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After 50 Years, Head Start Struggles With Uneven Quality

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LA Johnson/NPR

For more than 50 years, Head Start has provided free early childhood education and other services to low-income families. But new national research, out Wednesday, shows great variation from state to state in how well the program works.

The study comes from the National Institute for Early Education Research, and it examined Head Start programs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

It focused on quality and ranked states accordingly. Kentucky and Vermont came out the best, while 18 states ranked very poorly: Arizona, Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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Education

Real Parents, Real Talk About Kids And Screens

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LA Johnson/NPR

We live in a world of screens. And in this digital age — with so many devices and distraction — it’s one of the things parents worry about most: How much time should their kids spend staring at their phones and computers? What’s the right balance between privacy and self-discovery?

Research continues to provide some answers on how parents are navigating this world. Just today, for example, there’s a new study out that looks at nearly 2,000 parents — who have kids ages 8 to 18. Among the most surprising findings: People with children spend, on average, 9 hours and 22 minutes per day in front of a screen: texting, tweeting, Googling, checking the weather.

And despite spending a big chunk of their day with a device, most parents — 78 percent — told the researchers that they are modeling good media habits for their kids.

The report’s biggest takeaway? Screen time isn’t going anywhere. So let’s talk about it.

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Education

Bilingual Education Returns To California. Now What?

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Voters in California officially ended the era of English-only instruction in public schools and lifted restrictions on bilingual education that had been in place for 18 years. Proposition 58 passed by a 73-27 percent margin. What happens next though, could get complicated.

Classrooms won’t change this school year because the measure doesn’t kick in until July 2017. Until then, state and school district officials need to figure out three big things:

1. How many schools will actually begin to offer bilingual or dual language instruction?

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Education

How To Teach A Sea Lion Who’s Fussy About Grammar

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When it comes to sentence structure, Rocky, a sea lion, was a stickler.

“It really mattered to her, what’s going to be the direct and indirect object,” says Kathy Streeter, an animal trainer.

For Sierra, it isn’t the grammar that interests her. It’s the vocalizations. This California sea lion loves experimenting with her vocal range, and she hates being interrupted.

More than 1 million people visit the New England Aquarium in Boston each year. Before walking through the front door, they watch Atlantic harbor seals play. Inside, visitors watch sea lions cruise around the open-air pool.

What these visitors may not know is that the aquarium’s 10 seals and two sea lions go to school each day; Streeter is one of their teachers.

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Education

Freedom To Explore: 2 Schools Where The Students Call The Shots

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An 8-year-old named Ben is sitting quietly by himself in a bean bag in a classroom in Mountain View, Calif. He’s writing in his journal, an assignment he created himself.

“This one was, ‘What I Wish We Would Have More Of,’ ” Ben says, reading to me from his notebook. “I hope we have more field trips.” He stops and looks up. “I have more entries, but I don’t want to share them.”

That’s cool; it’s your journal, Ben.

I ask him, What is it you like about your school?

“You can move at your own pace,” he says. “You don’t have to be with everyone else. I like that.”

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Education

Lack Of Child Care Rating Systems Leaves Parents In A Bind

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There are rating systems for hospitals, nursing homes and doctors. So why is it so hard to compare providers of child care?

Part of the reason is that there are no nationally agreed-upon standards for what determines the quality of child care. The standards that do exist are formulated in each state, and they vary widely.

For example, some states require that child care workers have a teaching certificate. Others require certain college courses. Some have strict ratios of how many caregivers are required per child.

But all of these criteria are important in assessing the quality of a child care facility, says Susan Hibbard, director of Build Initiative, which works with states developing early childhood programs.

What’s needed, she says, is a tool that makes it easier for parents to evaluate and compare the child care options in their communities.

“So you know that if you see 3 stars out of 3 stars, your child is going to have teachers who are nurturing, have experience, understand child development and know how to work with children and help them thrive,” she says.