Early Education in the News
Each state takes a unique approach to pre-K. Here is a look at what a few other states offer in state-funded pre-school programs.
The problem for local school districts and for others in providing comprehensive pre-K education is a lack of funding. For years, Mississippi was the only Southeastern state not to have a state-supported early childhood education program and one of a few in the nation not to have a program. During the 2013 session, the Legislature provided $3 million in state funds to continue Building Blocks and $3 million to fund a pilot program where the state Department of Education would work with local collaborative groups (including local schools) in an effort to provide quality pre-kindergarten program. The plan was for the funding to increase for the pilot program in the coming years. But during the 2014 session, Building Blocks and the pilot program were level-funded at $3 million each.
One of the earliest indicators of a child’s future success is the number of words he or she hears prior to kindergarten. Language development begins with the interplay of words between the parent and child and helps nurture vocabulary, which is considered the building block of education. The frequency and richness of natural conversation in a child’s first years plays a key role in development.
Indy is close — last mile of a long journey close — to marking a monumental achievement for hundreds of children with profound needs. Yet it’s more critical than ever for political, business and nonprofit leaders to pull together and push forward in ensuring that the city finally invest in high-quality early childhood education for kids from low-income families.
Gov. Jack Markell is touting the importance of not only providing better access to early childhood education, but also giving their families more financial stability. In his weekly message, Markell says about 50 early learning centers are partnering with an initiative called $tand By Me connecting financial education coaches with workers and parents. “$tand By Me has already worked with 200 employees of these centers because our early childhood workers will best provide for our kids when they can experience financial security in their own lives and we plan to help hundreds of parents and guardians of our young children in the coming year,” said Markell.
He notes there’s nationwide interest in the program after federal officials recently visited the program. Financial education services in the program are also available throughout the state.
With research showing language gaps between the children of affluent parents and those from low-income families emerging at an early age, educators have puzzled over how best to reach parents and guide them to do things like read to their children and talk to them regularly. A new study shows that mobile technology may offer a cheap and effective solution. The research, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research this month, found that preschoolers whose parents received text messages with brief tips on reading to their children or helping them sound out letters and words performed better on literacy tests than children whose parents did not receive such messages. Pediatricians are now advising parents to read daily to their children from birth. Some communities are developing academic curriculums for home visitors to share with parents of babies and toddlers, while other groups are mounting public information campaigns for parents on the importance of talking, reading and singing. But many of these efforts do not necessarily target parents at the moments when they are most likely to use the information.
New state rules to oversee public prekindergarten schools and teacher certification were adopted by the Montana Board of Public Education Friday in a move that creates a framework for accountability for such programs should they receive funding from the 2015 Legislature. The board unanimously approved three sets of rules during its regular meeting in Helena, each with implications for early childhood education. They include requirements for class size, hours of instruction and content knowledge, as well as an early childhood educator license and teacher preparation standards.
U.S. lawmakers are pretty polarized these days, but they seem to agree investing in early education pays off. Studies show kids who go to school early have a better chance of graduating from high school and are less likely to commit crimes. So hundreds of education researchers wrote an open letter to policymakers urging them to prioritize early education.
Steve Barnett signed the letter. He’s the director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. He’s optimistic Congress will increase access to classroom instruction for children under the age of five.
“I’m hopeful because the public is highly supportive, because it isn’t a partisan issue, and because there is substantial consensus in the scientific community about the importance of good early childhood programs,” he says.
Like many states, Nebraska has greatly expanded early childhood education in recent years. The idea is to make sure kids are ready for kindergarten. But there are different perspectives on the benefits – and costs -- of the expansion. . .
This program in Auburn is one of 20 starting up across Nebraska this year, after the Legislature approved spending another $3.5 million targeted at kids the Nebraska Department of Education considers “at risk.” That includes children born with low birth-weight or who have disabilities, such as speech problems. It also includes those from low-income families or born to teenage mothers. The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University estimates just over one quarter of Nebraska four-year-olds are in an early childhood education program. Expanding that to cover all four-year-olds in the state could cost well over an additional $100 million a year.
Low-income families in five pilot counties could begin enrolling their children in state-funded preschool next month with classes starting in January, state officials said Wednesday. In addition, organizations that want to provide preschool in those counties – Allen, Jackson, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh – can now apply to be part of the state’s newly named On My Way Pre-K program. The counties were chosen earlier this year to be the first to try state-funded preschool. The program will award grants to 4-year-olds from low-income families, who can then use the money to attend the approved preschool of the parents’ choice.
Canada's support system for early childhood lags far behind other countries and action is urgently needed, said the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canadain a new position statement issued today. To address this crisis, the Royal College and its partners have issued 15 recommendations to improve the health and wellness of Canada'schildren, including calls for increased government funding and enhanced support for parents.
"Early childhood is the most important development phase and our current approach is inadequate," says Dr. Andrew Padmos, Royal College CEO. "Canadacan, and should, be a world leader in supporting its children."
Currently, Canada's system of childhood care and education lags behind other developed countries – tied for last out of 25 states according to key OECD indicators. Currently, Canada also spends below the OECD standard 1% of GDP on early childhood care and learning — with the majority of this spending occurring inQuebec.
If President Obama has his way, over 6 million children will be enrolled in high quality pre-school programs by the end of 2020. In order to reach that goal, we would have to triple the number in just six years. Is that even possible? Should that be a national goal? What’s wrong with private pre-school or home care situations?
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, there are currently only 2.1 million 3 and 4 year olds enrolled in state-funded or Head Start programs (comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition and family involvement programs for low income families operated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services). The 2010 U.S. Census indicates that there are approximately 8 million 3 and 4 year olds living in the U.S., which means that the other 6 million kids are either in private, day-care facilities or cared for in the home. Among industrialized nations, the United States ranks last when it comes to supporting and funding early childhood programs and among low income families it is even worse, one study finding that less than 50 percent of low-income children are enrolled in a preschool program.
When it comes to prioritizing the investment of our state’s resources, 4- year-olds might seem like an odd place to start to some folks. But there is no question that providing our children with an early opportunity to thrive benefits both children and our communities. Support for pre-kindergarten education has proven to be one of the best investments a state can make, with both immediate and long-term benefits for children, families, businesses and the state’s economy. As other states across the country have already found, every dollar spent on pre-K results in a $7 return. Montana does not have to wait to realize these benefits to our economy. State funding for pre-K will strengthen Montana’s economy immediately in two ways – by helping working families and by creating good-paying jobs in childcare and early education.
Connecticut leaders are asking the federal government for $47.6 million so hundreds of foster and homeless children can attend a high-quality preschool. Though children from all families in poverty will be eligible for the expanded preschool program, the state says it will give priority to children who are homeless or in foster care. “Particular focus will be on ensuring that these children have access to high-quality preschool,” the application states.
Barnett argues that a low-income pre-K program would never be taken seriously by the education establishment or by legislators. It would be chronically underfunded, he said, and would likely suffer from sub-par teacher qualifications and curriculum standards.
“There is good research that shows the public will not support in either quality and quantity a program that is just for poor people,” Barnett said. . . . Barnett also says logistics would hamper means-tested preschool, in part because income levels at the margins are constantly sliding up and down and defining eligibility would be problematic.
Local education advocates are pushing for the re-authorization of a bill that they say will improve early child care opportunities for working families across Pennsylvania.
Senator Bob Casey visited the Hansel and Gretel Early Learning Center in Harrisburg on Wednesday to talk about the Child Care and Development Block Grant. The program currently helps 55,000 families in PA pay for child care each month. If it fails to pass by the end of the year, all the work already in motion helping those families will be lost and the push for the bill will have to start over.
Science is beginning to show more than ever that a child’s performance in school is largely dependent by how much they know prior to beginning kindergarten. According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds score 60 percent lower in cognitive tests than kids with richer parents. When it comes to math scores, poor black kids score an average of 21 percent lower than whites, while Hispanics score 19 percent lower. Pre-K and kindergarten classes are meant to balance these disparities, but curriculums and resources often vary between poorer and richer schools.
A new curriculum from Tools of the Mind, a research-based education program, could bring these gaps to the same level, according to a recent study, by teaching kids “self-regulation.” Instead of rewarding kids for only following teachers’ instructions, this approach also encourages kids to work together on projects (no matter their economic background), encourage each other’s learning, and provide constructive feedback.
On this Veterans Day, we honor the fewer than 1 percent of Americans who are ready, willing and able to serve our nation in the Armed Forces. This figure may be surprising to some, but it is better understood when you consider that 72 percent of today's young Pennsylvanians are not eligible for military service because they lack adequate education, are medically or physically unfit, or have disqualifying criminal records.
This shocking reality is concerning because it undermines the military's efforts to recruit high-quality individuals. We must strategically invest to help young Americans grow up to be educated, healthy and fit to do the work of our nation either as soldiers or civilians. While trends in education reform come and go, decades of research have shown that high-quality pre-K programs can help to better prepare our children by boosting graduation rates, deterring youth from crime, and even reducing obesity rates, all while providing a significant return on investment.
Even though Hawaii voters rejected allowing public money to be spent on private preschool programs, supporters of the ballot measure say they're glad the campaign raised public awareness of early childhood education. "More people are talking about early education than ever before," said Deborah Zysman, executive director of the Good Beginnings Alliance, which pushed for a yes vote on the question posed in Tuesday's general election.
Supporters contend a public-private partnership is a cost-effective way to help children in a state where nearly half enter kindergarten without any preschool. The Hawaii State Teachers Association objected, saying it would lead to vouchers to attend expensive private preschools. Now both sides say they want to see how the other devotes resources toward finding a way to achieve public preschool without relying on a network of private providers.
While Louisiana is launching an ambitious overhaul of its pre-K system, how to pay for it is a recurring problem. The issue flared last week during a lengthy meeting of a 30-member advisory panel that is making recommendations to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Alan Young, former president of the Child Care Association of Louisiana and a panel member, charged that some of the new rules for pre-K centers are so costly and rigorous that they could be forced to close. Another worry is that charges generally assessed to parents could rise so sharply that they would pull their children out of the centers. State aid is badly needed, Young said, but no easy options are available.