August 30, 2016
Gains seen in closing the kindergarten readiness gap
A new study from the research group AERA contains some long-awaited good news on the achievement gap: the difference in school readiness between rich and poor children entering kindergarten closed significantly -- by 10 to 16 percent -- from 1998 to 2010. In addition to a narrowing of the "income achievement gap," some ethnic and racial achievement gaps declined as well.

In an interview with NPR, lead author Sean Reardon credits "improvements in the quality of preschool available to low-income families" as well as more parental engagement in enriching activities with young kids. Baby Einstein videos, however, never came up. 
Is there a link between babies' understanding of spatial reasoning (the mental ability to transform and rotate objects), and later math skills?

According to a study published in Psychological Science, spatial reasoning begins early in life, as young as six months of age , and predicts mathematical development. Children who scored highly on spatial reasoning as infants maintained these higher mental transformation abilities at age four, and also performed better on math problems.

"We know that spatial reasoning is a malleable skill that can be improved with training," said Emory University psychologist Stella Lourenco, whose lab conducted the research. "One possibility is that more focus should be put on spatial reasoning in early math education." Read more about the study at this link.

A study of family conditions and practices in low- and middle-income families in Oakland, California suggests more widespread understanding of the importance of early literacy and reading than might be supposed.

The study, which was commissioned by the Rainin Foundation, was based on interviews with 420 parents in diverse neighborhoods. Key findings include:
  • 43% of parents from lower-income neighborhoods read to their children every day, and 31% read to kids three times a week.
  • 74% of parents from lower-income neighborhoods agree that parents who have trouble reading themselves can still help their young child learn to read.
  • 35% of parents from lower-income neighborhoods viewed their 3-6 year olds as very academically prepared for school and 55% viewed them as somewhat prepared.

For more information and to read the full study, click here.  


In an interview with education news site The 74, Ruby Takanishi, the outspoken author of First Things First! Creating the New American Primary School argues that in order to for early education to make a real difference, policymakers should not "think about single, separate programs or part of 'extending learning time' - but as an integral part of every child's learning experience. Participation in early education is a civil and human rights issue."

Takanishi, who thinks that universal Pre-k that includes fair compensation for teachers is unlikely to happen soon given lack of funding, says she would "put a high priority on targeted, not universal, programs for low-income toddlers, given the scientific base we now have about children's learning from birth through three years old."

She also decries the "division between our current early education programs and the current K-12 system" and advocates for a fully aligned system of Pre-k to post-secondary education. Click here to read the interview.   

'Little to nothing' series on early ed policies and conditions
The Hechinger Report's Lillian Mongeau has written a series of reports on early childhood education, including topics such as which states offer high-quality Pre-k programs, how U.S. spending on early ed lags other nations' and a timeline of how federal early childhood ed policies have changed over the years. All stories in the series are available at this link.  

Where corporal punishment isn't a thing of the past
Physical punishment of students, such as paddling, is still allowed in public schools in 19 states, though it has been banned in California since 1986. Nationally, more than 109,000 U.S. students received some form of corporal punishment in 2013-14, according to a new report. And, although federal guidelines prohibit corporal punishment in Head Start programs, one Maryland Head Start was de-funded after investigations revealed several incidents of physical punishment. Read more at  this link.

Erin Brownfield, editor