Early Childhood & Preschool


Early Childhood & Preschool

The field of early childhood education—spanning infancy to 3rd grade—has seen tremendous change in recent years, particularly in the years before kindergarten.

The field of early childhood education—spanning infancy to 3rd grade—has seen tremendous change in recent years, particularly in the years before kindergarten. Educators and the public agree that learning begins early in life and that young children’s social and educational experiences help to shape their future achievement in school.A large body of research also shows that children from low-income homes can have better outcomes in life if they receive high-quality preschool experiences.The news articles, research reports and other information gathered in this Topics section examine the role early learning plays in preparing individuals for a lifetime of education.

In recent decades, early childhood education has garnered more attention. Beginning in the 1990s, breakthroughs in neuroscience created greater awareness among educators and policymakers of the importance of children’s early experiences and environment. Researchers note that the back-and-forth interaction between young children and significant adults in their lives is essential for proper brain growth and later achievement in life. Adverse conditions, such as extreme poverty, neglect, abuse or severe maternal depression, however, can threaten healthy development.

As a result, states have worked both to increase families’ access to early learning programs and to ensure that those programs are safe, enriching and based on the best knowledge in the field. Also a major player, the federal government funds the Head Start preschool program for children in poverty, has supported research on early learning (see section on federal early learning grants below) . The Child Care and Development Block Grant, also a federally funded program for low-income families, is primarily intended to provide care for children while their parents are working, but programs receiving these funds can also be educational in nature.

There has been a strong push by advocates for K-12 schools to see preschool as part of their mission. A 2011 report by The Pew Center on the States said, “If our children are to realize their personal and professional promise, if our country is to continue to boast the creative, adaptable, career-ready populace that has made us the world’s leader in innovation and productivity for more than a century, we must accept that K-12 is the past. The future of public education is pre-K-12.”

Many schools have implemented a pre-K-3 model, which aims to bring greater coordination between preschool programs and the early grades in the areas of curriculum, assessment, teacher professional development and experiences for children—even if the pre-K programs are not physically located in the schools.

Funding Challenges

There are a number of reasons, however, why early childhood programs continue to remain largely outside of the K-12 system. Some school districts provide preschool and some don’t. The primary obstacle is funding. School districts that offer preschool generally use sources other than their state school funding formulas in order to pay for the programs. These include state dollars for preschool, federal Title I dollars, child-care funds, grants and local district funds. Early learning programs provided in the public sector, however, tend to be reserved for children of low-income families, children with special needs or those who are otherwise at risk for later problems in school.

A few states—including Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma—have implemented “universal” pre-K programs, meaning that any 4-year-old can attend. But this term can be misleading because even in those states, funding can fluctuate and parents don’t always find spaces in their local schools. Early learning programs continue to be vulnerable to shifts in the economy. During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress in 2013, he proposed a universal pre-K program for all states and cited the Georgia and Oklahoma laws as possible models. In November, a bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers debuted a bill that adopted many of the measures found in Obama’s proposal. Since the State of the Union address, U.S. Secretary of Education has gone on a full charm offensive in meetings with state-level leaders to raise interest in a national early education initiative. Whether that full court press will bring to bear a federal early education law remains to be seen. 

But while the federal government has been slow to act on new early learning legislation, states have been active. A report in late November of 2013 recorded 25 states enacting 35 pieces on legislation related to early education, from funding to standards and licensure rules.

There is some debate whether preschool should be available to all families—just like K-12—or should be “targeted” to children most in need of additional supports. Even with growing advocacy for the universal model, many policymakers—looking at how best to spend limited funds—have  returned to focusing on providing services to low-income children because, according to the research, those are the children who benefit the most.

For parents who don’t qualify for targeted programs, the range of options includes child care centers, private preschools, family child care homes, and co-ops run by parents. The cost of child care and private preschool programs can take a big chunk out of a family’s budget. Competition for slots also can be intense. Attention in recent years has turned to improving access for families who don’t qualify for public programs but don’t earn enough to pay for private programs.

Head Start and Collaboration

The federal Head Start program, available in all states, serves close to a million children. Early Head Start serves infants and toddlers. In 2011, funding for both programs was at roughly $8 billion. Funds flow directly to grantees, which are community-based agencies, school districts and other government agencies. Head Start uses a comprehensive model, meaning services focus on children’s health, social and academic development, and family support. Researchers and politicians have long argued over whether it is an effective program, particularly whether participation increases children’s early academic or “school readiness” skills.

Reporters covering early childhood programs should understand that there is a great deal of collaboration and overlap among state-funded programs, Head Start and community-based program providers. Because many public schools don’t have space for additional classrooms, states have formed partnerships with private programs in order to offer early childhood services.

Some centers, for example, might have several programs—or “funding streams”—under their roofs, as well as slots that are fully paid for by parents. This structure has broken down some of the barriers that have existed in the field and has allowed staff from different programs to participate in training together. But because each program has its own set of requirements and standards, conflicts can also arise.

Federal Grants on Early Learning

As part of the Obama administration’s series of competitive education grants known as Race to the Top, 20 states have received tens of millions of dollars each for expanding preschools, training early learning instructors and building up capacity to educate more young children. Since late 2011, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded the following states nearly $1 billion in Early Leanring Challenge grants: California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

A Variety of Models

Most experts agree that early learning programs should help to develop the “whole” child—youngsters’ physical, emotional, social and cognitive growth. As with K-12 schools, states have also developed standards for their early learning programs, but they don’t always cover all those areas of child development.

With the push for public schools to meet higher academic goals, many preschool classrooms have in turn increased their emphasis on children’s academic skills and assessments. In response, some experts have called for preschool and the early grades to allow for more play in the daily schedule.

The term “developmentally appropriate,” used by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), a nonpartisan organization of educators, researcher, policymakers and others who focus on helping young children learn, has guided many early childhood educators for decades. But it’s a phrase that has often created confusion over how learning for young children should be structured.

Multiple teaching approaches and curriculum models exist throughout the early childhood field, with some being more “teacher directed” and others giving children more control over their activities.

Most experts agree that high-quality classrooms should have the following components:

  • a choice of activities
  • a curriculum
  • opportunities for rich conversation and language development
  • exposure to the major content areas
  • hands-on, active learning
  • well-trained, culturally responsive and nurturing teachers
  • a structured routine
  • a mix of individual, small-group and whole-group learning
  • ongoing communication with parents and opportunities for them to be involved in their children’s learning

Reporters will hear a mix of acronyms and terms in reference to the mechanisms used for determining whether programs are meeting expectations, such as:

ECERS-R—Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised: a series of 43 indicators in categories such as space and furnishings, personal care routines, language-reasoning and program structure.
CLASS-Classroom Assessment Scoring System—Observation tool that focuses on the interaction between teachers and students and the emotional and instructional support provided.

Accreditation—A seal of approval by a professional or other educational organization. Most typically refers to the NAEYC’s accreditation system. — Linda Jacobson, June 2012 (Updated by Mikhail Zinshteyn, December, 2013)

Member Stories

July 27 – August 2
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

An analysis by the Palm Beach Post’s Andrew Marra uncovers significant salary declines for veteran teachers even as the cost of living has climbed.

Ryan McKinnon of the Herald Tribune examines child care in Florida, where providers are just scraping by while parents are breaking the bank.

Latest News

The Confounding State Of Child Care in Florida

Florida’s child care industry is a case study in market failure — providers are selling their services at fire-sale prices, but it is still too expensive for the consumers. Providers are just scraping by while parents are breaking the bank to pay for child care. Although the issue isn’t isolated to the Sunshine State, child care experts point to a multitude of Florida-specific factors.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Five Tips for Reporting on Infants and Toddlers
An award-winning journalist explains how, and why, to cover early childhood education

If you think about education reporting as covering schools and the students who attend them, you might be scratching your head as to why infants and toddlers are newsworthy subjects. But if education reporting is really about covering learning, then children under age 4 are some of the best subjects you could imagine.

EWA Radio

Summer Reading List: ‘Little Soldiers’
What happens when an American boy enrolls in a Chinese school?
(EWA Radio: Episode 175)

Around the time that China’s Shanghai province was drawing international attention for top scores on a global exam, U.S. journalist Lenora Chu and her husband moved into their new Shanghai home. They lived just blocks away from a highly-regarded primary school that she calls a “laboratory for Chinese education reform,” and managed to secure a spot for their young son. The next few years gave Chu an inside look into Shanghai’s elite school system, and sparked a deeper interest in education in China.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Child Care ‘Deserts’: What Are They and Where Are They Located?

Early childhood education is rarely a beat education journalists can cover exclusively. But the need for quality coverage is great, especially as more and more state governments, private foundations, and districts zero in on early childhood education as a place for greater investment.

Experts weighed in on one issue in particular last month at the Education Writers Association’s national conference: How can journalists cover communities that are “child care deserts?”

Latest News

Waukegan’s Preschool Program Cut Nearly In Half Following State Funding Denial

An estimated 360 Waukegan children won’t get to attend preschool this year through Waukegan District 60 because the state denied its grant application, the first denial in the program’s 26-year history.

The district has requested a copy of its application’s scoring rubric to see what led to the denial, said Marcus Alexander, the district’s director of teaching and learning. That request could take two to four weeks to fulfill.

Latest News

Child Care Options for Parents Working Outside Traditional Hours Are Limited.

A few months ago I headed to Bright Beginnings at the end of my workday to volunteer with their evening program. When I arrived at 6 p.m., two teachers were serving dinner to a table of about 10 toddlers and prekindergarteners. I sat down and received a warm welcome. No stranger to new people, a chorus of sweet voices began interrogating me—“Can you sit next to me instead?” and “Do you want some of my salad?” After dinner, the teachers helped the children throw away their plates, wash their hands, and head across the room for story time. Then we played with Legos and Picasso Tiles.

Latest News

Child Care in Iowa: Families Struggle to Find Care

Stevie Kimrey, 26, works two, sometimes three, jobs so she can afford the $350-a-week child care bill for her two daughters. 

A single mom, she has her girls, ages 3 and 1, in in-home day care while she works as a makeup artist at Ulta. Kimrey of Urbandale pays friends to watch them while she works evenings serving at 515 American Sports Bar & Grill, picking up shifts at another restaurant when she’s short on cash. 

EWA Radio

Can Kindness Be Taught? The L.A. School District Is Trying to Find Out.
Social and emotional learning is focus of new curriculum (EWA Radio: Episode 167)

In the nation’s second-largest school district, every preschooler — nearly 30,000 of them — are being taught an experimental curriculum that focuses on so-called “soft skills,” such as empathy and cooperation. Reporter Priska Neely of Southern California Public Radio recently explored the Sanford Harmony model — named for a billionaire banking philanthropist — which is being used with more than 1 million K-5 students nationwide, including in Los Angeles.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Child Care Educators: Underpaid and Underappreciated, Analysts Say

Patricia Twymon set her jaw and spoke slowly and firmly.

“The misperception is that I am a babysitter,” Twymon told a room full of education journalists. “I am not a babysitter. I am an educator, I am a professional, and I should be treated as such.”


71st EWA National Seminar
Los Angeles • May 16-18, 2018

EWA 71st National Seminar Los Angeles graphic

EWA’s National Seminar is the largest annual gathering of journalists on the education beat. This multiday conference provides participants with top-notch training delivered through dozens of interactive sessions on covering education from early childhood through graduate school. Featuring prominent speakers, engaging campus visits, and plentiful networking opportunities, this must-attend conference provides participants with deeper understanding of the latest developments in education, a lengthy list of story ideas, and a toolbox of sharpened journalistic skills.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Should the Government Support Families?
Experts debate federal policies that support early care and learning

Government agencies give lip service to the importance of high-quality child care and early learning programs, but the patchwork system of tax breaks and government grants has too many gaps, causing many families to struggle with bills. And many communities have too few options for high-quality early learning opportunities. That was the consensus of a panel of experts who spoke at the Education Writers Association’s early childhood conference Nov. 6 and 7.

They debated however, the causes of and potential fixes to the problems – ranging from taxes to grants to privatization.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Investing in Early Childhood Education Could Help School Districts Save Big

The evidence base for early childhood education expanded last month with the release of two reports that, together, analyze the outcomes of more than 100 early childhood interventions.

The reports, from the Rand Corporation and the American Educational Research Association (AERA), find short- and long-term benefits for children and families, and identify potential cost-savings for schools and government.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

An ‘Ounce’ of Early Education Pays Off
First Lady of Illinois Says Funding Should Be Made More Sustainable

Diana Rauner advocates for early childhood care and education today because of ex-offenders.

The now-first lady of Illinois was working on Wall Street years ago when she began volunteering at a local settlement house, teaching ex-offenders how to read. She remembers being astonished that somebody her age could not know how to read.

“That really was when I decided to start thinking about educational inequities,” Rauner said at a recent Education Writers Association conference on early learning at the Erikson Institute held in Chicago Nov. 6 and 7, 2017.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Reporters Should Look for in Early Learning Settings
Lectures don't work well for young children. Look instead for child-directed fun.

In some classrooms she visited, children counted numbers as they did jumping jacks, author Suzanne Bouffard said. In others, teachers lectured as children sat quietly, nearly whispering answers to questions as if scared to say the wrong thing — something you never want to see a 4-year-old do.

The stark differences among these preschool classrooms illustrate what years of research have documented, Bouffard said.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Tight Budgets Force Hard Choices Among Child Care Providers
Funding constraints, high cost of quality leave early learning programs feeling squeezed

“An impossible equation.” That’s how Phil Acord describes the challenge of keeping afloat a high-quality early learning program that serves children from low-income families.

As the president of the Chambliss Center for Children, a nonprofit organization that provides around-the-clock care and education to young children in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Acord knows well how difficult it can be for child care providers to simply keep their doors open each month.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

EWA’s Early Education Seminar in 14 Tweets

About 45 education reporters gathered in Chicago this week for EWA’s two-day seminar on covering early learning. They got a primer on early education research and the complex web of funding sources for zero-to-five education and care. Reporters visited highly recognized early learning centers in the Windy City and got tips on what to look for during visits.


Covering Early Learning: Putting the Pieces Together: Agenda
Chicago • November 6–7, 2017

Monday, November 6, 2017

Erikson Institute, Polk Bros. Lecture Hall, Room 201

Registration and Lunch
12:00 – 12:30 p.m.

Welcome & Ice Breaker
12:30 – 1:00 p.m. 

  • Caroline Hendrie, Education Writers Association


Framing Remarks: Understanding the Puzzle of Early Learning
1:00 – 1:30 p.m.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Congress Ramps Up Efforts to Address Child-Care Costs

Action on Capitol Hill to address early childhood care and education is heating up, with key deadlines looming and critical legislation pending.

Last week, Democrats in the House and Senate introduced an ambitious child-care plan, while a House panel approved a bill to extend a popular federal home visiting program that seeks to help low-income families raise healthy children. That program, currently funded at $400 million, is set to expire unless Congress acts by the end of the month.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What’s the Price of High-Quality Child Care for All Kids?

Taryn Morrissey recalls that when she had her first child several years ago, “I knew how expensive it was going to be.” Morrissey is, after all, an associate professor at American University who studies child-care policy. Then she started shopping for child-care centers and got hit with sticker shock.

“It’s REALLY expensive,” she said with a laugh.


Covering Early Learning: Putting the Pieces Together
Chicago • Erikson Institute • November 6-7, 2017

From the moment a child is born, the learning begins. By the time kindergarten arrives, gaps have set in that can last a lifetime.

In states red and blue, policymakers and advocates are increasingly looking to children’s earliest years to address the achievement gaps that have long plagued the U.S. education system. But as investment and enrollment in early childhood programs grow, access, quality, and cost all present problems.

EWA Radio

On the Menu: Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts and School Nutrition
EWA Radio: Episode 135

Tovin Lapan of The Hechinger Report visited Greenville, Miss., to examine how President Trump’s proposed budget cuts could impact rural school communities that depend heavily on federal aid for after-school and student nutrition programs. What does research show about the connections between connecting students’ eating habits and test scores?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

As Pre-K Expands, Divide With Elementary Grades Threatens Success

With enrollment in public prekindergarten programs at a record high, there is a growing emphasis on building stronger connections between children’s early learning experiences and the K-12 system. But bridging the divide between a sector that lacks a coherent structure and the more rigid K-12 system is a challenge rife with logistical as well as philosophical dilemmas.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What’s Ahead for Head Start?

To some, Head Start is an essential yet underfunded part of the education system. To others, it’s a classic example of a bloated federal program.

Despite the wide divergence in opinions and the political sea change driven by the 2016 elections, the nation’s largest and oldest federally-funded early childhood education program appears likely to remain in place.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Trump Eyes Tax Code to Tackle Child Care

The tax code is complicated, the child-care system is fragmented, and President Donald Trump’s policy proposals can seem to change on a whim. And so, making sense of how tax reform can make child care more “accessible and affordable,” as Trump has vowed, is no simple task.

The need to provide relief for families shouldering the high cost of child care has emerged as one of the few points of agreement between the White House and Democrats in Congress, but the two sides differ on just how to do that.

EWA Radio

Why the U.S. Military’s Early Childhood Programs Excel
EWA Radio: Episode 113

Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week and the PBS NewsHour visited the early learning and daycare center at a Marine Corps base in North Carolina to find out why such programs are rated among the best in the country. What spurred the Department of Defense to invest so heavily in teachers and support for the littlest learners? What evidence is there that these investments pay off in the long run?

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Latino Kindergartners Trail White Peers in Math by 3 Months

Latino students in kindergarten trail their white peers in math by approximately three months’ worth of learning, a new study by Child Trends Hispanic Institute has found. 

Researchers drew a nationally representative sample of students from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-2011 who were followed through the end of their fifth-grade year. Sixty-two percent of the 2,199 Latino students studied had at least one foreign-born parent, and 45 percent spoke only Spanish or predominantly Spanish at home. Nearly half lived in poverty.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

What’s Next for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics?
A Q&A With Outgoing Executive Director Alejandra Ceja

Alejandra Ceja has been the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics since 2013 — a position she’ll give up at noon on Jan. 19, the day before the presidential inauguration. I recently sat down with her at the U.S. Department of Education to talk about the state of Latino education, the Initiative’s first 25 years, and what we can expect from the Initiative under the next administration. 

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length. 


Changes in Income-Based Gaps in Parent Activities with Young Children from 1988-2012
American Educational Research Association

Numerous studies show large differences between economically advantaged and disadvantaged parents in the quality and quantity of their engagement in young children’s development. This “parenting gap” may account for a substantial portion of the gap in children’s early cognitive skills. However, researchers know little about whether the socioeconomic gap in parenting has increased over time. The present study investigates this question, focusing on income- (and education) based gaps in parents’ engagement in cognitively stimulating activities with preschool-aged children.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

More Students Are Graduating, But That’s Not the Whole Story

As federal education officials tout a fourth consecutive year of improvement in the nation’s high school graduation rate, the reactions that follow are likely to fall into one of three categories: policymakers claiming credit for the gains; critics arguing that achievement gaps are still far too wide to merit celebrating; and policy wonks warning against misuses of the data.

EWA Radio

Is the U.S. Overlooking Its Littlest Learners?
EWA Radio: Episode 91

(Flickr/First Hattiesburg)

Who needs preschool? What do we know about the programs that produce the best long-term results? And why is America lagging so far behind many countries in providing high-quality, affordable programs to young learners?

In a six-part series for The Hechinger Report, Lillian Mongeau examines the latest research, visits classrooms in the U.S. and abroad, and looks at efforts to raise the bar for certification and training for early childhood educators. She talks with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about what she learned in places like Boston and England, and offers smart story ideas for reporters in their own communities. 

EWA Radio

Bright Lights, Big City: Covering NYC’s Schools
EWA Radio: Episode 89

(Unsplash/Pedro Lastra)

Today’s assignment: Reporting on the nation’s largest school district, with 1.1 million students and an operating budget of $25 billion. Patrick Wall of Chalkbeat New York has dug deep into the city’s special education programs, investigated whether school choice programs are contributing to student segregation rather than reducing it, and penned a three-part series on on one high school’s effort to reinvent itself. He talks with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about his work, and offers tips for making the most of student interviews, getting access to campuses, and balancing bigger investigations with daily coverage. A first-prize winner for beat reporting in this year’s EWA Awards, Wall is spending the current academic year at Columbia University’s School of Journalism as a Spencer Fellow.


Pre-K-12 Education in the 2016 Race
The U.S. Elections & Education: Part 1

Pre-K-12 Education in the 2016 Race

Experts and advocates assess how early childhood and K-12 education issues are factoring into the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They offer analysis of the candidates’ campaign positions and explore the complex politics of education policy. They also discuss other key elections around the nation with big stakes for education.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

The boys (and girls) are back in town. For class, that is.

See how forced that lede was? Back-to-school reporting can take on a similar tinge of predictability, with journalists wondering how an occasion as locked in as the changing of the seasons can be written about with the freshness of spring.

Recently some of the beat’s heavy hitters dished with EWA’s Emily Richmond about ways newsrooms can take advantage of the first week of school to tell important stories and cover overlooked issues.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Free For All? The Debate Over Universal Pre-K

The efficacy and quality of universal pre-school programs is a hot topic of debate for the nation's education policymakers and researchers. (Flickr/Seattle Parks)

When it comes making prekindergarten available to all children, the question for policymakers is not whether it’s a good idea or not. The issue is whether it’s possible to make high-quality pre-K universal, and what makes pre-K effective in the first place.

That was the main message from experts who spoke earlier this month at the Education Writers Association’s national seminar in Boston.


Early Childhood Education: Quality and Access Pay Off

Professor Heckman’s comprehensive new study, Early Childhood Education, addresses two important issues in the debate over early childhood education programs: are they effective and should they be subsidized by the government. Heckman and co-authors Sneha Elango, Jorge Luis García and Andrés Hojman, find that disadvantaged children benefit the most from a variety of early childhood interventions and society receives a higher return from targeted investments. As a result, policy makers would be wise to use means-testing rather than universal subsidies for all children. 


Preschool-to-Third Grade Programs and Practices: A Review of Research
UW-Madison School Of Social Work

The preschool-to-third grade perspective has helped the early childhood field move away from a reliance on relatively brief or one-shot programs toward more systematic and comprehensive models that span most of children’s first decade. We review the knowledge base on the effectiveness of preschool-to-third grade intervention programs and practices for young children making the transition to school.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Cultural Values and the Path to Early Academic Success

Selma Caal of Child Trends Hispanic Institute, Paulina Sodi of Telemundo Houston, and José Lizárraga of the University of California, Berkeley participated in a panel discussion on educating young Latinos during the 2015 Spanish-Language Media Convening in Orlando on Sept. 17. Source: Twitter/ via @PaulinaSodi

Latino children enter kindergarten with socioemotional skills that are on par and sometimes even better than their non-Latino peers’ abilities. This means they’re on track in their capability to make friends and behave in school. But Latinos also have a greater probability of arriving to their first day of classes behind their peers academically.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Latino Student Progress Means U.S. Educational Progress


President Barack Obama has made it a goal to produce more college graduates than any other nation in the world. In the opening session of the Education Writers Association’s second annual Spanish-Language Media Convening, Modesto Abety-Gutierrez presented a picture of the Latino student population in the United States. Abety-Gutierrez is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

CNN Debate Aside, Ed. Finds Way Into Presidential Race


Education didn’t exactly make a splash in this week’s Republican presidential debate — barely a ripple, actually — but the issue has gained considerable attention in the 2016 contest for the White House, from debates over the Common Core to proposals on higher education access and affordability.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Report: Skipping School Hurting Younger Learners


While too many students at all grade levels are regularly skipping school, many preschoolers and kindergarteners are missing nearly as much seat time as teenagers, according to a new report.

The lost learning time, particularly in the younger grades, translates into weaker math and reading skills that become long-term deficits for students even years down the road, according to the new report from Attendance Works, a national advocacy organization, and the nonprofit Healthy Schools Campaign.


69th EWA National Seminar

The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts

Escaping the Ordinary: The Best Back-to-School Story Ideas
Back-to-School Webinar

Escaping the Ordinary: The Best Back-to-School Story Ideas

For education reporters, coming up with fresh angles for back-to-school stories is an annual challenge. Two veteran education journalists—Steve Drummond (NPR) and Beth Hawkins (MinnPost)—share smart tips for digging deep, and keeping ahead of the curve on the latest trends. We discuss new ways of approaching the first day of school, ideas for unique profiles, strategies for data projects and how to make the most of your publication’s multimedia resources. 


Blog: The Educated Reporter

At Chicago Preschool, Parental Involvement Is Key

A preschooler and his teacher at the Educare Center in Chicago. (Photo credit: The Ounce of Prevention Fund)

With engaged parents, bright futures are possible. That’s the philosophy of a child care center on Chicago’s South Side that is pairing research-based child development techniques with a strong family partnership.

The Educare Center grew from a program that had been based at the notorious Robert Taylor Homes. Educare opened their own facility in 2000 as the public housing high-rises across the street were being dismantled.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Benefits of Investing in Early Childhood Education

(Flickr/Barnaby Wasson)

Preschool advocates have had a tough time convincing lawmakers that spending money in the earliest years of a child’s education has a long-term payoff.

Just ask Illinois First Lady Diana Rauner.

At this year’s Education Writers Association conference in Chicago, Rauner said her husband, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, understands the value of early childhood education.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Littlest Learners See Boost with Less Stress, Active Dads

Lillian Mongeau of The Hechinger Report (left) moderates a conversation with Natasha Cabrera and Geoffrey Nagle at EWA's National Seminar in Chicago in May 2015. (EWA/Mikhail Zinshteyn)

Saturday nights in the newsroom we keep an ear tuned to the scanner. After dark it becomes this portal to all nightmares, a listening post to a relationship war zone.

At first, calls of beatings, knifings and guns drawn ramp up the adrenalin. But eventually, the drone of the dispatchers and pure repetition dull the impact. About 40 percent of all cases at the District Attorney’s office in my county relate to domestic violence.


A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America

The U.S. Department of Education released a new report outlining the unmet need for high-quality early learning programs in America. Roughly 6 in 10 four-year-olds are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, and even fewer are enrolled in the highest quality programs.

While both states and the federal government invest in early learning, these efforts have fallen short of what is needed to ensure that all children can access a high-quality early education that will prepare them for success.


The Condition of Latinos in Education: 2015 Factbook
Excelencia in Education

Excelencia in Education

Excelencia in Education is committed to using data to inform public policy and institutional practice to achieve our mission of accelerating student success for Latinos in higher education. We know college success does not begin at the college gates. Every educational experience from early childhood to high school and into the workforce influences the potential for college success.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Putting the Focus on the Littlest Learners

Huffington Post education reporter Joy Resmovits talks with children at a New Orleans preschool during an EWA site visit in February 2014. (EWA/Emily Richmond)

Massachusetts regularly scores at or near the top of national comparisons when it comes to its public schools, and the newest report from the Education Week Research Center is no exception – in overall education indicators it receives a B, the highest letter grade among the states. However, the Bay State isn’t faring as well with early childhood education.  “Preparing to Launch: Early Childhood’s Academic Countdown” gives the Bay State a “C-” for its programs serving the littlest learners.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Think Like a Journalist: Parents Learn How to Get Involved

Just like journalists need to know the important questions to ask on the education beat, parents do, too. 

That’s the spirit behind a joint initiative by The Dallas Morning News, Al Día — it’s Spanish publication — and Southern Methodist University to get Hispanic parents involved in their children’s education. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Are Students Learning Lessons of Midterm Elections?

Today is a day off from school for millions of students as campuses in some districts and states — including Michigan and New York — are converted into polling stations for the midterm elections. To Peter Levine, the director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, that’s a missed opportunity to demonstrate democracy in action.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Early Education Plans Hit Snags

Students play at an early education center in New Orleans (Source: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)

Early education gets support from both sides of the aisle. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce runs campaigns advocating for it. So does Hillary Clinton. And research appears conclusive that it’s important.

But as states respond to the data, a new challenge emerges: implementing early education programs successfully. Several recent stories provide different looks at how some locales are scaling up their early education offerings.


High-Profile Head Start Center in the District Loses Federal Funding

The Edward C. Mazique Parent Child Center has been a backdrop for political news conferences and a destination for foreign dignitaries. Now it’s among the first in the Washington region to lose its Head Start grant.

Head Start, which costs about $8 billion a year and serves a million children and families nationwide, has been under pressure to improve quality amid reports of fiscal mismanagement and questionable academic outcomes.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Early Childhood Education 101: Reporting on the Littlest Learners

From President Barack Obama’s 2013 call to expand preschool in his State of the Union Address to a series of statewide pushes for better-funded early childhood education programs, all eyes are turning toward our nation’s youngest learners.

Journalists hoping to tap into the world of early childhood education reporting will have no shortage of angles and story ideas to tackle.


Kindergartners’ Skills at School Entry Report

The report, commissioned by Sesame Street Workshop and written by Mathematica Policy Research, shows wide differences in school readiness persist with 44% of children entering school with one or more risk factors that impact their success in school. The analysis examined four risk factors that have been associated with children’s development and school achievement: single parent households, mothers with less than a high school education, households with incomes below the federal poverty line and non-English speaking households.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Summer Jobs Slide

 Source: Flickr/a loves dc

The summer slide doesn’t just pertain to flagging academic skills while kids soak in the sun and skip the books. Increasingly, even as math and literacy fall by the wayside, high school students are losing out on access to summer wages.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Poll: Support for Common Core Slipping Among California Voters

Credit: flickr/rocksee

new poll from PACE/USC Rossier School of Education suggests California voters are losing enthusiasm for the Common Core State Standards.

PACE/Rossier pollsters spoke with more than 1,000 Californians to gauge their views on a number of key issues, including the recent Vergara vs. California teacher tenure ruling, the new Common Core standards, and the job performance of state and national policymakers. Among the highlights:


Defending the Early Years

Defending the Early Years (DEY) seeks to rally educators to take action on policies that affect the education of young children. The project seeks to mobilize the early childhood education community to speak out against what it considers inappropriate standards, assessments, and classroom practices.


Blog: The Educated Reporter

EWA National Seminar: How to Tell a Compelling Story

Today’s post features guest blogger Mandy Zatynski of The Education Trust, who attended EWA’s National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville earlier this month. 

Thanks to the prevalence of blogs and other communication platforms, education writing now reaches beyond daily journalism and includes advocates, researchers, and almost anyone who has an interest in education and the desire to opine.

But that doesn’t mean all of it is good.


The State of Preschool 2013 Yearbook

Twenty-eight percent of America’s 4-year-olds were enrolled in a state-funded preschool program in the 2012-2013 school year, the same percentage as the year before. The actual number of children enrolled decreased, including 9,000 fewer 4-year-olds served in these programs. The findings in this Yearbook raise serious concerns on the quality and availability of pre-K education for most of American young learners.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Lawsuit Alleges New Mexico Shortchanges English Language Learners

A Latino civil rights organization has filed a lawsuit against the state of New Mexico, alleging that its public school system is denying students from low-income backgrounds and English language learners access to a quality education. 

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed suit on Tuesday, on behalf of parents from around the state and their school-aged children.


Zero to Five: The Crucial Years

Zero to Five: The Crucial Years

Dana Suskind of Thirty Million Words discusses the childhood language gap and approaches to closing it; Natasha Cabrera of the University of Maryland talks about the assets minority children bring to preschool; and Tim Bartik of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research talks about the economics of early childhood education.

Recorded Feb. 3, 2014 at Tulane University during EWA’s seminar for reporters, “Building a Child’s Mind: Inside Early Childhood Education.”


Early Learning: Kindergarten Online Database
State-by-State Policies and Requirements

Kindergarten entrance age

In half of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, students must turn age 5 by the end of September to attend kindergarten.
Nineteen states requires students to turn age 5 on or before Sept. 1.

Kindergarten attendance requirement

Fifteen states plus D.C. require children to attend kindergarten at age five or require kindergarten attendance prior to enrolling in first grade.
Thirty-five states do not require kindergarten attendance.

Compulsory school age


How I Did the Story: Tips For Reporters Writing About Early Ed

How I Did the Story: Tips For Reporters Writing About Early Ed

Veteran education reporter Sarah Carr offers advice and strategies for journalists on the challenges of covering early childhood.

Recorded Feb. 3, 2014 at Tulane University during EWA’s conference for reporters, “Building a Child’s Mind: Inside Early Childhood Education.”


How I Did the Story: The Hell of American Day Care

How I Did the Story: The Hell of American Day Care

In 2013, Jonathan Cohn wrote about the frightening inadequacies of the American child care system for the New Republic. We asked him to join us at our early childhood education conference to talk about how he reported “The Hell of American Daycare.” 

Recorded Feb. 3, 2014 at Tulane University during EWA’s conference for reporters, “Building a Child’s Mind: Inside Early Childhood Education.”


Is Federal Early Childhood Policy Headed in the Right Direction?

Is Federal Early Childhood Policy Headed in the Right Direction?

What has the Obama administration achieved in the area of early childhood education? What are the pros, cons and prospects for its current agenda? And how is that agenda playing out in the broader policy landscape, federal and otherwise? A discussion between Libby Doggett, U.S. Department of Education, and Russ Whitehurst of the Brookings Institution, moderated by NPR’s Claudio Sanchez.

Recorded Feb. 3, 2014 at Tulane University during EWA’s conference for reporters, “Building a Child’s Mind: Inside Early Childhood Education.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Early Childhood Education: Does the Research Justify the Cost?

EWA recently hosted a seminar in New Orleans on early childhood education. We asked some of the journalists who attended  to contribute posts from the sessions. Today’s guest blogger is Alexander Russo of Scholastic’s This Week in Education. You can also find out more about early childhood education on EWA’s Topics page.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Show Them the Money: Getting Creative on Funding Public Preschool

EWA recently hosted a seminar in New Orleans on early childhood education. We asked some of the journalists who attended  to contribute posts from the sessions. Today’s guest blogger is Leslie Brody of The Record in New Jersey. You can also find out more about early childhood education on EWA’s Topics page.

In the face of the enormous challenge of boosting public funds for preschool, advocates of early childhood education are getting creative.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Early Ed Keynote: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro

Earlier this month EWA hosted a seminar in New Orleans on early childhood education. We’ll be sharing video and podcasts from the event in the coming weeks. We also asked some of the journalists who attended  to contribute posts from the sessions. Today’s guest blogger is Joy Resmovits of the Huffington Post. You can also find out more about early childhood education on EWA’s Topics page.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Early Childhood Ed: Combatting Effects of Toxic Stress

Earlier this month EWA hosted a seminar in New Orleans on early childhood education. We’ll be sharing video and podcasts from the event in the coming weeks. We also asked some of the journalists who attended  to contribute posts from the sessions. Today’s guest blogger is Adrienne Lu of the Pew Charitable Trusts. You can also find out more about early childhood education on EWA’s Topics page.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Early Ed and the Common Core

Earlier this month EWA hosted a seminar in New Orleans on early childhood education. We’ll be sharing video and podcasts from the event in the coming weeks. We also asked some of the journalists who attended  to contribute posts from the sessions. Today’s guest blogger is Stacy Teicher Khadaroo of the Christian Science Monitor. You can also find out more about early childhood education on EWA’s Topics page. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro: Preschool Initiative `a Model for the Nation’

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro talks to Carolina Astrain of the Victoria Advocate at EWA's Feb. 2014 conference on early childhood education.

A few years ago, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro – the Democratic Party’s first Hispanic keynote convention speaker – decided his city needed to expand its preschool opportunities for young children. To pay for it, Castro built a coalition of public-private partnerships and bipartisan support and convinced voters in 2012 to approve a new tax that would fund expanded preschool opportunities throughout the city. Known as “Pre-K 4 San Antonio,” the program launched in the fall and is expected to expand in the coming years.  Castro was the keynote speaker at EWA’s recent seminar for journalists on early childhood education, held at Tulane University in New Orleans. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

EWA in New Orleans: Highlights From Our Early Ed Seminar

More than 40 reporters from across the country spent two days at Tulane University in New Orleans for EWA’s seminar on early childhood education. The focus was on the latest research on brain development, and how states and municipalities are struggling to add more preschool opportunities.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Hillary Clinton Announces Hispanic Early Education Initiative

Hillary Clinton and Spanish-language television network Univision are launching a new initiative geared at encouraging Latino parents to help their preschool-aged children develop reading and language skills.

Clinton announced the campaign in an appearance in a classroom in New York City. The effort involves Clinton’s Too Small to Fail campaign founded by the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and the nonprofit group Next Generation. It will be known as “Pequeños y Valiosos,” or young and valuable. 


Early Reading Proficiency in the United States

This KIDS COUNT data snapshot finds 80 percent of fourth-graders from low-income families and 66 percent of all fourth-graders are not reading at grade level. While improvements have been made in the past decade, reading proficiency levels remain low. Given the critical nature of reading to children’s individual achievement and the nation’s future economic success, the Casey Foundation offers recommendations for communities and policymakers to support early reading. Early reading proficiency rates for the nation and each state are provided.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

State of the Union: What Education Analysts Expect to Hear

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

The annual State of the Union address to Congress – and the nation – is President Obama’s opportunity to outline his administration’s goals for the coming months, but it’s also an opportunity to look back at the education priorities outlined in last year’s address – and what progress, if any, has been made on them.

Among the big buzzwords in the 2013 State of the Union: college affordability, universal access to early childhood education, and workforce development.

Key Coverage

More Than A Quarter Of State-Funded Preschool Seats Went Unfilled This Year

Across Virginia, about $23 million designated for preschool was left on the table because localities — citing limited resources, lack of classroom space and politics — did not contribute the required matching funds to take full advantage of the program. As a result, more than 6,000 disadvantaged children missed the opportunity to go to school before kindergarten.

EWA Radio

The Early Education Connection: Measuring the Youngest Learners

Robert Pianta describes his extensive research into what makes a good early childhood education teacher and how the University of Virginia developed an instrument to measure early childhood teachers. Laura Bornfreund discusses the different approaches being used by districts to measure student growth for the purpose of evaluating early childhood education (Pre-K-grade 3) teachers as well as the potential hurdles to widespread, reliable implementation. Panelists: Cornelia Grumman (moderator); Laura Bornfreund, New America Foundation; Bob Pianta, University of Virginia. Recorded Oct.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Polls Show Americans Frustrated With State of Education

New Polls Show Americans Frustrated With State of Education

At 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, EWA’s Emily Richmond talks with Phi Delta Kappa’s Bill Bushaw about a new Gallup/PDK poll on attitudes toward public education. Watch it here!

The PDK/Gallup poll generated some media buzz, and when viewed alongside two other education polls released this week, reveals a populace that has an ambivalent view on the state of U.S. schools. 

Catch up with news coverage of the polls’ results and responses from stakeholders below:

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Guest Post: Measuring Early Childhood Classroom Quality

The American Educational Research Association (AERA) held its annual meeting in San Francisco in May, and we asked some of the journalists in attendance to cover a few of the sessions for us. Given that early childhood education is back on the front burner, it seemed like a good time to share this post from Martha Dalton of Public Broadcasting Atlanta.


Crawling to a Consensus: Can States and the White House Agree on Early Ed?
76 minutes

Research has shown that early education programs can significantly improve learning outcomes for the nation’s poorest students. With President Obama announcing a proposal to expand early education in the United States dramatically, interest in child care and pre-K has surged. But not all programs work effectively and states have had varying success implementing large-scale early-ed models. Can a national plan to enroll millions of children from low-income households in quality pre-K classes complement what’s working at the state level?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Getting It Right on Preschool For All

Earlier this week the Senate approved a $1.5 billion increase to funding for Head Start, as well as $750 million in new money to help states provide higher-quality early learning programs.EWA’s 66th National Seminar was recently held at Stanford University, and we asked some of the education reporters attending to contribute blog posts from the sessions, including one examining President Obama’s universal preschool proposal.Today’s guest blogger is Suzanne Bouffard of the


Education at a Glance 2013: EWA/OECD Webinar
55 minutes

How much of the U.S. gross domestic product is spent on education? How does that education spending break down for early childhood education, K-12 education and higher education? How much private spending is dedicated to education, compared to public spending? What is the link between higher education degrees and unemployment rates in the U.S. and other countries?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Guest Post: Economist James Heckman on Long Dividends of Early Learning Investment

EWA’s 66th National Seminar, held at Stanford University, took place earlier this month. We asked some of the journalists attending to contribute posts from the sessions. The majority of the content will soon be available at EdMedia Commons. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing a few of the posts. Independent education writer Maureen Kelleher is today’s guest blogger.

EWA Radio

Early Childhood Education: Not All Options Are Created Equal

President Obama got the early childhood education world buzzing when he announced his ambitious plans to expand preschool during his State of the Union. But doubts remain. Would expanding universal pre-K lead to a top-down push for more academics at younger ages? Do states have the funding to provide early childhood education for all who want it? Can state programs and Head Start coordinate effectively? Panlists include: Ron French, Bridge Magazine; Bruce Fuller, University of California, Berkeley; Sterling Speirn, W.K.


James Heckman at the National Seminar, Part 3

James Heckman at the National Seminar, Part 3

Dr. James Heckman, a Nobel laureate economist, is a strong proponent of investing early in children and disadvantaged families. During a Q&A moderated by the Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Banchero, Heckman fields questions on the the feasibility of basing policy around his research, paying for early childhood education, and the benefit of skills programs directed at older students.


James Heckman at the National Seminar, Part 2

James Heckman at the National Seminar, Part 2

Dr. James Heckman, a Nobel laureate economist, is a strong proponent of investing early in children and disadvantaged families. As the talk continues, he discusses how early childhood interventions can affect skills acquisition later in life and the effects of education on achievement.


James Heckman at the National Seminar, Part 1

James Heckman at the National Seminar, Part 1

Dr. James Heckman, a Nobel laureate economist, is a strong proponent of investing early in children and disadvantaged families. In part one of his talk he discusses the importance of parents, the limits of standardized testing, and America’s “skills problem.”


Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West

Our report, Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West: Empowering Parents and Educators, shows that while many digital products claim to teach reading, the app marketplace currently puts a heavy emphasis on teaching letters, sounds and phonics. A snapshot of the iTunes App Store’s most popular paid literacy apps showed that 45 percent targeted letters and sounds and half targeted phonics, but only 5 percent targeted vocabulary. And none of the iTunes paid apps in the scan focused on comprehension, grammar and the ability to understand and tell stories


Early Lessons

“Early Lessons,” a project of American Public Media reporter Emily Hanford, takes a look back at the Perry Preschool Project and contrasts it with what happens in many of today’s preschool classrooms.


The National Institute for Early Education Research

The National Institute for Early Education Research is based at Rutgers University. In addition to publishing the State Preschool Yearbook, NIEER conducts its own research on a variety of early-childhood education issues, including classroom quality, teaching practices and access. The website also has a news section that includes early learning-related articles from across the country.


The National Association for the Education of Young Children

The National Association for the Education of Young Children is a large association that represents professionals who work throughout the early-childhood education field. The organization’s accreditation system for early-childhood programs is the most widely recognized in the country. NAEYC also holds one of the largest education conferences every year and is a leading voice on early-childhood research and policy at the federal level.


The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies is a good source of information related to child-care options and funding at the state and local levels. Resource and referral agencies help families find programs that meet their needs and work to improve the quality of care through technical assistance and professional development.


The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina

The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina is one of the leading research institutes on early-childhood development, including issues related to children with special needs. Work from the center includes evaluations of early-childhood programs, rating scales for evaluating childcare and preschool classrooms, and research on achievement gaps.

Key Coverage

Children’s Spatial Skills Seen as Key to Math Learning

Preschools and kindergartens long have taught children “task skills,” such as cutting paper and coloring inside the lines. But new research suggests the spatial and fine-motor skills learned in kindergarten and preschool not only prepare students to write their mathematics homework neatly, but also prime them to learn math and abstract reasoning.


The State of Preschool 2012

“The 2012 State Preschool Yearbook is the newest edition of our annual report profiling state-funded prekindergarten programs in the United States. This latest Yearbook presents data on state-funded prekindergarten during the 2011-2012 school year as well as documenting a decade of progress since the first Yearbook collected data on the 2001-2002 school year.” 

Key Coverage

Preschool For All Plan In Obama Budget May Skip Some States

But the $77 billion measure, to be funded by a 94-cent tax increase on a pack of cigarettes, is no sure bet. And even if Congress does pass the measure, it would not require states to actually expand preschool offerings. Rather, it would give incentives for them to do so, much like the Affordable Care Act. But the preschool incentive may be even less compelling to states than Obamacare, since Preschool for All doesn’t help governors fulfill a federal mandate.

Key Coverage

Early Lessons

The Perry Preschool Project is one of the most famous education experiments of the last 50 years. The study asked a question: Can preschool boost the IQ scores of poor African-American children and prevent them from failing in school? The surprising results are now challenging widely-held notions about what helps people succeed – in school, and in life.

Key Coverage

Upward Mobility

A comprehensive study by the Pew Economic Mobility Project documents that in the U.S. today, few poor people become even upper middle class.

Key Coverage

Obama Evaluating Early Childhood Education Push In Second Term

To address these and other issues, the White House is considering a major step to boost early childhood education. According to sources close to the administration, Duncan and the Department of Health and Human Services are outlining a plan to create universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds from low- and some middle-income families — approximately 1.85 million children.

Key Coverage

Days of small K-3 classes look done for in California

California embarked on an ambitious experiment in 1996 to improve its public schools by putting its youngest students in smaller classes. Nearly 17 years later, the goal of maintaining classrooms of no more than 20 pupils in the earliest grades has been all but discarded– a casualty of unproven results, dismal economic times and the sometimes-fleeting nature of education reform. To save money on teacher salaries amid drastic cutbacks in state funding, many school districts throughout the state have enlarged their first-, second- and third-grade classes to an average of 30 children.


Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West

Our report, Pioneering Literacy in the Digital Wild West: Empowering Parents and Educators, shows that while many digital products claim to teach reading, the app marketplace currently puts a heavy emphasis on teaching letters, sounds and phonics. A snapshot of the iTunes App Store’s most popular paid literacy apps showed that 45 percent targeted letters and sounds and half targeted phonics, but only 5 percent targeted vocabulary. And none of the iTunes paid apps in the scan focused on comprehension, grammar and the ability to understand and tell stories.

Key Coverage

Colorado wins nearly $30M in federal school funds

The grant funding announced is part of “Race to the Top” money aimed at early childhood education programs. Colorado and four other states are getting the funding because they were finalists in last year’s competition.
“Colorado is committed to helping ensure every child is ready for kindergarten and reading by the third grade,” Hickenlooper said.

Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin are also receiving funds.


Scientific Thinking in Young Children: Theoretical Advances, Empirical Research, and Policy

New theoretical ideas and empirical research show that very young children’s learning and thinking are strikingly similar to much learning and thinking in science. Preschoolers test hypotheses against data and make causal inferences; they learn from statistics and informal experimentation, and from watching and listening to others. The mathematical framework of probabilistic models and Bayesian inference can describe this learning in precise ways. These discoveries have implications for early childhood education and policy.

In particular, they suggest both that early childhood experience is extremely important and that the trend toward more structured and academic early childhood programs is misguided.

Key Coverage

Washington State Makes It Harder to Opt Out of Immunizations

The share of kindergartners whose parents opted out of state immunization requirements more than doubled in the decade that ended in 2008, peaking at 7.6 percent in the 2008-9 school year, according to the state’s Health Department, raising alarm among public health experts. But last year, the Legislature adopted a law that makes it harder for parents to avoid getting their children vaccinated, by requiring them to get a doctor’s signature if they wish to do so. Since then, the opt-out rate has fallen fast, by a quarter, setting an example for other states with easy policies.


Counting Kids and Tracking Funds in Pre-K and Kindergarten

“Even as the availability of data on K-12 education programs has exploded over the past decade, the American education system suffers from an acute lack of some of the most basic information about publicly funded programs for young children. Although, for example, pre-K often comprises significant investments by state and federal governments, in many localities it is difficult to determine how many children receive publicly funded pre-K services or to make fair comparisons between local programs.”

Key Coverage

How Kids Make Friends — And Why It Matters

To make friends, it turns out, children need to be able to carry out sophisticated social maneuvers, screening potential pals for certain positive qualities and making careful assessments about how much common ground they share. And in order to be a good friend—the kind that inspires loyalty and dedication—even a very young child must be not only fun to spend time with, but capable of being emotionally mature in ways that can be difficult even for grown-ups.

Key Coverage

Smart Start? Will Preschool Budget Cuts Damage A Generation

This reported article examines the benefits of early education access, how North Carolina leads the nation in Pre-K options for ages zero to five, and what cuts to the state’s vaunted early education program can mean for future academic success among the poor students affected by these programs.


Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development

A project of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, this study ran from 1991 through 2009. Analysis of the data, however, continues. The large team of researchers from multiple universities followed more than 1,300 children from their earliest years in various forms of child care into preschool and K-12 classrooms. The study’s findings—which included connections between children’s behavior problems and long time spent in center-based child care—sparked considerable controversy.

Some commentators used the results to argue that mothers’ work outside the home hinders their children’s development. Others, however, have focused on the positive aspects of center-based care, which can include stronger cognitive skills, and have said such findings show that policymakers should focus on improving center quality.

Key Coverage

The Pre-K Underground

Finding access to quality preschool is a problem for both low-income and middle-class parents. This piece describes the lengths that some families in New York go to when they can’t find spaces for their children in public school programs and can’t afford high-priced private preschools.


Early Childhood Longitudinal Program

This federally funded program is made up on three longitudinal studies that examine child development, school readiness, and early school experiences. The birth cohort of the ECLS-B is a sample of children born in 2001 and followed from birth through kindergarten entry. The kindergarten class of 1998-99 is a sample of children followed from kindergarten through the eighth grade. The kindergarten class of 2010-11 cohort will follow a sample of children from kindergarten through the fifth grade.

It is important for reporters to know about these studies because researchers have used the data to investigate a variety of questions around the early years of schooling.


The Oklahoma Project

This is an ongoing study of Oklahoma’s state-funded “universal” preschool program in the Tulsa Public Schools. Led by researchers at Georgetown University’s Center for Research on Children in the United States, the project found that the pre-K program has led to significant academic gains for participants. Gains among Hispanic and African-American children, and those from poor families were the greatest. As with the Child Parent Centers in Chicago, preschool advocates have argued that the results show that quality doesn’t have to suffer when preschool is offered on a wide scale.

Those in favor of targeting preschool to the most disadvantaged children focus on the results showing higher gains among children with low-socioeconomic status.


State Preschool Yearbook

This resource is published each year by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University. The report evaluates where state-funded preschool programs stand on a series of 10 indicators of quality, such as providing comprehensive services, or the level of training and education they require of teachers. Overall trends for the nation are also discussed. Education reporters have come to use the annual report to provide readers with a snapshot of what their state is doing regarding early childhood programs.


Skill Formation and the Economics of Investing in Disadvantaged Children

This 2006 paper from University of Chicago economist James Heckman summarizes the research on the effects of early environments on child, adolescent and adult achievement—reinforcing the finding that “investing” early in life brings the greatest returns. Heckman’s ongoing research has fueled advocates’ efforts to convince policymakers that spending money on high-quality early learning and child development programs is wiser than many other economic development strategies.

Key Coverage

Lessons in Waste

Reporters often write about new funding for early-childhood programs, but this four-part investigative series looked at how funding for preschool in New Jersey was being misspent.

Key Coverage

Swamp Nurse

This article features the Nurse-Family Partnership, an effective intervention program developed by psychologist David Olds, which aims to improve outcomes among very poor mothers with young children. Home-visiting programs are one model used to support development of infants and toddlers, and many states spend money on home visiting, so it’s important for reporters to have an understanding of the research in this area.


Lifetime Effects: The HighScope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40

No study has been used to back up the lasting social and economic benefits of high-quality preschool for low-income children more than the HighScope Perry Preschool Study. Launched in 1962, the longitudinal study involved 123 African-American Ypsilanti preschoolers from Ypsilanti, Mich. The children, all of them from families living below the poverty line, were assigned to “treatment” and control groups.

At age 40, those who attended the small demonstration program in the 1960s were found to have higher rates of employment and homeownership, and lower rates of illicit drug use and arrests for selling illegal drugs, when compared with the sample of adults who did not attend the classes. Critics have said the sample size was too small and that it’s unrealistic to expect similar results from large-scale preschool programs without the same level of support.

Key Coverage

Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers

This 2000 report outlined the elements of well-designed preschool programs, including instruction in the four core content areas, and recommended bachelor’s degrees for teachers. It emphasized that young children are far more capable learners that previously thought.

Key Coverage

Neurons to Neighborhoods

This report analyzed some of the findings from brain research and urged early-learning programs to focus on children’s emotional growth and development as well as their academic progress.


Chicago Longitudinal Study

A federally funded investigation of Chicago’s Child Parent Centers, which provide educational and family support services to children from preschool to 3rd grade. The centers are funded by Title I and have operated in the Chicago Public Schools since 1967. The study began in 1986 to investigate the effects of government-funded early-childhood education programs for 1,539 children in the Chicago Public Schools.

Led by University of Minnesota researcher Arthur Reynolds, the study has found that those who participated in the program beginning at age 3 showed higher levels of educational attainment, socioeconomic status, job skills, and health insurance coverage as well as lower rates of substance abuse, felony arrest, and incarceration than those who received the usual early childhood services. Many preschool advocates have said the results show it’s possible for public schools—not just small demonstration programs—to deliver early learning services that have lasting benefits.


The Promise of Preschool

“The Promise of Preschool” is a documentary by education reporter John Merrow, the president of Learning Matters. The report followed the experiences of four families in New York, Atlanta, Bridgeport, CT and Paris, France, as they considered the range of early-childhood education options available to them. Merrow asked whether it was possible for families to find a consistent level of service in America when even public schools are struggling to maintain programs.