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Community-Based Organizations

Pre-K Debates: Access and Quality

August 26, 2013

In the early education policy world, the research consensus supporting public investment in high-quality pre-K programs is overwhelming. We know that money spent on these programs leads to big savings in the long run.

Washington Races Forward In First Year of its Early Learning Challenge Grant

August 13, 2013
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This guest post was written by Paul Nyhan, a journalist and early education expert. He writes about early education at Thrive by Five Washington.

For the past several years, Congress has approved funding for several small grant programs that could offer lessons for policymakers across the country but that rarely attract attention from the mainstream press. These programs include the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, the Social Innovation Fund, Investing in Innovationand Promise Neighborhoods.  While Congress is unlikely to make headway on larger plans, such as President Obama’s 2013 early learning proposal, the work underway in these smaller programs shed light on what states and local communities could aim for – and what mistakes to avoid -- in the future. 
In the next few months, guest blogger Paul Nyhan will provide a window onto four places around the country where these grant programs are triggering changes in early childhood systems. Nyhan kicks off his series by examining how the state of Washington is using its Early Learning Challenge grant. Washington was one of nine states in 2011 to receive the first-ever Early Learning Challenge grants designed to improve a state’s infrastructure for early childhood programs. 

Check out our sidebars on Washington's Early Learning Challenge grant and on the PreK-3rd efforts in seven Washington school districts.

When Washington won an Early Learning Challenge grant, what it really earned was an opportunity to put its vision for early learning on a fast track, one that quickly led to progress and some turbulence within a year.

Essentially, Washington is spending its four-year $60 million grant to speed up three projects that were already underway: construction of a ratings and improvement system for early learning centers (known nationally as QRIS); development of a child assessment and transition program (WaKIDS); and creation of better professional development for early educators.

Pairing Investments in College Access with Investments in Early Education

July 22, 2013
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My hometown, Kalamazoo, Michigan, made waves in 2005 when the superintendent of the local public school system announced that anonymous donors had established a fund to cover the college tuition of every Kalamazoo Public Schools graduate in perpetuity. The program, known as the Kalamazoo Promise, attracted the attention of national news outlets (NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, and the New York Times, among others). Since its inception, community leaders have realized that it’s not enough to make college more affordable and accessible – students need high-quality PreK-12 instruction to be adequately prepared for college. Recent research shows that one of the community’s signature early education initiatives, Ready 4s, substantially improves students’ chances for long-term academic success.

Child Care Legislation Heightens Emphasis on Quality

June 13, 2013

Last week, amidst the release of multiple reauthorization bills for No Child Left Behind, key members of the Senate produced a draft bill for reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Introduced by a bipartisan group of senators, including Democratic Senators Mikulski (MD) and Harkin (IA) and Republican Senators Burr (NC) and Alexander (TN), S. 1086 is somewhat more prescriptive than the last version of CCDBG, and a lot more focused on quality.

Four Years Later, Progress and Pitfalls for State Advisory Councils on Early Childhood

May 28, 2013
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This guest post was written by Christina Satkowski, a former program associate for the Early Education Initiative and author of the 2009 New America paper, The Next Step in Systems-Building: Early Childhood Advisory Councils and Federal Efforts to Promote Policy Alignment in Early Childhood. Christina recently received a foreign policy graduate degree from Georgetown University and spent a year in Jordan as a Fullbright Research Scholar exploring education issues in the Mideast.

Back in 2009, states were given a promising opportunity to address a chronic problem in early childhood policy. The stove-piped and uncoordinated nature of programs like Head Start, state pre-K and federally-funded special education programs meant that some children and their families were unable to access valuable services and the programs themselves do not reach their full potential. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the “stimulus”), Congress approved a $100 million grant program to support the work of state-level advisory councils designed to lead the effort to build comprehensive and effective systems of early childhood programs in their state.

New Details on the President’s Pre-K Plan

April 15, 2013

The release of the President’s fiscal year 2014 budget provides a clearer picture of the quality standards states would have to meet to receive funds under the Obama administration’s “Preschool for All” proposal. The most notable benchmarks are pre-K teachers with bachelor's degrees and salaries for pre-K teachers that are comparable to K-12 teachers’ wages.

First Thoughts on Study of Head Start's Impact on 3rd Graders

December 21, 2012

On a day that many educators and office workers are madly finishing tasks or already traveling to prepare for the holidays, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released results from a long-awaited study on whether children's gains from Head Start still show up four years after students have exited the program. 

New Early Learning Challenge Winners Announced

December 6, 2012

Today the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services announced five winners for the second round of the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge: Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin. These states join nine others that received grants in 2011: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.

A Recommendation for a First Step Toward Better Pre-K and K Data

November 19, 2012

Currently, it is impossible to know how many children are enrolled in publicly funded pre-K within the boundaries of any given district. This is a serious impediment, not just for local superintendents and principals who are in the dark about the educational backgrounds of their schools’ incoming kindergarteners, but also for policymakers, who can’t effectively discuss issues of equity and access without good data to make comparisons. 

How Pre-K Is Funded: A New Resource from the Early Education Initiative

November 12, 2012

In September the Early Education Initiative added pre-K data from the state and school-district levels to the Federal Education Budget Project database -- already the only comprehensive, centralized database for funding, demographic and outcome information for every state, school district and higher-education institution in the country.

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