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'Universal' Preschool Questions Examined

As several states move toward offering "universal" access to preschool, critical questions remain over whether programs targeted to children from poor families are the most effective, or if classes open to all children have the greatest benefits, says a report from the National Institute for Early Education Research, a think tank in New Brunswick, N.J.

For example, programs open only to poor children generally cost less to provide, but may not offer the highest-quality services, according to the report. Programs open to all children, on the other hand, are likely to receive greater support from the public than targeted programs enjoy.

The authors recommend that states pursue universal preschool, but provide disadvantaged children "more intensive services" within those classes.

—Linda Jacobson

Teacher Quality

Recruiting and retaining high- quality teachers to work in disadvantaged schools can be effectively addressed only by targeting needy schools, not by policies that aim to recruit and retain more teachers across the board, concludes a report from the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.

Policymakers need to provide incentives for teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools, as well as oversee improvements in the way such schools hire educators. Otherwise, too many well- prepared new teachers and their experienced counterparts will continue to shun high-poverty schools.

—Bess Keller

State Finances

Though the U.S. economy is recovering, states are still struggling to balance their budgets, according to a Harvard University white paper.

"The financial trends are clear," the 33- page paper says. "The existing, built-in financial demands of the states’ current responsibilities are growing more rapidly than are their revenues."

Education is one of those growing costs, especially expenses related to requirements under the federal special education law and the No Child Left Behind Act, the report says.

—David J. Hoff

Language Immersion

A large-scale longitudinal study has found that two-way language-immersion programs have succeeded in teaching elementary school children to be fluent in both English and Spanish.

In two-way immersion programs, native speakers of English and native speakers of another language—usually Spanish—learn both languages in the same classroom. The number of such programs has grown over the past decade.

Researchers for the Washington-based Center for Applied Linguistics, and a researcher from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, followed the progress of 474 students in 11 two-way immersion programs from the beginning of 3rd grade to the end of 5th grade.

The study was published by the Center for Research on Education, Diversity & Excellence at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

—Mary Ann Zehr

Education Philanthropy

Charitable donations overall rose by 2.8 percent last year, from $234 billion in 2002 to $240 billion in 2003, but educational organizations reported a 3 percent drop in donations over the same period, according to a recent report.

That marked the second year in a row that educational organizations have felt the pinch. Donations fell 2 percent from 2001 to 2002. The report surveyed more than 1,350 organizations.

—Marianne D. Hurst

Vol. 23, Issue 42, Page 20

Published in Print: July 14, 2004, as Report Roundup
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