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“The first of these cornerstones I would describe more fully as ‘resources available to children in their most formative years…’ One of the most consequential examples is early childhood education. Research shows that children from lower-income households who get good-quality pre-Kindergarten education are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college as well as hold a job and have higher earnings, and they are less likely to be incarcerated or receive public assistance…

“[A]ccess to quality early childhood education has improved since the 1990s, but it remains limited — 41 percent of children were enrolled in state or federally supported programs in 2013.”

Janet L. Yellen, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, speaking at the Conference on Economic Opportunity and Inequality, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, October 17, 2014

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

“Access to preschool programs — and their quality — varies widely across Texas,” according to a Houston Chronicle article, “Broad coalition pushes anew for expanded pre-K.”

These variations play out within and across school districts. Some schools offer full-day programs, others only run for a half a day. So children in programs that are only 10 miles apart can have vastly different experiences.

“Currently, Texas only pays for half day pre-kindergarten for at-risk 4 year-olds. There are no limits on those class sizes. And child-care providers don’t have to have a college degree,” an article on Houston Public Media’s website says.

The Chronicle says that NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research) estimates that “52 percent of 4-year-olds in Texas were enrolled in state-funded pre-K programs last year, and another 9 percent attended federal Head Start pre-K. Enrollment in private programs isn’t tracked.”

“According to data from the Texas Education Agency, 690 districts offered full-day pre-K programs – lasting four or more hours – and 347 districts had only half-day classes. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

How much is a college degree worth? Quite a lot, for students who major in chemical engineering. Their median lifetime earnings are more than $2 million.

But the median lifetime earnings of students who major in early childhood education – about $770,000 — is less than that of any other college major including social work, theology, fine arts and elementary education.

This disappointing news comes from a report — “Major Decisions: What Graduates Learn Over Their Lifetimes” — released last month by the Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative at the Brookings Institution.

“Drawing upon data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, we examine earnings for approximately 80 majors, focusing on both annual earnings for each year of the career and cumulative lifetime earnings,” the report explains.

Among the key findings:

“Majors that train students to work with children or provide counseling services tend to have graduates with the lowest earnings.” (more…)

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“Our most important obligation is to the next generation of Montanans, to ensure they have more opportunities to succeed than we did. It’s time that Montana give every four year-old
access to high-quality, early childhood education that will set them on a path to thrive through their educational career and beyond.”

Montana Governor Steve Bullock unveiling a $37 million early childhood proposal, October 13, 2014

 

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“The conversation on reducing the “word gap” in early childhood has reached new heights: Today the White House Office on Science and Technology is hosting a group of policymakers, researchers, and early childhood advocates to exchange ideas on how to help foster language development. The event is titled ‘Federal, State and Local Efforts to Bridge the Word Gap: Sharing Best Practices and Lessons Learned.'”

“At the White House: Mapping Innovations to Bridge the Word Gap,” Lisa Guernsey, director of the Learning Technologies Project and director of the Early Education Initiative in New America’s Education Policy Program, October 16, 2014 (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

As preschool programs around the country grow, parents need to know how to pick the best program for their children.

Take the case of New York:

“Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged that this year’s free pre-K classes would all be ‘high quality.’ But what does that look like?” Amy Zimmer asks in a DNAinfo NewYork article, “9 Signs of a Good Pre-K Program.” 

DNAinfo New York consulted with experts, “including those who’ve spent years in classrooms teaching 4-year-olds as well as professional development experts responsible for training pre-K teachers…”

Here’s the resulting nine-item list of what to look for. (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

The expansion of pre-K programs around the country has raised pressing questions regarding the early education workforce: Are there enough highly skilled preschool teachers to meet policymakers’ goals? If not, how do we develop the workforce we need to meet high standards and expectations? And perhaps most vexing, what should we pay them?

As a new report says, “it is a daunting challenge to ensure that all classrooms, whether in pre-kindergarten or in older grades, are staffed by teachers who are skilled at nurturing children’s curiosity and fostering learning.”

In addition, “It is also an urgently pressing challenge, given the persistent learning gap between children living in poverty and their more advantaged peers, and the poor academic performance of U.S. students on international achievement tests.”

The report — “Building a Skilled Teacher Workforce: Shared and Divergent Challenges in Early Care and Education and in Grades K-12” – was written by Marcy Whitebook, the director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, which is part of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. (more…)

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“If we make high-quality preschool available to every child, not only will we give our kids a safe place to learn and grow while their parents go to work; we’ll give them the start that they need to succeed in school and earn higher wages and form more stable families of their own. In fact, today, I’m setting a new goal: By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool. That is an achievable goal that we know will make our workforce stronger.”

President Barack Obama speaking at Northwestern University, October 2, 2014

An article in Education Week explains what the president’s goal of enrolling six million more children could mean for policymakers.

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