Early Education News Roundup: March 27th Edition

Happy Friday everyone! This week, there is an extensive amount of media attention focused on New York’s final state budget – expected to be complete on Wednesday, April 1st. As stated by Benjamin Franklin, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” The articles below cover our top picks for the most important reads for this week. Enjoy!

-New Pre-K Classes Will Share Building With Downtown Drug Abuse Center – DNAinfo

The city is building a new, 108-seat pre-K center inside a Lower Manhattan building that's also home to a substance abuse treatment center.

-Bill de Blasio Teams Up with Rudy Giuliani in Push to Grant Mayor Full Control over New York City School System – Daily News

In an unlikely alliance, Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani have teamed up on the issue of school governance, writing a letter to Gov. Cuomo and state lawmakers urging them to extend mayoral control while taking a "veiled shot" at Cuomo's plan to take over low-performing schools.

-Two Major Business Groups Side with de Blasio on Permanent Mayoral Control of Schools – Daily News

Two influential business groups also backed de Blasio's call to make mayoral control permanent, citing his administration's handling of its universal prekindergarten program and "ambitious" school turnaround plan.

-Bill de Blasio Claims Andrew Cuomo is not Investing Enough in State's Ailing Education System – Daily News

De Blasio took a swipe at Cuomo — although not by name — this weekend when he criticized the "failing" label given to low-performing schools in public education.

-My Agenda for NY Opportunity: Boosting Access to Good Schools – New York Post

Cuomo writes in an op-ed that he wants to pass the DREAM act — which Republicans oppose — and another law that provides private school scholarships for middle and lower-income students — which teachers unions oppose — as part of a broader agenda to improve access to higher quality education.

-Daily News 'Fight for their Future' Education Series on How to Fix City's Schools Hits a Nerve with Teachers and Parents – Daily News

Parents and teachers continued to weigh in on the problems facing New York City schools with little agreement.

-EXCLUSIVE: 37,000 Families Sign Up for City's Pre-K in First Week — More than Half of de Blasio's Goal – Daily News

More than 37,000 four-year-olds have signed up for prekindergarten so far, more than halfway toward the city's goal of 70,000 before a deadline next month.

-School Tells Parents They're Required to Contribute, Violating DOE Rules – DNAinfo

A Manhattan elementary school is telling prospective parents that a "minimum" of six hours of volunteer fund-raising for the school is expected of them during the school year, violating city rules.

-The City’s Grab for Pre-K Space Irks Some Parent Leaders – wNYC

The city's decision to add pre-K programs to some school buildings next year without going through a space-planning process involving the Panel for Educational Policy is raising eyebrows among some parent leaders.

Early Education is a Great Investment

pictureI start every morning the same way. I sip my coffee and skim the news, usually education news. This morning I came across a good article in Huffington Post, Why Investing in Kids Is Good for Business.

It serves as a powerful reminder. In New York, we are days away from a budget deal. The budget is expected to be complete within a week on Wednesday, April 1st. Now, as they say, it is down to three men in a room. Those men would be Governor Cuomo, Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Skelos.

Over the past few months, many important early education proposals have been discussed and the outcome remains unclear. The stakes feel high. For example, the future for QUALITYstarsNY, New York’s quality rating and improvement system, will depend on securing funding in the final budget because federal Race to the Top funding runs out in June. Governor Cuomo’s executive budget included funding, while the Senate and Assembly budgets did not. In the past two weeks, we have seen educators and parents contacting their representatives to explain the importance of this critical investment. It is inspiring stuff. Click here to see an example from one amazing QUALITYstarsNY program, Club Fed Child Care Center in Albany, NY. An overwhelming number of QUALITYstarsNY programs signed a letter asking leadership to include the investment in the final budget proposal. Similar outreach is occurring to support expanded preschool and child care investments. There is a lot of uncertainty, but this uncertainty has been met with action on behalf of kids and families across New York.

In this final week, let’s take a moment to remember just WHY early education is such a powerful investment (taken from the Huffington Post article referenced above):

  • The economic case is clear: We also know that investing in early childhood education improves the educational attainment of individuals in the long term, and will lead them to better and brighter economic futures. These realities show us beyond a shadow of a doubt that when children start behind, they so often stay behind,
  • The evidence is clear: Over 90 percent of brain development occurs between a child's birth and the time they are five-years-old, and that so many life outcomes are impacted and determined during those precious early years.
  • The science is clear: As Dr. Craig Ramey of Virginia Tech has shown through a 30-year longitudinal study and comparison of at-risk youth who received quality childcare and those who didn't, 23 percent of individuals who received childcare were college graduates by age 30, compared to just 6 percent of those who did not.

We work on behalf of children. It is our job to support and encourage leadership in our state to do the same. Thank you to those who have. We have five days left!


Bonnie Beukema is the Deputy Director for the Early Childhood Professional Development Institute, CUNY. Two parts wonk and one part activist, Bonnie started her career in education as a policy analyst and advocate, organizing parents to speak out to policymakers. She used those lessons to lead early education system reform efforts at the Washington State Department of Early Learning, culminating in a successful Race to the Top initiative. She is pictured above with her adorable niece.

Early Education News Roundup: March 20th Edition

Happy first day of spring! This week, there is a ton going on in New York in relation to Pre-K news! The articles below cover our top picks for the most important reads for this week. Enjoy!

NYC Schools' 1.1 Million Students Caught in Crossfire of Andrew Cuomo, Bill de Blasio's Political Battle Over their Education – NY Daily News

City officials plan to close 18 schools by 2017, according to the Daily News.

Cuomo’s Education Plan: Where Do Other Lawmakers Stand? Lohund: The Journal News

As lawmakers enter the final stages of budget negotiations, both the Assembly and Senate agree on one thing — their budgets remove the link between additional education funding and Gov. Cuomo's proposed policy changes.

NYC's Plan for Prayer Break in Pre-K Classes Raises Concerns – ABC News

The city's plan to allow mid-day prayer breaks for pre-K programs operating in religious schools is continuing to raise questions among civil-liberties groups, who say the city "seems to be asking for a lawsuit."

Your Guide to Free Pre-K Programs as Enrollment Begins – DNAinfo

As Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature education policy change, universal pre-K, enters year two, parents of four-year-olds began applying Monday.

13 Charter Schools Approved to Offer Pre-K this Fall – Capital New York

Sixteen charter schools will offer pre-K in the fall, after the Department of Education approved applications from 13 new schools.

De Blasio Touts Early Pre-K Application Numbers – Capital New York

Nearly 22,000 children signed up for a pre-kindergarten seat on the first day of enrollment, three times as many as last year.

City Nixes 45 Percent of Potential Full-Day Pre-K Providers – New York Post

The city rejected 45 percent of pre-K providers that applied for the city's expansion.

Buery Defends Pre-K Prayer Breaks as City Celebrates Enrollment Kickoff – Chalkbeat NY

There will be "very clear opt-out rules" for students in religious pre-K programs who don't want to take part in prayer activities permitted for next year, a top city official said.

NY1 Online: Deputy Mayor Talks Universal Pre-K, Year Two – NY 1

The official, Richard Buery, also pushed back against criticism that the pre-K expansion disproportionately benefited middle class families, saying most students lived in areas below the city's median income while also highlighting the merits of classroom diversity.

Poll: Voters Sour on Cuomo’s Education Plans – Capital NY

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statewide approval rating fell to 50 percent – the lowest it’s been since he took office in 2011 – largely due to his proposed education policy changes, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. The poll released Wednesday shows just 28 percent of voters approve of the governor’s actions on education.

Integrating holiday activities in the classroom: To shamrock or not to shamrock?

Last week, some colleagues asked me for suggestions for developmentally appropriate classroom activities to feature on this blog for St. Patrick’s Day. My response was short and simple: I’d rather not.

My immediate reaction surprised some of my coworkers, especially those that don’t have hands-on experience working with young children. So rather than moving on and looking elsewhere for shamrocks and leprechauns, my curious and trusting colleagues wanted to understand  why I reacted this way.

The answer is a little complicated – but I’ve tried to unpack it here:

1. I believe in an intentional, integrated curriculum and thoughtful planning.

I often push back when people ask for activities. In fact, I think some of the best activities that ever happened in my Head Start classroom were designed by or suggested by 4-year-olds. Far too often as the grown-ups in the room, we get caught up in the end product and forget about the concepts we’re teaching and building upon.  

I had the benefit of spending the last few years providing professional development to Pre-K teachers and assistant teachers. They were such an incredible group of dedicated, passionate, caring educators and they came to each session eager to learn and grow. One of the most difficult shifts over the course of the year was from activity focused planning to objective focused planning. In objective focused planning, we look at activities as a vehicle for teaching as well as assessing rather than something to do or make.  Here is how the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines curriculum:

“Curriculum is more than a collection of enjoyable activities. Curriculum is a complex idea containing multiple components, such as goals, content, pedagogy, or instructional practices. Curriculum is influenced by many factors, including society’s values, content standards, accountability systems, research findings, community expectations, culture and language, and individual children’s characteristics.” [1]

2. I believe that young children’s experiences should be relevant to their lives and respectful of their families.

The conversation on whether to celebrate- or even acknowledge- holidays in early childhood programs has been a hot topic since I started early childhood education coursework twenty years ago. When I worked as a teacher in a Head Start program in California, there was no conversation to be had- no holidays were celebrated, including birthdays.

Many years ago, I found guidance in an article from NAEYC. They have sense incorporated holidays into the important work they do in the area of anti-bias education.

“NAEYC believes that decisions about what holidays to celebrate are best made together by teachers, parents, and children. Families and staff are more comfortable when both have expressed their views and understand how a decision has been reached. The important thing for all to remember is that when planning holiday activities, the rules of good practice continue to apply: Are the activities meaningful to the children? Are their needs and interests being met? Is the activity a valuable use of children's time?”[2]

How easy it can be to lose sight of the difference between what is meaningful to us, what is interesting to us, and what is valuable to us as compared to the young children and families with whom we work. In some early childhood settings, recognition and celebration of St. Patrick’s Day will be both relevant and appropriate. In these instances, consider all there is to explore that is related to the holiday and integrate all of those topics into lesson planning over a few weeks.

3. I believe that the ways in which teachers interact with children during an activity can matter more than the activity itself.

Lesson planning can be stressful and overwhelming. Staring at blank pages or empty boxes can often lead to the question: What are we going to do? There is pressure to plan activities that relate to the course of study, are engaging and challenging, and can be modified to meet the needs of all children. Sometimes the role of the teacher gets lost in that planning. Your words – and sometimes your silence!- has a huge impact on how and what children learn.

I have used the following article The Nature of Teacher Talk during Small Group Activities[3], from the wonderful NAEYC publication, Young Children in professional development sessions over the last few years. This article is a must read for anyone who works with children in small groups, a time that is so important and often overlooked in planning. Small group activities provide an opportunity for teaching, observing and assessing. Perhaps most importantly, the intimate nature of small groups can allow you to get to know the children in your care in a very different way. The authors conclude:

“Our choice of words is important (Johnson 2004). Consider the power of a hurtful word or how words are used in advertising to persuade us to buy products. Words shape our attitudes, feelings and thoughts. Yet language is such a part of our lives that we often take it for granted. As educators, we must continually ask ourselves how we can use language for our ultimate purpose: to support children’s development and learning.”

Thank you to my fantastic coworkers for believing that I had something important to say, though it might not have been what was planned. I am not anti-St. Patrick’s Day or any other holiday being recognized in early childhood programs when it is done thoughtfully, intentionally and with respect to all families and staff.

I wonder when I will reveal my Irish heritage to them.


Louisa Higgins is the coordinator for New York Works for Children (NYWFC), the state's integrated professional development system for the early childhood and school age workforce, administered by the PDI. Louisa began her career as a teacher in a Head Start program and went on to work as a mental health consultant in pre-k classrooms before transitioning into policy support and systems building. Louisa misses working with children but finds so much joy when she has the opportunity to work with adults through professional development – and spends a lot of time with her niece (pictured) and nephew.




[1] National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education (NAECS/SDE). (2003).Joint position statement on early childhood curriculum, assessment, and program evaluation building an effective, accountable system in programs for children birth through age 8. Washington, DC: NAEYC, p. 6.



[2] Celebrating Holidays in Early Childhood Programs; https://oldweb.naeyc.org/ece/1996/18.asp



[3] The Nature of Teacher Talk during Small Group Activities. Rainer Dangel, Julie; Durden, Tonia Renee.

Young Children, v65 n1 p74-78, 80-81 Jan 2010 (http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1015&context=cyfsfacpub)



Early Education News Roundup: March 13th Edition

Happy Friday to all! Here are our top picks for early childhood education news in New York this week! Enjoy!

-'Nature-Based' Preschool to Open on LES With Outdoor Forest ClassroomDNAinfo

A new Manhattan preschool set to open later this year will include a 3,500-square-foot outdoor space with a classroom, garden and climbing boulders.

-Gender Gap in Education Cuts Both WaysNew York Times

Eduardo Porter: The 'most troubling imbalance' in a new report on the achievement gap between boys and girls is that of less-educated student groups: Six of 10 underachievers are boys, including 15 percent who are American boys compared with 9 percent American girls.

-Assembly Budget: Mayoral Control Until 2022, Adds $1.8B, Scraps Cuomo’s ED Proposals – Chalkbeat NY

Assembly Democrats have put forth a budget proposal that adds $1.8 billion to the state’s schools outlay and scraps the education-policy proposals made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

-Mayor de Blasio Is Quietly Soliciting Donations for Future Policy Battles – New York Times

Mayor Bill de Blasio is working to amass a "financial war chest" to help fight for his policy ideas, including getting more state funding for schools.

-Slow-Motion de Blasio on School Fixes – Daily News

Editorial: The fact that some schools in the city's turnaround program are waiting for specific help, and that it's unclear when schools will get an extra hour of instructional time, as Chalkbeat reported last week, means the de Blasio administration is not moving fast enough.

-Lovett: Bill de Blasio and Syracuse Mayor Forge Alliance to Push Andrew Cuomo on Education Funds – Daily News

Mayor de Blasio will release a joint statement with Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner calling on the governor to increase education spending; funds they say could be used to enact "meaningful reform."

-Preachers Back Cuomo’s Education Reform Plan – New York Post

A contingent of influential black preachers is planning to spend the month pushing Gov. Cuomo's education-policy plans, saying it's part of their mission of helping the disaffected to fight "educational injustice."

RSVP for our Final Principals’ Institute, March 23rd: Creating Community in and with Early Childhood Classrooms

Dear Principals,

We are excited to invite you and a colleague to the next workshop of the Principals' Institute, Creating Community in and with Early Childhood Classrooms, which takes place Monday, March 23rd from 8 – 10:30 AM. This is the final workshop in a series of three hosted by the City University of New York (CUNY) and the NYC Department of Education open to all principals in New York City. Join us for breakfast and great conversation!

Click here to RSVP

Featured Speaker: Suzanne Carothers

Dr. Suzanne Carothers, professor at NYU, will discuss why family involvement is a critical component of programs for young children. The workshop will focus on strategies for building home/ school partnerships that support young children’s learning along with implications for what leaders can do to support teachers to build them. Strategies that support young children's learning will be explored in depth as will approaches that honor all families, respect cultural differences and provide for children who are English language learners.

Invite a colleague and RSVP today: nycd.splashthat.com

We look forward to seeing you
Monday, March 23rd from 8:00 – 10:30 AM
at the CUNY Graduate Center – Concourse Level
365 Fifth Ave, between 34th and 35th Street.

Registration opens at 8 AM. Seminar will begin at 8:30 AM.

Download the flyer

Please call us at 718-254-7353 or email us at info@earlychildhoodny.org with questions or to change RSVP information.


President Barack Obama Commemorating International Women’s Day

Yesterday was International Women's Day, and we'll be celebrating Women's History Month throughout March. We thought we would point out an interesting initiative from the Obama Administration designed to promote learning opportunities for young girls.

In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, President Obama and Michelle Obama announced an initiative called “Let Girls Learn,” that will assist in disassembling the economic, political and cultural barriers that stand in the way of girls who are eager to learn. Right now, there are 62 million girls worldwide who should be in school and aren't. Millions more are at risk of losing their access to education.

Here is an excerpt from President Obama’s statement honoring International Women’s Day:

“I'm convinced that a world in which women and girls are treated as equal to men and boys is safer, more stable, and more prosperous. Beyond those tangible benefits, this is simply a matter of right and wrong. Women and girls are human beings, full and equal in rights and dignity. They deserve to be treated that way, everywhere, every day. My Administration will continue working to make that vision a reality.”

Click here to read the full statement by President Obama.

Early Education News Roundup: March 6th Edition

There is a lot going on in early childhood education news in New York and other states! Here are our top picks for this week. Happy reading!

New York:

Universal Pre-K’s Startling DiscoveryCrain’s New York Business

Mayor Bill de Blasio has portrayed his signature prekindergarten program as an antidote for inequality and a major benefit to lower-income parents. Last week, an academic study cast it in a new light by stating that about half of the new pre-K centers' students would have otherwise enrolled in private programs.

A Tale of Two Pre-K'sThe Atlantic

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature initiative to expand full-day pre-kindergarten is creating an average of 41 new slots per 100 children ages 2 to 5 living in affluent neighborhoods compared to 30 seats in lower-income areas, according to University of California Berkeley education researchers.

City Head Start Programs Get Federal Boost - NY1

Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announce more than $9 million in grants for early childhood education programs here in the city.

Pre-K Push Is Up Against Citywide Space Crunch, Deputy Mayor SaysChalkbeat NY

As the city looks to expand its pre-kindergarten offerings for a second straight year, Deputy Mayor Richard Buery said they are using real estate brokers and scouring space in public school buildings to come up with room — and hoping more charter schools eventually choose to operate programs.

Across the Country:

United Way Advocates for Pre-K – Standard Speaker

The path to educational success for Pennsylvania’s children begins even before the doors open on the first day of kindergarten. That is why the United Way has been advocating for early learning through our Success by Six initiative.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Again Proposes Universal Pre-K – Lehigh Valley Live

U.S. Senator Bob Casey is making another push to provide a year of universal pre-kindergarten to American children. The voluntary program would include a focus on special needs children and kids from low-income families.

Why the Fight for Pre-K Matters - Minn Post

Minnesota lawmakers can use the same approach as that of a pre-k teacher; helping the children use the power of imagination to solve problems. They should imagine a future where universal pre-K helps us tackle our state’s achievement gap, makes us competitive globally, and helps families across the state.

Why the Future of Pre-K is at HomeedSurge

Initiatives are underway to harness the advantages of edtech-driven, curated, at-home pre-K.

Guest Writer: Dr. Valora Washington Responds to Washington Post Article, “The Famous “Word Gap” Affects the Young and Many Educators, Too”

At the Early Childhood Professional Development Institute (PDI), we seek to build a comprehensive professional development system for individuals who work with young children in New York. This includes fostering a dialogue about how we can better support the workforce at large. We invited Dr. Valora Washington, CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition, to respond to the recent Washington Post article, "The Famous “Word Gap” Affects the Young and Many Educators, Too." Please email kariena.sonnee@cuny.edu if you are interested in being a guest writer.


Literacy is Embedded in the CDA Credentialing Process
Dr. Valora Washington
Chief Executive Officer, Council for Professional Recognition

University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Elizabeth A. Gilbert recently wrote in a Washington Post blog piece about the “word gap,” a phenomenon in which low-income children are exposed to 30 million fewer words than “their more fortunate peers” by age three. She went on to state that focused literacy instruction is needed not only for these at-risk kids, but also for their early childhood instructors who, because of their own limited resources and exposure, could potentially fall victim to the same malady.

As the chief executive officer for the Council for Professional Recognition, the leading national early childhood professional development credentialing organization in the United States, I will not argue for or against the merits of Ms. Gilbert’s assertions. We’re not in the literacy business; we credential the best and brightest early care and education professionals through a competency-based process—the Child Development Associate™ (CDA) National Credentialing Program—in which the requisite level of literacy is embedded.

Let’s Separate Fact from Fiction

In her blog entry, Ms. Gilbert stated the following:

The story doesn’t end here. The only national early education professional development credentialing body in the country, the Center for Professional Recognition (incorrect organizational name), requires no testing or verification of adult literacy competence for any educator it credentials. There are more than 350,000  practicing non-college early childhood educators with a Child Development Associate certificate today (the Council does not offer a CDA “certificate”: ours is a more robust credentialing process that is portable from state to state and recognized as the only national credential in the country). Many will never step into a college classroom, because of their functional illiteracy.

These comments have the distinction of being misleading and incorrect at the same time. While it is true that the Council does not test or verify adult literacy competence for our CDA recipients, it is patently false to assume that each of the more than 350,000 early educators who holds a CDA is incapable of attending or graduating from a college or university. In fact, our internal data reflects that our CDAs, who are typically adult learners, use the CDA credentialing process to jump-start them into pursuing additional degrees.  In fact, many colleges—including some in Gilbert’s home state of Massachusetts—award college credit to CDA credential holders, or embed the CDA in their college coursework.

This is not an argument for the CDA versus a college degree. We view obtaining both as part of a continuous progression of skills and competence for many early educators. Ideally, the CDA is the “best 1st step” for many early educators, who then move on to obtain more formal education—and experience—working with young children and their families.

This best first step leads to deeper confidence in people like Magdalena Monroy from Brooklyn, N.Y., who, after being awarded her CDA credential, went on to earn a bachelor’s degree and later work with the Council as one of our Professional Development (PD) Specialists. As a PD Specialist, she supported other CDA candidates through coaching and mentoring as they pursued their own CDA credential.

Another CDA holder, who was required to obtain his CDA as a condition of continued employment, described the process as a “lifesaver” that eventually led to him obtaining a Ph.D. This amazing professional, Calvin Moore, Ph.D., now heads the state of Alabama’s child care services. 

How Does the CDA Work?

The CDA™ encompasses multiple sources of evidence, such as 120 hours of professional education in early childhood development, 480 hours of work experience, a written Professional Portfolio that demonstrates an understanding of competence, feedback from families, an observation by our trained Professional Development Specialists that demonstrates effective practice and content knowledge via a computer-based CDA exam taken at an independent PearsonVue testing center.

The CDA credential is a pathway to learning best teaching practices for many early care professionals, such as:

  • An assistant teacher with experience, but little formal education
  • A lead teacher who already holds an academic degree, but needs to gain hands-on practical skill and competency
  • A family child care provider who must improve the quality of their setting to meet licensing requirements
  • A high school student interested in pursuing a career in working with young children

No functionally illiterate early childcare provider could successfully navigate such a rigorous, competency-based credential.

To conclude, we’ll leave the literacy issue to those best suited to address it, while clearing up some of Ms. Gilbert’s factual errors and asserting that the level of competency that must be demonstrated in the CDA process implies high literacy, and ensures the highest professional development across the ECE community.

Governor Cuomo Outlines $25 Million Pilot to Support Pre-K for 3 Year-Olds

Last Wednesday, Governor Cuomo outlined his plan to expand pre-K to 3-year olds in New York State's highest-need communities. The governor is promising $25 million to fund this pilot program, which will add more than 5,000 seats for 3-year old children across New York. As we discussed in our blog post last week, the word gap starts early. By the time children are three years old, those who grow up in professional families have vocabularies of about 1,116 words; those in working class families have vocabularies of about 749 words; and those in families on public assistance have vocabularies of about 525 words.

Sherry Cleary, PDI’s executive director, gave a powerful analysis of the positive impacts of early education, where she provides statistical research demonstrating how early education can prevent the achievement gap and word gap and provide other substantial short- and long-term benefits to all children.

Click here to read more and watch excerpts from the meeting.