Early Childhood Education Update - February 2013

February 08, 2013 | Child Care and Early Education

In this issue:

TWO NEW BRIEFS FOCUS ON BEST PRACTICES FOR EDUCATING ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS (ELLS)

Two new briefs, one from the Foundation of Child Development (FCD) and the other from Mathematica and First Five L.A., look at best practices for teaching ELLs. FCD offers a case study of how Red Bank Public Schools in New Jersey offer a pre-kindergarten through third grade whole-child approach to educating Dual Language Learners (DLLs) in their community. Mathematica and First Five L.A. look at instructional practices that support ELLs in the Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) program.  

  • The Promise of PreK-3rd: Promoting Academic Excellence for Dual Language Learners in Red Bank Public Schools: The Red Bank Borough Public Schools in New Jersey serve a largely Hispanic, low-income population. In order to support the large number of young DLLs in the school, Red Bank schools implemented an early education program that emphasizes make-believe play and self-regulation, and encourages working with community organizations to support arts programming. Local funds, New Jersey's Early Childhood Program Aid, and additional funding from the state's 2008 School Finance Reform Act have helped support the development and expansion of Red Bank's pre-kindergarten and DLL education. Red Bank found that four key principles are critical to their success: 1) expanding opportunities to learn for young DLL children; 2) integrating pre-kindergarten through third grade curricula and instruction practices that develop mastery and self-regulation; 3) building intentional partnerships that support the goal of educating the whole child; and 4) implementing multiple-source assessments that drive the alignment of curricula, instruction, and teacher quality. These four principles continue to guide Red Bank as they move forward in their work to educate DLLs and all children in Red Bank schools.
  • Instructional Practices that Support ELL Children in Los Angeles Universal Preschool Classrooms: Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) serves a diverse group of children, nearly half of which come from homes that speak a language other than English. The Universal Preschool Child Outcomes Study (UPCOS) showed that these ELLs made progress during their time in LAUP, but at the end of the year they still lagged behind their peers in some outcomes. This brief looks at instructional practices in the classroom that can better support the development of ELLs in LAUP. Five practices were found to be the most effective: 1) providing instruction in the home language, as well as English, to develop skills in both languages; 2) teaching children phonics skills like letter sounds and sound blending to promote literacy acquisition; 3) practicing book reading in English and ELLs' home language; 4) providing structured and well-planned opportunities for ELLs to practice their language skills with peers whose English skills are more developed; and 5) using evidence-based curricula, such as small-group activities and direct instruction in phonological awareness, phonics , and vocabulary awareness. LAUP is working to promote the use of these five practices through the development of a teacher institute focused on vocabulary development, ELL-related trainings and communities of learners, and a lending library and e-library of professional development resources for teaching ELLs. 

Read about Red Bank's approach to educating DLLs and how LAUP is working to improve ELL instructional practices >> 

PRELIMINARY FINDINGS FROM STUDY ON IMPLEMENTING HOME VISITNG MODELS 

The federal initiative, Supporting Evidence-Based Home Visiting to Prevent Child Maltreatment (EBHV), includes an examination of the fidelity to the home visiting models being replicated and the process behind their implementation. Mathematica and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago developed a framework to assess whether evidence-based home visiting programs were implemented and delivered with fidelity; the extent to which models were modified to respond to their target populations and local service delivery; and what factors were associated with fidelity of implementation. The report looks at 44 implementing agencies (IAs, agencies that implemented the home visiting programs) during the early phase of implementation and assesses their fidelity with respect to home visitor and supervisor caseloads, service duration, and service dosage. Within the framework, researchers looked at two primary aspects, structural and dynamic. Structural aspects look at adherence to the basic program model, such as reaching the target population or delivering the recommended dosage. Dynamic aspects look more at the provider-participant relationships and service content. 

The report's data describe service delivery from October 1, 2009 to December 31, 2010. The report reflects the characteristics and experiences of 1,795 participants; 227 providers; and 23,216 individual home visits. Preliminary findings show: 

  • IAs embrace many of the practice elements that are recommended by the national models, like hiring qualified staff and enrolling participants consistent with the characteristics of the targeted population likely to benefit from services.
  • At least one-third of the participants served by each home visiting model experienced multiple socioeconomic risk factors.
  • Most home visitors delivering all of the models had a bachelor's degree or higher.
  • In a majority of cases, the ethnicity of providers reflected the ethnicity of the home visiting program's target population.
  • Ninety-one percent of the IAs maintained average caseloads at or below levels recommended by their respective models.
  • Approximately one-fourth of participants left services before completing the recommend course of services.
  • So far, no noticeable differences have been observed in the characteristics of families who received fewer services or who left the programs early.  

Later this spring, a cross-site evaluation final report will be delivered to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). This report will include a chapter on the fidelity findings as well as analysis that brings fidelity, systems, and process study data together. 

Read the full preliminary report >> 

NONTRADITIONAL WORK HOURS INFLUENCE CHILD CARE CHOICES FOR WORKING FAMILIES 

To understand the needs of low-income working families and their child care providers, Illinois Action for Children recently examined the child care utilization of 50 single parents working nontraditional hours. The findings have been released in the report Choices in the Real World: the use of family, friend and neighbor child care by single Chicago mothers working nontraditional schedules. The study found that cost, flexibility, and availability during nontraditional hours frequently led low-income parents to use license-exempt family, friend and neighbor (FFN) child care providers. According to the agency, in October 2012, 42 percent of Chicago children receiving Illinois Child Care Assistance were served in FFN child care.

Nationally, 19 percent of children receiving Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)-funded child care are cared for in license-exempt settings, but there is great variation among states. Hawaii, Michigan, Oregon, Illinois and New York have the highest proportion of children receiving subsidies in license-exempt care. As with licensed care, the quality of the providers varies. In its report, Illinois Action for Children recommends that policymakers increase parents' options for high quality care by: 

  • Increasing the availability of licensed care during nontraditional work hours, using policy strategies such as increasing subsidy rates for providers offering care during nontraditional hours;
  • Pursuing policies that make licensed care more affordable to families with subsidies;
  • Providing quality supports to FFN providers to increase the quality of care, including increased subsidy rates and "family support" type strategies to reach FFN providers, such ashome visiting with FFNproviders; and
  • Using technology as a way to engage and support FFN providers in providing quality care, for example by establishing on-line social networks among providers. 

Read Illinois Action for Children's Fully Report >> 

USING EARLY EDUCATION TO BETTER SERVE HOMELESS CHILDREN AND FAMILIES 

According to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 1.6 million children in the United States live on the streets or in homeless shelters. Forty-two percent of these children are under the age of six. In 2011, 4 percent of all families served through Head Start were homeless, including nearly 50,000 children. In some states, as many as 12 percent of all families served in the program were homeless. Families who face homelessness are challenged by a multitude of problems that make it difficult to create a stable environment for their children. However, research shows that well-designed and well-implemented, high-quality early care and education programs can improve outcomes for all children, particularly those in low-income families, by connecting families to needed resources, providing stability, and, ultimately, helping children learn and develop skills they need in school and in life. 

ACF has released a set of resources and recommendations to help guide early education programs to better serve homeless children and their families. In order to better support homeless children and families, ACF suggests that early education programs should: 

  • Prioritize access to services for homeless families
  • Have policies in place for families who are temporarily homeless after a disaster
  • Offer flexibility to homeless families
  • Coordinate with homeless liaisons
  • Work with homeless coalitions
  • Coordinate Head Start and Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) policies to better serve homeless children 

The complete set of resources from ACF includes: 

STATE-DETERMINED CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE POLICIES GREATLY AFFECT PARENTS, PROVIDERS, AND CHILDREN  

Under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), states have significant flexibility to set their policies determining how families apply for and receive child care assistance, and the reimbursement rates paid to providers. National Women's Law Center published a fact sheet that covers changes to state child care assistance policies around areas of eligibility criteria and reimbursement policies. These changes can affect both how easy it is for families to access assistance and the quality of providers available to families receiving child care subsidies. 

The fact sheet outlines that: 

  • Less than half of states require parents to work for a certain number of hours a week, but Kansas has begun requiring that most adults receiving child care assistance be employed at least 20 hours per week.
  • Nevada no longer provides assistance for parents in education or training programs with the exception of minor parents completing high school or their GED. North Carolina limited child care assistance to 20 months for parents in post-secondary education or job training.
  • Many states require families to seek child support enforcement services in order to be eligible for child care assistance. This policy can deter some families from applying for assistance if there are concerns about the relationship with the non-custodial parent. Washington recently stopped requiring families to seek such child support enforcement services.
  • Longer eligibility periods (such as 12 month) can minimize bureaucratic burdens for parents and the amount of time they need to spend renewing eligibility. This can make it easier for families to maintain their child care assistance and provide greater stability in care arrangements for their children. Many states have adopted, or are considering adopting, 12 month eligibility.
  • Reimbursing child care providers for days when children are absent helps relieve burden from child care providers and provides greater flexibility for families when children are sick. However, states have recently set stricter policies on reimbursing for absent days. Montana reduced the number of hours per year (from 150 hours to 70 hours) they would reimburse providers when a child is absent, and Pennsylvania went from not limiting the total number of absent days for which it would reimburse providers to limiting absent days to 25 during the state fiscal year.
  • States can also choose to limit the number of reimbursable hours per child paid to providers or choose whether or not to reimburse for hours beyond a parents' work or school hours.
  • State policies also dictate whether or not to reimburse providers for fees, beyond the basic rate, for activities or transportation. Minnesota recently eliminated reimbursement for activity fees, and North Carolina stopped covering fees for transportation services and registration.  

Read NWLC's full fact sheet >> 

GUIDANCE ON DEVELOPING CHILD CARE SUBSIDY STUDIES

Three new methodological briefs from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) at the US Department of Health and Human Service and Child Trends offer an overview of the challenges in studying child care subsidy participation, secondary data sources on child care subsidies, and the reliability of parental reports of child care subsidy receipt. Together, these methodological briefs offer a primer on how to develop and analyze research on child care subsidies. 

  • The first brief, Common Challenges in the Study of Continuity of Child Care Subsidy Participation, recognizes that research over the past decade on participation in the child care subsidy program has produced results that are often not comparable because of varying methodologies. In order to develop comparable studies, the brief emphasizes the importance of researchers using the right study design. It discusses how using point-in-time samples or completed spells of child care could produce results that are not comparable with other studies. The brief encourages researchers to report how different decisions, such as how to define breaks in child care subsidy receipt (one versus two months), can affect the outcomes of studies. The paper lays out the analytical methods that are most commonly used based on one's research objective.
  • Studying Child Care Subsidies with Secondary Data Sources, the second brief, looks at four datasets: Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), Child Care Supplement (CCS), Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (ECLS-B), Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), National Household Education Survey (NHES)'s Early Childhood Programs Participation (ECPP), and Before- and After-School Program (ASPA). These datasets all offer detailed information on child care arrangements and child care assistance. This brief discusses the survey design and unique features of each dataset, advantages and disadvantages of using certain datasets, and the potential research questions that each dataset can best answer.
  • The third brief, Can We Trust Parental Reports of Child Care Subsidy Receipt?, uses the FFCWS to test the reliability of parental reports of subsidy receipt by comparing parental reports with child care provider answers. The study seeks to determine the reliability of parent reports. By comparing the parental and provider reports, the researchers found a high degree of overlap between child care providers and parents in reporting subsidy receipt. However, 21 percent of cases did not agree. Researchers speculate that this difference may be due to underreporting from either parents or providers; either could misinterpret whether or not they receive subsidized care or for which child the subsidized care is offered. The time frame in which parent and provider respondents were interviewed could also have affected the disagreement. Future research on this topic should focus on merging administrative data with survey data that contains information about subsidy receipt from both parents and providers.

 Access the complete briefs: 

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