December 14, 2007

In this Issue:

1. Common Vision, Different Paths: Five States' Journeys toward Comprehensive Prenatal-to-Five Systems

Source: Zero to Three

ZERO TO THREE and Pre-K Now are releasing a joint report, Common Vision, Different Paths: Five States' Journeys toward Comprehensive Prenatal-to-Five Systems. This new report articulates a common vision for early childhood systems in which programs work together to provide high-quality early learning and comprehensive services. Common Vision reveals lessons learned from five states' unique journeys toward such prenatal-to-five systems and identifies four cornerstones that have helped states succeed in this work. Advocates and policymakers will find guidance on how to build on the momentum around individual programs for the larger push toward systems that will benefit all young children and families.

A diverse group of funders worked together to support this publication in an effort to raise policymakers' awareness of early childhood issues, including: the Buffett Early Childhood Fund; the Annie E. Casey Foundation; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Electronic copies of the press release and the report itself are attached. The report is also available on the ZERO TO THREE website at http://www.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/Common_Vision__Different_Paths_Final.pdf?docID=4521&JServSessionIdr004=y06r02z726.app13b or on the Pre-K Now website at www.preknow.org/documents/CommonVision_Dec2007.pdf. To request printed copies, e-mail Kimberly Lagomarsino at klagomarsino@zerotothree.org or Tina Trenkner at ttrenkner@preknow.org.

2. The Family: America's Smallest School

Source: ETS Policy Information Center

If the United States is to reach our ambitious national education goals, we need to focus as much attention on the starting line as we do on the finish line. While most reform debate centers on improving schools, increasing teaching quality and raising student achievement, success also requires changes within America's smallest school as well: the family.

In the ETS Policy Information Center's new report, The Family: America's Smallest School, ETS researchers Paul E. Barton and Richard J. Coley outline the family and home conditions affecting children's cognitive development and school achievement and how gaps beginning early persist throughout life. With a preface and endorsement by Marc H. Morial, President of the National Urban League, both organizations call on leaders and policymakers to improve not only schools, but also home and family conditions, to help all students succeed.

Critical factors examined in the report include child care quality, parental involvement in schools, parent/pupil ratio, family finances, literacy development, student absences and physical home environments.

Report findings are available for download:

3. President Bush Signs "Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007" Into Law

Source: Office of the White House Press Secretary

Today I signed into law the "Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007," a bill to reauthorize Head Start. Over the past 40 years, Head Start has provided comprehensive child-development services to more than 20 million low-income children and their families to promote school readiness. Because of the National Reporting System, we know that more Head Start programs are helping children gain early reading and math skills. But we must take steps to improve Head Start to ensure that low-income children arrive at school ready to learn.

I am pleased that this bill addresses several longstanding Administration priorities, such as increased competition among Head Start providers, improved coordination of early childhood delivery systems, and stronger educational performance standards. Increasing competition for providers will help ensure that we offer the highest quality programs to our nation's most vulnerable young children. Greater collaboration among Head Start agencies, schools, and other programs serving young children, will help ensure our investments are better aligned and more effective. Stronger educational performance standards and an emphasis on research-based curricula and classroom practices will increase children's preparedness for school. I also support the bill's provisions to strengthen fiscal accountability and program oversight, so that dollars intended to serve children are spent wisely.

I am, however, deeply disappointed that the bill ends the National Reporting System, our only tool to examine consistently how Head Start children are performing in programs across the nation. We should be working to provide more and better data to parents, teachers, and policymakers, not less. I am concerned that the bill authorizes spending levels higher than those proposed in my budget. Approval of this legislation is not an endorsement of these funding levels or a commitment to request them. I am also disappointed that the bill fails to include my proposal to protect faith-based organizations' religious hiring autonomy.

I thank Members of both parties in Congress who worked on this legislation. I will continue to work with Congress to ensure that our neediest children are prepared for success in school and a lifetime of achievement.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/12/20071212-3.html