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To De-Pressurize Kindergarten, Here Are Four Must-Do's

September 10, 2009

In an op-ed for USA Today that came out this morning, I wrote about kindergarten -- a topic of heightened interest over the past six months as news stories, magazine pieces and

Seeking Signs of Change Since Head Start's 2007 Reauthorization

September 9, 2009

This is the second post in our seven-part series, "What's Ahead for Head Start?" Join us here for a web chat on this topic on Sept. 22, 2009 at 12:30 p.m. EDT.

More than 18 months have passed since the laws governing Head Start got their most recent make-over. The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act, which President Bush signed into law in December 2007, includes several major reforms to the Head Start program, most of them designed to improve the program's quality and accountability.

What is the impact of these changes? Agencies are hiring more teachers with post-secondary degrees, as required by the law. But data does not yet exist to help us detect other signs of quality and accountability improvement. Some of the law's deadlines are still years away and some requirements went unfunded until this year. At least one initiative is already months behind schedule.

Head Start and State Pre-K: Competing, Collaborating and Evolving

September 8, 2009

Today we begin a multi-week blog series, reported by Lisa Guernsey and Christina Satkowski, on the future of Head Start. Join us here at Early Ed Watch for a Web chat about the series on September 22nd at 12:30 p.m., hosted in partnership with Politico.com.

A Private Infusion of Cash for Two Early Learning Programs in Washington State

September 3, 2009

In August, the Gates Foundation and Thrive by Five announced grants totaling $8 million for two early learning programs in the state of Washington. The White Center Early Learning Initiative and East Yakima's Ready by Five program will each receive $4 million over the next year to continue supporting children and their families as they prepare for kindergarten.

This is a second round of funding for these initiatives; last year White Center received $11.7 million and Ready by Five received $5 million.

It's reassuring to see programs like these receiving funding, especially as the economic crisis forces some states to cut back investments in early childhood programs. It also shows that the state of Washington is establishing itself as a strong player in early education reform. Earlier this month, Washington's SeaTac area was the site of the national Starting Strong conference. And as we described in July, some promising outcomes related to the PreK-3rd approach are emerging from Bremerton, Wash.

A Mother's Myriad Questions Point to Need for Connected System of Early Education

August 31, 2009

On Friday, I answered five questions about children's early years on the Inside Pre-K blog.

In one of my answers, I summarized a recent conversation I'd had with the mother of a prospective Head Start student in Alexandria, Va. Her story reminds me of why our current non-system of early care and education has so many holes to fill -- and why it's so necessary to build policies and systems that integrate, link and expand the current hodgepodge of early childhood services out there today. Here's a recap:

Let me give an example. I met a woman at a Head Start fair in Alexandria, Va., registering her son for the fall semester. She was newly divorced and had just moved her son to Northern Virginia to be closer to family who could support her. She was looking for a job. The only reason she knew about Head Start was because a stranger on the Metro platform one day, with whom she had taken up a casual conversation, had told her about it. There's problem number one: Finding high-quality preschool and childcare can feel like groping in the dark. Even I, with a decent level of education and membership on too many parenting listservs, felt lost when I started seeking out information on preschools and childcare centers. We need more systematic ways of getting information to parents.

Advice for Duncan: 'Race to the Top' Needs A Larger Dose of Early Ed

August 27, 2009

Tomorrow is the deadline to submit comments on the Department of Education's proposed guidelines for Race to the Top, the new grant program created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Illinois Gov. Protects Part of Early Childhood Budget, But Still, State Funding Drops

August 13, 2009

Early education advocates in Illinois are breathing a little easier this month after Gov. Patrick Quinn restored over $85 million in funds for early childhood programs that the Illinois State Board of Education had eliminated during deliberations on the 2010 budget a few weeks ago. The board's cuts represented more than 32 percent of the 2009 budget and would have had disastrous results for state-funded preschool programs.

A Prominent Researcher Asks Some Good, Hard Questions About Playtime

August 11, 2009

Anthony D. Pellegrini, an educational psychologist at the University of Minnesota, has been studying the whys, whens and hows of children's playtime for decades. He is an authority on recess, helping to remind all of us of why it's crucial for academic and social growth. And he just published a new book, The Role of Play in Human Development, that explores the role of play in our evolution as a species.

So when Pellegrini pens an article titled "Research and Policy on Children's Play," it's time to perk up and pay attention. The piece was just published this month in Child Development Perspectives, a semi-annual journal of the Society for Research in Child Development.

The piece makes two important points. It starts by reminding us that the word "play" needs to be defined more precisely before educators, parents and child development specialists can have a fruitful conversation about what is missing in children's school routines. And it ends by pressing for more research on exactly what kinds of benefits children derive from play at various stages of their young lives.

Book Notes: What Montgomery County Does Right

August 6, 2009

As regular readers of this blog know, Montgomery County Public Schools has done a good job capturing our attention with its PreK-3rd alignment effort and high-quality early childhood programs. Now a new book, Leading for Equity, argues that Superintendent Jerry Weast's approach to management, which emphasized equity and excellence for all, was the key to success in MCPS.

This substantive but somewhat colorless book was written by three people who specialize in education leadership: Stacey M. Childress and David A. Thomas, who currently teach at Harvard Business School, and Denis P. Doyle, the chief academic officer of SchoolNet, which produces instructional management software.

Jay Mathews at the Washington Post recently skewered the authors for relying too much on education jargon in their analysis of MCPS' success, which they summarized as six lessons. Early Ed Watch helpfully translates for the common man: 1) adopt common, rigorous standards, and differentiate instruction rather than lowering expectations by placing struggling students in lower tracks, 2) focus on critical stages of the K-12 path, especially early childhood and the last years of high school, 3) hold everyone accountable and include everyone in the decision-making process, 4) persuade people of all students' ability to excel by requiring the use of programs that increase student achievement, 5) hire and retain people who believe that minority and low-income students can achieve at a high level and 6) always pursue equity and hold it as a top priority.

James Heckman: Early Intervention Can Make Up for Disadvantages at Home

August 6, 2009

Nobel-prize winning economist James Heckman has been popping up all over the news this week, first in a Boston Globe article downplaying the significance of IQ, and again yesterday in an interview with NPR.

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