Early Childhood Education Update - August 2012

August 09, 2012 | Child Care and Early Education

In this issue:


The Annie E. Casey Foundation just released their 2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book. Each year the KIDS COUNT book provides a detailed analysis of state child well-being. This year the book assesses child well-being across four domains: 1) Economic Well-Being; 2) Education; 3) Health; and 4) Family and Community. Each domain is composed of four indicators for a total of 16 indicators that are used to determine the status of child well-being across the states.

The KIDS COUNT Data Book shows trends over time as well as analysis by race and ethnicity. Highlights across the states in each domain include:

  • Economic Well-Being: Across all four indicators in this domain well-being has declined between 2005 and 2012. Child poverty rates have increased 16 percent in the past five years; the percentage of children whose parents lack secure employment has risen to 33 percent. The percentage of children living in households with a high housing cost burden, as defined by those who spend more than 30 percent of their pretax income on housing, increased to 41 percent in 2010; and the percentage of teenagers not in school and not working has also increased.
  • Education: Each indicator in the education domain shows some progress from early education through high school graduation rates. The number of children not attending preschool has improved slightly, decreasing from 56 percent in 2005 to 53 percent in 2010. Additionally, the percentage of fourth graders not proficient in reading and the percentage of eighth graders not proficient in math have both decreased. High school graduation rates have also improved, with a higher percentage of high school students graduating on time in 2010 than in 2005.
  • Health: The percentage of babies born at low-birth weights has stayed steady at 8.2 percent. Across the three other health domain indicators things have improved. The number of children without health insurance has decreased to 8 percent, and the number of child and teen deaths has fallen to 27 per 100,000.
  • Family and Community: Within this domain, indicators show a mixture of improvement and decline. The percentage of children in families where the head of the household lacks a high school diploma has decreased, and the teen pregnancy rate has also decreased. However, the number of children in single-parent families has increased to 34 percent in 2010, and 11 percent of children live in high-poverty areas, a 22 percent increase from 2000.

This year's Data Book emphasizes both the positive gains that have been made in children's education and health, while also recognizing the devastating toll the economic crisis has had on child and family economic well-being. The report highlights the need for further investment to help families through these challenging economic times.

View the complete Data Book and individual state data >>


The Committee for Economic Development (CED) released a report outlining how important investing in child care and early education programs is for businesses and the economy as a whole. The report, Unfinished Business: Continued Investment in Child Care and Early Education is Critical to Business and America's Future, argues why investment in these programs is integral to business as well as offers recommendations for steps CEOs and business leaders can take in advancing investments in child care and early education.

CED emphasizes that investing in child care and early education is important to developing a solid foundation for human capital, our overall national economy, and being able to compete globally with other developed nations. The report recommends that policymakers provide access to early learning opportunities for all children from birth through the third grade. Specifically, CED recommends that policymakers: 1) protect and significantly increase current investments in effective uses of early childhood dollars; 2) ensure that all children are able to access high-quality early childhood programs from birth through age 5, starting with those who have the greatest need; 3) hold early childhood programs to high standards and be able to show the effects of such programs; 4) engage and support families so that they can improve the educational and economic prospects for both their children and themselves; 5) guarantee high-quality, full-day kindergarten and ensure effective first through third grade schooling.

The report also encourages CEOs and other business leaders to use their power and influence to speak to the need of investing in early childhood services and programs. Companies can make polices more family-friendly and educate employees on the importance of early childhood. CEOs can also invest corporate profits into public/private partnerships that focus on improving early childhood.

Read CED's full report >>


A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a demographic profile of kindergarteners in the U.S. in 2011. These findings are part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-2011 (ECLS-K:2011), which is the third longitudinal study of young children NCES has conducted. ECLS-K:2011 will follow the students from kindergarten through the spring of 2016, which is when the students are expected to be in fifth grade.

The first report of ECLS-K:2011 provides an overview of the demographic characteristics of first-time kindergarteners, the early reading and math skills of these students at kindergarten entry, and their body mass index (BMI) measurement. A review of selected findings shows that 53 percent of the first-time kindergarteners were white, 24 percent were Hispanic, 13 percent were black, 4 percent were Asian, 4 percent were two or more races, 1 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native, and less than 0.5 percent were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander. Twenty-five percent of these first-time kindergarteners lived in households with incomes below the federal poverty level and 84 percent lived in a home with English as the primary language.

 Scores on reading and math were lowest for those first-time kindergarteners who lived in households with incomes below the poverty level, and scores were highest in households that had incomes at or above 200 percent of poverty. Reading and math scores increased with parental education level, and students who lived in households with two parents had higher reading and math scores than those in households of different structures. First-time kindergarteners who lived in households with an income below the federal poverty level had a higher BMI than those who lived in households at 200 percent of poverty or above. Asian and white kindergarteners had a lower BMI than kindergarteners of Hispanic, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native origin.

The ECLS-K:2011 comes a decade after the ECSL, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 study. Data collection and analysis from ECLS-K:2011 will allow for cross-cohort comparisons of these two nationally representative samples of kindergarteners.

Read the first report from ECLS-K:2011 >>   


Urban Institute's Kids' Share 2012 report offers a picture of how much the federal government is spending on children. The report shows that federal spending on children has fallen by $2 billion in 2011, the first time such a decline has happened in 30 years. The expectation is that funding will decline even further in 2012 as funds provided under ARRA run out. While federal spending on children decreased, total federal spending increased, meaning the share of the federal budget going toward children fell from 10.7 to 10.4 percent. The report predicts federal expenditures on children will fall from $445 billion in 2011 to $428 billion in 2012, a decrease of 4 percent.

This past year, there were 10 programs that accounted for 75 percent of the total expenditures on children. These programs include (in order of largest to smallest): Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the dependent exemption, Social Security survivors' and dependent benefits, Title I/Education for the Disadvantaged, Child Nutrition, Special Education, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Kids' Share 2012 provides 10-year projections that show that federal outlays on children will fall from 10 percent to 8 percent of the budget. The report provides in-depth information on trends and future projections surrounding federal spending on children, taking into consideration the consequences of the country's financial challenges and potential budgetary reforms.

Read the entire Kids' Share 2012 report >>


The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics' annual report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, looks at child well-being across seven domains including family and social environment; economic circumstances; health care; physical environment and safety; behavior; education; and health. The report also includes demographic information. This year's findings show that overall, many of the country's children continue to fare poorly as a result of the difficult economic climate.

The number of children living in poverty has increased and the percentage of children with at least one parent employed full-time, year round has decreased. Racial and ethnic minority children have fared particularly poorly. In 2010, 39 percent of black, non-Hispanic children and 35 percent of Hispanic children lived in poverty, compared to 12 percent of white, non-Hispanic children. Since 1997, the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics has published a report each year on child and family well-being. The forum works to foster coordination and integration among 22 federal agencies to produce and use statistical data on children and families in order to improve federal data and understanding of issues affecting these groups.

Read the Forum's 2012 report >>


QRIS validation approaches and planning are the focus of a recent Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation's (OPRE) Research-to-Policy, Research-to-Practice Brief. Validation of a QRIS is defined as "a multi-step process that assesses the degree to which design decisions about program quality standards and measurement strategies are resulting in accurate and meaningful ratings." Validation is crucial to providing designers, administrators, and stakeholders with information about how well a QRIS is functioning and achieving its intended goals. OPRE's brief on QRIS validation is meant to help those involved with authorizing, designing, financing, and refining QRIS to better understand validation and outline a set of validation-related activities.

The 2011 Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge elevated the importance of QRIS validation by requiring states to develop QRIS validation plans as part of their applications. QRIS validation is meant to be a continuous process, allowing for improvement in system functions and increasing the credibility and value of rating outcomes and the QRIS systems as a whole. OPRE recommends four approaches to QRIS validation.

  • Examine the validity of key underlying concepts. In this approach, elements or concepts that are included in program ratings are examined. This practice provides the foundation for the quality components, standards, and indicators that in combination with one another produce program-level ratings.
  • Examine the measurement strategies and the psychometric properties of the measures used to assess quality. This approach focuses on the attributes of the individual measures of quality in the QRIS and on the way that the measures are combined to provide a summary rating for a program. Here, the approach focuses on addressing how well the measures work in the context of the QRIS.
  • Assess the outputs of the rating process. This third approach looks at assessing the outputs of the rating system, which are the scores and levels that are assigned to providers as a result of their having undergone a rating.
  • Relate ratings to children's development. The final approach to validation focuses on children's development, and whether QRIS ratings and quality components that make up the ratings are connected in ways that measure children's development.

OPRE recommends that states develop a QRIS validation plan at the beginning of their QRIS design process. Ideally, the plan would incorporate all four approaches; however, time, duration, and costs of each approach must be taken into consideration when choosing which approaches to pursue. This brief emphasizes the importance of validation in understanding whether a QRIS is working as it should, how the system can be improved, and how it ultimately aids in increasing the odds that the QRIS will be successful.

Read OPRE's full brief on QRIS validation >>  

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