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Counting Kids and Tracking Funds in Pre-K and Kindergarten

  • By
  • Lisa Guernsey,
  • Alex Holt,
  • New America Foundation
September 18, 2012

This issue brief, produced by the New America Foundation's Early Education Initiative, addresses the dearth of reliable, complete, and comparable data on pre-K and kindergarten in school districts and local communities.

Democratic Convention Includes Mentions of Early Childhood and K-12 Education

September 10, 2012

Though jobs and the economy dominated the stage at the Democratic party’s convention this week in Charlotte, NC, early childhood education and K-12 schools were not left out entirely. In President Obama’s address last Thursday night, he laid out a challenge to the party faithful in attendance and the American people watching on TV:

“Help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in the next ten years, and improve early childhood education… You can choose that future for America.”

He wasn’t the only one to mention early education. Julián Castro, mayor of San Antonio, TX, dedicated a portion of his speech to his city’s efforts to expand pre-K. (Mayor Castro has proposed a sales tax increase to support expanding the programs to more than 22,000 children.

A Conversation with Greg Taylor, CEO of the Foundation for Newark's Future

September 6, 2012

In 2010, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million donation over five years to help the Newark Public Schools in New Jersey (assuming that another $100 million in matching funds could be found). From that contribution, the Foundation for Newark’s Future was born. Its mission is to make grants to initiatives to improve the district's schools. Last month, staff members for the Early Education Initiative sat down with Greg Taylor, the foundation’s CEO and a former program officer at the Kellogg Foundation, to learn about his priorities for improving early education in the city and throughout the school system. The following is an edited and abridged version of that conversation.

Q: I understand that early childhood is one of the priorities laid out for the Foundation’s vision. Tell us more.

When I came on board in June of 2011, early childhood education actually wasn’t one of the top strategies. What happened initially was many folks invested in the foundation were really focused on teachers, principals and school options, both district and charter. And one of the things we tried to do was to broaden the initiative. There are now six areas:  early childhood education, out-of-school youth, teacher quality and principal leadership, helping the district to effectively implement the Common Core standards and tie them to early childhood education, school options (We want to grow the number of high-quality school options for Newark families. We’re agnostic on the question of charter-district dynamic; more than 50 percent of our investment goes to the Newark Public School System), and community engagement.

Ed Dept’s District-Level Competition Keeps Door Open for PreK-3rd Reforms

August 13, 2012

The spotlight in school reform turns now to school districts instead of states with the U.S. Department of Education’s release Friday of its invitation for a new $383 million Race to the Top competition.  Districts can compete for up to $40 million each, with awards based on their sizes and abilities to personalize learning for students, become transparent in how they are spending money, engage community groups and implement systems for evaluating teachers and leaders based in part on student test scores.

The department, which said it would make 15 to 25 awards, asked districts to let it know by August 30 if they intend to apply. [UPDATE: On September 4, the department announced that 893 districts said they would.] Applications are due October 30 and winners announced in December.

The competition provides openings for school districts that recognize the need to pay more attention to the PreK-3rd grade years.

In National Journal Blog: Why Not Formula Fund Pre-K?

August 8, 2012

This week's National Journal Education Experts Blog drills into two perennial questions: If policymakers and the public have come to understand the importance of early education, why is it never an election issue? And how can advocates make it a bigger priority?

In my response, I note that education is rarely a big election issue, but elections aren't the only way to make early ed a priority. I use an idea which we've discussed on Early Ed Watch before, formula funding pre-K, as an example of one way to make early education a long-term priority. Some states, such as Oklahoma, have already chosen to do so.

Read the post here.

Does Minecraft Have a Place in Elementary Schools of the Future?

August 6, 2012

On Thursday this week, the Early Education Initiative and the Future Tense project at Slate magazine will kick off the back-to-school season with an event here in Washington, D.C. designed to shake up typical notions of elementary school. Today's young kids are now using technology to express themselves, make things, and share ideas. What do they have to teach us about the way they learn? 

Getting Schooled by a Third Grader: What Kids’ Gaming, Tweeting, Streaming and Sharing Tells us About the Future of Elementary Education

Duke Researchers Find Effective Teachers Clustered in Tested Grades

July 24, 2012

A recent working paper from public policy researchers at Duke University examines one potential unintended consequence of the school accountability era: Is it possible that accountability testing, which under No Child Left Behind begins in the third grade, has given elementary school administrators an incentive to cluster their strongest teachers in third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms, thus depriving younger students of more effective teachers?

According to the study, by Sarah C. Fuller and Helen F. Ladd, this may be the case. In North Carolina between the years of 1995 and 2009, teachers who were average or less effective at improving test scores were more likely than their peers to be reassigned from 3rd-5th grade classrooms to kindergarten, first grade and second grade. A teacher one standard deviation above the mean for student test scores in reading was 74.5 percent as likely as an average teacher to move from teaching 3rd-5th grade to teaching earlier grades. Teachers with above-average math scores were 70.1 percent as likely as an average teacher to move down into the early grades.

Harnessing Technology to Support Young Families: What States Can Do

July 9, 2012
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A red-hot ed-tech marketplace is creating a feeling of urgency among decision makers in state agencies and local school districts – and early education is no exception. In a world of increasing fiscal constraints, state leaders are under pressure to capitalize on new technologies to improve productivity and help children excel. But without thoughtful adoption, leaders are at risk of spending public dollars on products that sit unused, lock districts into specific brands or platforms, or get in the way of promoting the positive, face-to-face interactions with adults that young children need.

To help state leaders see past the hype, I was commissioned to write a policy brief for the Education Commission of the States. It is being released this week at the commission’s annual forum in Atlanta. The brief, Technology in Early Education: Building Platforms for Connections and Content that Strengthen Families and Promote Success in School,  is part of a series underwritten by GE called The Progress of Education Reform. (Other issues in the series have examined digital citizenship, the implications of defining college readiness, and the intricacies of state school funding.)

Hitting a Triple: States Winning 3 Federal Grants that Could Improve Education from Birth to Third Grade

June 27, 2012

Read the headlines about the federal government’s early education competitions among states, and you might think there is only one game in town: the Early Learning Challenge that is part of Obama’s signature education reform initiative, Race to the Top.

But three other statewide grants could also have an impact on children’s learning in early childhood from birth through third grade: Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grants; Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) grants; and the original Race to the Top, which is labeled a K-12 program and therefore explicitly includes the K-3 grades and could implicitly impact public schools’ pre-K programs as well.

What’s Expected of the 5 Runner-Up States in 2012 Early Learning Challenge?

June 22, 2012

This week, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released their proposal for funding five states that narrowly missed winning the 2011 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. Under the proposal, those states -- Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin -- could receive up to 50 percent of what they were eligible to win in the original competition.

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