Education Chat

Quality Counts 2007: A Discussion About Early-Childhood Education

Our panel of guests discussed the connections between quality early-childhood education efforts and student achievement in K-12 schools.
Sponsored by CDW-G

Jan. 12, 2007

Quality Counts 2007: A Discussion About Early-Childhood Education

Guests: Rob Grunewald, associate economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; Arthur J. Rolnick, senior vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis; and Sara Watson, senior officer, state policy initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):
Welcome to today’s online chat about the connections between early-childhood education and K-12 learning.

We have many questions waiting to be answered, so let’s get the discussion started ...

Comment from Diane Kaye Technology Staff developer for P.S. 206:
Not a question but am thrilled with your topic. I can’t join your chat tomorrow but have long thought this is so important. Hooray for you bringing up this topic.

Question from Kevin Bramucci, Armada Elementary - Moreno Valley Unified School District:
Is it truly necessary to assign grades and maintain “state standards” for pre-k education? It seems to me that kids need to be kids and encourage learning while encouraging families to work with students. What do you think?

Rob Grunewald:
Some guidelines and standards can be helpful for pre-k, but too much emphasis on standards can also impede flexibility for programs. There is a healthy balance to find; however, it seems that more often the err is on too many requirements. While assigning grades to pre-k children is questionable, assessments of pre-k children play in important role in measuring progress in cognitive and social-emotional development. Concerns have been raised about using, or not using, child outcome measures. On one hand, some ECD professionals have raised concerns about tying child outcomes to program funding or financial incentives. They point out that it’s difficult to measure the progress of a child’s development since it is complex and influenced by environments other than the ECD program, particularly the child’s home environment. On the other hand, some prospective funders and policymakers have raised concerns over how they can know whether an ECD program is achieving desired results. They want to be sure their money and public funds that they advocate for are spent productively. We feel that this tension regarding accountability – the difficulty inherent in measuring child outcomes and the use of this data to provide performance incentives – will ultimately be productive. There is strong demand for fair, comprehensive and cost-effective assessments of child outcomes. We feel that using this data to provide incentives for outcomes will attain desired results.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
What can be done to improve access to early-childhood education?

Sara Watson:
To provide access to early childhood education, it is essential for state (and local) officials to provide programs that meet families’ needs (in terms of location, cost, coverage for a full working day, etc.) and that are of high quality. That means showing public leaders the data on how prekindergarten can benefit their state and what constitutes a program that is of sufficiently high quality to achieve the outcomes expected of that investment. Arkansas has been a wonderful leader in this area, dramatically increasing funding for its very high quality preschool program.

In 2006, 31 states increasing funding for prekindergarten by over $450 million, including states such as Texas, Tennessee and Louisiana - despite all its challenges. If they can, others can too.

States that are interested in help in putting together a public education campaign for prek can contact Pre-K Now for assistance on communications strategies and other advice ( and the National Institute for Early Education Research ( for good data.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
What are the building blocks/foundation of a high-quality early-childhood program?

Rob Grunewald:
High-quality early childhood development programs have the following elements: -Well qualified staff. Teachers with more training have more effective interactions with children and produce stronger outcomes. -Parent engagement. -Relatively low ratios of children to teachers. -Research-backed, child-focused curriculum.

Question from Edna Ranck, Ed.D., Senior Research Associate, Early Childhood Specialist, Westover Consultants, Inc., Bethesda, MD:
How can early educators approach elementary and public school professionals with equal status in terms of valuing early education, recognizing ECE contributions to children’s development, and understanding the differences in how young children learn from the ways of older children. Sum this up by talking about the value and purpose of play, open-ended activities, outdoor activities (recess!), and the skill of asking questions and contradicting an adult’s statements.

Arthur J. Rolnick:
Our approach to ECD is focused on parent involvement starting with parent-mentors –- prenatal -- and ECD scholarships for 3 and 4 years olds. Scholarships can only be used at high-quality programs. By empowering at-risk parents this way we think the market will respond by providing the high-quality programs and there will be a new appreciation, respect, and higher salaries for early educators.

Question from Hayes Mizell, Distinguished Senior Fellow, National Staff Development Council:
What are your views regarding the capacities of private providers, including those that are faith-based and for-profit, to ensure that their early childhood programs are high quality? To what extent is it appropriate for states to include such providers in comprehensive early childhood initiatives? In such situations, should states require specific staff development experiences for employees of these providers?

Sara Watson:
Private providers can both provide an excellent education for children and give parents the range of choices that are necessary to suit their preferences and work requirements. Many state prekindergarten programs use private providers, either contracting with them directly or through the school system. According to a report by Pre-K Now, “A Diverse System Delivers for Pre-K,” about one-third of children in state-funded pre-k programs nationwide are in community settings -- in New York State, the figure is 60%. Twenty-nine states use a diverse delivery system.

To ensure that all children receive the best possible education, state standards for providers should be high and should apply to all locations. The research is strong that a four-year college degree, with specialization in early childhood, is crucial to ensuring the best child outcomes. So that degree should be required of all pre-kindergarten teachers, along with continuing education to hone their skills. However, teachers who do not yet have that degree need support - scholarships, mentoring, etc. -- to help them attain it.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
For Arthur J. Rolnick:

What is the main reason that the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has gotten involved with stimulating the growth of early childhood/pre-school education?

Arthur J. Rolnick:
The main reason the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis got involved was our concern about long-term economic growth and its dependence on the development of human capital. Economic research suggests that a key element of sustainable economic growth is the development of human capital. Research shows that investments in early childhood development have the highest return.

Question from Debi Schwid, Director, Early Childhood Neighborhood House of Milwaukee:
What are some tips that you can share to bridge the language barrier that exists between those in early childhood and the investment world? How do we not only move the converstation forward, but what is the best way to get results for additional investments in early childhood, especially for those seeking to maintain and hire highly educated teachers within the private sector?

Sara Watson:
To do this, we need to talk about early childhood as an investment, we need more business leaders as champions for early education, and we need to have the data that clearly document the economic returns to proven programs. Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald’s seminal piece is a great place to start.

And new data are starting to come in. The Trusts funded the Committee for Economic Development to produce a report on the economic returns to prek, called “The Economic Promise of Investing in High-Quality Preschool: Using Early Education to Improve Economic Growth and the Fiscal Sustainability of States and the Nation” available at It shows that prek could generate more jobs than traditional economic development subsidies and that prek for all could boost economic growth by 3.5% by 2080.

Several other studies are available on the economic returns to individual state governments - see and A forthcoming book by Robert Lynch of the Economic Policy Institute will provide a cash flow analysis for a prek program for every state.

In addition, the Trusts collaborated with 11 other funders to launch the Partnership for America’s Economic Success (, which is assessing the economic return of a variety of programs for children prenatal to five. New data will be emerging soon, and our annual national conference to engage business and share results is March 7 in Washington, D.C.

Question from Moses Wambalaba, Equity Associate, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory:
Since accessibility of poor and minority families to high quality early-chilhood programs is often lacking, what do you say to the idea of making pre-school part of the K-12 school? I mean having P-12 instead of K-12 school systems.

Sara Watson:
Many states are beginning to include prek as part of their “k-12" education system, by offering prek classrooms in the school building, administering pre-k through the school system and/or funding pre-k through the state school funding formula (as in Maine, Oklahoma, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin and soon to be in Nebraska). This has a lot of benefits - stable funding, the ability to offer teachers pay and benefits comparable to their peers in the older grades, a professional development infrastructure.

However, it can also have risks -- for example, it’s important that curriculum is not just translated down from first grade or kindergarten instead of being developmentally appropriate for the younger children, prek should be linked to programs offering coverage for a full work day, inequitable financing for k-12 should not spill over into prek. And it’s especially vital that this approach not hurt the child care programs that provide essential nurturing and education for younger children. So ideally states would use the best of both worlds -- the stable funding and professionally supportive environment of k-12 with the responsiveness to parent needs and developmental nature of early childhood services -- along with ensuring that quality child care remains available for infants and toddlers.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
Which states are the handful of states that have more than 20% of three and four year olds attending state-financed preschools?

Arthur J. Rolnick:
We encourage you to read the National Institute for Early Education Research’s state profiles on preschool programs, available at

Question from Dru Duniway:
Has there been any thought given to adding a parenting/grand-parenting component to these programs? Parental involvement seems to be recognized as a key to student achievement and that value could be instilled with these programs.

Rob Grunewald:
We absolutely agree. Our proposal includes a strong parent/guardian involvement component.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
For Sara Watson:

How has the Pew Charitable Trusts supported pre-school education?

Sara Watson:
Over the past five years, the Trusts has invested over $58 million to support partners who have worked nationally and with local groups on behalf of preschool education. We have engaged over a dozen national and regional organizations directly, as well as supported public education campaigns in over half the states.

Our strategy is to identify states where the opportunity to advance prek is ripe, and then to provide the help needed to ensure that the best information informs policy debates. Our grantees have also worked at the federal level, for example, to enhance Head Start as the essential foundation of early education for poor children. We also support efforts to document progress, as with NIEER’s annual Yearbook of State Pre-k Policy.

Our grantees include Pre-K Now, NIEER, the National Conference of State Legislatures, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids (engaging law enforcement), National School Boards Association, Committee for Economic Development (identifying business champions), the Hechinger Institute for Education and the Media at Columbia University and the Education Writers Association(reaching reporters), and the Education Law Center (to help K-12 lawsuits request prek as a remedy). We are always looking for new partners interested in spreading this message.

More information on the Trusts’ strategy can be found at

Question from Anonymous U.S. Senate Staffer:
Public policy is often about choices. With limited funding - how should the pie be divided. What early childhood program, or two - should be a priority of the Senate. So - if we had $1 billion (or $500 million) - what early childhood program should we pick? Head Start? PreK? Child Care? or something else?

Arthur J. Rolnick:
Given limited dollars, we advocate funding parent mentors starting prenatal and scholarships for high-quality early education programs and let parents working through the market system determine in effect which programs are funded.

Question from Joyce Walters, Community Investment Manager, The Boeing Company:
Can you share examples of communities working effectively with child care providers (parents, licensed providers and family, friend and neighbor caregivers)to provide a smooth transition for children and parents into the K-12 system? Was this a factor that contributed to the success of the Perry Preschool Project?

Sara Watson:
The Foundation for Child Development has established an initiative to improve the education system from prek through third grade (PK-3), to ensure that the good start offered by prek continues to be supported through the early grades. Examples of communities that are working to improve those practices can be found at

Kindergarten transition planning was not a major part of the Perry Preschool design (see Lifetime Effects: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40) but the program did operate in the public schools, with public school teachers, so some communication may have occurred.

Question from winifred e.kelly,preschool teacher,durfee high school.lab preschool,fall river,ma:
why is that the preschool children who are the most at risk of failing in school;poor & minority children;are denied access to quality preschool through underfunding or quality preschool program cuts.

Arthur J. Rolnick:
We don’t know the answer to that question, but the problem you pose is the problem we are trying to fix.

Question from Joe Petrosino, Mid Career Student , Penn:
Early childhood education is a criticalpoint in a childs development. How does one begin to build a community of trust with children at such an early age? How doyou instill trust in quality organizations like yours?

Arthur J. Rolnick:
We think you need to begin to build trust at the earliest age possible. That is why we advocate providing parent mentors for at-risk parents as early as prenatal. With an engaged parent, working with a mentor, we think we can develop trust with children and with quality organizations.

Question from Carol Wheeler, Preschool Program Director, Castle Rock Elementary:
I have experienced a lack of respect as a teacher from my K-12 colleagues who do not understand that I have the same or higher education level than they and perform much of the same tasks, but at a lower “grade level.” It is sad enough that we do not earn the same wages as elementary teachers. How can we educate the educational community how important our work is with the 0-5 year old children?

Rob Grunewald:
Our approach to ECD is focused on parent involvement starting with parent mentors -- prenatal -- and ECD scholarships for 3 and 4 years olds. Scholarships can only be used at high-quality programs. By empowering at-risk parents this way we think the market will respond by providing the high-quality programs and there will be a new appreciation, respect, and higher salaries for early educators.

Question from Nancy W. Manuel (Ph.D.), researcher, University of Louisiana at Lafayette:
Based on the stated research, what are the odds that states will see the need to mandate preschool as a stepping stone to link K-12 education?

Sara Watson:
No states have proposals to make prek mandatory in terms of attendance and I don’t know of anyone that wants prek to be mandatory (including us). That’s sometimes a “red herring” put out by those who oppose prek. Bear in mind that not all states require kindergarten attendance. We do hope that states will offer prek to all 3 and 4 year olds whose parents want it for them.

Question from Emily Brewer, Early Childhood Coordinator, Shiawassee RESD:
How many states have funded pre-school for 3 year olds and four year olds that allow all children to attend? What are the funding sources of such programs?

Sara Watson:
Oklahoma, Georgia and Florida have set up programs to offer prek to all 4 year olds, though not all of them are enrolled. In 2006 Illinois became the first state in the nation to commit to providing prek to all 3 AND 4 year olds, with the state increasing funding each year until they can serve all chidlren whose parents want it for them. Other states such as New York and West Virginia have set a target of serving all 4s and are ramping up funding to do that - WV has a target date of the 2012-2013 school year. The latest data on funding and access is at

Funding most commonly comes from general revenue, with other common sources being the K-12 funding formula, lottery, gaming, tobacco settlement, cigarette or beer taxes. More info on funding prek is at, while info on funding early care and education in general is at

Question from Leonard Lubinsky, Director, Licensure Programs, Hampshire Educational Collaborative:
I have considerable experience in efforts to create a statewide early childhood system in Massachusetts. One of the greatest difficulty was in the tension between child care programs and public school programs. How can we successfully integrate these programs into a single system?

Sara Watson:
Massachusetts is making great strides in creating a high quality early education system, especially with the creation last year of the state Department of Early Education and Care.

This tension is difficult, but it will help if each system realizes that with the right support both can provide a high quality environment for children and both have essential roles to play. Public school programs can provide an infrastructure and professional development experience that can raise the quality of prek, and child care programs can provide excellent prek if they have the support, as well as meeting the needs of working parents and giving parents choices about where their children go to prek. They (along with family care) also are essential to providing good care for infants and toddlers.

The Center for Law and Social Policy has some good reports on the relationship between child care and prek, as well as on the early childhood system at

Comment from Harold Leibovitz, Director of Strategic Communications, Foundation for Child Development:
Sara, thanks much for highlighting the work that the Foundation for Child Development is doing to align prekindergarten standards, curriculum, instruction, and assessment with those in K-12. I just want to give people the correct webiste address for these materials.


Question from Jennifer Rosenbaum, State Policy Fellow, Pre-K Now:
Research shows that high-quality pre-k lays the foundation for a strong workforce. Offering pre-k in diverse settings (including community based organizations, faith based programs, Head Start centers, etc.) helps to increase access and enrollment. What are some specific strategies that businesses can use to help promote the diverse delivery of local and/or state funded pre-k?

Sara Watson:
We need business leaders to talk about the impact of high quality prek on their future workforce, as well as on their customer base. Children who have a good foundation are more likely to gain the skills necessary to be good workers and colleagues, as well as buy a house and contribute to the community. They’ll be the entrepreneurs who will invent the products the world wants, who will support Social Security, who can teach the next generation, and who can work well in teams with people across the country and the world.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
For Rob Grunewald:

As an economist what can you say about how pre-school/early childhood education will help the USA/world economies?

Rob Grunewald:
Economic research suggests that a key element of sustainable economic growth is the development of human capital. Research shows that investments in early childhood development have the highest return.

Question from Barry Golden, Wisconsin DPI:
I believe E.Chilhood intervention is essential, however, research points out that a large percentage of a childs learning foundation, especially language development is already established by the age of 3. I am afraid when it comes to kids in poverty, particularily Black children, their language deficits by age 3 will channel them toward failure just not at as high a rate as today.

QUESTION: How much would it cost to provide screening and intervention for high risk babies who would have a home trainer attached to each child with the mission of teaching parents how to teach and provide the stimulation necessary for normal child development. Why aren’t we looking at this? What would the impact be on violence for example?

Arthur J. Rolnick:
We agree, and we think that the costs for parent mentor services beginning prenatal are relatively modest considering their benefits, ranging between $1,000 to $3,000 per family annually.

Question from Miles Myers, Senior Researcher, ISCA, Los Angeles:
The Grunewald\Rolnick report was excellent,connecting economic results and early childhood education. It also focuses on some funding problems in ECE. But the report did not analyze issues of quality in ECE, separating out Day-Care and re-school, for instance. Do the authors plan any work or have any views on this area?

Rob Grunewald:
In our proposal, scholarships can only be used at high quality early childhood development programs, which include private and publicly funded formal early development centers or high-quality child care programs.

Question from Lauren Cummins, Asst. Professsor, Early Childhood Education, Youngstown State University:
Early Childhood professionals have known for over a decade that quality care and education in the early years can have a profound impact on achievement and success in later traditional school years. What do you feel the nation needs to do to provide the adequate resources that support quality early education programs, included 4-year degreed teachers from infancy through age 5?

Rob Grunewald:
Our approach is to ask the question somewhat differently. We approach the problem from the demand side, not the supply side. On the demand side we propose to provide every at-risk child with a parent mentor and scholarships to attend a high quality early childhood development program. The scholarships will be funded at a level to encourage quality programs, including high quality teachers. While we haven’t estimated the cost of the program at a national level, for the state of Minnesota about $90 million annually would provide parent mentors and scholarships for every child living at or below the poverty line.

Question from Alice, Program Officer, Family Foundation:
What do you consider to be the most promising/effective models of pre-K to K-12 alignment? How can private philanthropic dollars be best used to leverage systemic change?

Sara Watson:
The Foundation for Child Development’s PK-3 initiative is an excellent example -

In terms of use of philanthropic dollars, there is always a need for resources to get good information into the policy debates that can affect large numbers of children over long periods of time. That’s often the piece that is missing.

Question from Shirley Stafford, teacher, Denver Public Schools:
There are wide variances and philosophys as to what constitutes quality preschool education.What is your definition of quality early childhood programs?

Sara Watson:
The National Institute for Early Education Research rates states on a 10 point quality checklist that is a good place to begin - You might add other elements that are particularly important to you.

Question from Joyce Walters, Community Investment Manager, The Boeing Company:
There are many undocumented Latino families who are fearful about taking advantage of early childhood development programs. Any examples of programs/communities/states that have been able to overcome this obstacle?

Sara Watson:
This is a crucial question for communities that want to serve all children -- in few minutes we have left, what I can do is to offer some resources to pursue:

Pre-K Now’s recent poll of Latinos, “Pre-K and Latinos: The Foundation for America’s Future” shows how much Hispanic families want prek for their children ( Also the National Task Force on Early Childhood Education for Hispanics ( is an excellent resource.

Question from Gina Loveless, Instructional Technologist/Data Specialist, Kalamazoo RESA:
We are currently setting up a database to track students and their data from Early Childhood Programs. What information at this age is considered to be most important to make data driven decisions for the future?

Arthur J. Rolnick:
The Minnesota Department of Education has funded a school readiness assessment for three years. We encourage you to contact the department for details:

Question from Joanna Young Marks, Policy Analyst, Kentucky Youth Advocates:
What recommendations do you have for building support for early childhood initatives in the business community?

Sara Watson:
Gather or commission data that show the impact of ECE on business and the economy (see another answer); identify one or two business champions who are willing to be a public voice for early childhood; use them to bring in their peers. The Trusts has funded the Committee for Economic Development to identify and engage busienss champions for prek, so they may be able to help.

Question from Ruth H. Harmon, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Phila, PA:
Since Reading Recovery is a proven intervention for 1st grade students who are struggling to learn to read, why not use your/(national) resources to expand it into large urban schools? Why not start in large urban cities with funding PCHP (Parent-Child Home Program) developed by Phyllis Levenstein for preschool simple and effective!

Arthur J. Rolnick:
We are not aware of the particulars of this program, we have not doubt that there are a number of approaches to support early literacy. However, for the most at-risk children, reaching them early is key, through parent mentors, starting prenatal, and following up with high-quality early childhood development programs.

Question from Cristina Conchi, Associate, The Atlas Family Foundation, Los Angeles:
In helping our grantees strenghten their organizational capacity, what can we, as a foundation do to raise the visibility of their work and bring more awareness to the importance of the field of early childhood education?

Sara Watson:
The Trusts has funded or pursued a variety of strategies that might be useful to you -- producing exciting data that show the importance of prek to the local community; generating media stories that portray early education as a serious educational issue, not just a human interest or worklife issue; getting unusual stakeholders (business leaders, law enforcement) to step up and say that prek is essential to improving the outcomes they care about - workforce preparation and crime. While many places have brough policy makers to see good programs, Arkansas offered a new twist -- leaders put a mock prek classroom IN the state capitol so that policy makers would walk through it during the course of their daily work.

Question from Marla Doddo,Development Coordinator, Joint urban Studies Center:
Is there any correlation between children who have attended Pre-K programs and dropout rates? If so, where can I find data on this?

Rob Grunewald:
Longitudinal studies of early childhood interventions for at-risk children show that high school graduation rates are higher for children who participated in high-quality early ed programs compared with a comparison group of children who did not attend. Studies include Perry Preschool Project, Abecedarian, and Chicago Child-Parent Project. The research is summarized on the Minneapolis Fed Web site:

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
For Arthur J. Rolnick:

As a man specializing in research, what is the most important thing you get from the research that supports early childhood/pre-school education?

Arthur J. Rolnick:
We find the most recent research on brain development to be very persuasive. There is now little doubt that the environment affects brain development at a very early age. Indeed, the brain of a child living in a stressful environment does not develop properly and this lack of development shows up as early as age three.

Question from Betty W. Wall, 504/Dyslexia and Accountability Coordinator:
Is there any talk of putting Headstart under the supervision of state and/or local school systems? We have a good Headstart program but the ones in some neighboring areas are not good.

Sara Watson:
Two years ago there was considerable debate around giving states more direct influence over Head Start (which is now funded directly from the federal government to local organizations), but those proposals were intensely controversial and did not succeed. Head Start is overdue for reauthorization and is expected to be debated next year, but it is not clear yet what the proposed changes will be.

Question from Dr. Philip Cooper , Education Researcher:
What impact, if any, does the poor development of memory in early childhood have on reading and reading comprehension?

Rob Grunewald:
We encourage you to visit the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child:

Question from Jenn Wolke, Parent Leader, The Greater Danbury Parent Leaders/PLTI Alumni Group:
Our community is very active in child advocacy. This covers Health, Education, and more. In my opinion it’s true mainly because of the Parent Leadership Training Institute and Danbury Children First, Inc. I think that awareness is a key and vital role in child advocacy. How can community groups and organizations be brought together on a fairly regular basis when time and money are such precious commodoties? How do individuals, both volunteers and agencies approach financiers for support?

Arthur J. Rolnick:
Two advocacy groups that have been successful in Minnesota include Ready4K ( and Minnesota Business for Early Learning (

Question from Keith Newman:
The obvious question: With all the research regarding high quality early education such as the Perry Pre-School Study, a history of successful interventions such as the ones at Syracuse University and University of Pittsburgh, why isn’t there a loud unified chorus demanding high quality early child care for those who want it and need it?

Rob Grunewald:
Unfortunately, this research has been relatively slow in reaching the public policy arena. However, recently there seems to be a broader understanding of the importance of investments in early childhood development.

Question from Barb McWethy, Literacy Specialist, Kalamazoo County Head Start:
I have worked in the field of ECE for over 20 years. I have a degree in Child Development and a MA in Education with an ECE emphasis, yet I’m not perceived as being an educator. There seems to be this ‘us vs. them’ mentality. I feel we all are focused on the same things-cognitive development, social development, etc. Some of us just have to help our students change their clothes more often. What suggestions do you have to help overcome this perceived divide when we all want the same things?

Sara Watson:
This is a big issue - it is just as challening and complex to teach 4 year olds as it is to teach 5 year olds!

State and local systems can help bridge this divide by, for example, offering pay, benefits and a career ladder to qualified prek teachers comparable to those for k-12; setting up rigorous professional development opportunities and requirements; and recognizing the best prek teachers right alongside the best k-12 teachers.

Question from Janet Brown, Senior Research Associate, The George Washington University Center for Equity and Excellence in Education:
What role does the existence of family and community partnerships in early childhood programs play in supporting student achievement?

Sara Watson:
Parents are essential to children’s achievement -- studies have shown that some children can show up at preschool already 18 months behind and having been exposed to thousands of fewer words than their more-advantaged peers. Ideally, prekindergarten programs would work wtih parents to support their role as their children’s first and best teacher, by for example showing them how they can continue a lesson plan about bigger/smaller, days of the week, letters and numbers in their everyday chores - grocery shopping, making dinner, etc.

Community partnerships also can help EC programs in a variety of ways -- supplementing state funding with other resources; helping prek programs link parents to othe needed services; getting in-classroom help for particular needs, such as mental health specialists who can help with behavior problems; calling attention to the need for quality programs and publicizing the availability of programs so that parents sign up their children.

Question from Bob Sornson, Ph.D., Early Learning Foundation, Brighton, MI:
The efficacy of quality preschool experiences is highlighted by your recent article. The quality of your analysis is appreciated!

The opportunity that exists in every American public school to identify delays in the development of language, literacy, numeracy, sensory-motor and behavior skills in the first few years of school is not emphasized. Can you comment on how we can do more at this level as well?

Arthur J. Rolnick:
If the early childhood movement is successful, K-12 will have the opportunity to build on that success. Research shows that when children arrive at the kindergarten door prepared to learn, they are likely to succeed.

Question from Jack Walden, Board member, Oracle Elementary School District # 2, Oracle, AZ:
What do you think about free (to parents) Early Childhood--Pre and Kindergarten--education, if the parents would commit to some training on Mentoring their children? With some controls, of course.

Arthur J. Rolnick:
Our program includes parent mentors beginning prenatal followed by scholarships, but let parents choose whether to take advantage of these resources. We think this is the best way to ensure long-term parent engagement.

Question from Linda Childress, KACCRRA, R&R Director:
It seems to me that we all agree that the early years are the most important. The problem is consistancy with funding and competition among ECD organizations. How can we use our combined expertise and passion for children to truly make something happen?

Rob Grunewald:
We have proposed here in Minnesota to build an endowed fund, the annual proceeds would provide parent mentors to parents of at-risk children and scholarships to attend high-quality early education programs. The endowed fund provides a permanent funding commitment. ECD providers compete to deliver high quality services to children and parents instead of competing for funding.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
Which states have both defined elementary school readiness and required districts to access the readiness of entering elementary students?

Arthur J. Rolnick:
We encourage you to read the National Institute for Early Education Research’s state profiles on preschool programs, available at

Question from Jill Witherell, Field Consultant, High/Scope Foundation:
How do you see Head Start and Early Head Start fitting into your vision? In quality Head Start centers,your vision seems to be already supported- and at no cost to low income families.

Arthur J. Rolnick:
In our market-driven approach, Head Start becomes one of several providers that can be eligible to receive children with scholarships. Ultimately, all eligible programs will be judged on their success for getting at-risk children ready for school. It’s likely there will be a role for Early Head Start to support the parent mentoring part of our approach.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
How can people who have questioned the cost effectiveness of pre-school/early childhood programs such as the Perry Preschool and Abecedarian programs (cost $9,000 and $10,000) have a leg to stand on when it can be proven that these programs save people from going to prison at a cost of $75,000 to $80,000/year? In this case, it is a realistic thought that you pay now or you pay later in mulitiples?

Sara Watson:
Good question! Public leaders do respond to hard data from the best quality studies showing these effects - as illustrated by over $1.2 billion in new state funding for prek in the past 3 years.

Question from Miles Myers, Senior Researcher, ISCA, Los Angeles:
The authors in the Bank report emphasize at-risk students. How are at-risk 3-5 year olds defined?

Rob Grunewald:
For our proposal we categorize at-risk as children living at the poverty level or below. Developmental psychologists have noted that other risk factors for young children include exposure to violence, neglect, parent chemical dependency, low education levels among parents and low-birth weight.

Question from Norma GLuck, Regent Emeritus, New York State Board of Regents:
I found it impossible to pull the various early childhood groups together because no one wanted to share or pool funding to create a central system. It seemed to me that would certainly help to have more readily available access for lower income familes. What is the thinking about this?

Sara Watson:
This is difficult when different programs are set up for different purposes and populations. One approach that some states have taken to try and bring the different pieces together is to create a state department that specifically addresses early learning -- look at Washington State and Massachusetts for examples. Other states have managed if not to pool funds then to “braid” them - working out arrangements so that programs with different funding streams can work side-by-side, as happens with some Head Start and state prek programs.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
How can K-12/K-16 educators and policymakers/school board members work to establish stronger links between preschool education efforts and the K-12/K-16 world?

Arthur J. Rolnick:
We think the links between pre-K and K-12 have to be forged by engaged parents. That is why we advocate providing parent mentors for at-risk parents as early as prenatal. Furthermore, the scholarships we discuss provide incentives for early childhood development programs to produce strong child outcomes. We consider a strong outcome as a child ready to succeed in kindergarten. This is the way to forge these links.

Question from Paul J. Smith, Ed.D., Facilitator, Accelerated Learning Center (ACC), Little Rock School District:
For Sara Watson:

Why did the Pew Charitable Trusts get involved with supporting pre-school education?

Sara Watson:
The Trusts believes that one effective way to invest its resources is by informing and advancing state and federal policies that benefit the public. There are many policy issues deserving of attention, but philanthropic dollars are limited, and deciding where to focus is a challenge. We begin to narrow the field by identifying important issues that also meet the following criteria:

-- There is a clear goal toward which to work, -- That goal is supported by objective, high quality research, -- The issue can generate broad support from the public, policy makers and a range of influential constituencies, and -- Measurable progress can be made toward the long-term goal in three to five years.

After many years of experience in the environment, education, health and human services arenas, we have learned that advancing policy goals takes time; significant resources; rigorous, nonpartisan research and sophisticated, focused public education campaigns.

In 2000-2001 Susan Urahn, director of state policy initiatives at the Trusts, undertook a long process to determine the research base behind pre-k. Because of the compelling nature of the data and how this initiative fit the other criteria above, in 2001, the Trusts’ board decided to launch its multi-year initiative with the goal of advancing voluntary, high-quality pre-k for three- and four-year-olds.

This choice was NOT meant to imply that other supports for children are unimportant, or that prek is the magic answer. Health care, care for infants and toddlers, etc., are also vital. It’s just that this piece fit our criteria, so our philosophy is to achieve what we can here and then move on to the next thing for kids. Some of the states that we have supported are able to package prek with other essential supports - for example Illinois won prek for all 3s and 4s while also using prek’s lead message to increase funding for even younger children. That’s ideal.

Question from John M. Holland, National Board Certified Head Start Teacher, Member of Teacher Leaders Network:
I am invloved with Governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine’s Start Strong Preschool Council’s efforts to create a universal access preschool program. I am interested in finding out the panel’s perspective on effective ways to professionalize the preschool teaching profession. What sort of financial infrastructure, professional development opportunitities and steps by teachers need to be taken in order to more effectively promote quality teaching and draw high quality teachers to preschool teaching.

Sara Watson:
It is wonderful to see how Governor Kaine, like Gov. Warner before him, has make pre-k a major priority. Leaders such as Rob Dugger and Paul Hirschbiel, co-chairs of the previous Virginia Early Learning Commission, and as well as the leaders of the Start Strong Preschool Council, including chair Katherine Busser of Capital One, are truly making an enormous difference for the state’s children. Their great early report is available at StartStrong-InitialReport.pdf.

Improving the quality of teaching for young children requires a multi-faceted approach -- state standards for teacher qualifications, schools of higher education that offer instruction in early education (not just kindergarten and older children), alignment between 2- and 4-year colleges so that teachers can build on AA degrees, scholarships to help staff with low salaries afford tuition, mentoring to help them navigate through the higher education system, accessible education (either through online learning or other strategies to reach across the state), etc. Ongoing workshops are also essential - and a nice way for early childhood systems to collaborate is to open workshops to all early childhood teachers in the state, regardless of the program in which they teach.

An example of how New Jersey moved virtually all of its prek teaching force to BA degrees can be found at pdf&view=yes.

The National Assn for the Education of Young Children has also developed a conceptual framework for professional develoment at:

But the underpinning to all of this work must be salary and benefit packages that make early education an attractive career, particularly in comparision to k-12 teaching. All of the incentives in the world won’t help if teaching young children remains a dramatically under-paid, ill-supported career.

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):
Thank you for joining us for this important discussion. And a special thanks to our three guests for taking the time out of their busy schedules to answer many questions.

This chat is now over. A transcript will be posted shortly on

The Fine Print

All questions are screened by an editor and the guest speaker prior to posting. A question is not displayed until it is answered by the guest speaker. Due to the volume of questions received, we cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered, or answered in the order of submission. Guests and hosts may decline to answer any questions. Concise questions are strongly encouraged.

Please be sure to include your name and affiliation when posting your question.’s Online Chat is an open forum where readers can participate in a give- and-take discussion with a variety of guests. reserves the right to condense or edit questions for clarity, but editing is kept to a minimum. Transcripts may also be reproduced in some form in our print edition. We do not correct errors in spelling, punctuation, etc. In addition, we remove statements that have the potential to be libelous or to slander someone.

Please read our privacy policy and user agreement if you have questions.Chat Editors