Articles in the Preschool Education category

Pre-K could become talk in Congress

Early childhood education advocates could see promising activities on Capitol Hill in the upcoming 111th Congress, given President-elect Obama’s education initiatives and a slew of new faces headed to Congress who’ve had early ed records or pledged to support federal investment in preschool programs, according to this blog from the New America Foundation.

This is good news for NSBA’s Pre-K Legislative Committee, which will gear up for a potentially exciting session in Congress. Some of the new Senators mentioned in the blog include: Virginia‘s Mark Warner, who expanded the state’s preschool initiatives as governor; Nebraska‘s Mike Johanns, who as governor increased funding for pre-K; New Hampshire‘s Jeanne Shaheen, who voiced support for more federal funding for state preschool programs. Her advocacy could be boosted by the fact that New Hampshire is one of only 12 states with no publicly funded pre-K programs.

Erin Walsh|November 18th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, Preschool Education, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Putting the little ones back on the agenda

With all the worries about the economy, two wars, and the final throes of what has seemed to be an endless presidential campaign, Congress might have been forgiven for temporarily setting aside issues relating to getting our youngest Americans ready for school. Which is why BoardBuzz was so happy to get a notice from Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Kit Bond (R-MO) about a briefing they were hosting to refocus the attention of Capitol Hill on the early educational needs of children. We were even more delighted when we arrived at the standing-room-only briefing room — proof that interest in early childhood is not going away. According to Pre-K Now, one of the event’s conveners:

“By their co-sponsorship of today’s briefing, Senators Clinton and Bond underscored their commitment to reintroducing the Ready to Learn Act, in the next Congress. The bill aims to improve the quality of and expand access to voluntary preschool programs by providing funding for states through a competitive process and allowing governors to build on pre-existing early childhood systems.”

In kicking off the briefing, Governor Bredesen of Tennessee emphasized that the most benefit conveys from pre-kindergarten programs that have high quality. He stated that an appropriate role for the federal government is to co-fund state-designed programs, but only if they meet specified quality indicators. We also heard from Jerry Weast, superintendent of Montgomery County schools in Maryland, who attributed his system’s notable success at narrowing achievement gaps in large part to their investment in high-quality pre-K.

Certainly the most emotional punch came last when we heard from the 2006 National Teacher of the Year, Kimberly Oliver Burnim, who many BoardBuzz readers may recall was a great hit at NSBA’s 2006 annual conference in Chicago. Burnim related the heartbreaking story of one little girl who came to her kindergarten class so full of hope and excitement only to see her spark snuffed as it became apparent that she was not on par with her peers. The reason, according to Burnim, was that this child had not had the same experiences other children had coming in. Her remarks reminded us that, yes, communities and schools all benefit in the long-term when we invest in pre-kindergarten, but at the heart of the issue is doing what is good and necessary for children.

School board members get the connection between getting kids ready for school and their own success as education leaders. For two years, the Center for Public Education has been working in partnership with three state school board associations — Kansas, Ohio, and Texas –to help school boards become engaged in early education in their states. The Center’s pre-K initiative, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, was recently renewed for another two years and has expanded the partnership to include state associations in Alabama and Kentucky.

Among other pre-K resources, the Center sends out a monthly e-newsletter that addresses very practical pre-K policies and implemetation issues for those working to expand high-quality pre-K in their states and districts. You can sign up for the Pre-K Primer here.

Also check out NSBA’s early education advocacy page and its Pre-K Legislative Committee to keep up on what’s new in federal early ed activities. See here for some of the pre-K bills introduced by members of Congress.

Erin Walsh|October 6th, 2008|Categories: Preschool Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Read for the Record!

BoardBuzz is very excited to annouce Jumpstart’s Read for the Record campaign! Children and adults are reading together at homes, schools, libraries, stores and more with the goal of setting children on the track for success in both school and life.

Since 1933, Jumpstart has worked toward the day that every child in America can enter school prepared, but the current reality is that many children in low-income communities do not have appropiate books in thier homes to begin to succeed.

Read for the Record aims to fix this inequality; Because the number of books in a home is the strongest indicator of a child’s future reading ability, the campaign asks individuals or groups to buy a book to open the world of reading for children. All proceeds go directly to the Jumpstart program,which matches adult readers with children for a full year before they enter school.

This year’s book is Corduroy by Don Freeman, and the Pearson Foundation, both a founding partner of Jumpstart and a sponsor of Read for the Record, is providing more than 100,000 copies to children in low-income communities.

BoardBuzz encourages you to learn more at the campaign’s web site. Are you reading for the record and incorporating time to read with children? Let us know and leave us a comment… we’d love to know how you are taking part!

Erin Walsh|October 1st, 2008|Categories: Announcements, Preschool Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Pre-K not quite a priority yet

Last week, BoardBuzz was pleased to see Congress recognizing the critical role that early childhood educators provide in the preparation and advancement of our nation’s youngest students. (Check that out here) But, an article in The New York Times reminds us that opportunities for Pre-K still have room to grow and expand.

New York is one of eight states (and D.C.) in the country that has adopted some variety of a universal pre-kindergarten program. In 1997, New York passed legislation to provide Pre-K classes for all four-year-olds,but ten years later only 38 percent of the state’s four year-olds attended Pre-K classes.

But, while Pre-K offers an opportunity for cognitive and personal development and the chance to level the playing field for children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, it seems that some districts aren’t finding it necessarily practical:

Few school administrators dispute the benefits of pre-kindergarten, but many say it is impractical to provide it to every child.
In Smithtown, for example, Mr. Ehmann said that even if his district could find the money, it would have to contract with community groups to provide pre-K classes because there is no room in the schools, which would mean hiring administrators to oversee those locations, adding costs.


In Westchester County, the affluent Bronxville district decided not to pursue a pre-kindergarten program for about 100 students because, as Superintendent David Quattrone put it, “the vast majority of parents prefer to use the private programs in our community.” He also cited financial and space constraints.

Despite these challenges, BoardBuzz knows that the benefits of early childhood education can’t be ignored, and the article does show the positive impact Pre-K can have:

“I’m disappointed by the slow progress, especially since over the last 10 years, there’s been even more evidence of how useful universal pre-K is in closing the achievement gap,” said Maria DeWald, president of the New York State Congress of Parents and Teachers, which has long advocated for universal pre-kindergarten.

Time, money, and space are all challenges for making Pre-K an available priority, but it’s great to see some states working on it. For more information on the benefits of early childhood education, be sure to check out the Center for Public Education.

Erin Walsh|August 28th, 2008|Categories: School Boards, Preschool Education, Educational Finance, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Higher ed law underscores pre-k initiatives

Preschool was definitely on the mind of Congress when it reauthorized the Higher Education Act before adjourning for the August recess. Early childhood educators will get a boost in training and financial support under the new Higher Education Opportunity Act (H.R. 4137), which was signed by President Bush on Aug. 14. The law includes the following components related to preschool:

Teacher Quality Partnership Grants – authorizes $300 million in grants to eligible partnerships, which can include high-need early childhood education programs or school districts and higher education institutions, to strengthen pre-service trianing and professional development for new early childhood educators.

Loan Forgiveness – offers loan forgiveness of up to $2,000 per year of employment (up to five years) to early childhood educators who work in an eligible preschool program in a low-income community. They must have completed a baccalaureate or an advanced degree in early childhood development or early childhood education or a related field.

Early Childhood Education Professional Development and Career Task Force – provides competitive grants to states to set up the statewide task force charged with improving the quality of early childhood education workforce.

NSBA is pleased that the law recognizes the critical role early childhood educators play in children’s future success and the need to invest in their preparation and advancement. These higher education initiatives will help early childhood educators to meet higher standards, which are critical to helping to ensure high-quality early learning experiences for our nation’s children. For more information on preschool, check out NSBA‘s Pre-K Legislative Committee and updates on issues here.

Erin Walsh|August 19th, 2008|Categories: Preschool Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Television takes away from toys

That’s right, even just background television can take away from a young child’s play time. Though children might not be able to understand the television program, a USA Today article reports on a recent study that shows that background television could be a disruptive influence.

While blocks, dolls, and toy cars are fun, play time is important because it helps children develop different cognitive skills. Solitary play time, that is. With just a TV on in the background of the room, the study noticed that there were some distracting effects:

In the new study, researchers say the disruptive effects were “real but small,” amounting to a few seconds in many cases. For instance, kids played about 90 seconds less in the half hour with the TV on — they looked momentarily at the screen, then went back to their toys.

But researcher Daniel Anderson, a psychologist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, says he’s concerned the effects could be cumulative.

“It’s that situation that I’m most concerned about, when you look at TV as being a disruptive influence hour after hour, day after day, week after week, year after year,” he says.

BoardBuzz knows the importance of early childhood education, and in one survey the article mentions 14 percent of parents said the TV is always onin their homes. So BoardBuzz wants to remind you to turn off the TV when it’s not being watched. While it keeps playing, you might be wasting energy and distracting your child from one of the most important parts of their development… playtime! For more information about Pre-K, check out the Center for Public Education.

Erin Walsh|July 15th, 2008|Categories: Announcements, Preschool Education, Wellness, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Is Preschool the Next Hot Topic in Election?

If education ever surfaces as a serious topic in this election, the stars appear lined up for pre-K to be the issue of choice, according to some panelists who spoke at the ED 08 Blog Summit last week. It’s no surprise since pre-K is less controversial than K-12 and the two democratic candidates have each outlined some details of their early childhood education plans. Not to mention that pre-K legislation is likely to move forward in Congress this year independent of NCLB, see here.

But it won’t be long before the new administration and new Congress have to deal with the elephant in the room – NCLB. More school labeling and sanctions next year will likely stir dissatisfaction at the state and local levels.

Erin Walsh|May 19th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Educational Legislation, Preschool Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Pre-K Act a downpayment on kids’ futures

Board Buzz hasn’t seen this kind of excitement around new early education initiatives in Congress since we don’t know when. Aside from the federal Head Start program, Congress has done little to help states expand and improve their own preschool programs. But pre-K advocates could be in for a treat this month. The House Education and Labor Committee is expected to take up a pre-K bill introduced by Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-HI.

NSBA sent this letter to Hirono and members of the education committee to express support for the “Pre-K Act (HR 3289).” The bill would provide federal grants to states to expand and improve their voluntary, publicly funded pre-K programs. More importantly, it would expand the focus of NCLB to include preschool education. Stay tune for more information on a possible markup on the bill. Meanwhile, check out NSBA‘s pre-K committee Web site at and the Center for Public Education’s information on pre-K.

Erin Walsh|May 12th, 2008|Categories: Educational Legislation, Preschool Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Kickin’ it pre-K style

BoardBuzz was excited to see our friends at the Center for Public Education making the case for pre-K this week. In the story, out of Orlando’s Channel 13, the CPE’s Patte Barth makes the case that pre-K education is essential to student success later on.

Pre-Kindergarten is where kids start learning vocabulary, shapes and colors, and the big sell for voluntary pre-K is that it’s free.

Florida leads the country in voluntary pre-K with nearly two-thirds of 4-year-olds in the program last year. Experts say they need more students to get the money they need.

“The benefits are really an investment. It’s good for kids, but it’s also good for communities because that investment pays off,” said Patte Barth, the director of the Center for Public Education.

According to the Center for Public Education, every dollar spent for pre-K can save up to $16 in public education because fewer students need to be placed in special education classes, and that means fewer students are held back.

Also, studies show pre-kindergarten education increases test scores and graduation rates.

“We’re not putting little children in desks, giving them worksheets, giving them a strong academic program. No, play is important,” Barth said.

Indeed, play is important. And so is a quality pre-K education. For more on pre-K, visit the Center’s pre-K topic area, and be sure to sign up for the e-newsletter.

Erin Walsh|May 9th, 2008|Categories: School Boards, Educational Legislation, Preschool Education, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

Schooling on preschool

BoardBuzz came across an interesting report via the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) evaluating states on their pre-school programs. The report called The State of Preschool 2007 for the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) compared states on the access and quality of preschool programs they provide to their 3 and 4 year-olds.

The report found that the majority of 4 year-olds across the country still do not have access to state-funded pre-school programs. The good news is, however, that the percentage has almost doubled from just 12 percent in 2002, the first year of the NIEER survey, to 22 percent in 2007. Oklahoma led the way by enrolling 68 percent of their 4 year-olds (not including head start) followed by Florida, Georgia, and West Virginia. Although Tennessee was not a top state in providing state-funded preschool, they did increase their enrollment by 50 percent from 2006 to 2007. A huge step in the right direction.

However, BoardBuzz knows its one thing to provide access to preschool programs and yet another to provide quality preschool programs. The NIEER report compared states on quality as well and found that Alabama and North Carolina had the highest rated quality preschool programs in the country based on NIEER’s 10 standards for preschool quality. (Click here for more information on how states were compared)

BoardBuzz is well aware that starting and expanding state preschool programs are not easy and the educators, school board members, other policymakers and the taxpayers should be commended for their desire to ensure all students start school ready to learn.

Fortunately, our friends at the Center for Public Education and the state school boards associations in Kansas, Ohio, and Texas are busily at work finding ways to bring high-quality pre-k programs to more children in their states. CPE continues to report on these activities along with research, data, and resources to help get communities behind this important effort.

As SREB Vice President of Education Policies Joan Lord stated, “Children who are not prepared for school are the ones most likely to drop out, to find only low-paying jobs, to become unemployed and to face a lifetime of problems.” By helping every child become school-ready, pre-kindergarten is more than a good educational program, it’s a good investment for the community.

Find more information on pre-kindergarten at the Center for Public Education. While there, sign up for CPE’s monthly e-newsletter, Pre-K Primer, which features news and practical information, strategies, and policies for expanding pre-k at the state and local levels. You’ll also find the Center’s Round-up of National Report Cards that simply explains how states are ranked in this and 11 other National “Report Cards” on education quality.

Erin Walsh|March 21st, 2008|Categories: Preschool Education, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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