The Benefits of Investments in Early Development Around the Globe

Worldwide, a huge source of human potential is lost as children grow up without the benefit of effective investments in their early development. More than 200 million children under 5 years of age are not reaching their full mental, physical, and social developmental potential, says a recent report from The Open University based in the United Kingdom.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

RX for Better Urban Schools: High-Quality Pre-K

Children’s math scores at fourth and eight grade haven’t progressed appreciably in most urban school districts over the last two years, says the most recent report from U.S. Department of Education. Only four of the 11 urban districts the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been tracking since 2003 showed significant gains. That doesn’t mean progress hasn’t been made. Urban districts, with their higher proportion of minority children and English Language Learners, represent the nation’s biggest education challenge and if we go back to 2003 when NAEP began, the urban districts have made some progress.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

Avoiding the “Poverty Trap”

Poverty is a problem in America, and it is a more serious problem here than in many other nations including some with average incomes considerably below ours. However, it is not the only problem in America, nor is it the sole cause or even most important cause of our student achievement problem. Nevertheless, our debates about education policy and education reform typically focus on reducing the “achievement gap” between rich and poor. While this is an admirable goal, focusing on the achievement gap as the primary problem is a mistake—conceptually, practically, and politically.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

How the Fade-out Myth Gets Perpetuated

Last week, the Associated Press (AP) reported on an evaluation of Tennessee’s state-funded pre-K program commissioned by that state’s Comptroller’s office (See, for example, Memphis Daily News, “Report: Tenn. Pre-K Not Effective After Second Grade”). As the headline indicates, the report is being widely cited as finding that pre-K has no lasting impact. This would be dismaying if true, because Tennessee has relatively high standards for its pre-K program, as indicated in NIEER’s 2008 State Preschool Yearbook.
Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

A Tense Year for Flu Watchers in Early Care and Education

If you’re a parent or pre-K provider, sizing up the flu threat this year is a bit like watching that troubling pattern on the weather radar. You hope it doesn’t develop into a full-fledged storm and if it does, you hope it doesn’t blow your way. Seasonal flu has always been a worry for pre-K providers but this year the H1N1 flu virus presents a special challenge since young children are more vulnerable to it than the bulk of the population and this virus has the potential to mutate into a more deadly threat. The rapid spread of H1N1 flu prompted President Obama to declare a state of emergency this week and vaccine makers, who haven’t been able to supply sufficient H1N1 doses to meet demand, are being pushed to redouble their efforts.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

Yet More Evidence: It’s Time to Strengthen Math, Science in Pre-K

Let’s face it: Math and science are about more than counting and recognizing shapes, even for 3- and 4-year-olds! The pre-K crowd is curious about exploring everyday math and science and comes to preschool armed with basic concepts. Young children create patterns with different colored materials, build towers with blocks and note that one tower is taller than the other. They question where puppies come from, observe that people have different color eyes and come up with explanations for the difference. These early explorations and engagement in associated thinking processes serve as foundations for learning as children continue toward more formal understandings.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

What’s the Alternative to Spanking?

Most of us have witnessed young children being spanked by an angry parent and wondered if it was really called for. Findings from a Duke University study suggest that spanking children at age 1 predicts aggressive behavior problems at age 2 and is linked to lower mental development test scores at age 3. Lisa Berlin says one-third of the 1-year-olds and about half of the 2- and 3-year-olds she studied had been spanked the previous week. Can so many parents be wrong? As CNN reports, the experts don’t agree on the issue. What’s your view? Should parents never spank — or are there times when it’s appropriate?

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

Ted Kennedy: Champion of Early Care and Education

Senator Kennedy leaves behind a towering legacy of fighting for children’s healthy development: “Were it not for Kennedy’s unwavering commitment to improving the lot of young children, we likely would have far less federal support for young children’s development across the board,” said NIEER Co-Director Steve Barnett.

Which leaves us all with the question: Where do we go from here? How can the vacuum in children’s advocacy be filled?

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.

Alison Gopnik on Young Children’s Intelligence and the Role of Play

A fascinating piece in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine by Berkeley psychologist Alison Gopnik details recent studies showing that not only do children possess powerful learning abilities at very young ages but by their preschool years, they are capable of using probabilities to learn how things work. Findings such as these need to be cast in the context of how young children learn and Gopnik does an admirable job of pointing out the differences between optimal learning environments for young children and the goal-oriented environments kids encounter later in school.

Please visit National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for the complete blog post.