Early Education in the News

Christian Science Monitor
November 5, 2015

Even Janet Yellen, the head of the Federal Reserve, has chimed in, highlighting research that points to preschool attendance's correlation with later-in-life success, particularly for poorer children, as measured by degrees, income, and imprisonment. 

What worries Seattle outdoor educator Andrew Jay is who's not going to preschool. Families in what he calls the "forgotten middle" are often forced to forgo ECE, he says, as childcare becomes outrageously expensive. Washington couples making less than $29,000 per year receive free ECE, but on the open market, the average preschool bill runs to $12,000.

Mr. Jay is the CEO of Tiny Trees, a preschool design launching in September 2016, which he says can lower costs and build young children's social and mental skills. There's just one catch: it's outside.


October 29, 2015

A report released this week by the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now concluded the statewide achievement gap begins in early childhood and offered recommendations for how the state can improve educational outcomes in traditionally underserved communities by improving access to pre-kindergarten programs.

"We have to recognize that achievement gaps appear very early," said ConnCAN Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Alexander.

Alexander said the report was a way for the organization to join the conversation about early childhood education, which she said fits ConnCAN's belief that "every child should have access to quality education, regardless of race, zip code or economic status."

October 28, 2015

Over the past three years, California has more than quadrupled the number of early childhood centers being evaluated with a new rating system, but that is still just a fraction of the state’s publicly subsidized programs.

The U.S. Department of Education released Tuesday a progress report of the 20 states, including California, that received federal Early Learning Challenge grants starting in 2011. The grants, part of the Race to the Top program, were meant to improve publicly funded early learning programs with systems to rate their quality, as well as track health screenings and assess children’s readiness for kindergarten.

U.S. Department of Education
October 28, 2015

The U.S. Department of Education released a report today that shows Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge states are rapidly improving the quality of early learning programs while enrolling more children, especially from low- and moderate income families, in the highest-quality programs.

What’s more, thousands more children are receiving health screenings to help detect medical or developmental issues earlier, the report shows. The report comes from the annual performance reviews for the 20 states that have received more than $1 billion in Early Learning Challenge grants since 2011. These reports capture the successes achieved and obstacles overcome by states in the last year.

October 26, 2015

It comes as no surprise that the quality of a program matters. The Tennessee evaluation reinforces the importance of quality and Utah, Georgia, and North Carolina demonstrate the benefits that can be generated when quality is present.

But that’s only part of the story.

Children develop on a continuum and the years between birth-through-eight represent a unique period on that continuum, when brain architecture is forming. 

To build a strong foundation for learning and third-grade reading, children need good health, strong families, and high quality, developmentally appropriate early learning environments through third grade.

Chalkbeat Colorado
October 26, 2015

A recent landmark study out of Tennessee upended the conventional wisdom about the power of preschool and raised questions nationwide, including in Colorado, about how to leverage early education to produce long-lasting impacts.

The Vanderbilt University study revealed that at-risk students who participated in Tennessee’s publicly-funded preschool program showed significant gains initially, but by third grade performed worse than non-participants on both academic and behavior measures.

Early childhood experts here say the study underscores the need for quality in both preschool and subsequent K-3 instruction, but that the findings don’t match Colorado data showing that academic benefits of preschool do stick.

“You don’t have the same story in Colorado,” said Charlotte Brantley, president and CEO of Denver’s Clayton Early Learning.

Chalkbeat Colorado
October 26, 2015

A recent landmark study out of Tennessee upended the conventional wisdom about the power of preschool and raised questions nationwide, including in Colorado, about how to leverage early education to produce long-lasting impacts.
The Vanderbilt University study revealed that at-risk students who participated in Tennessee’s publicly-funded preschool program showed significant gains initially, but by third grade performed worse than non-participants on both academic and behavior measures. Early childhood experts here say the study underscores the need for quality in both preschool and subsequent K-3 instruction, but that the findings don’t match Colorado data showing that academic benefits of preschool do stick. . .

But Dale Farran, one of the Vanderbilt study authors, said such data—part of an annual report to the Colorado legislature—doesn’t rigorously match preschool children to comparison group children. Instead of matching them prior to the preschool year, they’re matched after-the-fact in first grade—leaving many unknowns about parent motivation, poverty status and skill levels when the comparison children were 4.

Yahoo News
October 26, 2015

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has a new business venture, and no, it's not in tech.

Under the leadership of Zuckerberg's wife, Priscilla Chan, the couple is planning to open their own school in Palo Alto, Calif. The Primary School will serve the children of East Palo Alto and Belle Haven, Kindergarten through grade 12. More distinctively, the school will also provide its students health care services from birth to graduation.

“I'm so proud of Priscilla for starting The Primary School – a new kind of school that brings education and healthcare together,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “Health and education are closely connected. When children aren't healthy, they can't learn as easily. . .”

"There's a lot more to learning and development than test scores," W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, tells NPR in May. "And so if it only has modest impacts, it's probably worth it."

October 23, 2015

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced that students in Georgia's Pre-K program show educational improvement in key areas and progress at a greater rate while participating in the program, according to a recent study. The results are part of a multi-year evaluation by the Frank Porter Graham Childhood Development Institute at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

'Ensuring Georgia's youngest scholars continue to benefit from Georgia's highly ranked Pre-K program is one of my top priorities,' said Deal. 'This study confirms that Georgia is on the right track. Our Pre-K program helps students acquire the foundation necessary for a solid education, puts them on track to read at grade level by the third grade and assists in developing essential skills which will lead to academic excellence and future success.'

Yahoo News
October 21, 2015

 The Pritzker Children's Initiative of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation and The Bridgespan Group released a new paper that estimates that 1 in 4 kindergarteners nationwide – 1 million total – come from low-income families and enter school not fully ready to learn. In response to this overwhelming statistic, a new guide for funders outlines numerous specific, evidence-based, early childhood investment opportunities that have been shown to help ensure children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn so that they achieve success throughout their lives.

St. Louis Public Radio
October 21, 2015

Nationwide, there are more expulsions in preschool than any other grade level. In Missouri, one out of every 10 preschool-age children is expelled. Deeper into that statistic, African American boys are three times more likely to be expelled than other children in preschool.

“We need to have schools ready for children, not children ready for schools, particularly in preschool,” Zwolak said on Tuesday’s “St. Louis on the Air.” “We need to be prepared to receive children who are coming from many different backgrounds. And we need to tool up teachers on what that really means for them.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch
October 20, 2015

"There is widespread consensus among the business community, and growing bipartisan consensus among public officials, that investments in early childhood are the best long-term investments we can make in our workforce, in our educational system and the overall well-being of our commonwealth,” he said.

Koonce spoke at a meeting on the economics of early childhood education hosted by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce at the University of Richmond.

Virginia’s economy will need more than 2 million new workers over the next 10 years, he said. Businesses have traditionally devoted resources to training adults for jobs, he said, “but it is a equally, if not more important, for the private sector to be involved at the start of the pipeline.”

He said businesses and public officials need to consider how resources might better be allocated to serve “high-quality pre-K programs that have accountability and performance measurements in place.”

The quality of early childhood education can be linked to educational outcomes later in life, said John Weinberg, a staff economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.


October 20, 2015

Each fall, a new crop of preschoolers sets out for their first taste of formal education. Usually, this means kids in classrooms, playing with blocks, painting, and training their bodies to sit still for what will be the next 13 years in a classroom. But right now a new experiment in early education is playing out in parks around Seattle, Washington. At Fiddleheads Forest School, three and four-year-olds will spend their whole school day outside — playing in the mud, climbing over logs, and learning about bugs and birds. Even in famously rainy Seattle, there are no buildings for this school. If there’s a storm, they take cover in a greenhouse.

The Fiddleheads “classroom” is a clearing under a canopy of cedar, fir, and maple trees in Washington Park Arboretum. Sprinkled around the clearing are different “stations” — a circle of logs to sit and eat lunch on, several more upturned cedar logs that are being used as tables for painting or for reading. The “Science,” station has laminated cards diagraming the life cycle of a preying mantis, a microscope, and a plastic terrarium to entomb the students’ captured crickets.

Children's Institute
October 16, 2015

Today, the Children’s Institute is releasing the results of our recentOregon School District Preschool Survey. The report shows which Oregon school districts have preschool programs, and details how they operate the programs. 

As part of our focus on the learning and healthy development of children from birth through third grade, the Children’s Institute is committed to increasing access to preschool and ensuring preschool programs meet quality standards. Preschool is a critical piece of Oregon’s vision of a P-20 education continuum, from preschool through advanced college degree. And we know that high-quality preschool can help close the persistent opportunity gap between children in poverty and their more affluent peers.

Yet only a fraction of children from low-income Oregon families have access to quality preschool.

The Washington Post
October 12, 2015

Can 4-year-olds learn what they need to know for kindergarten by sitting in front of a computer for 15 minutes a day?

Utah is betting they can. This year, more than 6,600 children across the state are learning by logging on to laptops at home in a taxpayer-funded online preschool program that is unlike any other.

This is preschool without circle time on the carpet, free play with friends and real, live teachers. In online preschool, children navigate through a series of lessons, games and songs with the help of a computer mouse and two animated raccoons named Rusty and Rosy. It’s a sign of the growing interest among educators in using technology to customize learning, even for the youngest children. It also gives children who might otherwise not get any preparation for elementary school a chance to experience an academic program. But it’s also missing some ingredients — especially social and emotional learning — that many experts and parents consider central to the education of young children.

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."

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.

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.

September 30, 2015

"If your program isn't very good, you can't expect it to have long-term impact on kids," says Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. He helped create the benchmarks that many states use to measure the quality of their pre-K programs.

Barnett says Tennessee's program looks good on paper but that the state made a few key mistakes when it scaled the program up to more than 900 classrooms across 95 counties. First, it created no mechanism for quality control to make sure teachers were following best practices from one end of the state to the other. Also, Barnett says, the state underfunded the program.