Volume 10, Issue 9

March 21, 2011

Hot Topics

While few believe that the 22 percent cut to Head Start funding proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives will survive in the Senate, the House bill has stimulated an outpouring of support for maintaining funding, not least from the child development research community. Despite disappointing findings from a recent government-funded study of program impacts and a Government Accountability Office investigation of some program's enrollment practices, many experts say this is no time to reduce funding for the program. They emphasize positive findings regarding Head Start's long-term impacts, bold reforms launched by the Obama administration, and increased need for the program due to the recession.
Education Week reports that literacy programs at the U.S. Department of Education face new budget pressures, most recently by way of $350 million in cuts contained in the March 2nd stopgap spending bill in the House of Representatives. While the prospect remains that at least some of those cuts may be reversed, a larger pattern of reduced funding for literacy efforts prevails. Congress eliminated Reading First and Even Start in recent years and funding for Striving Readers, the literacy program for birth to grade 12 remains uncertain as part of that money is not yet committed. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is placing greater emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.
The Savannah Morning News reports that Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has modified his proposal to reduce the Bright Start pre-K program from a full day to a half day of services. Instead, he is proposing to shorten the school year from 180 to 160 days and add two more children to the maximum class size — going from 20 to 22 kids. The change is intended to eliminate the problems associated with transportation and parent work schedules the half day plan would cause. Deal says it will help alleviate waiting lists for the program in some areas, but early educators are concerned that the increased class size will reduce program effectiveness.
Every seven years, Seattle voters consider the Family and Education Levy, a measure that supports services ranging from career guidance to preschool education and this November it goes on the ballot again. Paul Nyhan, Birth to Thrive Online blogger, says the proposal could be worth up to $234 million and double the number of slots in one of the city's main preschool programs. Voters have never voted down the levy but he points out they've never gone to the ballot box in such a severe economic downturn.
New findings by NIEER scientific advisory board member Greg J. Duncan, University of California, and Katherine Magnuson, University of California, show that an income boost of $3,000 for families with young children earning less than $25,000 per year improved educational achievement and substantially increased the future earnings of the family's children when they reached adulthood. The reverse was true for low-income families with young children whose income declined. Duncan and Magnuson say instead of cutting programs that support the incomes of low-income families with young children, we should be thinking about increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
A NIEER co-sponsored one-day April 29th conference at Princeton University will target specific educational issues regarding early English Language Learners. The purpose is to bridge research and practice by highlighting research-based methods, provide an overview of early ELL research, and focus on practical solutions to child and classroom assessment and professional development. NIEER speakers include co-director Ellen Frede and assistant research professor Shannon Riley-Ayers. Other sponsors are The Future of Children Journal and The Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton.

New on nieer.org

A new NIEER policy brief examines the impact of state-funded pre-K expansion on the quality and supply of child care in New York and Ohio. Diane Schilder of the Education Development Center, Inc., and colleagues present the results of their analyses of qualitative data, secondary data, and policy. They also address policy considerations regarding pre-K expansion that have the potential to positively impact child care quality and access for low-income working families. Schilder is our guest blogger at Preschool Matters …Today!

Calendar

April 15, 2011 - April 16, 2011
Denver, CO -- This regional conference will offer workshops covering early childhood education topics relevant to teachers, administrators, researchers, health professionals, and policymakers.
May 2, 2011 - May 5, 2011
Greensboro, NC – The National Smart Start Conference is hailed as the nation's largest conference devoted to early education systems and strategies.
May 12, 2011 - May 14, 2011
Wheeling, IL – The Leadership Connections conference is a professional development opportunity designed for teachers, administrators, family child care providers, trainers, and consultants.
July 10, 2011 - July 13, 2011
Orlando, FL – The CAYL Institute will hold its third national conference for elementary school principals in Orlando, Florida.

Early Education News Roundup

March 21, 2011
MLive.com
Early ed was spared in Gov. Rick Snyder's budget – unlike funding for K-12 and the state's 15 public universities – so that demonstrates that it's a priority. But last year, Michigan was one of 17 states to chop early childhood funds – and percentage-wise, only five states cut more.
March 17, 2011
Williamsport Sun-Gazette, Williamsport, PA
About 85,000 children are enrolled in full-day kindergarten in Pennsylvania, and 75 percent of those children are enrolled in programs funded by ABG grants, according to Kathy Geller Myers, communication director for PA Promise for Children. Last year, about 1,370 children throughout Lycoming County were enrolled in full-day kindergarten.
March 15, 2011
Education Week
Supporters of Head Start are feeling under siege in the federal budget battle, fearing that the kind of deep cuts they've seen proposed in Congress would likely have ripple effects hurting state pre-K and after-school programs for elementary school children.
March 14, 2011
South Bend Tribune, South Bend, IN
For more than a decade, the project, part of the Community Foundation's "The Early Years Count" initiative, has been helping improve the quality of early childhood education in St. Joseph County … Focusing on supporting professional development for child-care workers, the initiative goes into classrooms, assessing teachers and the environment in which learning is taking place.
March 13, 2011
News-Leader, Springfield, MO
Missouri faces a funding crisis. Unfortunately, educational programs often take the worst hits in times like these. Early childhood education programs, in particular, are easy to target, but cutting funding to such programs is shortsighted.
March 10, 2011
The New York Times
Head Start was chosen for large cuts in the House spending bill because members of the Appropriations Committee concluded that the program was getting too much money given what they felt was its effectiveness, and that too much of its financing had gone to administrative costs rather than new enrollment. In addition, a Government Accountability Office report last year found eight instances of fraud, in which families with too high an income were enrolled in the program. Further, they cited research questioning the program's effectiveness.
March 9, 2011
The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, IA
Iowa's free public preschool program would be repealed and replaced with a sliding-scale payment system under a hotly debated bill approved Tuesday night by the Iowa House.
March 9, 2011
The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, PA
Public schools would see a $550 million cut in basic-education funding under Corbett's 2011-12 budget. It would eliminate about $259.5 million in accountability block grants, which fund kindergarten and early childhood education.
March 8, 2011
Norwich Bulletin, Norwich, CT
A new report on the skills and experience of Connecticut's early childhood education workers and caregivers is coming out. Connecticut legislators and education advocates say it includes demographic information such as providers' average age, education level, ethnicity and years of experience.
March 7, 2011
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Gov. Nathan Deal announced Monday that he's backing off plans to cut the state's nationally lauded pre-kindergarten program from full-time to part-time, a move that critics said would have disrupted the lives of 84,000 4-year-olds and their families, and had the program's quality teachers fleeing.

Resources

In his new book, David Brooks, author and columnist for The New York Times draws on a wealth of current research from numerous disciplines to reveal numerous aspects of human development including the social nature of humans. Brooks takes a fictional couple, Harold and Erica from infancy to school to adulthood. In the course of doing so he examines the obstacles posed by poverty and looks at the nature of attachment, love, commitment and leadership. Also explored are what he views as our over-emphasis on rationalism, individualism, and IQ.
This 2nd edition of Rita Smilkstein's book provides research-based strategies for creating a student-centered curriculum. It breaks down the Natural Human Learning Process (NHLP) into six stages, providing guidelines and models from which h educators can create learning experiences at each stage of the process for individuals, small groups, and whole classes. It combines field/classroom experience and neuroscience research to develop principles for what the book describes as brain-compatible learning.
The report says nearly half the states now have systems that meet what the Data for Action campaign deems the 10 critical elements for collecting longitudinal data on individual students and teachers from kindergarten through college and career. All states and the District of Columbia have put into place four of the 10 elements: a unique student-identification code that links information from various agencies through the years; student-level data on enrollment, demographics, and participation in specific programs; the ability to match student test data from one year to the next to calculate growth in achievement; and the ability to track individual students who graduate or drop out of school each year.
This new primer for business writers from the Hechinger Institute explains the connection between early education and economic development. Journalists benefit from an overview of the multiple players in the early childhood arena, story ideas and a list of researchers and organizations that can serve as sources. It also examines the economic analyses of early education and provides a review of the research evidence.