Wednesday, March 21, 2018
This from the Education Law Center:
A conference hosted and sponsored by ETS on March 14 celebrated the success of New Jersey’s groundbreaking Abbott Preschool program 20 years after a ruling in the landmark Abbott v. Burke lawsuit ordered the Commissioner of Education to provide “well-planned, high quality” early education to all three- and four-year-olds residing in the state’s urban school districts.
Along with ETS, the conference was co-sponsored by Advocates for Children of New Jersey, the National Institute for Early Education and Education Law Center.
David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and counsel to the plaintiff school children in Abbott v. Burke, delivered the following remarks to open the conference:
May 21, 1998. What happened on that date twenty years ago is why we are gathered here today.
On that day, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its fifth ruling in the Abbott v. Burke school funding lawsuit.
A year earlier, in Abbott IV, the Court ordered the State to increase K-12 aid in the 31 urban or “Abbott” districts to the level spent in successful affluent districts, establishing “parity” in general education funding.
The next year – 1998 -- in Abbott V, the Court, based on evidence developed in a special trial, directed the State to fund and implement a package of K-12 “supplemental” programs to address the impact of concentrated poverty in the Abbott districts. The Court also directed the State to fund repairs and replacement of dilapidated school buildings.
These judicial orders standing alone were unprecedented. But the Court went even further.
The road to today’s celebration of Abbott Preschool began with these words from the Justices:
"This Court is convinced that pre-school for three- and four-year-olds will have a significant and substantial positive impact on academic achievement in both early and later school years."
The Court then issued a directive that reverberated in Trenton and across the nation: the Commissioner of Education must require all urban districts to provide “well planned, high quality” preschool for all three- and four-year-olds as expeditiously as possible, or by the start of the 1999-2000 school year.
As lawyers know, the Abbott V order represents a watershed legal ruling – the first in the nation to require preschool as an essential element of a child’s right to education guaranteed in every state constitution.
But it also set in motion a profound sea-change in every aspect of early childhood education policy and practice – from quality standards to classroom instruction, from coordination of private and public programs to integration and alignment with K-12 curriculum and funding.
And the Abbott V preschool order has brought together, in the 20 years since, so many talented and committed teachers, administrators, advocates, lawmakers, parents and experts from diverse sectors – child care, head start, public school, higher education and advocacy. Fighting through long-held differences and distrust, this powerful coalition collaborated over many years to build a preschool system that is not only the crown jewel of early education in the United States, but, most importantly, is improving the lives of thousands of children all across our state every day.
We’re here to recognize this amazing accomplishment and to honor those who worked so tirelessly to make it happen, so many of whom are with us today.
But we will also reflect on our extraordinary achievement and reaffirm our commitment to not stop until every New Jersey child has the opportunity for school readiness by attending an Abbott preschool.
And with Governor Phil Murphy’s historic announcement yesterday of an additional $57 million to strengthen and expand Abbott preschool, now is not the time to rest. Let’s get back to work.
More information about Abbott preschool is available on the ELC website.
View a short video about Abbott preschool created by Advocates for Children of NJ
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
A decade ago, James Ryan, argued that state constitutional rights to education should include access to preschool. Given what we know about brain development, access to high quality education opportunities at an early age is crucial. He explained “Advances in neuroscience have made it clear that the first few years of life are crucial for cognitive development and that early experiences can influence the emerging architecture of the brain” and “[s]ocial science evidence, in turn, suggests that preschool produces definite and substantial gains in learning and development, at least over the short-run.” While there are admittedly gaps in the research, “most of the evidence about preschool points in one direction and is not contradictory or intensely contested.” It is so powerful that researchers began doing cost-benefit analyses of preschool, “concluding that in most cases preschool will more than pay for itself” due to the savings it will produce in other educational, social service, and juvenile justice programs.
Ryan called on school funding litigators to include preschool claims in their cases and many have. And many states have responded. A recent New York Times Magazine article, however, suggests that states are not nearly as serious about preschool as they should be. The title says it all-- Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?
The article reports that:
Even as investment in early-childhood education soars, teachers like Kelly continue to earn as little as $28,500 a year on average, a valuation that puts them on par with file clerks and switchboard operators, but well below K-12 teachers, who, according to the most recent national survey, earn roughly $53,100 a year. According to a recent briefing from the Economic Policy Institute, a majority of preschool teachers are low-income women of color with no more than a high-school diploma. Only 15 percent of them receive employer-sponsored health insurance, and depending on which state they are in, nearly half belong to families that rely on public assistance. “Teaching preschoolers is every bit as complicated and important as teaching any of the K-12 grades, if not more so,” says Marcy Whitebook, a director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. “But we still treat preschool teachers like babysitters. We want them to ameliorate poverty even as they live in it themselves.”
The article also includes good updates on the social science research since Ryan first wrote his article.
Friday, November 13, 2015
The Education Trust's new report, Black Minds Matter, argues that "though it is abundantly clear that Black children can achieve at the highest levels, most of the data paint a dire portrait of an education system — preschool through college — that systematically squanders Black talent." It frames that argument around basic data points. Just to list a few:
- African American children are "less like to have access to high quality preschool and early learning opportunities. The result? Achievement gaps begin early, even before children reach school age."
- "[I]nstead of organizing our K-12 school systems to ameliorate [the fact that African American children often start kindergarten behind], these children get less in school too." They attend the most challenging educational environments.
- African Americans attend schools that are predominantly poor and predominantly minority.
- African Americans are twice as likely to feel unsafe at school and three times as likely to be suspended.
- African Americans are far less likely to be enrolled in rigorous courses.
The report then offers a series of recommendations.
- Offering and ensuring academic relevance, rigor, and supports
- Ensuring equitable access to effective educators
- Extending learning time
- Improving school climate and fixing school discipline
- Providing a broad range of health, wellness, and socio-emotional supports.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
News outlets in Pennsylvania report that without a budget solution in the next week and a half, state funded pre-kindergarten programs will begin closing their doors. All schools and students will soon feel the effects of the education budget battle, but this result is particularly perverse. And I guess this answers my prior blog post--Could School Funding in Pennsylvania Be Any More Problematic?--in the affirmative. Pre-k for disadvantaged students is often the primary remedy that plaintiffs seek in school funding litigation. It is the one program that has the potential to offer the surest and longest lasting results. In Pennsylvania, it is set to be the first thing to go.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Friday, May 15, 2015
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) has released its 2014 State Preschool Yearbook, providing state-by-state data on prekindergarten in the 2013-14 school year. The yearbook finds dramatic differences in both pre-K access and quality among the states.
It is now widely recognized that high quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds is an essential resource in the effort to improve educational outcomes, especially for low-income and other at-risk children. Despite this urgent need, NIEER's annual Yearbook shows that states are moving at a snail's pace to integrate well planned, high quality preschool into their K-12 public education systems, and are even slower to coordinate delivery of quality preschool programs through existing child care, Head Start and public school classrooms. Across the nation, access to high quality early learning opportunities depends on the state, and even the community, where a child lives.
In a 2013 report, the federal Equity and Excellence Commission called for a 10-year program, led by the federal government, during which states would dramatically increase their investment in high quality pre-K to close the nation's early learning gaps. While President Obama has responded to this call with his federal preschool initiative, Congress and the states are lagging behind, undermining the national effort to boost K-12 achievement and close gaps for low-income children, students of color, and English language learners.
While many state budgets are recovering from the Great Recession, NIEER reports that total state funding for pre-K increased by a paltry $116 million nationally, adjusted for inflation. This is the second straight year pre-K funding has increased, but the investment is so low that states have yet to fully reverse the impact of the half billion dollar cut in early education in 2011-2012.
Preschool enrollments also saw very modest growth in 2013-14. Twenty-nine percent of America's 4-year-olds are enrolled in a state-funded preschool program. Total enrollment increased by 8,535 children across the nation, but nearly half this increase represents restoration of the 4,000 seats lost in 2012-13.
State pre-K quality standards showed some improvement in 2013-14. Three programs -- Oregon, Pennsylvania HSSAP, and Wisconsin Head Start -- now meet the requirement that assistant teachers have at least a Child Development Associate credential. Two Pennsylvania programs that had lost benchmarks regained them this year as temporary moratoria on professional development were lifted. In two additional changes, West Virginia met the benchmark for lead teachers with Bachelor degrees, and Michigan met the benchmark for site visits.
Other notable highlights in the Yearbook include:
- Ten states still do not have any state-funded pre-K program
- In some states, notably Connecticut, California, Florida, and Nevada, per pupil funding for pre-K decreased in 2013-14.
- Only three percent of 3-year-olds and only 29 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in pre-K.
An ELC priority is advocacy to ensure access to high quality early education for at-risk children as an essential element of the right to K-12 public education guaranteed by the constitutions of all 50 states. In 1997, ELC secured the nation's first legal ruling establishing the right to preschool under the New Jersey Constitution in the landmark Abbott v. Burke litigation, a precedent that has been followed by trial courts in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Colorado.
"As a nation, we must face the fact that without high quality preschool, K-12 achievement will lag behind the performance of other developed nations, many of which guarantee access to all of their youngsters," said Molly Hunter, ELC's national program director. "Every year of delay deprives more children in our country of the opportunity for school readiness and success."
Thursday, April 30, 2015
The Century Foundation and Poverty & Race Research Action Council's new report A Better Start: Why Classroom Diversity Matters in Early Education is now available. It describes racial, ethnic and economic disparities in preschool. Halley Potter, a contributor to the report, remarks "As policymakers consider the best ways to set our nation's children on a path to success, we hope this report will encourage our leaders to enact creative policy solutions that increase the opportunities for children of different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds to learn together in the same classrooms."
- Read a summary of the findings
- Download the full report
- See coverage of the report in the Washington Post
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
The Century Foundation and the Poverty & Race Research Action Council invite you to attend a Capitol Hill Briefing on a new report, A Better Start: Why Classroom Diversity Matters in Early Education.
Friday, March 20, 2015
George Joseph's new story in the Nation, 9 Billionaires Are About to Remake New York's Public Schools—Here's Their Story, suggests the answer to this post's question is yes. The story details the role that hedge fund managers and other wealthy individuals have played in theorizing and financing changes in public policy in New York state. The two major changes on which he focuses are more charter schools and less money for traditional public schools. The story, if its inferences, are true is rather scandalous. It might also put a different spin on the story I commented on two years ago regarding Goldman Sach's investment in Salt Lake City's pre-k program.
Believing that pre-k would save the district money in the long run, Goldman promised to front the cost of expanding the city's pre-k program. The catch was that the district had to promise Goldman a 40% cut of any subsequent savings in special education that the district accrued. To me, this private investment was persuasive evidence of why the public should invest its own money in pre-k education, and need not let private financiers "get in on the deal."
Does either the New York or Utah story indicate a conspiracy? Not necessarily. But it does indicate that there is money to be made in education and we cannot underestimate the influence of this reality. The public should be hypersensitive in evaluating education policies that directly benefit private industry or individuals. Those policies might very well be good or excellent, but they might also be ruses. Education experts and the research they produce, not the self-serving rhetoric of financial elites, must serve as the arbiters.
Thursday, February 5, 2015
Clara Muschkin, Helen F. Ladd, and Kenneth Dodge have released an important new study on pre-k education, The Impact of North Carolina’s Early Childhood Initiatives on Special Education Placements in Third Grade. They find that pre-k education results in a 39 percent reduction in the number of students receiving special education services by the third grade. That reduction generates savings that pale in comparison to the cost of offering pre-k. These findings solidify the wisdom of the financial investment that Goldman Sachs recently made in Salt Lake City's pre-k program. Goldman agreed to pay for part of the city's pre-k program in exchange for 40% of the savings the city would potentially see in special education over the first 6 years of the students' education.
The abstract and full study are here.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Last week, the Obama administration announced an expansion of the My Brother's Keeper Initiative, which is aimed at improving educational and life opportunities for African American and Latino boys. Sixty of the nation's largest school districts, which educate about 40 percent of the nation's low income African American and Latino boys, agreed to join the President's initiative. They are committing to expand preschool education, expand positive interventions, increase the number of minority boys in advanced courses, reduce their suspension rates, and increase graduation rates.
More on the story here.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Last week, Vermont passed legislation implementing statewide early education for all 3- and 4-year-olds. The bill received bipartisan support. Lawmakers cite equal educational opportunity as a primary goal, but also have a dollars and sense goal. Per the research, lawmakers hope the program will, in the long run, help more lower-income families pull themselves out of poverty. Kudos to Vermont. Slowly but surely, pre-k programs continue to expand. It gives me hope that the question is not whether we will have universal pre-k within a decade, but whether the federal government will help speed the trend or just add its name as an afterthought when we get close to the finish line.
To be clear, however, my comments are born of optism rather than a claim of victory. Just last month, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its 2013 State Preschool Yearbook. The report found states still underfunding preschool programs. NIEER's Executive Director, Steve Barnett, remarked: "Our nation has emerged from the recession, but preschool-age children are being left to suffer its effects. A year ago, our data showed a half-billion-dollar cut in funding for state pre-K and stalled enrollment. For 2012-2013, we find that enrollment is down and funding per child, while up slightly, remains stalled at near-historic lows."
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Back in the fall when the prospect of new federal funds for pre-k education was heating up, there was a significant amount of discussion regarding the academic effects of pre-k education. I offered some analysis of a report that synthesized the research and focused on the long-term effects of pre-k education. The report acknowledged that, while pre-k education shows a positive academic effect as measured by standardized tests in the early school years, those positive effects fade over time, potentially to a point of non-existence. More important, the report found, were the long term effects on graduation rates and the like. Those opposed to spending more on pre-k focus on the former and ignore the latter.
A new article in the National Journal offers further explanation of what the research means and why it reveals this disparate result (loss of academic achievement effect, but retention of other effects). The Journal, speaking of University of Chicago economist James Heckman, explained:
Once Heckman started looking into early childhood interventions, he realized that assessments needed to include noncognitive outcomes—the ability to self-motivate, exhibit self-control, and work toward long-term goals. Those social and emotional skills could influence whether a child later got involved in crime, stayed in high school, or was responsible for a teen pregnancy.
This insight—that teaching children how to learn can be just as important as the content of what they learn—has been one of two key developments in the area of early interventions. The other is a recognition that children are only part of the equation. As a National Academy of Sciences committee recounted in its report, "From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development," "the field of early childhood intervention evolved from its original focus on children to a growing appreciation of the extent to which family, community, and broader societal factors affect child health and development." The more recent interest in home visit programs that can improve parenting skills and potentially alter home environments reflects this more holistic approach to improving children's opportunities.
Over the past two decades, Heckman has developed a case for investing in early interventions focused on low-income children and their families—and he has called for "a major refocus of policy … to capitalize on knowledge about the importance of the early years in creating inequality and in producing skills for the workforce." His research has been hailed, particularly by Democratic policymakers, in large part because Heckman makes the argument that money spent on early childhood intervention produces much higher economic returns than any later efforts in secondary education, job training, and certainly convict rehabilitation.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Late last month, New York reached a budget deal that included a huge victory for pre-k education. New York City will receive $300 million to offer full day pre-k to 4 year olds. Included in the deal were also significant changes for charter schools. Per the New York Times, the new legislation requires the city to
find space for charter schools inside public school buildings or pay much of the cost to house them in private space. The legislation would also prohibit the city from charging rent to charter schools. . . . Under the budget agreement, charter schools would receive more money per student. The schools, previously barred from operating early education programs, would also be eligible for grants for prekindergarten.
Some are citing the legislation as providing charters the greatest protections of any state in the country.
Monday, March 24, 2014
For those who missed it Friday, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released the results its civil rights data collection. OCR is calling it the most comprehensive look at civil rights in education in 15 years. "This data collection shines a clear, unbiased light on places that are delivering on the promise of an equal education for every child and places where the largest gaps remain. In all, it is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "As the President's education budget reflects in every element—from preschool funds to Pell Grants to Title I to special education funds—this administration is committed to ensuring equity of opportunity for all."
"This critical report shows that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well-documented among older students, but actually begin during preschool," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "Every data point represents a life impacted and a future potentially diverted or derailed. This Administration is moving aggressively to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in order to ensure that all of our young people have equal educational opportunities."
The most troubling findings, according to OCR, were:
Access to preschool. About 40% of public school districts do not offer preschool, and where it is available, it is mostly part-day only. Of the school districts that operate public preschool programs, barely half are available to all students within the district.
Suspension of preschool children. Black students represent 18% of preschool enrollment but 42% of students suspended once, and 48% of the students suspended more than once.
Access to advanced courses. Eighty-one percent (81%) of Asian-American high school students and 71% of white high school students attend high schools where the full range of math and science courses are offered (Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, calculus, biology, chemistry, physics). However, less than half of American Indian and Native-Alaskan high school students have access to the full range of math and science courses in their high school. Black students (57%), Latino students (67%), students with disabilities (63%), and English language learner students (65%) also have less access to the full range of courses.
Access to college counselors. Nationwide, one in five high schools lacks a school counselor; in Florida and Minnesota, more than two in five students lack access to a school counselor.
Retention of English learners in high school. English learners make up 5% of high school enrollment but 11% of high school students held back each year.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The picture below by the Center for American Progress sums up why the pre-k bill before Congress may be one of the most important and no-brainer pieces of legislation it has considered in a while. To be honest, last month, I still thought that Arne Duncan and Nicholas Kristof were delusion when Duncan indicated he would get a bill to Congress this year and both predicted it would pass. After all, nothing more than keeping the lights on has seems to move in the Congress.
Getting a pre-k bill before Congress was a small feat, but now that it is there, passage is looking more likely (although probably not before the end of the year). Thus far, support for the bill has been bipartisan and there has been very little criticism of the substance of the bill. This could be because common core fights are sucking the air out of all other education controversies, but I doubt it. There has been some debate of the bill, but it has been largely focused on cost, not on whether pre-k is a good idea. Cost is no small road block in a Congress determined to avoid any new spending, but this bill is beginning to look like one that Congress could pass and, if necessary, figure out how to fund later, including making cuts to other programs so as to not add to the deficit. Those who follow education funding closely know that with federal education funding it is always a two step process. No Child Left Behind, for instance, promised one level of new funding for schools, but Congress later appropriated something far short of the promise.
Friday, November 8, 2013
A new report by the Altarum Institute and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Business Case for Racial Equity, details the economic impact of racial inequality and the benefits of advancing racial equity, particularly given the evolving demography of our nation. It argues, based on economic and social science studies, that increasing racial equity would benefit businesses, government, and the overall economy. It focuses on housing, education, health and criminal justice as the primary areas of inequality that need to be addressed. In education, the report posits that school integration, pre-k education, and high expectations for minority students would produce significant benefits. The arguments and research in regard to each of these education proposals are not new, but the report, unlike most, does bring these three distinct educational reforms together into a single argument about the economy.
Monday, October 28, 2013
President Obama announced his intent to expand pre-k opportunities in his state of the union address earlier this year. Since then, we have seen a lot of good press. A major step was the administrations willingness/ability to convert remaining Race to the Top funds into a pre-k initiative. With that prompting, 16 states have submitted applications detailing their plans to expand pre-k. Those states include Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. This weekend, the New York Times ran a well timed op-ed by Nicholas Kristof, who argues that, while Obama has not pushed hard enough, there is reason to believe we might see universal pre-k coming to fruition. "One reason is that this is one of those rare initiatives that polls well across the spectrum, with support from 84 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans in a recent national survey. And even if the program stalls in Washington, states and localities are moving ahead — from San Antonio to Michigan." Arne Duncan told Kristof "'There’s this magical opportunity; now to get a national early education program in America," and Duncan plans to introduce a bipartisan bill before Congress this year.
At the beginning of this year, I had remarked that maybe certain portions of education presented low-hanging fruit that both sides could use to come away feeling good. Maybe, Kristof and Duncan are right. It is hard, however, to put much faith in our current political process in the short term. Then again, as Kristof points out, pre-k is such a no brainer that it may happen with or without the federal government.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Marian Wright Edleman recently interviewed Jerry Weast, the former superintendent of Montgomery County Schools in Maryland. Montgomery County is one the highest achieving school districts in the country. Edleman, obviously, wanted Weast's sense of how the district got there. The overall message was that the district focused on early childhood education a lot, and the focus was not limited to the district's own education program. Rather, the district reached out to private pre-school service providers and parents. The goal was to make all of the stakeholders aware of the benchmarks the district expected students to meet when they started kindergarten. Before the district's efforts, only 30% of its incoming kindergartners met the standard. Afterward, 90 percent did. The district also focused on "wrap-around" services for its students once they arrived.
As a strong supporter of pre-k programs and wrap-around services, I applaud the district's efforts. I would note, however, that conspicuously missing from the discussion was Montgomery County's housing integration strategies, which played a huge role in creating integrated and diverse schools and high achievement. In fact, a 2010 study by the Century Foundation, entitled Housing Policy is School Policy: Economically Integrative Housing Promotes Academic Success in Montgomery County, Maryland, confirmed that the District's commitment of extra resources to schools with higher need students paid dividends, but integrative housing policy had a larger effect. In other words, the county got more academic bang for its buck by integrating schools than it did by spending money on segregated ones. This is not to say Montgomery County should abandon any of its wonderful education programs or that we should not look to them as a model, but only that integration matters too. Integrated schools with wrap-around services would appear to be the perfect recipe.
Friday, October 18, 2013
New Pre-K Study Emphasizes Long-term Positive Effects on Graduation, Employment and Criminal Behavior
The Society for Research in Child Development just released its new report, Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education. The report does not offer any striking new findings, but it does an excellent job of presenting pre-k research in a very reader-friendly manner. Reader-friendliness, however, was not the enemy of nuance. The report focuses on specific studies and specific limitations. For instance, it indicates that, while pre-k produces impressive short-term academic improvements in math, literacy and language, studies often find the gains fading across time in later grades, at least as measured by standardized tests. This problem has been used by opponents to argue that pre-k is not a good investment. The report provides a powerful rejoinder.
First, the fact that initial gains do not always show up on later tests does not mean that the gains are lost. It may mean that the gains are not being properly measured. Later standardized tests may be testing student knowledge differently or later schools have moved to a different method of instruction and curriculum. Even if the tests were valid measures of learning, which many question, I would say that different methodologies and tests are both are highly possible explanations for the purported "fading of pre-k gains," particularly given the constant churn in tests and standards in recent decades.
Second, the hypothesis of the first point is strongly supported by the fact that students who were in pre-k programs do show significant educational and life outcomes on measures other than standardized tests:
We do not fully understand why the gains of pre-k appear to fade in later grades, but it programs also produced striking results for criminal behavior; fully 60-70% of the dollar-value of the benefits to society generated by Perry Preschool come from impacts in reducing criminal behavior. In Abecedarian, the Investing in Our Future: The Evidence Base on Preschool Education treatment group’s rate of felony convictions or incarceration by age 21 is fully one-third below that of the control group. Other effects included reductions in teen pregnancy in both studies for treatment group members and reductions in tobacco use for treatment group members in Abecedarian.
Added to this impressive criminal justice, pregnancy, and tobacco results are positive effects on high school graduation and employment after high school. The study also points out that, whatever might be said of pre-k in general, it has the strongest impact on the neediest students.