experience shows his calculations are conservative.

Wall Street Journal
June 29, 2014

New York City is offering to pay for a full day of pre-K, but some religious schools say adding spiritual teachings to that would make too long a day for the children involved. The result: Some schools have decided to not participate, and community leaders and critics fear that others will bend the rules by slipping in religious instruction during the extended pre-K. 

Press & Guide
June 27, 2014

ABCs, 123s, shapes and colors are the stepping stones of early learning by children. But not all children are exposed to these building blocks before they walk into a kindergarten classroom.

It was this knowledge that prompted Gov. Rick Snyder and other Lansing legislators to approve an education budget with increased funding for early childhood education. An extra $65 million was set aside for preschool this year, making a two-year investment of $130 million.

Los Angeles Times
June 27, 2014

The American Academy of Pediatrics launched its "literacy promotion" campaign this week, citing the influence of early literary experience on children's brain development and their ultimate academic success. . . 

Parents may need to fundamentally change the way they talk to their children at home if they want them to succeed in school. What matters most is not quantity — how many words you say or the number of books you read to your children — but the quality of the conversation, according to Fernald.
June 27, 2014

While some low-income families qualify for subsidies, many middle-class families pay full tuition to attend pre-K programs. Between 2003 and 2012, rates have risen, on average, about 43 percent, from $140 to $200 per week. That’s one reason many public schools have started free half-day preschool programs. . .

Under the current funding formula, the state will cover only part of those new costs. So the supervisory union’s grant writer, Cynthia Powers, is looking for more grant money from sources like the Vermont Community Foundation, because she figures that the demand for preschool will rise sharply over the next few years.
June 26, 2014

How can we recapture the potential of every citizen? Together, we are issuing a call for the NEPA community to unite around a critical piece of the solution – strengthening early childhood education. Other communities have done it, and we certainly can. In Erie, the Lehigh Valley, the Greater Susquehanna Valley, Mercer County, York and other Pennsylvania communities, diverse partnerships of business leaders, foundations and community organizations are boosting the quality and availability of early childhood education.

Decades of research substantiates the need for action. Almost 90 percent of the brain is developed by age 5, laying the groundwork for lifetime academic and social success. Scientists have accumulated evidence into the benefits of high-quality early learning, and we can now see a direct link between pre-kindergarten experiences and high school graduation rates. Research shows that disadvantaged children who lack high-quality early childhood education can start school up to 18 months behind their peers. If they aren’t ready for kindergarten, they are half as likely to read well by third grade. If they’re not reading proficiently by third grade, they are four times more likely to drop out of school without graduating.

The Californian
June 25, 2014

Last Friday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the 2014-15 state budget including $264 million for early learning and child development. While those of us dedicated to this work had hoped for much more, we are pleased that this is a step in the right direction. This budget marks the largest investment in high-quality early learning in 10 years following a decade of decline that saw support for early childhood development cut by more than $1 billion. We are pleased that the state is moving toward a smart social and economic decision for communities throughout the state.

The approved budget will increase the number of slots available for pre-school and transitional kindergarten, improve provider reimbursement rates and strengthen the quality of early learning programs overall for thousands of California children.

The Washington Post
June 25, 2014

Currently preschool enrollment is determined by lottery. No one is guaranteed a seat, and it’s not unusual for students to be shut out of the schools to which they apply. This spring, 12 percent of 3-year-olds and 23 percent of 4-year-olds who entered the first round of the city’s preschool lottery did not get in anywhere.

Under the new proposal, 3- and 4-year-olds who live in-boundary for a high-poverty Title I school — a category that includes most of the traditional public schools in the city — would have a right to attend pre-kindergarten at that school.

June 25, 2014

Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) announced its Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action as part of the fourth annual CGI America meeting hosted by President Bill Clinton, Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton, June 23-25 in Denver Colorado.

LAUP's CGI Commitment to Action is called Project Goodnight Moon Time: Closing the Word Gap and addresses the ever-widening opportunity and education gap that exists in the U.S. by attempting to improve early literacy skills of low-income children. Researchers say that by the time children from poor families reach the age of 3, they are already far behind in literacy skills, an obstacle that keeps them from competing academically with their better-off peers. This gap has been widely referred to as the 30-million word gap, the number of fewer words children of poorer families have been exposed to as compared to children from high-income families—even before they reach kindergarten.
National Journal
June 24, 2014

For example, preschool enrollment has skyrocketed since 1970, which is the main reason the report's education score shows such a dramatic incline over time. Economists and educators generally view preschool as one of the best ways to ensure that disadvantaged children graduate from high school and (in theory) contribute to the economy. Yet the topline economic figures in the historical report don't reflect economic improvement. The economic score actually dropped from 62.4 to 48.5 over 40 years.

That doesn't mean preschool hasn't helped, but you need more context (outside of the report's scope) to understand how early education is impacting the economy. The short answer is that it may be too soon to tell. In 1970, there was nowhere to go but up with preschool. Government funded Head Start had been created just five years earlier, and only about 10 percent of three- and four-year olds attended some form of preschool, most of it private. Now, that figure is 48 percent. What's more, 28 percent of kids are in preschool programs that receive government funding, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.

New York Times
June 24, 2014

While highly educated, ambitious parents who are already reading poetry and playing Mozart to their children in utero may not need this advice, research shows that many parents do not read to their children as often as researchers and educators think is crucial to the development of pre-literacy skills that help children succeed once they get to school.

Reading, as well as talking and singing, is viewed as important in increasing the number of words that children hear in the earliest years of their lives. Nearly two decades ago, an oft-cited study found that by age 3, the children of wealthier professionals have heard words millions more times than have those of less educated, low-income parents, giving the children who have heard more words a distinct advantage in school. New research shows that these gaps emerge as early as 18 months.

Seattle Times
June 24, 2014

A fight simmering for months between Seattle City Council president Tim Burgess and two unions that together represent 1,500 child-care workers in Seattle will be settled by voters in November. The City Council voted unanimously Monday to place a $58 million property-tax levy on the November ballot to boost the quality and affordability of preschool in Seattle.

They also voted to put Initiative 107, a separate union-backed child-care proposal that was supported by nearly 22,000 signatures, on the November ballot. However, the council voted to consider it a competing, rather than complementary measure. That means voters will have to choose between them rather than voting for both.

June 24, 2014

"Quality is a really important aspect of pre-K. And in universal pre-K, public pre-K, every 3 and 4-year-old now has access to high quality public pre-K programming. And unfortunately, as many high quality programs as we have, we have more programs that just aren’t high quality. Many more programs are struggling and just can’t offer quality care. And that’s a real dilemma now that this bill has passed, because it’s only for high quality programs. So state agencies, philanthropists, providers, early learning professionals, we now have to work very concerted to improve the quality and the access to high quality programs."

June 24, 2014

Children whose parents read to them get a head start on language skills and literacy. But many children miss out on that experience, with one-third of children starting kindergarten without the language skills they need to learn to read. In a policy statement released Tuesday, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for pediatricians to talk with all parents about reading to their children starting in infancy, and to give books to "high-risk, low-income young children" at office visits.

Sacramento Business Journal
June 24, 2014

West Sacramento’s bid to offer preschool to all of its youngest residents has resulted in it being honored as one of the most livable cities in the U.S. by the national Conference of Mayors.

According to a news release from the ongoing conference in Dallas, West Sacramento’s program stands out for helping children of preschool age gain literacy skills before they begin kindergarten, particularly youngsters who speak English as a second language.