WBEZ | early childhood education http://www.wbez.org/tags/early-childhood-education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago community groups protest child care cuts http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-community-groups-protest-child-care-cuts-107161 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/preschool_130514_LW.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>At a demonstration against child care cuts in Pilsen Tuesday, there were more kids than adults. The kids yelled &ldquo;we need childcare&rdquo; and tried to stay still while adults representing Chicago community groups spoke out in favor of restoring Illinois&rsquo; early childhood programs to previous funding levels.</p><p>The state of Illinois cut $25 million from early childhood education grants in FY2013, and also raised co-pays, and lowered eligibility requirements for subsidized child care services.</p><p>&ldquo;I went from paying around $100 a month, to paying now $200 a month,&rdquo; said Lorraine Bahena, who has a 4-year-old in a nearby preschool. &ldquo;I actually have the means to pay, thank god, but if not for that I would have had to have pulled my daughter out.&rdquo;</p><p>Another parent, Maria Zuno, said she&rsquo;s taken a pay cut so that her kids remain eligible.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t make too much money because then they get kicked out,&rdquo; Zuno said. &ldquo;And I can&rsquo;t make too little because then I can&rsquo;t make ends meet.&rdquo;</p><p>Organizers representing nine community groups in Chicago, mostly childcare and early education providers, said 100 people will travel to Springfield to attend a special hearing of the House Appropriations Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education Wednesday. That committee is responsible for the $25 million in cuts to Early Childhood Block Grants meant to support Illinois preschool programs. That budget has been slashed by $80 million over four years.</p><p>Committee Chairman Rep. Will Davis (D-30), who set up the hearing with advocates, nonetheless says it will be a challenge to keep next year&rsquo;s Block Grant funding at this year&rsquo;s levels.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a matter of opposition,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just resources. That committee will have to make some very tough decisions as to how they spend those resources.&rdquo;</p><p>Since 2009, the number of kids in Illinois&rsquo; early childhood programs has dropped by an estimated 22,000 due to budget cuts.</p><p>Illinois Governor Pat Quinn&rsquo;s proposed budget for 2014 wouldn&rsquo;t restore early childhood funding to previous levels, but it would hold the line on early childhood programs.</p><p>&ldquo;The budget cuts are largely driven by the pension problems,&rdquo; said Illinois Assistant Budget Director Abdon Pallasch. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a real fight to maintain funding for these programs and that&rsquo;s what the governor&rsquo;s office is trying to do.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lewis Wallace is a Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants" target="_blank">@lewispants</a></em></p></p> Tue, 14 May 2013 15:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-community-groups-protest-child-care-cuts-107161 Why the business community wants to invest in preschoolers http://www.wbez.org/sections/literacy/why-business-community-wants-invest-preschoolers-106204 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flickr_clay_eren_sea+prairie.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A group of about 20 <a href="http://www.christopherhouse.org/">Christopher House</a> preschoolers are sitting as quietly as they can in front of their teacher, Jill Peterson. She&rsquo;s just asked them to put their fingers on their nose and is waiting for the group to settle down before dismissing them to play time.</p><p>She reminds them what their options are today: at the art table, there&rsquo;s clay. Because the class has been spending quite a bit of time talking about food, and cooking, she encourages the children to shape the clay into pretend food.</p><p>But this isn&rsquo;t just ordinary play. The kids in this class range from age three to five, but are already focusing on activities that develop both sides of the brain.</p><p>Allen Rosales is the school&rsquo;s curriculum director. From his point of view, the school isn&rsquo;t doing its job unless it prepares the children for work - and life.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s math knowledge if you can&rsquo;t speak up, if you can&rsquo;t have a perspective, if you can&rsquo;t work as a group collaboratively?&rdquo; Rosales asked. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s what we&rsquo;re trying to do here, incorporate both - the academic and the soft skills.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, as Rosales points out, those &ldquo;soft&rdquo; skills aren&rsquo;t so soft because they&rsquo;re difficult to develop.</p><p>Hard skills are pretty self-explanatory: math, science and reading. Soft skills are more squishy concept, but it&rsquo;s still a catch-all phrase you hear often from business leaders to describe what&rsquo;s lacking among their workers.</p><p>Chicago businessman <a href="http://www.jb-pritzker.com/">J.B. Pritzker</a> attempts to explain.</p><p>&ldquo;Collectively, these are things we sometimes refer to as character,&rdquo; said Pritzker, co-leader of The Pritkzer Group. &ldquo;The ability to listen, the ability to concentrate, to complete a task, to be persistent about things, attentiveness.&rdquo;</p><p>These are are the kind of skills you learn best when you&rsquo;re young - very young - which is why Pritzker said he&rsquo;s become an advocate for early childhood education.</p><p>&ldquo;The quality of our workforce is declining, and it&rsquo;s because we are not as advanced as other countries are at early childhood development,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>That&rsquo;s backed up by people like Nobel Prize-winning economist <a href="http://heckman.uchicago.edu/">James Heckman</a> at the University of Chicago. His <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/2007/05/teach_your_children_well.html">decades-long research</a> shows that investing in low-income children before Kindergarten can have a big pay-off down the road.</p><p>Traditionally, businesses have tended to focus their philanthropic efforts on K-12 education. But PNC Bank is another group that&rsquo;s also starting to back more early education efforts. The bank has given more than $350 million nationally to this - about $3 million in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re concerned about this obviously from a customer perspective, but from a community perspective,&rdquo; said PNC Illinois Chairman Joe Gregoire. &ldquo;The better we do as relates to early childhood development, the better our communities will be. Hopefully we&rsquo;ll have more students going to college and from that perspective, a better workforce.&rdquo;</p><p>Right now funding for pre-K comes from a couple of different places, like the federal Head Start. But even then, around 30 percent of low-income families who are eligible for the program don&rsquo;t use it.</p><p>Another problem is the quality of early childhood education across Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;In Illinois, the only criteria for establishing a child care program is that you have a license, and the license is built mostly around safety and nutrition and things like that and not around education,&rdquo; said Erikson Institute faculty co-founder <a href="http://www.erikson.edu/about/directory/barbara-bowman/">Barbara Bowman</a>, also the former head of Chicago&rsquo;s early childhood education program.</p><p>Bowman said that makes programs like the one at Christopher House are more the ideal than the norm.</p><p>Lots of preschools incorporate structured playtime. But at Christopher House the teacher and two aides use playtime to help nurture soft skills one-on-one.</p><p>Back at play time, Peterson - who has two well-trained aides also working with other children - is sitting at the table with the children playing with clay. One little girl has molded her clay into what she says is a spicy jalapeno pizza cookies.</p><p>Peterson gently nudges the child to provide a recipe for how she made her pizza. Peterson writes it all down.</p><p>Rosales, standing nearby, explains how the recipes reinforces notions of first, second, last, as well as following directions. The exercises are designed to nurture the child&rsquo;s creativity, and teachers like Peterson also encourage independent thinking - all key foundations for these soft skills.</p><p>Illinois just received a $35 million federal grant to unify what the state itself calls a &ldquo;patchwork&rdquo; of early learning programs. It&rsquo;s also designed to help connect low-income families with programs like Christopher House, which already has a waiting list.</p><p>In the meantime, business leaders like Pritzker are nudging this along on their own. For him, it&rsquo;s simple economics.</p><p>&ldquo;I know there are people who are going to think to themselves, &lsquo;Soft skills, you mean learning those basic things that every kid probably should learn, attentiveness, is going to affect whether the United States is going to be the leader of the world 20 years from now?&rsquo; My answer is &lsquo;yes&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p>Because 20 years from now, he said, this class of preschoolers at Christopher House - and their classmates from all across the city - will be the one&rsquo;s he&rsquo;s hiring.</p></p> Thu, 21 Mar 2013 08:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/literacy/why-business-community-wants-invest-preschoolers-106204 Barbara Bowman on lessons learned inside and outside the classroom http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-05/barbara-bowman-lessons-learned-inside-and-outside-classroom-98945 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/valerie%20jarrett%20barbara%20bowman.jpg" style="float: left; width: 300px; height: 215px; " title="(Still from Teach.gov video)">“My mom was perhaps my best teacher,” senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett explains in a<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0tRGoxVKoA&amp;feature=plcp"> Department of Education video</a>.</p><p>“She said, 'Throughout the course of your life, you’re gonna have many choices of the paths that you take. Don’t take the easy path. Take the one that’s gonna challenge and that’s gonna push you to improve each and every day.'” &nbsp;</p><p>It seems that <a href="http://www.erikson.edu/default/faculty/faclistings/barbara_bowman.aspx">Barbara Bowman</a>, Jarrett’s mother, has taken her own advice to heart. Bowman is one of the leading authorities on early childhood education, and she’s spent almost 50 years working in the field.</p><p>Bowman’s accomplishments are many. They range from co-founding a graduate school for early childhood development to serving as a consultant to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. She’s also played an important role at Chicago Public Schools, where she’s served as chief early childhood education officer for the past eight years.</p><p>At the end of June, Bowman will leave her job with Chicago Public Schools. The 83-year-old doesn’t seem to be slowing down, though. She plans to keep teaching at the <a href="http://www.erikson.edu/">Erikson Institute</a>, which she co-founded in 1966.</p><p>On Tuesday, as Bowman prepares to leave her role with CPS, she joins <em>Afternoon Shift</em> to teach us more about her life and the lessons she’s learned inside and outside of the classroom.</p></p> Tue, 08 May 2012 16:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-05/barbara-bowman-lessons-learned-inside-and-outside-classroom-98945 Study: Boost from preschool lasts into adulthood http://www.wbez.org/story/study-boost-preschool-lasts-adulthood-87656 <p><p>Kids who get good education in early childhood tend to do better, and a new study of a Chicago preschool program shows the benefits last well into adulthood.</p><p>Arthur Reynolds began studying more than 1,500 Chicago kids back in 1986, and he’s kept up with most of them ever since. About two-thirds of those children went through the Child-Parent Center Education Program – the rest through traditional pre-kindergarten programs, which start later and are less intensive. The two groups had similar backgrounds, largely poor and African American.</p><p>Now those kids are turning 28, and Reynolds, a University of Minnesota professor of child development, says people who had rigorous preschool are still enjoying advantages after 25 years.</p><p>“There’s an initial effect on school readiness,” said Reynolds, a professor of child development at the University of Minnesota. “That kind of sets off sort of a chain reaction that leads to the changes that we see in adulthood at the end of the twenties.”</p><p>That chain reaction, according to the new research, produces adults who are more affluent and better educated. They were 28 percent less likely to go to prison or have drug and alcohol problems. The advantages were clearest for males, and for the children of high school dropouts. The results are published in the journal, “Science.”&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 09 Jun 2011 20:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/study-boost-preschool-lasts-adulthood-87656