Early Childhood Education Update - April 2010
April 09, 2010 | Teresa Lim
In this issue:
- Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care: New Infant/Toddler Data Tool and Promising State Examples
- Food Stamp Dependent Care Deduction: Helping Families Afford the Costs of Child Care
- Resources and Technical Assistance Support on State Quality Rating and Improvement Systems
- Screening and Assessing the Social-Emotional Development of Babies and Young Children
- NCRECE Releases Two Policy Briefs on School Readiness
- Transition and Alignment of P-3 Systems
- Parent Views and Understanding of Infant/Toddler Development and Care
- The Lasting Impacts of Early Childhood Poverty
- Evaluating Early Childhood Obesity Prevention and Treatment Strategies
- The Role of Federal Nutrition Programs in Supporting Low-Income Families
CLASP has released two new infant/toddler resources as part of the Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care project. These resources are:
- A Tool Using Data to Inform A State Infant/Toddler Agenda: This new data tool is intended for state advocates and policymakers to use as they work to develop a state infant/toddler care agenda. It includes a series of key questions to understand the context and conditions of infants and toddlers in the state. Questions include data on demographics and program participation (such as health and nutrition programs), as well as the details of child care and early education settings in the state. Where possible, links to online data sources are provided, including both original sources and organizations that have analyzed multiple datasets. By following these links, groups can find data specific to their state to populate the tool. Once compiled, these data could be analyzed to identify any trends, areas of need for policy change, and opportunities to support the case for increased investment. Users can download and save a copy of this tool, open the tool in Microsoft Word, then fill in their state's data. National figures are included where possible, which can provide context of how infants and toddlers are faring on key indicators.
- Promising State Examples: CLASP has added a new state example to its collection of profiles on infant/toddler policies. The latest example is part of CLASP's ongoing efforts to highlight promising state policies and initiatives that promote the healthy growth and development of infants and toddlers. Each state example presents a brief profile of the policy, including how the policy was developed and implemented. CLASP's collection of state examples currently covers topics on:
Promoting family engagement (New example added),
Promoting access to comprehensive services,
Compensation and benefits,
Building the supply of quality care,
Providing education, training, and support,
Establishing core competencies,
Promoting continuity of care,
Supporting a diverse and culturally competent workforce,
Center ratios and group sizes,
Promoting health and safety,
Promoting stable, quality subsidy policy, and
Providing information on infant/toddler care.
A new report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities examines the use of the Dependent Care Deduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program. The report, The Food Stamp Dependent Care Deduction: Help for Families with Child Care Costs, finds that the Dependent Care Deduction is an underutilized tool. Child care and other expenses may be deducted from a household's income when determining the level of SNAP benefits that a family may receive. In the 2008 Farm Bill, the cap on the amount of dependent care expenses that a household could claim, which was $175 per month per dependent, was removed. As a result, families now have the potential to receive significantly greater SNAP benefits. The report finds that, prior to the passage of the farm bill, many households eligible for the deduction were not using the deduction, and those that did may actually have been eligible for higher SNAP benefits. Given this underutilization, the report identifies opportunities for states to restructure policies in order to improve outreach to eligible families and to capitalize on the cap removal. The report provides technical information on federal regulations related to the deduction as well as links to state SNAP policy manuals and examples of state outreach materials.
The newly formed QRIS National Learning Network, a coalition of states and national organizations, has launched a new website dedicated to providing information, support, and technical assistance to states on quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS). The website features a resource library containing a wide range of QRIS-related materials, including policy briefs, charts, toolkits, and webinars. States may obtain information on topics, such as:
- Building inclusive QRIS,
- Consumer education and engagement,
- Data collection and data systems,
- Financing and financial systems,
- Planning and implementation,
- Quality improvement and technical assistance, and
The website also plans to feature state QRIS profiles, developed by Child Trends. These profiles will provide information on state QRIS systems currently being implemented and details of services and supports offered in the systems.
The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning released a new report that identifies best practices in screening and assessing the social-emotional development of infants, toddlers, and young children. Developed for early care and education providers, the report, Research Synthesis on Screening and Assessing Social-Emotional Competence, reviews the components of social-emotional competence and highlights some of the obstacles to providing appropriate screenings and assessments. For instance, individual teachers may have differing views on acceptable behavior and what is expected of young children. In addition, screening tools may have subjective measures, such as those on interpretation of infant crying, that make it challenging to evaluate behaviors. The report presents further information on commonly asked topics by providers, including:
- Family involvement,
- Cultural impacts,
- English language ability,
- Screenings and assessments of diverse families,
- Appropriate tools to use,
- Alternatives to standardized tools, and
- How to use screening and assessment information in daily practice.
The report also provides a list of currently used screening and assessment tools as well as curriculum-based screening assessments. Details, such as age group focus and purpose/content, are provided for each tool and assessment.
Two new briefs by the National Center for Research on Early Childhood Education (NCRECE) focus on how to improve school readiness. These briefs are:
- Promoting Children's School Readiness: Rethinking the Levers for Change: This brief highlights key teacher and classroom characteristics that promote school readiness. Two key issues are discussed: structural features (e.g., teacher training, classroom size, teacher-child ratio, and type of curriculum used) and teacher-child interactions. The brief observes that structural features, such as teacher training, produce positive outcomes when they create and strengthen the conditions and environment that support quality teacher-child interactions. These interactions must be direct, consistent, and long-term.
- Learning How Much Quality is Necessary to Get to Good Results for Children: This brief analyzes what levels of quality are needed to improve school readiness using key findings from a study conducted on over 1,000 children enrolled in a pre-kindergarten program in 11 states. The study evaluated 10 academic and social indicators of school readiness. Among the study's findings, teachers who were more responsive and emotionally supportive had children with fewer behavioral and social adjustment problems. In addition, teachers who provided moderate to high-quality instruction had children who scored higher on academic and language skills. Based on these findings, the brief suggests that in order for pre-kindergarten to be effective, there needs to be at minimum high-quality teacher-child interactions and mid-to-high-quality instruction.
A new policy brief, Transition and Alignment: Two Keys to Assuring Student Success, from the Education Commission of the States emphasizes the importance of building transition programs and services that help children move from one learning setting to another and aligning early learning systems with the early elementary grades to ensure a consistent continuum of learning and development. The brief provides a description of what transition is and highlights key reasons why ensuring smooth transitions is critical, such as alleviating stresses among children and preventing poor social adjustment. The brief also describes what alignment of children's learning experiences involves, including the difference between vertical and horizontal alignment, as well as the role of alignment in maintaining and improving academic success. To promote transition and alignment, the brief presents examples of how states and school districts across the nation are building coordinated pre-kindergarten through grade 3 systems. Among the examples, the brief illustrates how states and school districts are:
- Building "ready schools" capacity,
- Implementing transition models in schools,
- Leveraging funds to support transitions,
- Engaging parents and communities,
- Comprehensively aligning learning standards, and
- Aligning curriculum, assessments, and instruction.
ZERO TO THREE recently released findings from a survey conducted on parents of infants and toddlers. The purpose of the survey was to examine issues and concerns facing parents of infants and toddlers; their understanding of early childhood development; what kinds of services and supports that they utilize; and factors that affect parenting practices. Over 1,600 parents of children, birth to 3 years, participated in the survey. Among the survey's findings:
- Social-emotional development: Parents do not have a complete understanding of the extent to which the early years are a critical period of social-emotional development. For instance, over half of parents believed that children do not experience feelings, such as fear and sadness, until later in a child's life.
- Faith/religion and parent's own upbringing: Faith/religion and parents' own upbringing are major factors that shape parenting practices. Over half of parents reported that faith/religion and their own upbringing had strong influences on how they raise their children.
- Economic downturn: The economic downturn has created various challenges for parents. Among them, ability to afford child care was the most commonly reported obstacle.
- Grandparents as caregivers: Many parents have a regular caregiver for their child other than themselves. Among the surveyed parents, grandparents most often served as this regular caregiver.
- Father's versus mother's experience: Mothers and fathers have different parenting experiences. For instance, fewer fathers compared to mothers were aware that talking and speaking to their child have critical impacts on their child's cognitive development.
Researchers have released new study findings in the journal, Child Development, that explore the impacts of early childhood (birth to age five) poverty on various adult outcomes. The findings are available in the article, "Early-Childhood Poverty and Adult Attainment, Behavior, and Health." In the study, researchers analyze data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to track adult outcomes as late as age 37. Overall, the researchers find that early childhood poverty has significant correlations with adult attainment, in particular on work hours and earnings. The correlation is less evident with health or behavior outcomes. Among the researcher's findings:
- School and work achievement: Young children from households below the poverty line finish two fewer years of schooling, work 451 hours less per year, and earn less than half as much as young children from households with incomes at least twice above the poverty line.
- Health outcomes: Young children from households below the poverty line are more than twice as likely to report poor overall health or high levels of mental distress as adults compared to young children at least twice above the poverty line. Poor children are also nearly 50 percent more likely to be overweight as adults.
- Social/behavioral problems: Young males from poor households are twice as likely to be arrested compared to young males from households at least twice above the poverty line, while poor females are six times more likely to have children out of wedlock before age 21.
Child Trends released a new fact sheet, What Works for the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity Among Children: Lessons from Experimental Evaluations of Programs and Interventions. The fact sheet compiles key findings from evaluations of programs that aim to improve child nutrition, physical activity, and/or weight loss; the evaluations include results from 50 different prevention and treatment programs. Using the key findings, effective and ineffective health strategies for children, youth, and teens are identified. Overall, obesity programs targeting young children, ranging from ages two to five, were generally found to be ineffective. For instance, two of four nutrition programs, three of three physical activity programs, and two of three weight loss programs serving young children were unsuccessful in improving short-term health outcomes. The fact sheet observes, however, that young children may be less able to understand the concepts and skills taught in obesity treatment and prevention programs. Additionally, young children's meals are more often determined by parents and schools than older children, thus limiting their control over food choices. The fact sheet calls for further research into the individual and environmental factors that contribute to poor nutrition and weight gain. To achieve this, additional research is needed on understanding the effectiveness of strategies, such as school lunch menu changes, which have shown mixed results on improving child health outcomes.
Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new report, Nutrition Education and Promotion: The Role of FNS in Helping Low-Income Families Make Healthier Eating and Lifestyle Choices. The report outlines the steps the FNS is taking to support the health and nutrition needs of children and low-income families. In the past three decades, childhood overweight and obesity rates have more than doubled. Furthermore, overweight and obesity problems are starting at earlier ages. Nearly one quarter of children, ages two to five, are overweight or obese.
Among actions targeting infants and young children, the report describes FNS activities to improve the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). In addition, the report highlights Team Nutrition, an FNS initiative working to improve the federal child nutrition programs, such as the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The initiative provides educational materials, policy guidance, and technical assistance on nutrition and physical activity to school and child care facilities. For facilities serving preschool-age children, the initiative has developed guidance on age-appropriate nutrition and exercise called MyPyramid for Preschoolers. In addition, various materials, training, and funding opportunities are available to help states support the health and nutrition needs of low-income children, such as:
- Healthy Meals Resource System,
- Team Nutrition Training grants,
- National Food Service Management Institute,
- The HealthierUS School Challenge, and
- Local wellness policies.