Early Ed Watch
As part of her ongoing effort to promote healthy eating and lifestyle choices, First Lady Michelle Obama will appear on the November 10 episode of Sesame Street,in which she helps Elmo and his friends plant a vegetable garden and explains to Big Bird that, even though they're both tall, that doesn't mean they're related. Check it out here:
It is deceptively difficult to determine how much money the federal government spends on America's children each year. Money spent on children's health, education, and nutrition -- as well as a host of other government programs that promote child welfare -- comes from 180 different federal programs, making it hard to account for just how much is spent each year.
Enter First Focus, a nonpartisan children's advocacy organization that created the Children's Budget, a document that provides a birds' eye view of all federal spending on education. This week, using data from Congressional appropriations bills through fiscal year 2009, First Focus released its latest report. It shows that, while there are 82 different federal programs aimed at children from birth through age 18, the share of federal money spent on children in the non-defense budget has decreased from 10.5 percent to 9.2 percent over the past five years.
The report comes with an array of helpful charts and searchable databases at ChildrensBudget.org. We here at Early Ed Watch were curious about whether spending on education programs in particular has been going up or down over the years. Using the tools on the site, we found:
Because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, most states are keeping public child care programs afloat near last year's levels. But a handful of states are not providing the same level of assistance to poor families even with the federal help.
Those are a few of the messages in the 2009 report on states' child care policies, released yesterday by the National Women's Law Center. The center surveyed representatives of all 50 states this summer about how they would use funds from the stimulus bill, known as ARRA, which provided an additional $2 billion in funding for 2010 and 2011 through Child Care and Development Block Grants. Thirty states reported that they were using that money to maintain services, avoid or lessen waiting lists and open their services to more parents in search of work. But several others, including Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio and Pennsylvania, said they will be cutting funding and tightening eligibility requirements for childcare subsidies.
The center also asked states where they stood in February 2009 (exactly a year from the date of last year's survey) on a range of policies, such as how they determine income cut-offs for assistance, the size of the co-payments they require families to make, and how they reimburse child care center and other providers who enroll qualifying children. Updates on state's waiting lists are also included.
Last week the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and National Governors’ Association (NGA)—the two organizations leading efforts to develop “common core” state standards—released a first draft of their “college- and career-ready” standards. The overall reaction from education groups, policy wonks, and other observers has been pretty positive so far, although some critics say the standards devote too little attention to specific content knowledge.
Paul Tough's article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine puts the spotlight on Tools of the Mind -- a teaching strategy that encourages children to engage in make-believe play in the classroom. The idea is that by letting young children adopt and act out roles -- whether it's doctor or daddy or doughnut maker -- these children will be indirectly learning skills of inhibition and self-control. They must stay in character and plan out their next move. What's more, they have to work out how to share the "stage" with their classmates and adapt to the movements and desires of different characters around them.
Research has shown for years that placing 3- and 4-year olds from low-income families in high-quality early education settings can curb the relationship between growing up in a low-income family and underperforming in school. Now a new study in the September/October 2009 issue of Child Development goes a few steps further, linking quality child care settings at even younger ages to school achievement up to fifth grade.
The study, led by Eric Dearing, an associate professor at the Lynch School of Education of Boston College, uses longitudinal data from a national study that tracks children from birth up to fifth grade. It includes children from high-, middle-, and low-income families in a variety of childcare environments that ranged from maternal care to structured preschool facilities. The dataset also included information on children's cognitive and academic performance, along with the quality of various childcare settings they attended, as measured by observation-based records of the care-giving environments.
Many thanks to everyone who has provided comments on our seven-part series on Head Start and to those of you who participated in our web chat on Tuesday.
For your convenience, we've combined all of the posts plus the chat transcript into a PDF document for easy reading. Keep the feedback coming!
In this week's New America/Politico live web chat, Lisa Guernsey and Christina Satkowski are taking questions on the future of Head Start.
Ms. Guernsey, director of New America's Early Education Initiative, and Ms. Satkowski, a former program associate, are the authors of "What's Ahead for Head Start?" This seven-part blog series tackles critical questions about the federal government's 44-year-old preschool program for children from poor families.
As the Obama Administration turns its attention to improved programs for young children, where does Head Start fit? As states develop their own pre-K programs while struggling to balance budgets, what role can Head Start play?
UPDATE: This chat has concluded, but a full transcript is available below.
To see last week's chat, with Fellow Dayo Olopade on the Obama Administration's faith-based initiatives, please click here.
This is the final post in a seven-part series on the future of Head Start. Please join us for a web chat on this topic tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. EDT here at EarlyEdWatch.org in partnership with Politico.com. We invite you to email us questions to get the chat rolling.
We started this series with a train metaphor, describing early education programs as trains moving down various tracks to deliver children to elementary school ready and eager to learn. More than a decade ago, when a few states started developing new paths for publicly funded preschool, the tracks already laid by Head Start seemed outdated and distant from what states were constructing. The unspoken, yet as it turns out, overstated, assumption was that state pre-K was aiming for literacy and kindergarten readiness, while Head Start was pointed toward children's health and social well-being.
Jumpstart, a non-profit organization dedicated to early literacy, released an analysis last Thursday that presents some new data and zooms in on some of the more note-worthy findings in recent studies on literacy and children. In a new poll of 504 American adults, it found that 95 percent of Americans recognize that early childhood literacy is "a very important issue," but only 18 percent of Americans are aware that children who lack early literacy skills are less likely to succeed as adults.
The report focuses on the gap in early literacy skills between children from low-income families and those who come from middle- and high-income families, as well as the lack of public awareness about early childhood literacy issues in the United States. Most experts now believe that children who are introduced to literacy in their early years -- through exercises like alphabet awareness, one-on-one book reading with adults and the practice of writing their names, not to mention knowledge of content -- have a better chance for strong academic performance in higher grade levels.