Early Education in the News

The Washington Post
October 9, 2015

A new study finds strong evidence that delaying kindergarten by a year provides mental health benefits to children, allowing them to better self-regulate their attention and hyperactivity levels when they do start school. The study, titled “The Gift of Time? School Starting Age and Mental Health” and published this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found that these benefits — which are obviously important to student achievement — persist at least until age 11. . .

There is a loud debate in the United States and other developed countries about the proper age to start formal schooling — with ever-younger students being put into school with formal academic work. Many early childhood experts have expressed concern about forcing very young children to sit and do academic work, arguing that kids learn best through structured play.  

October 9, 2015

Low-income students who change schools frequently are at risk for lower math scores and have a harder time managing their behavior and attention in the classroom than similar students who stay in the same school, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
Children who experienced fewer school transitions over a five-year period, demonstrated greater cognitive skills and higher math achievement in early elementary school, relative to their counterparts who changed schools frequently. This research, which involved children enrolled in the Chicago public school system, held true even after taking into account children’s cognitive and math skills during Head Start preschool programs. It was published in the APA journal Developmental Psychology®.

“Simply stated, frequently changing schools is a major risk factor for low-income children’s school success,” said the study’s lead author, Allison Friedman-Krauss, PhD, of New York University.

Journal Star
October 8, 2015

Last year the Buffett Institute began a “workforce development program” designed to enhance the skills of the people who provide child care and teaching to children from birth to third grade.

As part of the institute’s outreach, Samuel J. Meisels, director, and other officials with the Buffett institute have met with community leaders all across the state.

The problems experienced by children in early childhood can change the architecture of the brain and become an ingredient in a generational “transmission of failure,” Meisels told educators in Scottsbluff earlier this year.

"We have what we think is a wonderful vision for the institute that Nebraska will be the best place in the nation to be a baby,” he said.

Portland Tribune
October 8, 2015

The new Early Learning Division of the Oregon Department of Education scored a major victory in the 2015 Oregon Legislature with a bill to expand government-paid preschool programs. Preschool Promise will offer services to families making up to twice the federal poverty level (currently $24,250 for a family of four).

Recently released data from the research and advocacy group Children First for Oregon show that 385,000 children, nearly half of the total in the state, live in or near poverty.

“It helps us to expand access to individuals who are at a higher level of the poverty threshold, but still fall into that space where the ability to afford preschool or child care might be out of reach for their families,” says Director Megan Irwin, who has led the division since it began in July 2013. “What that bill did was create a new system for preschool in our state.”

Fifty-seven school districts in Oregon currently operate a preschool program. The Early Learning Division expects to expand that to 16 more programs serving 1,400 more preschoolers by September 2016.

The Boston Globe
October 7, 2015

Child-care costs would now devour at least 30 percent of a minimum-wage worker’s earnings in every state, a new report from the Economic Policy Institute has found. Such workers in New York and Massachusetts would have to fork over more than 80 percent of their annual earnings, according to the findings, published Tuesday. In Washington, D.C., they’d need to throw in everything - plus extra: 102 percent of a minimum-wage salary is required to cover the average annual cost of infant care.

This election cycle, the price of day care has emerged as a hot topic among presidential hopefuls . Democratic contenders say the burden breaks middle-class budgets, often trumping the rent check. Hillary Rodham Clinton, for example, has called for more government money to support public child-care programs. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), her biggest challenger on the left so far, advocates for universal preschool and paid family leave. Conservative voices are also starting to join the national conversation: Last month, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) became the first Republican candidate to address the problem with a policy proposal, announcing a new tax break for companies that offer paid leave to employees. Nearly 11 million children younger than 5 in the United States depend on some type of weekly child care arrangement, according to Child Care Aware of America, which tracks national data.

Education World
October 7, 2015

Are states able to expand preschool access without a court order? That's what Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is hoping. Though the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled six years ago that the state was responsible for providing a certain level of education to all, it did not specify preschool. As a result, educators, lawmakers and parents are sparring over how the state should set out to expand preschool access to the state's young learners. 

The Dallas Morning News
October 7, 2015

Just a few years ago, only about one in three Dallas kindergartners started school on grade level. Most were up to a year behind their peers, which experts say is difficult to make up.

So starting in 2013, Dallas began overhauling prekindergarten to build a stronger curriculum, enroll more students and provide teachers with more focused training and support so that the district would have a high-quality program.But when school started this year, Dallas officials were shocked to see a 10-point gain that meant that now 51 percent of all kindergartners are on grade level.

“That’s a meteoric lift,” said Alan Cohen, an assistant superintendent who oversees early childhood education in Dallas. “It’s not a time for victory laps. We have a long, long way to go. But our efforts in pre-K are definitely starting to yield results.”

US News & World Report
October 6, 2015

It's not that the low-income children who went to preschool are regressing, but that the children who didn't go to preschool are catching up. Consider this analogy: In New York City, where I live, some families start teaching their babies to swim at age 2. My daughter didn't begin swim lessons until age 6. But by age 8, perhaps my daughter will be swimming as well as the other kids. That would be calculated as complete "fadeout" in the data if the early swimmers cannot maintain their achievement lead over my daughter.

Among giant statewide or urban preschool programs, as they actually exist in the real world, rigorous research is scarce. Like the small, higher-quality programs, the large-scale programs tend to find an initial benefit from a preschool education at the start of kindergarten, but not a very large one. And this small preschool boost fades and becomes very weak by third grade, or disappears altogether. Even in Tulsa, Oklahoma – which is reputed to have one of the best publicly funded preschool programs in the country – researchers found one cohort of students who had attended preschool scoring the same on a third grade math test as students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds who hadn't gone to preschool. In a second cohort, researchers found only a small benefit from preschool by third grade.

"If you look at every study on preschool, fadeout is pervasive," said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. "You have to have a really big immediate effect to get any effects in the long term. And these can be squandered if the school system isn't good enough."

Washington Monthly
October 6, 2015

So why are the skills gained in Tennessee’s pre-K program fading? There are two leading explanations.

First, Tennessee’s pre-K program might not be as high-quality as the high-level indicators suggest. Just because a state seemingly has the right policies in place does not mean that those policies are implemented as intended. TN-VPK programs are supposed to follow a host of high-level quality benchmarks, but fidelity of implementation may be a problem. TN-VPK expanded quickly and the program may not have retained its quality when it scaled up. In fact, the study finds that TN-VPK quality varies significantlythroughout the state. For instance, classroom-level indicators that predict child outcomes, like quality of instruction and the interactions between children and teachers, are likely inconsistent throughout the state.

The second explanation has to do with the years after pre-K. There is no doubt that pre-K and the years before kindergarten are important. We know that “the word gap” is well pronounced by age two, if not earlier. And we know that high quality pre-K can leave children more prepared for kindergarten. While the results of this study are disappointing, Tennessee’s pre-K program does do what pre-K is intended to do– it prepares students for kindergarten. Some programs, likeBoston’s pre-K program, are found to have lasting effects on their own, but it is unreasonable to assume that attending pre-K for one year is by itself enough to close the pronounced achievement gap in our country.

In order for the gains made in TN-VPK to be sustained past kindergarten, children must continue to have access to appropriate learning environments in the early grades. 

AAP News
October 6, 2015

“As a pediatrician, I know that when children have access to Head Start and other high-quality early education, they are healthier and do better in school,” said AAP Executive Director/CEO Karen Remley, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., FAAP. “When we improve the health and trajectory of our youngest children, we improve the health of entire communities, which is critical for the future success of our nation.”

The Tennessean
October 6, 2015

The weight of the evidence is on the side of pre-K, that early intervention works. What government has not yet found is the political will to put that understanding into full practice with a sequence of smart schooling that provides the early foundation, then systematically builds on it.

For this high purpose, our schools need both the talent and the organization to educate each child who arrives at the schoolhouse door. Some show up ready, but many do not at this critical time when young brains are developing rapidly.
Latin Post
October 6, 2015

Quality early childhood education has a substantial influence on future employment, education and health outcomes, according to a new report published in late September. The research highlighted findings within the Latino community and demonstrated the economic power of investing in early childhood education.

Center-based child care and public pre-K programs have tremendous effects on low-income Latino children, particularly when it comes to kindergarten readiness. Early education also impacts academic achievement and young Latinos' capacity for learning through third grade.

One quarter of U.S. children are Hispanic, and by 2050 it's expected that one in three will be Hispanic. Because Hispanic children are increasingly become a greater share of the educational system, it's necessary to place vested interest in the community, as they will become a large portion of the nation's future workforce.

Edinburgh News
October 6, 2015

Children growing up in poverty have fallen almost a year behind their more affluent peers by the time they start primary school, councillors will be told tomorrow.

An emergency city council report on poverty reveals that by the age of five, youngsters from poorer backgrounds can be ten months behind their classmates when it comes to problem-
solving and vocabulary skills.

Chicago Tribune via Washington Post
October 6, 2015

What if we could draw a line from key areas of a low-income child's brain to a policy intervention that would dramatically reduce his or her chances of staying in poverty, dropping out of school and entering the criminal justice or social welfare system? Wouldn't we want to make that policy prescription as widely available as any vaccination against childhood disease?

Thanks to remarkable advances in neuroscience and the social sciences, we are closing in on this possibility.

In a study published this year in Nature Neuroscience, several co-authors and I found that family income is significantly correlated with children's brain size — specifically, the surface area of the cerebral cortex, which is the outer layer of the brain that does most of the cognitive heavy lifting. Further, we found that increases in income were associated with the greatest increases in brain surface area among the poorest children.

Not surprisingly, our findings made many people uncomfortable. Some feared the study would be used to reinforce the notion that people remain in poverty because they are less capable than those with higher incomes.

As neuroscientists, we interpret the results very differently. 

The CT Mirror
October 6, 2015

There's agreement that too few children in Connecticut have access to quality preschool programs, but top state officials are butting heads with a coalition of parents and educators on how to put a near-universal system in place.

Attorney General George Jepsen argues that whether the state pays for universal preschool is an issue that should remain with lawmakers. His office is defending the State Department of Education and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in a school-funding lawsuit brought by a coalition of parents, school boards, municipal leaders and teachers' unions.

The coalition worries that lawmakers will continue to look at the budgets for early education programs as places to find money when times are tight.

A Jan. 11 trial date is set on the case that will determine whether the state is meeting its constitutional obligation to provide all students a quality education. Among other things, Hartford Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher will soon have to determine whether evidence relating to preschool access will be permitted.

October 1, 2015

Research shows quality early childhood education has significant positive impacts on the education, employment, and health outcomes later in life. A new report highlights these findings within the Latino community and again demonstrates that there is tremendous economic power in the public investment in early childhood education.

The report shows that public pre-K programs and subsidized center-based child care for low-income Latino children has positive effects on their kindergarten readiness and their academic achievement and their ability to learn through third grade.

Hispanic children currently make up roughly one in four of all children in the United States, and by 2050 are projected to make up one in three – similar to the number of non-Hispanic, white children. How this growing segment of the population fares as the rise through the educational system is an important indicator of our future workforce.

The Advocate
October 1, 2015

The growing emphasis on math and science instruction in elementary and secondary grades is almost nowhere to be found in many preschools and early childhood settings, an expert in the field told a Baton Rouge audience Wednesday.

Kimberly Brenneman, program officer for education at the Heising-Simons Foundation in Los Altos, California, laid out for an audience of more than 150 people gathered at the Crowne Plaza hotel what she described as a dismal state of affairs.

She summarized what researchers have found observing preschool classrooms. In one study, researchers found that during a six-hour day, just 58 seconds were devoted to math. Another, observing a prekindergarten for a day, found 3 percent of the time was occupied by teaching math, and only 1 percent on science. And yet another covering 49 hours in six classrooms found no math taught at all.

When surveyed, though, early childhood educators tell researchers that they are interested in incorporating more such instruction — STEM, as it’s called these days, short for science, technology, engineering and math — into their classrooms, but they have little training or experience in actually teaching it.

NJ Spotlight
October 1, 2015

One of the Garden State’s best-kept secrets may be that it has succeeded in preschool precisely because it has done the hard work that other states have not.

In part, this is because New Jersey’s Supreme Court mandated that the state do so for 31 school districts that were part of the landmark Abbott v. Burke case. The court required New Jersey to fund and implement a program that is much more like the one I studied 30 years ago than any other program in the country.

To the state’s credit, the state Department of Education has put in place a rigorous and extensive support and oversight system that has raised and maintained quality for more than a decade.

Direct observation of teaching conducted every year shows that the vast majority of “Abbott” Pre-K classrooms are good to excellent. When I take visitors from other states and countries to see these classrooms they are stunned at their excellence – a common reaction is “We do the same curriculum, but it doesn’t look like this.”

October 1, 2015

The Education Law Center renewed a plea this week to increase state funding and expand preschool for 16 poor New Jersey school districts, including four in Ocean County.

The Newark-based law center has spent years fighting state cuts to these schools, referred to as "Bacon" districts because of their original lawsuit.

The districts – which include public schools in Lakewood, Lakehurst, Little Egg Harbor and Waretown – are unable to provide a constitutionally-required "thorough and efficient education" because of reduced state aid, law center Executive Director David Sciarra said Wednesday inside Superior Court in Toms River.

October 1, 2015

For example, a study of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Pre-K program showed that children who attended Tulsa’s preschool program demonstrated persistent education gains, better retention rates, better attitudes about school, and less absenteeism into 8th grade. Tulsa’s Pre-K program also showed gains in cognitive abilities, executive function and social skills. North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas and New Jersey are other high quality programs that have delivered high quality results.

“High quality preschool programs are being replicated and scaled in states with good results,” continued Perry. “We know what works and what doesn’t. The Tennessee study adds to this body of knowledge. Fortunately, Tennessee now has the information it needs to improve its program and its outcomes.”