In Focus: Head Start/Early Head Start
Nov 26, 2013 | Permalink »
Early Education is not One-Size-Fits-All: Addressing the Unique Needs of Dual Language Learners
More than one in four (27 percent) young children under age 6 in the United States have at least one parent who speaks a language other than English, and one in seven (14 percent) has at least one parent who is limited English proficient (LEP). Many of these children and some of their parents will learn English while learning or speaking another language. For early learning programs to fully reach their goals of supporting children's growth, development, and school readiness, they must be intentional about meeting the educational needs of dual language learners (DLLs).
A recent report from the Migration Policy Institute identifies particular features of early learning programs that most effectively support DLLs. The report finds a few key elements that influence the quality of early education programs for DLLs including accessibility and affordability, language of instruction, instructional practices, assessment, teacher and classroom quality, and school-family partnerships. When these program and policy components are designed using the research available that supports the key elements necessary, high-quality programs for DLLs can produce positive outcomes for children. Some of these programs may already exist as evidenced by a recent comprehensive review of research on young Latino and Spanish-speaking children confirming that public programs like Head Start and public pre-k are helping DLLs make important academic gains.
Understanding the key elements that influence the success and development of participants and integrating them into policies and program design will ensure that children are able to grow, develop, and enter school ready to learn. The changing demographics of the young child population should spur new thinking in the design and implementation of early learning programs. We must ensure that DLLs are not just included, but optimally served, in high-quality early learning programs.
Nov 14, 2013 | Permalink »
Investing in Young Children: A Fact Sheet on Early Care and Education Participation, Access, and Quality
Today, CLASP, together with the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), released Investing in Young Children: A Fact Sheet on Early Care and Education Participation, Access, and Quality. The joint report reveals that significant underinvestment in early care and education programs at the state and federal levels has left large numbers of children underserved.
High-quality early care and education can play a critical role in promoting young children's early learning and success in life, while also supporting families' economic security. Young children at highest risk of educational failure - those experiencing poverty and related circumstances that may limit early learning experiences - benefit the most from high-quality early care and education programs.
Major findings in the report include:
- Family economic hardship is the predominant risk factor associated with academic failure and poor health. Nationally, 25 percent of children under six live in poverty. Other risk factors include having a teen parent, living in a household without English speakers, and having parents without a high school degree.
- Children are underserved by the three largest federal child care and early education programs: Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG); Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); and Head Start and Early Head Start. Funding for CCDBG has not kept pace with inflation and growing need. Since 2006, approximately 150,000 children have lost access to child care subsidies and an additional 30,000 will lose subsidies as a result of sequestration.
- Although funding for Head Start has increased by $1.2 billion from 2006 to 2012, demand has exceeded its growth. Only 42 percent of eligible children are served by Head Start preschool and a mere 4 percent of children who are eligible are served by Early Head Start. As a result of sequestration, 57,000 children have lost or will lose access to Head Start services in 2013.
- For child care and early education to be effective, it must be high-quality. However, states are not meeting recommended benchmarks. Currently, only 4 states (CT, ND, OR, VT) meet benchmarks for both class size and adult-child ratios, while 33 states meet neither of these critical benchmarks.
A complex mix of federal and state investments and policies shapes low-income families' access to quality early care and education. Currently, these investments and policies are too weak to benefit large numbers of young children experiencing economic hardship and other circumstances that can pose serious risks to their healthy development and school success. Strong investments in early learning, such as those proposed in the Strong Start for America's Children Act that was introduced yesterday, can help connect vulnerable children and their families with home visiting services, high-quality child care, and preschool -- all of which counter negative risk factors and support healthy child development.
Nov 13, 2013 | Permalink »
Strong Start for America's Children Act Introduced in Senate and House
Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) introduced the Strong Start for America's Children Act: landmark legislation that provides for universal access to high-quality pre-kindergarten services for low-income children through a federal-state partnership and expands quality child care for infants and toddlers.
High-quality early education experiences are widely recognized as key to preparing young children for school success and improving the lifetime employment and earnings of low-income children. In addition to children and families, our society as a whole bears a large cost burden for children not equipped to succeed in life. The Strong Start for America's Children Act would contribute to rebuilding the middle class and help equalize the opportunities our children have at the starting gate.
CLASP supports the following components of the bill that would advance high-quality, comprehensive early care and education systems across the country by:
- Setting clear expectations for high-quality services including high staff qualifications and developmentally appropriate and evidence-based curricula and learning environments.
- Providing critical supports to increase the educational attainment of the early childhood workforce.
- Addressing the needs of low-income working families by allowing for the provision of pre-kindergarten services in schools, Head Start and child care settings and establishing expectations for the provision of full-day services and comprehensive health services.
- Providing for partnerships between Early Head Start and child care programs to ensure that more vulnerable infants and toddlers have access to the comprehensive early education and family support services that are the hallmark of Head Start.
It's now up to Members of Congress to move this legislation forward as well as support a final budget that ends the sequester and includes significant new investments in early learning.