Early Education in the News
Dayton and House Democrats hope voters will appreciate investments in education, from preschool through college, even if it took tax increases to get there. Universal all-day kindergarten is the signature piece. Increased state funding is meant to get rid of a patchwork where some schools offered the full-day to kindergartners at district expense while others didn't bother or had parents pay as much as $2,500 to get their children more than half-day.
“If public policy were based just on what we know works, universal pre-kindergarten education would already be the law of the land,” a Seattle Times editorial put it. “But such a utopia is not to be found. The Washington legislature is moving, slowly, in that direction; Congress, less so. Cities have begun to redefine the public duty to the tiniest of students.”
On a day when Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to showcase news that the city's full-day preschool program had signed up 30,000 children more than last year, he fielded questions on Thursday about why hundreds of contracts for centers hadn't been delivered to the comptroller for review. . . . The mayor brought top aides to a news conference to help address Comptroller Scott M. Stringer's complaint on Wednesday that he had received only 141 of roughly 500 center contracts he should have gotten from the education department for vetting.
The mayor said the delay in delivering contracts had "zero impact" on safety, and that his staff had been working to inspect sites and ensure they were ready to welcome more than 50,000 students. His administration said only five sites had health violations outstanding that needed to be addressed immediately, and any centers with unresolved problems wouldn't open.
The mayor aims to get at least 53,000 youngsters in classrooms for the inaugural year. So far, just over 50,000 kids have signed up.
On this edition of “Inside Story,” we ask whether New York’s emphasis on universal pre-K is a worthwhile priority and if it is possible to measure the payback.
Expanding free full-day prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds was one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature campaign proposals, and his administration has invested heavily in it, training thousands of teachers and hiring close to 200 fire and health inspectors, teaching coaches and “enrollment specialists” like Ms. Jones to make sure the first phase of the effort, involving 53,000 seats, rolls out next week without major problems.
On Thursday, Mr. de Blasio announced that the city was close to reaching its enrollment goal, with 50,407 children signed up so far.
“Parents get what this means for their kids,” the mayor said. “They understand the difference between their child getting a strong start and not getting it.”
The Chicago Teachers Union is calling for the city to adopt a universal preschool system that provides a full day of early care and education for children under the age of 5. They say that under the current system, children are at risk of losing access to educational programs that would "foster cognitive learning, academic achievement, social skills and emotional development."
The Teacher's Union noted that state funding for early childhood education has fallen 25 percent since 2009, and said preschool enrollment rates among minorities, in particular, continue to slide.
Parents searching for high-quality pre-kindergarten options for their children can be overwhelmed trying to find a school they can trust. On Tuesday, a coalition of nonprofit education advocacy organizations announced it will give parents a huge helping hand.
At the lead of the Philadelphia School Partnership, a new website is allowing parents to easily search and compare high quality pre-K options. It can be accessed through GreatPhillySchools.org, an existing site that evaluates K-12 options.
"High-quality early childhood education is the best strategy to break the cycle of poverty and to help our schools be more successful," said Sharon Easterling, executive director of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young People, one of the initiative's key collaborators.
Mayor Bill Peduto has named a 20-member “Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Early Childhood Education” to try to help secure a federal grant for preschool education. In a news release, Mr. Peduto said, “Pittsburgh must keep developing as a city of learning — a city committed to exemplary education of its citizens from birth to career and from career to lifelong learning — and providing early childhood education is essential to that development.”
With less than two weeks before the public school year begins, the last-minute addition of more than 100 prekindergarten seats in a crowded Brooklyn district brought parents out in droves on Tuesday.
By midmorning, on the first of at least five days that children in District 15 could be entered in a lottery for the new slots, the auditorium at Public School 10 in South Slope was thrumming with the sounds of restless children and their anxious chaperones. And there were already about 90 names on the list for 126 seats.
With the official start of school on Sept. 4, it is up to Ms. Fariña, a 71-year-old grandmother who began her 49-year career as a teacher, to deliver on MayorBill de Blasio's promise to provide free full-day preschool for 53,000 children.
She also faces space shortages, a large group of children who arrive speaking little English and many schools with dismal achievement records. A report released Monday by StudentsFirstNY found 75 district schools where no child in an entire grade level passed a state test in math or language arts.
Despite challenges, Ms. Fariña expressed optimism in an interview about her plans for overseeing 1.1 million students. September "is the month when all is possible," she said.
We know that the early years are the most important for learning. For the first time in history, approximately 30,000 CPS kindergarten students are attending school for a full day. And to make sure that all children start school ready to learn, 75 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in Chicago whose families live below the poverty level now have access to quality preschool programs. We have committed the City of Chicago to achieving universal preschool access for all of its children in poverty.
If you want the best for your daughter, consider moving north. Where girls live in America matters to their overall comfort, health and prosperity, according to a report ranking every U.S. state and the District of Columbia. The latest in a series of reports on girls’ health and well-being by the Girl Scouts Research Institute shows that girls generally fare better in the Midwest, Northeast and mid-Atlantic.
“It has to do partly with strong education,” said Mark Mather, the report’s lead researcher and a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a research organization in Washington, D.C. . . . States that offer preschool education and have lower high school dropout rates almost always ranked higher. “It tells the story of the importance of education for girls,” Mather said. “A lot of states are moving towards universal preschool. Getting a good start makes a difference for low-income families.”
The debate over Mayor Greg Ballard’s preschool proposal comes down to one question: Do at-risk children have a better chance of succeeding in kindergarten if they have spent a year or two in a high-quality preschool?. . .
But to me, it all goes back to that fundamental question: Does a solid year in preschool give a child — a child who perhaps has not been given all of the advantages that many others receive — a better chance at succeeding when they walk into kindergarten. Because that is preschool’s most important job: to give kids a better chance of succeeding on Day One of a 13-year journey. Just as kindergarten’s most important job is to prepare students to succeed in first grade, and education’s ultimate goal is to prepare young people to succeed in life.
Leaders from the U.S. Department of Education were in town Monday to discuss how children can learn more at a younger age. The conference, which took place at the Kauffman Foundation, was focused on closing the word gap.
Research shows that children in poor families hear about 30 million fewer words by the time they turn three, than similar kids from more well-to-do households. And that word gap often results in an achievement gap for those kids, both in school and throughout their lives.
A new summary of 12 years of study on North Carolina's pre-kindergarten plan for at-threat 4-year-olds shows that "dual-language learners" make the greatest academic progress in the plan. According to the report from the Frank Porter Graham Kid Development Institute (FPG), when students in NC Pre-K advance across all spheres of studying, the plan is especially beneficial for the state's dual-language learners.
It doesn’t matter, with Kansas City pushing a citywide campaign, whether the financing cavalry of federal grants, state funding or local levies is coming. Families and communities need to help children overcome the word deficit described by researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley as the “30 million word gap.” That’s the cumulative difference in the number of words children hear in typical lower-income homes compared with the number typically heard in more-affluent homes. . .
The district took in about 500 4-year-olds the first day and is expecting to get close to 600 when enrollment fills out in the next couple of weeks. Kansas City Public Schools, while still working with many partners on how to get the community to universal pre-K, is expanding from 866 to about 1,200 children in its programs this year, racing its own construction deadlines to open a second center, said Jerry Kitzi, director of early education.
Daycare has been pretty educational from the start. But this is pre-K, a construct that seems like a magic potion for success. Studies show that regular, high-quality preschool — with low teacher-to-child ratios and thoughtful curriculum — make children more likely to graduate from high school and go to college, own a home and stay out of prison. Preschool-prepared children score higher on standardized tests and earn higher average salaries.
“Kindergarten today is what first grade was a few years ago,” said Karen Paciorek, early childhood professor at Eastern Michigan University and former elementary school teacher. Expectations for kindergartners have increased in the past decade as the state moved toward the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and more children came into kindergarten with more knowledge from preschool, Paciorek said. In 2012, the state mandated schools make the move to full-day kindergarten starting in the 2013-14 school year if they hadn’t already. Schools that did not make the change would lose half of their per-pupil funding for each kindergartner. More time at school meant more time for learning.
The importance of education is indisputable. The problem is that the international community's credibility in promising universal education has been compromised; it has pledged to achieve this goal in at least 12 UN-sponsored declarations since 1950. For example, UNESCO promised in 1961 that, by 1980, primary education in Africa would be "universal, compulsory, and free." Yet, when the time came, about half of primary-school-aged children in Africa were still not attending school. As the economist George Psacharopoulos recommended in a recent paper, the highest priority should be what works best: early education, especially preschool. The most obvious reasons why earlier education makes for a better starting point is that people are most receptive to knowledge when they are young. Moreover, at younger ages, there are fewer cultural barriers to education for girls, and there is less pressure for children to contribute labor. Finally, preschool education is less expensive to deliver than higher-level schooling.
Tots don’t vote — but increasingly, pols are looking to them to score points with voters. Democrats including President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have embraced pre-K in their platforms for years. Now, Republicans are getting on board, in conservative Southern states like Georgia and Alabama, Midwestern right-to-work states Michigan and Indiana, and in some instances on Capitol Hill. Some Republicans who have rejected taking federal dollars for Medicaid expansion are comfortable vying for federal pre-K money.