Children's Defense Fund

Early Childhood News – November Edition

Tuition Charged for Public School Full-Day Kindergarten (Full-Day K) in United States Surprises Many at Conference

CDF staff talked with hundreds of attendees at the Annual Conference and Expo of the National Association for the Education of Young Children in Orlando, Fla., November 2-5 about the need for tuition-free Full-Day K in the country. Citing 20 states that allow school districts to charge parents tuition for the “other part” of the instructional day, CDF staff was met with disbelief and concern when talking with individuals and groups. Read further to learn more about the conference offerings on Full-Day K and related early childhood happenings.

New Office of Early Childhood Proposed by the U.S. Department of Education Announced

Jacqueline Jones, senior advisor for early learning at the U.S. Department of Education, announced a proposal by the department to create an Office of Early Learning. This office will be responsible for overseeing the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge initiative. According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “Effective early learning programs are essential to prepare our children for success and beyond. A dedicated early learning office will institutionalize, elevate and coordinate federal support for high-quality early learning, while enhancing support for state efforts to build high-performing early education systems.” The proposal names Dr. Jones as the head of the new office which will operate within the department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. Read Sec. Duncan’s column that appeared on November 7th in The Huffington Post.

Keynote Address…Who will save kindergarten?

Vivian Paley, internationally renowned early childhood educator and author who spent 37 years at the University of Chicago’s Laboratory Schools as a teacher of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children, gave a thought provoking presentation on the current condition of kindergarten in many schools across the country. In a spell-binding presentation she gave a view of a kindergarten day through the eyes of one child. Mentioning both the good and not so good events of the day, she described his triumphs and disappointments with candor and humor.

Through her narrative she reminded the audience of the importance of promoting imagination, creativity and vocabulary development through dramatic play. She challenged teachers to continue offering opportunities for children to use play in developing social and emotional constructs, creativity, language and other literacy skills. Praising the teacher who saw the importance of imagining and sharing thoughts through dramatizing and telling stories she engaged the audience in the idea of supporting children in using imagining as a tool to clarify new truths through new experiences. She voiced concern about the kindergarten of tomorrow and posed the hard question-who will save kindergarten?

Kindergarten Pioneers: Forgotten Black Women in the Kindergarten Movement

Dr. Vernessa Curry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham presented a fascinating review of the kindergarten movement in America within the Black community. Focusing on the work of Mary Church Terrell, she told the story of affluent Black women in the 1800’s who embraced the Froebelian philosophy in starting kindergarten programs for Black children in the early days of kindergarten in America. The National Association of Colored Women Clubs under Mrs. Terrell as president was responsible for the spread of Froebelian kindergartens in order to give ”colored children“ an education equal to their White peers. For more information on Mrs. Terrell contact Dr. Curry at

Full-day Kindergarten: Possibly the stepchild of the early childhood continuum

Dr. Kristie Kauerz, University of Washington and Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Dr. Cathy Grace, CDF Early Childhood Policy Director, shared information related to state policies that illustrate the inconsistency in kindergarten funding and hours of operation within and between states. They also highlighted the ideological conflict when tuition is charged to parents for children to attend one-half of the day in states where Full-Day K is not publicly funded.

Given the adoption of the Common Core Standards in 43 states and the District of Columbia, kindergarten children in 2014 will face assessments that measure their success in meeting the standards in math and reading, writing, and language arts as well as the teacher’s effectiveness in teaching them. With the current inequity in funding and length of day in the majority of states in the country, much work needs to be done if children are really to be given a fair start and teachers a fair appraisal.

CDF Supports National Survey of Child Care Providers

Within the next few months, the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC) research unit will contact approximately 30,000 child care providers. NORC is conducting a survey sponsored by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The purpose of the survey is to collect data about the current types of early care and education available in the country and also demographic information to help the field learn more about those who care and educate our children. If you are contacted we encourage you to participate.

Building the Base for Full-Day K

CDF is eager to enlist more interested advocates for Full-Day K. Please pass this newsletter along to others and encourage them to sign-up for our monthly updates. Sign-up here.

President Obama Announces New Rule for Head Start Grantees

Yesterday, while visiting a Head Start program in Philadelphia, President Obama announced new regulations that will introduce competition into the Head Start grant process. These regulations are designed to continue to raise the level of quality for the million children and families served by Head Start each year. Learn more.

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