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Image: Courtesy of NIEER

Image: the National Institute for Early Education Research

Yesterday, NIEER released its 2014 Yearbook, the organization’s annual look at the state of preschool programs nationwide and in each state.

The yearbook’s headline news: Pre-K programs continue to recover from the funding cuts of the 2008 recession, but inequities continue.

“It is heartening to see state-funded pre-K, once the fastest growing area in the entire education sector, back on the road to recovery, but there is still a lot of work to be done to recover from the deep cuts to early education during the recession,” Steve Barnett, NIEER’s director, said in a press release.

This good news/bad news scenario is born out by the Yearbook’s statistics for the 2013-2014 school year:

• states increased funding by nearly $120 million over the previous year, however,

• 40 percent of preschoolers — more than half a million — attend inadequate programs

 

• funding and enrollment are up over all, however,

• “only 29 percent of 4-year-olds and 4 percent of 3-year-olds were enrolled in pre-K nationally”  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“Can volunteers help kids read more proficiently? New research says yes.”

That’s the headline on a recent Washington Post story about “new research that suggests that volunteers could be instrumental in helping millions of American children to read proficiently.”

The article adds that while studies have been done on small volunteer tutoring programs, “until now, there has not been evidence that such programs can make a difference on a much larger scale, across many schools and for thousands of students.”

The article covers two studies focusing on two different program models.

The Minnesota Model

One study conducted by independent researchers for the Corporation for National & Community Service looks at the Minnesota Reading Corps, which places more than 1,000 volunteer tutors in schools each year.

“AmeriCorps members in the Minnesota Reading Corps program serve in school-based settings to implement Minnesota Reading Corps literacy enrichment strategies and conduct interventions with PreK-3 students using a Response to Intervention (RtI) framework,” the study says.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof offers a lively take on early education in a recent column called, “Beyond Education Wars.”

“For the last dozen years, waves of idealistic Americans have campaigned to reform and improve K-12 education,” Kristoff writes.

“Armies of college graduates joined Teach for America. Zillionaires invested in charter schools. Liberals and conservatives, holding their noses and agreeing on nothing else, cooperated to proclaim education the civil rights issue of our time.”

But Kristof wonders if the education reform movement has “peaked.”

“The zillionaires are bruised. The idealists are dispirited. The number of young people applying for Teach for America, after 15 years of growth, has dropped for the last two years. The Common Core curriculum is now an orphan, with politicians vigorously denying paternity.

“K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield. It’s Agincourt, the day after. So a suggestion: Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.” (The emphasis is ours.) (more…)

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Image Source: U.S. Department of Education

Image Source: U.S. Department of Education

 

Across the country, elected officials are calling for more preschool programs. Mayors, governors, members of Congress, and the president are calling for higher quality and more access.

Despite this rhetoric, what’s missing is a strong financial investment in early education and care.

The result: “too many children enter kindergarten a year or more behind their classmates in academic and social-emotional skills. For some children, starting out school from behind can trap them in a cycle of continuous catch-up in their learning,” according to “A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America,” a new report from the U.S. Department of Education.

To rectify this situation, the report calls on Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by, in part, creating “real equity of opportunity, starting with our youngest children.”  (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Head Start turns 50 this year. It’s time to celebrate, reflect on the past, and invest in an even stronger future.

“In May of 1965, the first Head Start summer programs began,” Ann Linehan, the former acting director of the federal Office of Head Start, wrote in January. “These programs provided the most vulnerable preschool children and their families with comprehensive services to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional, and mental health needs.”

Now Head Start has a new director, Blanca Estela Enriquez, who writes in a blog post, “Head Start was built by visionaries who sought to open avenues of opportunity for families most in need. We must continue with this endeavor and hold ourselves to the highest of standards so that those we serve become successful.”

Blanca Estela Enriquez. Photo source: Office of Head Start

Blanca Estela Enriquez. Photo source: Office of Head Start

Enriquez’s goal is to “position Head Start as a valuable, highly respected, and accepted program for young children where grantees are high-performing organizations, where every child receives a comprehensive high-quality preschool education, and where their families increase their quality of life.”

Enriquez has been “an administrator and supervisor of Head Start programs since 1987,” according to the federal Head Start website, and she has been “active in early childhood education for more than 40 years.” She has a master’s of education degree from the University of Texas at El Paso and a doctorate of philosophy in education administration from New Mexico State University.  (more…)

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“Shaking hands and kissing babies. It’s the old stereotype of a political campaign. Now that several candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for the 2016 presidential race, we can expect to see a lot more of both in the next 18 months. But this time around, we should expect candidates to do more than kiss the babies…”

“High-quality pre-K programs in Boston, New Jersey and Oklahoma have demonstrated the potential of early interventions to produce lasting changes in children’s outcomes. There is also increasing recognition of the strains that working families are under as they seek to balance work and family obligations and obtain adequate care for their children. These are all potential reasons for candidates to pay attention to early childhood education.”

“Don’t Just Kiss Babies, Promise Them an Education,” a U.S. News and World Report opinion piece by Sara Mead, a principal with Bellwether Education Partners, April 16, 2015

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“Robert D. Putnam is technically a Harvard social scientist, but a better description might be poet laureate of civil society,” a book review in the Sunday New York Times says. The review is of Putnam’s latest book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.”

Putnam’s book examines the inequality gap in the United States, drawing on both Putnam’s personal experiences and his academic research.

Putnam explains his work in an interview with PBS’ NewsHour, touching on a range of topics including poverty, persistent achievement gaps, and early education.

Here’s a selection of quotes from that interview. The bold emphasis is ours.

“America’s best investment ever, in the whole history of our country, was to invest in the public high school and secondary school at the beginning of the 20th century. It dramatically raised the growth rate of America because it was a huge investment in human capital. The best economic analyses now say that investment in the public high schools in 1910 accounted for all of the growth of the American economy between then and about 1970. That huge investment paid off for everybody. Everybody in America had a higher income.”  (more…)

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