Early Childhood

Welcome to The Starting Line, Chalkbeat’s early childhood newsletter


I’m Ann Schimke, a Chalkbeat reporter based in Colorado, and I have some exciting news to share: Earlier this month, we launched The Starting Line, a monthly newsletter all about early childhood. 

At Chalkbeat, we’ve recently stepped up coverage of early childhood education in our seven bureaus and on our growing national desk, keeping tabs on issues affecting babies and toddlers all the way through early elementary students. Each month, The Starting Line will feature this coverage along with key early childhood stories from other news outlets. The goal is simple: Help readers understand what’s happening in the early childhood world, how it connects to their work, and why it’s important.

Here’s the first newsletter — if you like it, you can easily subscribe by clicking here.

The second issue of the Starting Line is due out next week, with stories about the uncertain future of some Head Start programs in Detroit, the impact of the opioid epidemic on Indiana’s preschool funding, and New York City’s plan to put the education department in charge of some infant and toddler programs.

Thanks for reading!

— Ann 


ELUSIVE IN MICHIGAN Michigan is the source of America’s most famous study on the benefits of early childhood education, but political and logistical hurdles make universal preschool a big lift.

CRISIS COMING? The Nov. 6 election could determine the outcome of a looming crisis that threatens to cut off state funding to Illinois child providers and displace thousands of children in their care.  

UBER OF CHILD CARE A raft of new companies, including one based in Colorado, want to make running a home-based child care business easier and more lucrative. Will they be able to attract tens of thousands of new providers to a notoriously tough field?

WELCOME TO PRESCHOOL To drum up more support for publicly funded early education programs for children living in poverty, advocates in Indiana arranged preschool tours for lawmakers.


COMMON CONUNDRUM A million Texas children could qualify for subsidized child care under current rules, but only 10 percent of them receive the help. Texas Tribune

HIGHER BAR With bachelor’s degrees becoming the new bar for many early childhood teachers, Massachusetts is among states working to make it easier for such workers to get one. Hechinger Report

DISCIPLINE REFORM A new California law creates a funding mechanism for mental health consultation in preschools, part of an effort to prevent expulsions of young children. Education Week

MORE MOMS WORK The District of Columbia’s universal preschool program contributed to huge gains in the percentage of working mothers in the city, according to a new study. CityLab

STARBUCKS PERK The coffee company will heavily subsidize up to 10 days a year of backup child care and senior care for its more than 180,000 U.S. employees. Seattle Times

BETTER TOGETHER As in this story about efforts to expand the number of home-based child care providers, child care centers in New England are banding together to save money. Marketplace

REDSHIRTING RESEARCH A new study reveals that boys are more often held back before entering kindergarten than girls and this trend may help shrink the gender-based achievement gap. The 74


Personal essays and Q&As

This award-winning preschool teacher runs a top-ranked program out of her home. Just don’t call her a babysitter. Chalkbeat

We’re a middle-class black family. Here’s why we’ve skipped our local schools for now. Chalkbeat

Mom: Thanks to active-shooter drills at school, my 4-year-old thought fireworks were gunshots. Enough already. Washington Post


… on reading instruction

Reporter Emily Hanford recently took an in-depth look at what’s wrong with reading instruction in American classrooms and how phonics could help fix it. Her work on the subject — an audio documentary called Hard Words, a follow-up Q&A for parents, and an opinion piece in the New York Times — has spawned much discussion.

A Maine educator explained in her piece for the Hechinger Report why she agrees that explicit phonics instruction is important but doesn’t think “balanced literacy” should be thrown out. A Minnesota reporter examined the divide in her state over how much phonics should be included in reading lessons and how it should be delivered. 

Meanwhile, some current and former educators are asking teacher prep program leaders to explain the dearth of science-based lessons on reading instruction.

An Arkansas teacher wrote in a letter to her former dean on Facebook, “… while I feel like most of my teacher preparation was very good, I can say I was totally unprepared to teach reading, especially to the struggling readers that I had at the beginning of my career in my resource classroom.

Former elementary school teacher Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow and vice president for external affairs at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, wrote to his former dean, “I’m grateful for the professional credential … But if there’s anything one might expect an advanced degree in elementary education to include, it would be teaching reading. It wasn’t part of my program.”