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2014 News and Bulletins
January 29, 2014 | Volume 5, Number 4
By Tim Fitzharris, Ph.D., Fitzharris & Associates
"Representing Early Education Since 1996"
President Obama Pushes Early Education in State of Union Speech; Forms a New Coalition
Last night, President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address to members of Congress and the American people. Presenting for just over an hour on Tuesday night, he focused largely on two things: how the government can bolster the economic situation of people out of work or living in poverty, and how he himself can make those changes even if Congress doesn't.
The White House produced a fact sheet on all of his proposals, which includes raising the minimum wage, improving the earned income tax credit, increased energy production, new manufacturing institutes, a retirement savings account for all Americans, more infrastructural investment, and more. The minimum wage issue was a key indicator of what Obama plans: He'll raise wages to $10.10 per hour for federal contractors unilaterally, but demands Congress raise them for everyone else.
In the speech, he pressed Congress to expand access to early childhood education, a proposal that gained little traction after he proposed it last year. "We must guarantee that every child has access to a world class education. We are not reaching them in time," he said. "Research shows that our best investment is high quality Early Education."
The President told the nation that he creating a new coalition of business leaders, philanthropists, educators, and others to help realize this goal.
Roll Call reproduced a State of the Union Fact Sheet which says this about the President's ECE proposal:
"(I want to continue to Work with Congress to) make high-quality preschool Available to children all across America." "To succeed in the 21st century," he said, "we must have the most dynamic, educated workforce in the world; that education has to start early in life." President Obama has laid out a bold vision to expand access to high-quality pre-school to every four-year old in America and improve access to voluntary home visiting programs and other services for our youngest children.
This year, says the White House, the President worked with Congress to enact a down-payment on this vision by reversing funding cuts to Head Start to provide critical early education to our nation's children, launching new Early Head-Start Child Care Partnerships to expand access to high-quality infant and toddler care for tens of thousands of additional children and expanding access to high-quality public preschool programs through Race to the Top.
The Status of America's Children in New Report
The Children's Defense Fund released its The State of America's Children 2014 report last week, coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's 1964 State of the Union Address in which he declared a War on Poverty.
The report, which includes a comprehensive compilation and analysis of the most recent national and state-by-state data on children's outcomes, shows that for the first time, the majority of infants and toddlers under 2 in America are now children of color and 1 in 3 of them is poor during years of rapid brain development. The report offers a deeply disturbing account of where all children stand — detailing the preventable poverty, hunger, homelessness, sickness, poor education and violence faced by America's children who will one day lead the world's richest economy.
Here are the data for California:
- Nearly 1 in 4 California children – 2.2 million – were poor in 2012
- Nearly 250,000 public school students in California were homeless in 2011-2012, 40 percent more than before the recession
- 73 percent of all eighth grade public school students could not read at grade level in 2013, and 72 percent could not compute at grade level
- Only 65.4 percent of Black students and 71.7 percent of Latino students graduated on time in 2010, compared to 83.9 percent of White student
- 730,000 California children were uninsured in 2012
- More than 180,000 children were arrested in California in 2010 – a rate of 4,384 per every 100,000 children between the ages of 10 and 17
Source: The Children's Defense Fund
Implementing State Education Agencies Policies Cohesively, with a Focus on Early Childhood
Here's a new blog from NIEER on cohesive ECE implementation across the states:
A common New Year's resolution is to be better organized. This often refers to closets or file cabinets, but we can begin to consider the benefits of better organizing our work on initiatives in education. One way to do this is by strengthening the connections between the reforms underway, so that we are working on them in tandem, and ensuring that development in one area is linked to progress in others. Educators are implementing the Common Core State Standards, for example, while working through new approaches to teacher evaluation across the country.
For State Education Agencies (SEAs), this means working diligently to support local education agencies (LEAs) as they interpret and implement these policies and initiatives. SEA early childhood personnel have the additional responsibility and challenge of interpreting and helping others view these through an early learning lens, to ensure developmentally appropriate practices even among those who may not be familiar with those practices and their importance.
Instead of looking at implementation of standards, examination of quality, and adherence to new teacher evaluation methods as separate (and each individually daunting) tasks, we suggest that SEAs and LEAs approach these with coherence. The brief Creating Coherence: Common Core State Standards, Teacher Evaluation, and Professional Learning, from the Center on Great Teachers & Leaders at American Institutes for Research, is a great resource for starting the process. In this guide, the authors present four detailed steps to creating a cohesive approach to implementing Common Core, teacher evaluation systems, and professional learning. The steps are:
- Identify the instructional practices that support Common Core implementation.
- Determine how well the Professional Practice Framework supports the core instructional practice.
- Review and refine the professional learning supports.
- Based on the review, consider next steps for refining, enhancing, or using teacher evaluation and professional learning reforms.
In New Jersey, NIEER and our partner the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) have partnered with the Division of Early Childhood Education, NJ Department of Education to initiate a professional learning community (called the Early Childhood Academy) to support coherence, incorporating these practices. It offers a forum for LEAs to come together to discuss critical initiatives underway in the Garden State. These include teacher evaluation, Common Core State Standards implementation, and improving classroom quality. Incorporating steps 1-3, teachers have had an opportunity to review teacher evaluation requirements and consider specific examples of how the requirements work within early childhood. Participants reviewed an evidence-based document designed to guide observers using teacher evaluation rubrics by providing evidence from an early childhood perspective. Each district will work on creating their own district evidence-based document specific to district curricula. In this academy, we've committed to understanding these reforms in the early childhood classroom; considering how to interpret and support implementation without compromising what makes early childhood different from other elementary grades; and keeping developmentally appropriate practice at the forefront.
The goal of the Early Childhood Academy is to build communities of practice among New Jersey school districts to provide support in their understanding of critical topics and their application to early childhood. Districts learn from and support each other as they address new issues, or provide an early childhood context for K-12 planning. The EC Academy brings representatives from districts together to discuss key topics guided by literature, expert and district presentations, and facilitated discussions across and within districts. Intended as a long-term project, the Academy will grow in year two to include cohorts of districts that engage in systematic data collection for continual improvement guidance– which will assist in implementing Step 4—using responsive coaching practices, and intentional and facilitated cross-district visits, in addition to group meetings. Furthermore, the focus of the EC Academy will continue to grow from preschool and kindergarten into the early elementary school years to develop a comprehensive and seamless focus on school district issues from preschool through third grade.
Through this academy, we have generated a strong communication network among key stakeholders within and across districts. First, within-district communication has been fostered through requirements for district team attendance and participation. Each district team includes a central office administrator, a building administrator, and an early childhood teacher. Second, across-district communication is generated; as one participant noted, "you can borrow practices from other districts to make your district stronger."
I strongly encourage others to consider school level, district level, or state level peer learning communities (PLCs) around EC-specific interpretation and support on key initiatives, to help districts and individuals interpret policies cohesively and specifically for early childhood. District participants quickly recognize the benefits of a coherent and organized approach, and we expect benefits to children's learning and development to grow from this strong foundation.
- Shannon Ayers, Assistant Research Professor, NIEER & CEELO
(ED. NOTE: I hope that NIEER and CEELO are working with equal vigor to coordinate and enhance a coherent and organized approach to ECE in the nonprofit and private community-based sector as well.)
The Capitol Plus Moves Back to a Subscription Basis
During January, while the CDPI website was being updated, we have provided four issues of The Capitol Plus to our entire list serve. We thought that there was too much important information released in the interim that the Field needed to hear.
Now, with the website up and running, we return The Capitol Plus to its traditional subscription basis. Going forward, our list serve will be used to report the availability of each new issue, but not to report news and analysis.
We hope that you have found The Capitol Plus to be timely and useful. The subscription is $99 for the legislative session for individuals and $399 for child development agencies. (Last year, through July, there were 16 issues produced.) Please subscribe using the process below.
Notice: This is a report on California politics, a very dynamic, fluid circumstance at best. Information contained herein is our best effort to be both timely and accurate, but things change. Readers are cautioned to investigate the conditions and facts themselves before acting upon any information presented here.
The Child Development Policy Institute - Education, a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization whose mission is to help establish sound public policy that benefits the children of California, is providing access to its website and managing subscriptions this publication.The opinions expressed in herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Child Development Policy Institute - Education or its individual board members.