Education Week - January 29, 2014 - (Page 20)

COMMENTARY Funding Students, Not Bureaucracies, For Early-Childhood Education By Ben Zimmer & Daniella Rohr T here's no trendier cause in education policy than promoting increased funding for early-childhood education. President Barack Obama has made universal access to prekindergarten the principal education policy objective of his second term, and the recently passed federal spending bill includes a $1 billion increase in spending on early-childhood education. At the state level, governors from both parties are advocating for new state-level pre-K spending, even in the face of current budget constraints. And New York City's new mayor, Bill de Blasio, won the election promising to raise taxes on incomes over $500,000, in part to fund universal pre-K. Policymakers are focused on early-childhood education for a good reason. Studies have consistently shown that attending high-quality preschool programs makes students more likely to be successful in elementary school, middle school, and high school. And yet, what advocates of more spending on early-childhood education often neglect to note is that the government's record of actually producing highquality pre-K programs is mixed at best. For instance, a 2010 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study of Head Start-the country's largest government-sponsored preschool program-found that by 1st grade, economically disadvantaged students with access to Head Start demonstrated almost no greater cognitive or emotional development than demographically similar students without access. Government-funded prekindergarten has failed to deliver consistent results because grants are distributed from federal and state governments to early-childhood education programs, which ends up holding providers accountable to bureaucracies rather than to students and their families. Head Start providers seeking federal funding are assessed for compliance with hundreds of arcane procedural regulations, such as the Kafkaesque requirement that "a variety of food is served which broadens each child's food experiences." Effectiveness at broadening a 3-year-old's culinary horizons hardly seems the best criterion for evaluating earlychildhood education providers. Many states also face inexplicable scenarios. For example, a June 2013 report from the Missouri state auditor found that that state's grant process for early-childhood education involved conflicts A Statistics: The New 'It' Common-Core Subject " By Anna E. Bargagliotti s 2013 ended, the International Year of Statistics drew to a close, but the buzz of statistics and data continues to flood the news like never before. From controversies over national security data-mining to Nate Silver's precise election predictions to discussions about the analysis of big data, statistics increasingly influence our lives, and, as citizens, we need to be educated about what is at stake. The demand for statistically literate citizens has grown. Jobs related to statistics are expected to increase by about 27 percent during this decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To respond to this surge in attention to statistics in society, it is crucial that we foster data literacy in our population, starting at a relatively early age. Teachers, the gatekeepers of the knowledge transmitted to our young people, must be able to teach students how to navigate the data world. If not in our schools, then where are individuals expected to acquire the knowledge needed to be statistically literate? And if teachers are the key, they themselves must understand statistics and learn the content and pedagogy for how to teach the subject at different levels. The initiative of states to develop and adopt the Common Core State Standards in mathematics promises a leap forward for promoting statistics education in public schools. The standards, which are just beginning to be implemented this academic year, contain a substantial amount of statistics at the middle and high school levels, an emphasis that is To respond to this surge in attention to statistics in society, it is crucial that we foster data literacy in our population." not only welcome, but very much needed. Investigating and learning statistical skills is beneficial to students not just because they are in the common core, but because they are key to their future understanding of business, government, and the news. Any student graduating from high school or college hoping to enter the job market will be more competitive if he or she has statistical reasoning skills. A 2011 report by the McKinsey Global Insti- tute entitled "Big Data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity" asserts that, by 2018, the United States will be short 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical skills, in addition to 1.5 million managers and analysts with the ability to use data to drive decisions. Students wanting to pursue jobs at companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook, or more traditional businesses such as insurance or real estate, will be at an advantage if they understand how statistical models can be used to tailor advertising and consumer incentives, or compute insurance premiums based on credit scores and other variables. Understanding how to model an outcome as a function of other variables while dealing with variability is a topic addressed in the common core, starting in 8th grade and continuing through high school. At a more basic level, individuals need to be able to view charts and tables in the news and understand how to extract pertinent information from them. Even reading seemingly simple statements can be enhanced by a person's statistical knowledge. For example, consider the statement written in an article about health- 20 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 29, 2014 | care costs in The New York Times on Dec. 2 of last year: "A day spent as an inpatient at an American hospital costs on average more than $4,000, five times the charge in many other developed countries, according to the International Federation of Health Plans, a global network of health insurance industries." To evaluate the reporter's point, one must understand the concept of an average cost. For instance, an average might not be the best measure for summarizing costs since it is particularly sensitive to outliers. If there were just a few hospital costs that were very expensive while most were low, those very few would drive up the average. The median hospital cost and the variation in costs is important information to know when forming an opinion about this statement. Comprehending certain information on a daily basis requires statistical knowledge that students should acquire in school through the successful implementation of the common core. However, even as our society moves forward in emphasizing statistics in the classroom, very few teacher-preparation programs require any statistics courses. During their training to teach at the elementary level, future educators in most states take somewhere between one and three math courses that typically contain only one small chapter dedicated to statistics. High school teachers have a single-subject credential in mathematics that, if their undergraduate mathematics department required it, they could satisfy with one statistics course. The preparation of middle school teachers can vary from one chapter in math class to one semester-long stevegraham/iStockphoto

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 29, 2014

Education Week - January 29, 2014
Ruling Raises Internet-Access Concerns
Cheating Case Implicates Phila. Educators
Graduation Disparities Loom Large
Business Groups Defend Common Standards
Report Roundup
News in Brief
Common Science Standards Are Slow to Catch On in States
Surge in Charter Schools Stirs Concerns in North Carolina
Blogs of the Week
Turnaround Program Receives Makeover In Budget Deal
Some Waiver States Feeling Common-Core Test Pinch
Needy Students, Tech Disparities at Issue
Blogs of the Week
Advocates Welcome New Federal Aid Aimed at Youngest
Collective-Bargaining Case Takes Spotlight at High Court
ANNA E. BARGAGLIOTTI: Statistics: The New ‘It’ Common-Core Subject
BEN ZIMMER & DANIELLA ROHR: Funding Students, Not Bureaucracies, For Early-Childhood Education
CLARKE L. RUBEL: Talking About a Reformation
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
LYNETTE TANNIS: Twice Punished: Education’s ‘Invisible’ Incarcerated Youths

Education Week - January 29, 2014