Archive for the 'Early Childhood' Category

8th 2015
Tennessee Study Sequel Pours More Cold Water on Pre-K Enthusiasm

Posted under Early Childhood & Federal Government & Journalism & Research

I’m going to be honest with everyone. Getting education policy right is hard work. There are no silver bullets out there. Some things (like school choice) show small but consistent benefits in study after study. Other practices (like paying teachers to earn masters degrees) represent large outlays of money with no return.

Today I’m looking at pre-K or early childhood education. Some recent research further calls into question the prevailing line on increasing tax subsidies for preschool. Chalkbeat Tennessee last week reported on a landmark study that challenged some conventional wisdom. Since as a 5-year-old edublogging prodigy I tend to be more than a little unconventional, it seemed like a reasonable idea to bring it to your attention:

A new Vanderbilt University study suggests that public pre-kindergarten programs in Tennessee might actually negatively impact students as they advance through school, surprising experts and advocates alike. But the study’s lead researchers say that policymakers shouldn’t abandon pre-K as they seek to close the achievement gap between minority and lower- and higher-income students.

A careful read through the executive summary of the Vanderbilt University report raises some significant caution flags. Studying a randomly assigned group of more than 1,000 kids, researchers essentially found that the initial advantages provided to Tennessee pre-K participants washes away by the end of kindergarten. By first grade, teachers observed worse “non-cognitive” (aka attitude and behavioral) outcomes for the pre-K kids, followed by a similar statistically negative result in “cognitive” (or academic) results in second grade.

This study, which follows its subjects through third grade, is not the original. It’s a sequel. Continue Reading »

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11th 2014
Important Scribbles: What Drawings May Say About Lives at Home

Posted under Arts & Early Childhood & Edublogging & Elementary School & Research

Unfortunately for you, faithful readers, I’m operating on a bit of a time crunch today. Because of that, we will forgo our usual lofty education discussion in favor of something a little different: Drawing. I can’t say I’m sad about the diversion; drawing happens to be one of my favorite pastimes. Besides, I’m sure you all need a break after yesterday’s very, very exciting event at the Colorado Supreme Court.

I like to consider myself a titan in the world of little guy art. Fire-breathing dragons, Play Doh monsters, aliens—you name it, I’ve drawn it. But as it turns out, my drawings may reveal more about me than my somewhat nerdy inclinations. A new study from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill indicates that the drawings of six year olds may offer important hints into what’s going on in those children’s lives. Continue Reading »

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15th 2014
Dangerous Decoration: How Much is Too Much for the Classroom?

Posted under Early Childhood & Just For Fun & Research & Teachers

My English classroom has a fish in it. No, not a real fish. A fish sticker. A shiny fish sticker with glittery scales, blue eyes, and an intriguingly amused expression on his (her?) face. Sometimes it feels like the fish sticker is staring at me. Have you ever tried reading or writing with a shiny fish sticker staring at you? It’s tough. And I often find myself staring back.

As it turns out, I may not be the only little guy distracted by certain classroom decorations. According to an article on NBC News this week, some teachers are beginning to take steps to reduce those distractions by stripping some of their classroom decorations.

The crusade (okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement) against decorations is partially based on a recent study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon that found highly decorated classrooms can affect the learning of young students. Continue Reading »

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21st 2013
Time for “Preschool for All”? Not So Fast, Says New Gold-Standard Research

Posted under Early Childhood & Research & School Choice & School Finance & State Legislature & Tax Credits

A few weeks ago I pointed you to a growing body of research that cast serious doubts on the glowing claims about what universal preschool can accomplish. That was before Amendment 66 went down in flames, including a proposal to boost funding for at-risk early childhood education.

While shell-shocked tax increase supporters continue to mourn the devastating rejection of 66, it’s still difficult to contemplate what might come next. Yet into the fray comes the most powerful batch of troubling results yet — troubling for backers of expanded early childhood education.

A summary of gold-standard research findings on 1,100 intensively studied youngsters in a Tennessee preschool program was reported yesterday by the Brookings Institution’s Russ Whitehurst: Continue Reading »

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28th 2013
Lingering Doubts in Preschool Research Give Greater Pause about Amendment 66

Posted under Early Childhood & Research & School Finance

One of the honest promises put forth by Amendment 66 supporters is that a portion of the funds will go to expanding preschool access for low-income families. The publicly-funded Colorado Preschool Program touts research that shows it’s making a positive difference.

But a new Time column by Kay Hymowitz (H/T Joanne Jacobs) reminds us what the research says about the true limitations of Early Childhood Education: Continue Reading »

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14th 2013
Research Ought to Give Second Thoughts about Government Preschool Programming

Posted under Early Childhood & Education Politics & Federal Government & Research & School Finance

It’s been almost two years since I last brought your attention to the overwhelming research findings that the nearly-50-year-old Head Start program has not made a real difference in education outcomes. But a new Wall Street Journal story by Stephanie Banchero points out that some federal officials appear intent on doubling down.

In an article last month, Heritage Foundation scholars not only summarized the lackluster findings regarding the latest Head Start research but also some disturbing news about how it was released: Continue Reading »

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8th 2013
Looming Legislative Session Evokes More Heartburn than Hope for K-12 Issues

Posted under Denver & Early Childhood & Education Politics & Innovation and Reform & Online Schools & Parents & School Accountability & School Choice & School Finance & State Legislature & Teachers

Run for cover, and hold onto your wallets! Tomorrow marks the beginning of the first session of the 69th Colorado General Assembly. At first, I thought about just re-posting last year’s pre-session warning. Yet while there may be some similarities between 2012 and 2013, it would end up being a lazy thing to do, and less than accurate to boot.

At the risk of being repetitive, though, I first will point readers to the legislative preview by Ed News Colorado’s Todd Engdahl. He notes that:

The question of school finance is expected to overshadow all other education issues. Democratic Sens. Mike Johnston of Denver and Rollie Heath of Boulder are crafting a plan that would significantly overhaul the school funding formula – contingent on subsequent voter approval of new revenues for schools.

A big looming question then is just how significant the proposed school finance changes will be. If they’re not pushing toward real student-centered backpack funding — as Senator Johnston and others discussed last month at a packed Capitol event — then selling voters on a tax hike will become that much more difficult. While the statehouse shouldn’t be as consumed with K-12 education issues last year, Engdahl does point out some you can expect to see on the docket, some of which could be good: Continue Reading »

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14th 2012
Winters Just Made It Even Harder to Argue with Florida’s Education Success

Posted under Early Childhood & Grades and Standards & Independence Institute & Innovation and Reform & Research & School Accountability & School Choice

Last time I wrote about Florida, it was touting their “silver medal” among the 50 states for growing student achievement in the past 15 years. The Harvard study that handed out the imaginary awards analyzed how much progress 4th-grade and 8th-grade students have made on the national NAEP test.

Second place out of 50? Not too shabby. But how valid is it? Some critics have said the remarkable gains Florida 4th-graders have achieved, particularly in reading, are dramatically overblown because of their student retention policy. Since 2003 most of the state’s 3rd-graders who have failed to demonstrate reading proficiency have been held back, of course the test results for the smaller pool of 4th-grade pupils is going to look better. End of story, right?

Not so fast. A recent Independence Institute guest speaker has gone behind the numbers to figure out just how much the retention policy can explain away Florida’s remarkable gains. In a newly published analysis for Education Next, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Marcus Winters finds the truth lies between the two claims, but closer to those made by Florida’s boosters than those made by its critics: Continue Reading »

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29th 2012
Many Colo. Parents Aren’t Buying SB 130′s Early Childhood Bureaucratic Change

Posted under Early Childhood & Governor & Independence Institute & Parents & State Legislature

Look, I’m still young, but I’m learning that there are some different major philosophies out there about what government can and should do. My friends around this place believe that government’s role should be limited and tend to be very skeptical when proposals come forward to expand the government’s role. This one issue is a little bit outside the realm of K-12 education, but it’s drawn some late and well-deserved attention from a couple grassroots groups that also cover the issue.

I’m talking about Senate Bill 130, which just passed the legislature’s upper chamber and is on its way to the Republican-majority House. The legislation would create a new government bureaucratic agency known as the “Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission.”

My friends at Parent Led Reform correctly identify some red flags:

It is touted as merely a bill to restruct [sic] state departments for the sake of efficiency and money savings.

But parents aren’t buying it. Continue Reading »

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2nd 2012
Happy Dr. Seuss’ Birthday: A Fun Friday NEA Tribute from Ed-I-Said

Posted under Early Childhood & Education Politics & Just For Fun & Teachers

Today is the birthday of the late, great Dr. Seuss (aka Ted Geisel). Millions of school children across Colorado and the rest of the United States will hear one or more of his stories as part of the Read Across America campaign. The nation’s largest teachers union is one of the event’s key sponsors. Hey, the NEA needs to show off its softer side, too — especially when mired in a losing PR battle.

So in the spirit of the day, I decided to reach out to some NEA officials and invite them to become regular readers on my blog. Here is an unofficial transcript of the dialogue*: Continue Reading »


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