Tag Archives: early childhood education

Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education is in the news now because the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) has released “The State of Preschool 2009,” a study that covers national trends, each state’s policies and programs, and a wide variety of charts. The report is free, and—along with the charts, as well as an interactive database—is available online, or you can receive a free printed copy by submitting your name and mailing address in an
email to NIEER

Findings include impact from the economic downturn: budget cuts and program eliminations even as more children became eligible for state-run preschool programs. But in addition, teacher and assistant teacher qualifications lagged, with upwards of twenty states failing to meet NIEER qualifications in each category.

Areas of overall improvement in Pre-Kindergarten programs include:

• in 2008–2009, 44 states met the benchmark for teachers having specialized training in Early Childhood Education, up from 29 states in 2002

• in 2008–2009, 47 states met the benchmark for Early Learning Standards, up from 14 in 2001–2002

• in 2008–2009 45 states met the benchmark for having a class size of 20 or lower and
the same number met the benchmark for having a teacher-student ratio of 1:10 or better

• in 2008–2009, there were also slight improvements in the number of states meeting benchmarks for assistants’ training and site visits.

However, some of the trends are not positive:

• the benchmark requiring the teacher to have a BA has remained at 26 states since 2006–2007, and is down from 27 states in 2004–2005

• the screening/referral benchmark held at 32 in 2008–2009, but had been 33 in 2006–2007

• the benchmark of serving at least one meal was at 22 states in 2001–2002, 2002–2003, and 2005–2006; 23 in 2004–2005 and 2006–2007; fell to 20 in 2007–2008; and crept up, but only to 21 in 2008–2009

For background on the history of Early Childhood Education, you may wish to read our article “Early Childhood Education.”

Head Start Programs

The Head Start child development started in 1965 with the goal of serving low-income children and their families. In the 2006-2007 program year there were 1,071,697 children and pregnant women enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start programs. 976,150 in Head Start and 95,547 in Early Head Start according to the National Head Start Association.

Head Start is an early childhood development program that is very comprehensive. Studies show that the benefits for kids and families that take part in the Head Start program include increased earnings, employment, family stability, less welfare dependency, lower crime, less grade repetition, and less special education. Simply by reducing crime, society gets a huge pay back from contributing to the Head Start program. This point is made because 80% of Head Start funding is from the federal government and then 20% comes from local agencies, private donors and others.
Parents who participate in the program are found to have greater life satisfaction, better coping skills, less anxiety, depression and illness. The children participating in Head Start and Early Head Start are 8 percent more likely to have all of their immunizations. It is clear that there is a high rate of success in this program, not just for the children but for the families as a whole. Research tends to reveal that the families function at a higher rate than those low income families that do not partake of the program.
There has been a debate since the Bush administration about changing the funding from the federal government over to the states. The National Head Start Association points out that there is most likely not enough funding at the local and state level to support such programs. The fear is that because of local and state funding the number of children and families served in the Head Start program would be reduced dramatically and then the progress made in recent years would dissipate. The other fear is that there are not the means or infrastructure to oversee such a widespread program and the children would suffer for it. The argument is made that Head Start programs in general provide a more comprehensive and higher quality programs than their state funded pre-k programs. If the states take over the funding it is likely that that due to lack of funding they will not be able to afford the same quality of teachers and that the outcome of the children will be what suffers.