Volume 10, Issue 32

December 15, 2011

Hot Topics

After a grueling application process in which 35 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico competed for federal money, the U.S. Department of Education today announced the winners of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. The nine recipients of grants ranging from $50 million to $100 million are California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington. NIEER provides a run-down of what these states have done for pre-K in the past.

Earlier this week, the New America Foundation's Laura Bornfreund surmised what the winning states might do with their share of $500 million.

During their first year of life, infants are already tracking word patterns in language, according to new research from Jill Lany, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame. As reported in ScienceDaily, Lany says that her research suggests that children as young as 12 months old are already distinguishing between nouns and verbs based on identifying "adjacent relationships." For instance, these infants have discovered that the phrase "it's a" precedes an object, even if they do not recognize the word following "it's a." By the time these infants are 15 months old, they are able to figure out "non-adjacent relationships" where cues are spaced further away from the unknown new word. Using cues from both adjacent and non-adjacent words allows babies to discover the meanings behind new words and promote language development.
In 37 states, child care subsidies are becoming increasingly more difficult to get and cover less of the costs of child care, according to a research cited by The New York Times. Of particular note are Arizona and Utah, both of which are no longer funding child care subsidies at all. This is on top of Arizona de-funding state preschool and Utah never funding state pre-K, as reported in NIEER's State Preschool Yearbook. These changes come at a time when parents are particularly strapped for cash and need child care assistance more than ever.
According to a recent poll, the majority of California's voters favor an increase in taxes in order to fund public school initiatives. Education advocates see this as a sign that the time is ripe to capitalize on this public sentiment. Writing in The Sacramento Bee, the state's PTA President Carol Kocivar expresses support for a 2012 ballot initiative that would raises taxes for K-12 public and charter schools as well as preschool programs. Specifically, the initiative would allocate 15 percent of the projected $10 billion revenue for early childhood education.
A judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in the Lobato v. State lawsuit, which argued that Colorado's public school funding does not meet the state's constitutional guarantee of a "thorough and uniform" education system and that additional funding could "meaningfully improve all students' achievements." While Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport stopped short of dictating the level of funding that would achieve this goal, she wrote that "any legislative response of necessity must address the level of funding necessary to meet the mandate of the Education Clause and the standards-based system …"

NIEER Director Steve Barnett had provided testimony as an expert witness for the plaintiffs, focusing on Colorado's Preschool Program (CPP) and full-day kindergarten, both of which are tied to the school funding formula. His written statement called for "additional investments in intensive, high-quality preschool education and full-day kindergarten … to make a significant contribution toward closing the large educational achievement and attainment gaps that are found in Colorado." The state is expected to appeal the decision to the Colorado Supreme Court, but advocates hope that the 2012 legislature will begin rectifying the funding situation.

This case is not a stand-alone - educational opportunity cases have been successfully argued in the past in Kansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Texas, and Wyoming.

This month the New York State Board of Regents released a proposal for state aid in the 2012-2013 school year, which includes an increase in spending for preschool education. Specifically, the proposal calls for an additional $53 million for pre-K, increasing the current funding level of $388 million to $441 million. This move could allow school districts to serve more children, helping to bring the state closer to its goal of universal access. As of the 2009-2010 school year, NIEER reports that the state's enrollment in the UPK program was limited to 45 percent of 4-year-olds and the program did not serve any 3-year-olds. Whether this proposal will be accepted remains to be seen when the 2012 executive budget is released in mid-January.
Last week, a new bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, calling for improvements to the provision and administration of education for American Indian tribes. Native Culture, Language, and Access for Success in Schools Act (Native CLASS) has a laundry list of changes to all facets of K-12 education and includes a requirement that states provide access to high-quality early education programs for American Indian children. Native CLASS also cedes more control over education to tribal governments. A nearly identical bill passed through the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs two months ago.

Calendar

January 31, 2012 - January 31, 2012
Garden Grove, CA - This conference will discuss child assessments and outcomes, examining research-based practices.
February 15, 2012 - February 16, 2012
Washington, DC - At this second summit on home-visiting programs, participants will explore the policy and practice behind the topic.
March 14, 2012 - March 16, 2012
Salt Lake City, UT - At this conference, participants will learn about and discuss research and best practices involving the use of technology in early childhood education.
March 28, 2012 - March 31, 2012
Washington, DC - This conference will challenge attendees to consider how to provide a positive childhood experience for the youth of the world.
April 12, 2012 - April 14, 2012
Dublin, Ireland - This conference will provide participants with the opportunity to engage in an interdisciplinary discussion about the development of Froebel's educational philosophy.
April 30, 2012 - May 3, 2012
Greensboro, NC - This conference provides professional development for early care and education leaders dedicated to improving access to and the quality of early childhood programs.

Early Education News Roundup

December 15, 2011
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN
Armed with statistics, Memphis Tomorrow and the city and county mayor are pressing the legislature to ramp up investments in prekindergarten, with the goal of nearly doubling the allotment, said Blair Taylor, executive director of Memphis Tomorrow.
December 14, 2011
The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Daytona Beach, FL
Voluntary prekindergarten programs are facing challenges similar to those at K-12 schools -- tougher testing standards coupled with diminishing state dollars. Florida screens incoming kindergarten students with a teacher-administered literacy test and an observational tool to make sure VPK programs are up to par.
December 13, 2011
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Full-day kindergarten is now the standard for three-fourths of young children nationwide, a tripling in enrollment that comes in response to research extolling the merits of the extra instruction.
December 13, 2011
The Star-Ledger
For the past 20 years, [Harriet] Worobey has been running a preschool that focuses on instilling good nutritional habits in its young students.
December 10, 2011
Wisconsin Rapids Tribune
An increasing number of 4-year-olds are going to school in Wisconsin, with enrollment numbers more than doubling during the past decade, according to recently released state Department of Public Instruction data.
December 10, 2011
Reno Gazette-Journal
A coalition of national education groups is advocating greater access to pre-kindergarten education and curriculum ties between pre-kindergarten and the third grade that would provide a firmer foundation for student achievement, a position also supported in the Washoe County School District.
December 8, 2011
Early Ed Watch blog (New America Foundation)
Though Congress is still working on full budgets for these programs within its nine remaining appropriations bills, funding is currently based on a temporary measure set to expire on December 16. This temporary measure – the FY 2012 CR in the chart above – has held funding for early education and other programs at fiscal year 2011 levels, save for a 1.503 percent across-the-board cut.
December 8, 2011
WLOX TV, Biloxi, MS
With business leaders overwhelmingly telling Blueprint Mississippi to make education a priority, officials want to improve the quality of both public and private early education programs. They believe the solution may be in a pilot program called Mississippi Building Blocks which seeks to improve children's readiness by improving the quality of early childhood programs and teacher proficiency.
December 7, 2011
Winston-Salem Journal
N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis hinted Monday that more money could be headed to state pre-kindergarten programs that took 20 percent cuts earlier this year. But Tillis said Tuesday that he was talking about adding flexibility to local education budgets, not the infusion of tax dollars that Gov. Bev Perdue, pre-K advocates and the superior court judge in charge of monitoring education spending in North Carolina have been seeking.
December 6, 2011
Brattleboro Reformer, Brattleboro, VT
Over the past few years Vermont has strengthened its early education system, but some of the biggest challenges in improving learning for all children might come from outside the pre-K system.
December 6, 2011
Education Week
As 46 states and the District of Columbia work this year to put the new curricular guidelines in place, preschool and early-childhood educators are determining how to balance the common standards' emphasis on increasing and measuring academic rigor with research findings on young children's developmental needs, which place a high value on play, the arts, social skills, and integrated instruction.
December 6, 2011
Hartford Courant
So, on Wednesday, a group of early childhood education advocates — who have praised Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as a champion of early childhood education — will hand-deliver letters to Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen urging the state to withdraw its motion in a school-funding lawsuit.
December 4, 2011
The Washington Times
Education officials are working on a partnership that builds on universal pre-kindergarten in the District and leverages the abilities of community-based organizations that formerly ran pre-K programs.

Resources

This library of two-page publications from Reading Rockets suggest activities and books for parents to share with young children to increase their knowledge of scientific concepts and expand their literacy skills by reading, writing, and learning new vocabulary.
Collaboratively produced by Results Matter, the Desired Results access Project, and the Early Childhood Outcomes Center, this video provides explanations and examples of three child outcomes – positive social relationships, acquisition and use of knowledge and skills, and emerging independence – adopted by the Office of Special Education Programs.
This podcast from the New America Foundation features a discussion with journalist Annie Murphy Paul on different kinds of play, including play-based learning.
This meta-analysis from the Center for Early Literacy Learning examines the relationship between children's personal and situation interests and their early literacy and language development. The authors discuss their findings in terms of how children's interests can be incorporated into activities promoting literacy.