Early Childhood Education Update - December 2011

December 09, 2011 | Child Care and Early Education

In this issue:


Based on Head Start Program Information Report (PIR) data from 2010, CLASP has developed two new fact sheets providing a look at the Head Start preschool and Early Head Start programs in the 2009-2010 program year. The fact sheets look at the characteristics of children and their families as well as the programs children attended and their staff. Some highlights include:

  • In 2010, the Head Start preschool program served nearly 950,000 young children and their families through 1,804 grantees nationwide.
  • By the end of the program year, 96 percent of children in the Early Head Start preschool program had a medical home for ongoing care and 92 percent had a source for ongoing dental care.
  • Spanish was the primary home language for 24 percent of children in Head Start preschool programs.
  • In 2010, the Early Head Start program served more than 120,000 children under the age of 3 and about 13,500 pregnant women through 1,007 grantees nationwide.
  • More than one-quarter of Early Head Start participants in 2010 were from a home where English was not the primary language.
  • Eighty-two percent of Early Head Start families accessed at least one support service in 2010 ranging from parenting education to emergency and crisis intervention.

Read more about Head Start >> and Early Head Start >>


At the 2011 NAEYC Annual Conference in Orlando, Jacqueline Jones, a Senior Advisor on Early Learning for U.S. Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan, announced the creation of the U.S. Department of Education's first ever Office of Early Learning. The aim of the Office of Early Leaning is to: "institutionalize, increase, and coordinate federal support for high-quality early learning, manage outreach to the early learning community and enhance support for building high-performing early education systems in states across the country." The Office of Early Learning's creation comes after the creation of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, which is administered jointly by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

In Secretary Duncan's statement on the announcement of the office, he highlights the importance of high-quality early learning programs from birth to third grade and the need to build a cradle to college and career education system for all children. The cost-effectiveness and long-term benefits to individuals, families, and the country at-large from investing in high-quality early learning programs provide the impetus for creating the Office of Early Learning.

Read Secretary Duncan's Statement >>


The Office of Head Start announced a new rule that amends the current Head Start Program Regulations and to establish a system of designation renewal to determine which Head Start and Early Head Start grantees must recompete for funding. The rule aims to improve the quality of Head Start programs all across the country and was required by the 2007 reauthorization of Head Start.

The new rule establishes a system of designation renewal for Head Start and Early Head Start grantees that will evaluate them on the following seven conditions:

  • One or more deficiencies under section 641A(c)(1)(A), (C), or (D) of the Act
  • Failure to establish school readiness
  • Failure to meet minimum thresholds on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS): Pre-K domains
  • Revocation of a license to operate a center or program
  • Suspension from the program
  • Debarment from receiving Federal or State funds or disqualified from the Child and Adult Care Food Program
  • One or more material weaknesses or at risk for failing to function as a going concern

Under the rule, if a grantee has a deficiency in any of the aforementioned categories, they will be considered for re-competition where providers in the community can compete for the Head Start funds. The first grantees eligible for re-competition will be notified in January 2012. For the grantees that will be notified in January, evaluation is retrospective to 2009 and only five of the seven conditions will be considered. Grantees are not yet expected to meet the school readiness or CLASS thresholds.

The establishment of a designation renewal system is one way the Office of Head Start is seeking to improve and maintain the quality of Head Start programs.

Read the Rule >>


The Early childhood care and education (ECCE) workforce play a crucial role in providing a rich learning environment and nurturing care for children as they develop. Despite the critical importance that ECCE workers play in the lives of children, there is little data about the ECCE workforce as a whole to help inform policy makers about this group of workers. Available data show great variation in working conditions, compensation, professional development opportunities, and administrative support. However, even trying to count the number of workers who are part of the ECCE workforce raises debate over whom to include and how to categorize their work. The characteristics of the workers and the nature of their work greatly varies, which makes defining and describing the ECCE workforce particularly challenging.

In order to raise recognition and discussion of the ECCE workforce, the Board on Children, Youth, and Families of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council held an ECCE workforce workshop in March 2011. The workshop's goal was to provide an adequate description of the ECCE workforce, and outline the parameters that define this population. The three areas of examination included: 1) defining and describing the nature of the current ECCE workforce; 2) examining the characteristics of the workforce that affect the development of children; and 3) describing the context of the workforce and how best to build the ECCE profession in ways that promote program quality and effective child outcomes, while supporting the essential individuals who provide care and education.

IOM and the National Research Council are set to publish a report outlining the content and key themes that came from the conference. The report highlights the importance that the ECCE workforce plays in children's development and the need to better understand the ECCE workforce as a whole. Reoccurring themes include: the need for greater data collection on ECCE workforce demographics, a need to recognize the high economic value of ECCE workers within the marketplace and compensate them accordingly, the importance of the quality of workforce and workplace in producing positive outcomes for children, and building the workforce so it recognizes and views itself as a profession.

Based on data available, the report shows that the ECCE workforce is composed of 2.2 million paid workers and an estimated 3.2 million unpaid workers. The median age is 39-47; 75-80 percent of teachers are non-Hispanic white; and they are 90 to 98 percent female. Also included is a breakdown of workers by different types of settings-51 percent of workers are center-based, 27 percent are family, friend, and neighbors (FFN) paid relatives, 12 percent are family child care, and 11 percent are FFN paid non-relatives. However, this data provides a rough idea of who makes up the ECCE workforce. The report includes specific recommendations for areas of data collection, such as collecting data more consistently and in frequent intervals and to be able to disaggregate data by state and local jurisdiction for program type, as well as possible future experimental studies exploring levels of qualifications, working conditions, support and compensation necessary to recruit and retain a high-quality workforce. Better data and more extensive research on the ECCE workforce can help educate policymakers and the public so they better understand the composition, needs, and importance of these workers.

Read the Full ECCE Workshop Report >>     


Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States, recently released the report; "Using Pre-K to Advance Education Reform," which identifies ways State Advisory Councils (Councils) can leverage states' pre-kindergarten policy goals and infrastructure to further education reform. The report advocates Councils designing early childhood systems that link with early elementary education. Through interviews with individuals in select Councils in Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon and Rhode Island, the authors of the report found these states are enthusiastic about including pre-kindergarten in their education reform efforts as well as interested in connecting pre-kindergarten with later grades across policy areas including, standards, assessment, and data.

The report provides a set of recommendations for Councils looking to strengthen connections between birth-to-five systems, pre-kindergarten, and state education reform. These recommendations ask states to consider the political, historical, and structural context of their educational systems, and encourage Councils to:

  • Define an overarching vision that includes a strong role for pre-kindergarten.
  • Participate in communications plans discussing education reforms
  • Improve the quality of the pre-kindergarten workforce.
  • Build connections with the Common Core, a set of learning standards intended to define a consistent and rigorous education path from kindergarten through high school.
  • Improve the quality of early leaning assessments.
  • Design unified early childhood data systems.
  • Improve state funding for pre-kindergarten.
  • Integrate pre-kindergarten in school turnaround efforts

Review Pre-K Now's Recommendations >>


Research has demonstrated that the combination of pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten can have significant, long-lasting benefits for children who participate in both. However, a recently published study from the Center for Public Education takes up the question of whether students are better off with a combination of pre-kindergarten and half-day kindergarten or only full-day kindergarten. Looking at third-grade reading levels, the report's key findings show that:

  • Students' chances of reaching the basic third-grade reading level, "Comprehension of words in context," increased slightly by 3 percent if they attended pre-k and half-day kindergarten instead of full-day kindergarten alone.
  • The chances of a third-grader reaching the more advanced "Literal inference" reading level increased by 11 percent when students attended pre-k and half-day kindergarten rather than full-day kindergarten alone.
  • The chances of a third-grader reaching the advanced "Extrapolation" reading level increased by18 percent if students attended pre-k and half-day kindergarten rather than full-day kindergarten alone.

The report is based on data from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K). The ECLS-K followed 21,500 kindergarteners starting in the fall of 1998 through the spring of 2007, when most of the students were in eighth grade. For the Center's report, a kindergartner was determined to have attended pre-kindergarten if her or his parent stated that their child attended a program such as pre-kindergarten, pre-school, nursery school, or Head Start the year before kindergarten. Because the report is based on parent response there is no way to determine the quality of programs children attended. The report aims to offer states and districts in fiscal crisis an idea of the longer-term academic trade-offs when funding full-day kindergarten versus a combination of pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten.

Read the Center for Public Education's Report >>


Child Trends reports that a recent analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), a nationally-representative sample of children entering Kindergarten in 1998, shows a correlation between local cost of living and child development outcomes. For families below 300 percent of the federal poverty line, higher cost of living was positively correlated with lower academic achievement in first grade, even after family income and a set of social and demographic variables were controlled for.

Child Trends postulates that this correlation occurs because parents living in higher income areas have to spend more on basic needs, such as housing and child care, leaving them with fewer financial resources that allow them to make other "investments" in their children's development (e.g., to buy books, enroll children in extracurricular activities, buy a home computer).  While a family's expenses on basic needs like housing and child care vary based on geographic location, the official federal poverty line is applied uniformly across the nation, which can negatively impact families in geographic areas that have higher-costs of living but whose incomes are slightly higher than the requirement for assistance.  

Read Child Trends' Post on Child Development and Cost of Living >>


The most recent poverty data shows that across the board more families are have trouble making ends meet, and particular subgroups of the population are having a harder time than others. In 2010, single-mother families had a poverty rate of 40.7 percent. As poverty increases in the U.S., it is important to acknowledge the large body of research demonstrating the relationships between poverty or economic hardship and negative outcomes for parents, especially women, and their children. Children experiencing early poverty, deep poverty, and persistent poverty are especially likely to experience negative effects on their development and life circumstances, such as an increased likelihood of economic hardships in adulthood.

The Child Trends research brief, Two Generations in Poverty: Status and Trends among
Parents and Children in the United States, 2000-2010, commissioned by Ascend at the Aspen Institute and Communications Consortium Media Center, looks at recent poverty data and trends over the past decade through a two-generation lens. The reports general findings show that:

  • Poverty increased for all demographic groups since the beginning of the recession in 2007
  • Groups with historically high levels of risk for poverty-including children, young adults, young parents, single-mother families, and Blacks and Hispanics-experienced larger percentage point increases in rates of poverty or low-income during this time period
  • Poverty and low-income status vary greatly by age, racial and ethnic origin, gender, family structure, and geography. For example, as people age their likelihood of living in poverty decreases, poverty rates are higher for Blacks and Hispanics than their White and Asian counterparts, women are more likely to live in poverty than men, single-parent households are also more likely to experience poverty than two-parent households, and poverty is highly concentrated in the southern U.S.

From a two-generation perspective, the increase in poverty that families with children experience is particularly troublesome. Poverty affects the well-being of all individuals within a household because a child's well-being is connected to that of their parents' well-being. Many studies detail the negative effects of factors such as, parental stress, unemployment, or depression on both short- and long-term outcomes for children.

Learn More about the Two Generations of Poverty >>

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