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A Blog from New America's Early Education Initiative

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An End-of-Year Treat: 2009 Highlights from Early Ed Watch

December 23, 2009
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We'll be closed for the holidays, but before we start pouring the egg nog, we couldn't resist the chance to highlight some of the posts we've run in the past year:

Report on Pa.’s Pre-K Counts Shows Importance of Quality

December 18, 2009
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 Pennsyvlania’s Pre-K Counts program has prevented delays in children’s cognitive development, reduced rates of behavior problems, and has helped 80 percent of its participants to meet standards for kindergarten readiness, according to a recently released report on a study tracking children’s progress over three years.

FY10 Funding for Federal Early Ed Programs

December 15, 2009

Fiscal year 2010 started in October, but Congress is only now wrapping up its work on the FY2010 appropriations bills that fund federal government activities and programs. On Sunday, the Senate passed a $450 billion appropriations bill that combined six of seven unfinished appropriations bills—including the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill that funds early education programs. The House of Representatives passed an identical bill this past Thursday, allowing the legislation to go directly to the President, who is expected to sign it into law.

Our Education Policy team here at New America has produced a 2010 Education Appropriations Guide to help you sort through what it means from the Education Department perspective.

Here at Early Ed Watch, we wanted to look more closely at final funding figures for early education-related programs in particular. The chart below shows funding levels for key programs operated by the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as a column showing what President Obama had requested. 

Video Series: How to Use Media As Tool for Teaching Literacy

December 14, 2009
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Research continues to show how important it is for children to be reading proficiently by third grade. And yet videos, online games and other electronic media have become a bigger and bigger part of early childhood. Is it possible to reconcile the two trends?
Yes. But it will take work on the part of teachers and parents. Exactly how to do it is the subject of a series of videos broadcast last week on Reading Rockets, an online site for teachers and parents produced by WETA, a public television station in the Washington, D.C. area.

In New Jersey, Education Reform Starts Early

December 11, 2009
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A report released today by the New America Foundation finds that New Jersey has made tremendous strides in improving disadvantaged children's access to high-quality early learning experiences, enabling some districts to nearly erase the achievement gap.

The report, Education Reform Starts Early: Lessons from New Jersey’s PreK-3rd Reform, doesn’t just focus on New Jersey’s pre-k programs: It provides a blueprint for how to create a high-quality, well-aligned education system that helps children sustain their learning gains up through the third grade and beyond.  And it draws lessons from New Jersey’s experience that can inform federal and state policy efforts to improve quality in early childhood program, raise student achievement, and narrow racial and economic achievement gaps.

But the report also sounds a cautionary note about the fragility of New Jersey’s progress, and urges state leaders to act now to sustain and build on early learning reforms to date -- or risk undoing what the state has achieved so far.

Trying to Break Down the Walls Between HHS and the Dept of Ed

December 8, 2009
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It is no secret that government has a way of creating isolated bureaucracies that never talk to each other or, worse, promulgate policies that make it difficult for the other’s programs to succeed. The challenge is no different for early education policy: If we’re going to ensure that children get high-quality early learning opportunities before their formal school years, policymakers have to figure out how to break down the walls between health-and-human services departments and education departments.
At a research summit at Georgetown University yesterday, officials at the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services took pains to show that they are dismantling those walls.

Urging Solutions on 'Chronic Absence' in Elementary Schools

December 4, 2009
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Earlier this week, an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times made a strong argument about how to address a hidden but real problem in elementary schools in California and around the country: the fact that many young children, particularly those in poverty, are missing multiple days of school throughout the school year.

The answer, as with so many things, is to intervene early and get hard numbers on exactly what is going on. The op-ed urges the state of California to do a better job collecting data on exactly which students are missing school. Only with that data can a school district figure out what is keeping these young children from showing up. Is it illness? Transportation problems? A parents' misunderstanding about the importance of school even in these early years? If districts can pinpoint the root of the problem, they can start to solve it.

The op-ed was written by Hedy N. Chang, who directs the Chronic Absence Project, and Yolie Flores, a member of the LAUSD Board of Education and a senior associate at the Chronic Absence Project. In 2008, Chang co-authored a report titled "Present, Engaged, and Accounted For: The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades," published by the National Center for Children in Poverty.

"The effects are profound," Chang and Flores write in this week's op-ed. Their research has found:

Ignoring Early Education

December 2, 2009

Today, the Brookings Institution released a new report on media coverage of education. The report’s title—Invisible: 1.4 Percent is Not Enough—pretty much gives away its big finding: education stories account for only 1.4 percent of all national news coverage. That’s a pretty striking statistic.

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