Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Report: Middle Class Children Need Preschool Too

Children from middle-income families are more likely to attend preschool than their peers from low-income families, but less likely to attend than children from high-income families. Maybe not surprising, but definitely an issue, according to an October analysis by the non-partisan think tank, The Century Foundation, of the existing research on the effect of preschool on middle class children.
The report opens with the provocative idea that the existing funding formulas used to apportion public early-education funding are all wrong. This quote is actually from the conclusion, which is more concise, but says essentially the same thing as the introduction:
Much of early-childhood policy at the federal and state level focuses on how to divide existing funding for maximum effect. With limited resources, it makes sense that most early-childhood programs so far have focused on serving low-income families. ... [But,] the premise of this scarcity-based approach to funding early-childhood investments is flawed. Instead of fighting over limited resources, we must create a bigger pie.
Income.pngThe analysis then goes on to cite several recent reports on the positive effect of early education on middle-class kids, an area that has historically received short shrift. For example, a 2014 study by Timothy J. Bartik of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research showed that all preschool graduates saw a bump in their family income. (See chart.) 
And a study of the universal preschool program in Tulsa, Okla., by a team from Center for Research on Children in the U.S., found that middle-income children who had attended the city's public preschool program entered kindergarten seven months ahead of their peers in terms of pre-reading skills. (See second chart.) 
Reading.pngMany insiders in the early-ed. space will say that while preschool doesn't hurt anyone, it's not needed for middle-class children with college-educated parents. Those children, the theory goes, will be fine either way. And besides, middle-class parents can afford child care. So the report concludes with a refutation of those arguments as well, pointing out that in six of 10 American families all of the adults in the household work, making childcare a necessity. Even among married couples, the proportion of two-parent-working homes has never been higher. Plus, costs for private programs have risen rapidly and have become, in many states, as expensive as a year of public college.
That makes high-quality child care a necessity for everyone, the report authors argue, and a luxury for noone.

‘Sesame Street’ Unveils Character With Autism

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The makers of “Sesame Street” say Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Grover are getting a new friend with autism as part of an effort to reduce stigma and help those on the spectrum learn life skills.
Sesame Workshop said Wednesday that it is introducing a new character named Julia, a preschool girl with autism who “does things a little differently when playing with her friends.”
Julia is part of the nonprofit’s “See Amazing in All Children” initiative, which is designed to teach kids about autism and offer tools for those with the developmental disorder.
Sesame Workshop is introducing a character with autism named Julia, center, as part of its new
Sesame Workshop is introducing a character with autism named Julia, center, as part of its new “See Amazing in All Children” initiative. (Marybeth Nelson)
website includes tips for parents and siblings, as well as guides to help kids on the spectrum learn everyday basics like brushing teeth and going to the grocery store, Sesame Workshop said. In addition, the initiative includes an iPad app and printed storybooks.
“Sesame Workshop is uniquely positioned to play a meaningful role in increasing peoples’ understanding about autism,” said Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop. “This project is an extension of the belief we’ve always promoted: ‘we are all different, but all the same.'”
Sesame Workshop said it collaborated with more than a dozen organizations including The Arc, Autism Speaks, the Autism Society and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to produce the content.
In addition, the nonprofit said it engaged Exceptional Minds, a nonprofit animation studio staffed by young adults on the spectrum, to assist with video editing.