Early Childhood Education Update - August 2014
August 05, 2014 | Child Care and Early Education
- Child Care Assistance Enables Parents to Work and Helps Children Succeed
- Two-Generation Approach to Policy Helps Children Thrive While Parents Move Ahead
- The Effects of Mothers' Educational Attainment on Children’s Well-Being
- Improvements in Health and Education Indicators Revealed in 25th Annual Assessment of National and State Child Well-Being
- Implications of Stability and Instability on Children's Healthy Development
- Eight Policy Recommendations to Promote Better Teaching and More Learning in Early Education
- Socioeconomic Impacts on America’s Children at Kindergarten Entry
- Data Reveals Kindergarten Classrooms are Segregated by Race and Income
A new CLASP brief highlights why child care assistance is an essential work support program for low-income working families and provides evidence that these subsidies are associated with sustainable employment for parents and improved child outcomes.
The brief explains how quality child care assistance helps families with very low incomes remain in the workforce with increased earnings (or go to school) while also providing young children with the early education they need for healthy development. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary federal funding stream for child care assistance for low-income working parents; it helps increase the sustainability of employment and for promotes economic security. It also allows many parents to access higher-quality care than they could otherwise afford.
Unfortunately, current investments are not keeping pace with need. Despite several years of post-recession economic recovery, the percentage of Americans living in poverty remains high. More than 30 percent of poor children and half of low-income children (those whose parents earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level) lived in families with at least one worker employed full-time, year-round. Nationwide, poor families spend approximately 30 percent of their income on child care, compared to just 8 percent for families who are not poor.
Increased investment is urgently needed to promote families’ self-sufficiency, improved developmental outcomes, and stability in child care arrangements.
A new CLASP brief examines federal and state policy opportunities that can be leveraged to more comprehensively support families as a whole. Two-generation policies are a common sense response to established research that connects parents’ well-being to children’s social-emotional, physical, and economic health. Research also shows that parents’ ability to succeed in school and at work is substantially affected by how well their children are doing. The brief suggests several areas for large-scale policy change to move toward a two-generation approach:
- Pair education and training pathways with child care and early education by rethinking program design for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Head Start, as well as workforce development, higher education, and child care, programs.
- Expand early childhood home visiting programs (which offer a variety of voluntary, family-focused services to expectant parents and families with new babies and young children in the home) through state and federal investments. We must also seize other opportunities to help parents and young children in their vulnerable early years. Many home visiting programs use a two-generation approach, focusing on the skills and needs of parents while providing child development activities; however, this widely varies depending upon the model used.
- Improve child care policies for both children and parents by emphasizing continuity and stability of care, which can improve children’s early education as well as adults’ work retention. Removing work schedule verification requirements and allowing for broader authorizations can make child care assistance more accessible to parents who have work schedule challenges, as well as linking child care enrollment policies with those of other public benefits, can reduce the burden on parents to get and keep subsidies.
- Improve labor policies for low-income workers through a comprehensive package that includes: an increase in the minimum wage, advance notice of job schedules, the right to request and receive flexible and predictable job schedules, minimum hours, paid family and medical leave, and paid sick days. In tandem, these polices would support low-income workers in their roles as parents.
- Expand access to health care and mental health treatment by taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA tears down major barriers to depression treatment and provides many mothers with health insurance for the first time. The benefit package includes mental health and substance abuse treatment and access to primary and preventive care.
A report from the Foundation for Child Development offers the first-ever analysis of 13 economic, education, and health indicators for children based on mother’s educational attainment. The results show a strong correlation between a mother’s educational attainment and a child’s well-being; children with less-educated mothers are far more likely to experience negative outcomes.
Using four key indicators (secure parental employment, child poverty, reading proficiency, and mathematics proficiency) to measure outcomes for children, the report finds that:
- Median family income for children whose mothers did not graduate from high school was $25,000, compared to $106,500 for children whose mothers held a bachelor degree.
- For children whose parents did not graduate from high school, only sixteen percent were proficient at both reading and mathematics by the eighth grade. When compared to children whose parents held a bachelor degree, 49 percent were proficient in reading and 52 percent at mathematics by the eighth grade.
- Forty percent of children whose mothers who did not graduate high school failed to graduate on time. Only 2 percent of children whose mothers held a bachelor’s degree did not graduate high school on time.
- Twenty-nine percent of children whose mothers did not graduate high school were reported to not be in excellent or very good health, compared to just 8 percent of children whose mothers had a bachelor degree.
The report concludes by summarizing opportunities for federal, state, and local governments to take the lead or to collaborate with others to develop and implement two-generation strategies for low-education, low-income families.
The 2014 annual KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, on 16 indicators of child well-being that fall under four categories: 1) economic well-being; 2) education; 3) health; and 4) family and community. This 25th edition of the report provides national trends, comparing the latest data with mid-decade statistics; it also examines trends since the first KIDS COUNT report in 1990.
National trends since 1990 reveal:
- A booming economy and a series of policy changes (such as the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), child care subsidies, food stamps and health insurance for children) led to increased employment among low-income single mothers and notable declines in child poverty.
- While there has been steady, incremental success in educational outcomes due to increased federal and state investments in early childhood programs, poverty and wealth have become more concentrated residentially— suggesting school districts and individual schools are becoming increasingly segregated by socioeconomic status.
- Increased access to health insurance through Medicaid expansions and implementation of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program have led to improvements in health and safety and are attributed to some of the largest gains in child well-being.
- An increase in the number of children being raised in single-parent households contributed to economic instability between 2000 and 2013, particularly since the economic downturn in 2007.
Data from the report finds that despite tremendous gains in recent decades for all children, inequities persist along race and income level, with African American, Native American, and Latino children experiencing negative outcomes at rates higher than the national average. In 2014, the three highest-ranked states for child well-being were Massachusetts, Vermont and Iowa; and the three lowest-ranked were Nevada, New Mexico and Mississippi.
In November 2013, the Urban Institute, with support from the Foundation for Child Development, convened practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to discuss the implications of instability for children's healthy development, as well as what is known, what must be learned, and what needs to be done across practice, policy, and research.
Insights on Instability and Children’s Development: Commentaries from Practitioners, Policymakers, and Researchers is a collection of essays from nine of the convening’s participants; it offers perspectives on the November discussion, as well as key takeaways. CLASP Executive Director Olivia Golden contributed a piece focused on how federal and state policy can address instability in children’s lives. Her essay highlights four approaches:
- Public programs can stop making instability worse for children by offering continuity of services.
- When possible, public programs should interrupt vicious cycles that disrupt continuity of services.
- Public programs should try to protect continuity and stable relationships in some aspects of children’s lives, even when other aspects are unstable.
- Public policies should take on instability challenges in the low-wage labor market.
Exploring Instability and Children’s Well-Being: Insights From a Dialogue Among Practitioners, Policymakers and Researchers integrates the insights and perspectives discussed during the convening based on the following questions:
- What is instability? What are the characteristics of instability that seem likely to affect children’s well-being?
- Where does instability occur in children’s lives?
- What might be some of the pathways by which instability is likely to affect children’s well-being?
- What child, parent, family, and contextual factors seem likely to play a role in affecting the impact of instability—either by buffering or facilitating the impact?
- What research is needed regarding instability—and its effects on children’s development—to inform policy and practice solutions?
- What are the implications of these issues for policy and practice?
Takeaways from both the essays and the report share common themes among the participants. All agree that instability is a complex but important issue that needs further attention from practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and philanthropies. Several of the participants also agreed that there are concrete steps policymakers and practitioners can and should take now to provide support that stabilizes families and children. Lastly, the participants discussed the importance of developing a common framework and language to foster a shared understanding of the issues and challenges that need to be addressed.
Following their January report assessing progress since the recession on early learning from birth through third grade, a new brief from the New America Foundation offers key recommendations to promote better teaching and more learning.
The brief offers eight overarching recommendations for federal, state, local, community, and education officials to improve teacher quality and promote more learning in early education settings while also addressing the widening opportunity and achievement gap. Recommendations include:
- Bridge the early childhood birth-to-third-grade continuum;
- Professionalize and improve the early education workforce;
- Develop dual-generation strategies for children’s success by emphasizing families;
- Intentionally support dual-language learners by embracing children’s languages as assets;
- Rethink standards and assessment by coordinating teaching and learning for young children;
- Strengthen and improve accountability systems to promote children’s learning and development;
- Collect and use data responsibly; and
- Bring research closer to policy and practice.
Mathematica Policy Research has released a new report, commissioned by the Sesame Workshop, analyzing the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K: 2011); it highlights opportunities to promote children’s development before kindergarten, as well as help close the gaps between more- and less-advantaged children.
Findings reveal strong correlations between socioeconomic factors and how well American children perform on assessments of reading, math, working memory, and cognitive flexibility when entering kindergarten. Despite an increase in programs to help narrow achievement gaps by giving disadvantaged children opportunities for pre-school education, disparities continue to persist.
An examination of four risk factors that affect children's development and school achievement (single-parent households, mothers with less than a high school education, households with incomes below the federal poverty line, and non-English speaking households) found that high-risk children, those with all four risk factors, were almost a year behind their peers in both reading and math at kindergarten entry. There were also significant racial and ethnic disparities in children’s academic and executive functioning, with African American children scoring below national averages on reading, math, and executive function assessments.
A new report from the Economic Policy Institute examines racial and socioeconomic status (SES) segregation in American kindergarten classrooms 60 years after the Brown v. Board Supreme Court ruling that declared “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional. Using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K: 2011), the report describes the state of school segregation by race and income and analyzes how academic performance changes over their first year in kindergarten by level of segregation in the school.
The report finds that classrooms are segregated by race and income, with African American and Hispanic kindergarteners disproportionately surrounded by peers from low-income families. Additional findings include:
- The vast majority of white students, including those who are poor, are in classrooms with other students who are not poor—a stark contrast to most students of color, who go to school with many poor students.
- While the family characteristics of white children vary relatively little depending on the type of classroom they are in (unless that classroom is very heavily minority), family characteristics of black and Hispanic children vary substantially from heavily white to heavily minority schools.
- Academic performance varies greatly, depending on the school’s level of segregation across all races of students; the more heavily minority the school, the less prepared students are on average in the fall and the smaller their relative gains by spring.
- The data appears to support more sophisticated analyses’ suggestions that income segregation underlies many apparent negative consequences of racial segregation.
The report concludes by stating that while this analysis is purely descriptive, it raises important questions and implications for both policy and research.