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Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Next year, the federal Head Start program will turn 50 years old. But the celebration and the reflection are starting now, creating an opportunity to revisit the program’s past and consider the changes it will undergo in the future.

Education Week Looks at Head Start

“Few other federal programs so fully embody the heady optimism and charge-ahead spirit of the War on Poverty as Head Start, envisioned 50 years ago as part of that sweeping presidential initiative and brought to life in the summer of 1965,” Christina A. Samuels writes in the Education Week article, “Head Start Endures, Evolves as 50-Year Milestone Nears.”

The article continues with this quote from President Johnson about the birth of Head Start: “Five- and 6-year-old children are inheritors of poverty’s curse and not its creators.” Johnson was announcing the creation of the Head Start Project in a May 1965 speech in the White House Rose Garden. He added: “Unless we act, these children will pass it on to the next generation, like a family birthmark.”

But as the article notes, “the seeds of questions that Head Start has faced throughout its history were in many ways contained in its ambitious beginning.” (more…)

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U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Education

Last week, federal officials announced that applications are available for a new $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition, funding that will help states start new high-quality preschool programs or expand existing ones.

Jointly administered by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, the program is meant to help close the opportunity gap for the nation’s youngest children.

“Preschool Development Grants are not intended to simply add more seats to just any existing state-level program; there is a strong focus on program quality,” Ed Central, a New America Foundation blog, explains.

And as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a Department of Education press release, “This new grant competition will prepare states to participate in President Obama’s proposed Preschool for All program — a federal-state partnership that would promote access to full-day kindergarten and encourage the expansion of high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds from low- and middle-income families.” (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Last week, NPR Ed — which explores how learning happens — ran a series called Playing to Learn, a multimedia look at “why people play and how play relates to learning.” It’s a delightful summertime look at how play engages and educates children — and adults.

Here’s a sample of the Playing to Learn reports.

Where the Wild Things Play

“Free and unstructured play: It’s vital for children,” NPR host Melissa Block says in the introduction to this report. “Research shows a connection between play and kids’ social, emotional, and cognitive development. But playtime in America’s cities is in decline.”

Fortunately, NPR reporter Eric Westervelt finds a stronghold of play at an adventure playground in Berkeley. It’s a “free-range, public playground” where “kids have to talk to each other, problem solve — and they get messy together.”

But as this report explains, “play is in trouble.” Recess has been trimmed. And play is increasingly more structured and controlled. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Michigan and New York City have recently undertaken the exciting but daunting work of expanding their pre-K programs. These two early education expansion efforts are among the largest and most ambitious in the country.

How are they doing? To find out, the National Women’s Law Center hosted a conference call to discuss what’s underway in both places. The call covered a wide range of topics that provide important insight for other cities and states seeking to expand high-quality early education and care.

Moderated by Helen Blank, NWLC’s director of child care and early learning, the discussion featured the following speakers:

- Susan Broman, Deputy Superintendent for the Office of Great Start, Michigan Department of Education

- Betty Holcomb, Director of Public Policy, Center for Children’s Initiatives, New York City

- Nancy Kolben, Executive Director, Center for Children’s Initiatives, New York City, and

- Richard Lower, Supervisor for Preschool and Early Elementary Programs, Michigan Department of Education

A transcript of the call and a recording are available online. (more…)

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Photo: Courtesy of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, University of Washington

Photo: Courtesy of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, University of Washington

Babies who babble are actually rehearsing, according to a new study. As early as seven months, those vocalizing babies are practicing the movements they will need to start forming words, Patricia Kuhl explained recently in an interview on NPR.

Kuhl is the co-direcor of the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.

To do this research, Kuhl and her research team used a magnetoencephalography, a brain scanner also called MEG. Babies sat in the brain scanner, which “resembles an egg-shaped vintage hair dryer and is completely safe for infants,” according to a University of Washington news release, which adds, “The Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences was the first in the world to use such a tool to study babies while they engaged in a task.” (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

A recent article in the Washington Post calls for strengthening the economy by investing in workforce development — starting with high-quality early childhood education programs. Written by Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, the piece builds on the Fed’s history of support for early childhood programs.

In the article — “Investing in people as an economic growth strategy”— Lacker focuses in part on the current and historically high long-term unemployment rate.

“Given the limitations of monetary policy, what can be done to improve labor market outcomes in the long run?” He asks.

“At the Richmond Fed, our research suggests that much of what we’re currently seeing in the labor market reflects structural trends rather than a primarily cyclical change in labor market behavior. That has prompted us to think about long-term strategies to prepare workers for the labor market.” (more…)

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“We can now make the audacious claim that Detroit is poised to become a city regarded as home to a model of early childhood education excellence.

“We can’t blame anyone for being skeptical. Headlines claim early intervention programs don’t produce lasting effects, and that nothing has changed in Detroit.

“But a new spirit of cooperation is emerging. People working together across sectors, organizations and neighborhoods is becoming the new business as usual. Replacing what was unsustainable and ineffective are new collaborative models that are breaking the cycle of poverty and ensuring children receive necessary support to achieve success. A pooling of resources from federal, state and local initiatives will help establish Detroit as a model of early intervention success.”

“Detroit Can Model Early Childhood Success,” a guest column in the Detroit Free Press about the Birth-to-Five pilot for Head Start and Early Head Start services, written by Robert Shaw, CEO of Development Centers; William Jones, CEO of Focus: HOPE; John Van Camp, CEO of Southwest Solutions; and Ann Kalass, CEO of Starfish Family Services, July 29, 2014

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