Early Childhood Education Update - February 2014

February 11, 2014 | Child Care and Early Education

In This Issue:

CLASP Highlights What Omnibus Spending Bill Means for Child Care and Early Learning

On January 17, 2014, President Obama signed the 2014 omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress. The bill contained significant increases for early childhood education, both to restore cuts to Head Start and child care that were a result of sequestration, and to provide new funding to expand access to high-quality early learning opportunities for children across the country.  Overall, new child care and early education investments total $1.4 billion, including:

  • A $154 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) restoring dollars cut by sequestration and expanding access to child care for low-income working families. The child care funding includes $296 million to increase the quality of care, of which $109 million is intended to improve the quality of infant and toddler care.
  • A $1.025 billion increase for Head Start, of which $25 million is intended to support implementation of the Head Start designation renewal system; $100 million to support a cost-of-living adjustment for Head Start grantees; and $500 million to support partnerships between Early Head Start and child care. The partnerships will provide funds to new or existing Early Head Start programs to partner with child care providers to increase access to high-quality, comprehensive child care and early education for children from birth through age 3.
  • $250 million for a new round of Race to the Top funding, which would include grants to states to develop, enhance or expand high-quality preschool programs that include comprehensive services and family engagement for low-income families.

Read CLASP’s Summary of the Early Childhood Provisions Here>>

New Series to Ensure Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) Support the Developmental Needs of Infants and Toddlers 

ZERO TO THREE’s Policy Center released the first two documents of a new series, Supporting Babies Through QRIS.  These documents aim to ensure that Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) are supporting the unique developmental needs of infants and toddlers. They present a national review of existing QRIS and illustrate examples of QRIS standards and supports that promote young children’s development and learning.

The Supporting Babies Through QRIS series includes:

  • Implementation Status and Tools in US States and Other Jurisdictions is a national scan of the operational status of existing QRIS, as well as links to QRIS standards and tools.  It focuses on how these systems can include standards that explicitly address the needs of infants and toddlers.
  • Inclusion of Infant and Toddler Quality Standards documents examples of QRIS standards that help programs promote the healthy development and learning of infants and toddlers.
  • A Self-Assessment tool will be released in spring 2014 for states and jurisdictions to identify the strengths, opportunities, and gaps in QRIS for programs serving infants and toddlers.

This series also serves as a “living document” because QRIS differ in terms of level of completion, and many are undergoing continuous revisions as a result of pre- or post-implementation evaluation efforts.

Access the Series Here>>

2013 Child Well-Being Index (CWI): Continued Disinvestments in Children Negatively Impact Child Well-Being 

The Foundation for Child Development (FCD) released its annual CWI report: a comprehensivemeasure of how children and youth are faring in the United States.  The CWI tracks changes in the well-being of children annually compared to 1975 base-year values.

The CWI tracks 28 key indicators of the quality-of-life of America’s children across seven domains -- family economic well-being, safe/risky behavior, social relationships, emotional/spiritual well-being, community engagement, educational attainment, and health -- addressing the following questions:

  • On average, how did child and youth well-being in the U.S. change since 1975?
  • Did child well-being improve or deteriorate?
  • By approximately how much?
  • In which Domains of Well-Being?

The 2013 CWI shows that while gains have been made in some areas, such as lower rates of risky behavior by youth -- including teenage births, violent crime victimizations, and violent crime offending -- overall child well-being in the United States saw little improvement and has not recovered from the Great Recession of 2008-2009. As a result of the recession and decreased federal spending across child-serving programs over the past three years, previous gains in child well-being made since 1975 have been lost completely.

Read the Full Report Here>>

New America Foundation Looks at Early Learning from Birth to Third Grade 

A new report from the Early Education Initiative at New America Foundation examines learning from birth through third grade in an attempt to answer the question of whether or not United States policies are equipped to address the needs of children during these particularly formative years. The report looks at the time period following the Great Recession of 2008-2009—a time of both fiscal insecurity across the nation but also a time of promise in which President Obama called national attention to early education.

The report finds that in the wake of the recession, too many children in America are without access to the opportunities that would give them a strong start in school and life. The report finds that although progress has been made in funding home-visiting programs, building the early childhood infrastructure, and raising quality standards and accountability across many states and federal policies, there has also been an increase in child poverty, a lack of attention to the growing population of dual-language learners, reduced funding for core early childhood programs, and widening achievement gaps between rich and poor.

The report suggests that lawmakers, education policymakers, and philanthropists become more strategic about the policies and investments that address the income gap and allow more children access to quality early learning experiences.

Read the Full Paper Here>>

Synthesis Brief Highlights Diversity Among Young Children and Dual Language Learners 

The National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness has published a research synthesis to help Early Head Start (EHS) and Head Start (HS) programs best support school readiness for Dual Language Learners (DLLs) by understanding similarities, differences, and diversity within this group of children; of which, one third of the children enrolled in EHS and HS are DLLs.

This brief highlights similarities among ALL young children – those who are learning one or several languages (e.g., children are born with natural capabilities for language and for learning); differences between children growing up with one language (monolinguals) and children who are DLLs (e.g., children may learn some ideas such as counting, in one of their languages but not the other); and diversity among children who are DLLs (e.g., individual differences of temperament, interests, etc.).

For example, research shows that ALL children have a natural capacity for learning and communication and the ability to process multiple language(s). All children need environments that support their culture and language and need teachers to understand them and their developmental needs. For DLLs, the developmental pathways are different than for monolingual children. They are developing within two or more cultures, and navigating two languages requires greater demands on their memories.  The research also shows that DLLs, like all children, are a highly diverse group in terms of languages; cultures; developmental pathways and experiences; community experiences; family values and beliefs about home language; and individual child characteristics.

Understanding the research on the children who comprise DLLs, the ability of young children to learn language, and the ways in which DLLs are similar and different from all young children can help programs better meet the needs of all children. 

Read the Brief Here>>

Report Identifies Features of Early Learning Programs that Most Effectively Support Dual Language Learners (DLLs) 

A report from the Migration Policy Institute identifies features of early childhood education programs that most effectively support DLLs.  It assesses the research on early care and education methods that have been shown to encourage higher levels of language and literacy development and achievement for young DLLs. The report finds a few key elements that influence the quality of early education programs for DLLs including:

  • accessibility and affordability
  • language of instruction
  • instructional practices
  • assessment
  • teacher and classroom quality
  • school-family partnerships

The report stresses the principle that all early childhood education teachers of young DLLs can learn and implement strategies that introduce English during the preschool years while simultaneously promoting home language. DLLs should be given opportunities to develop language proficiency in English and their home language because of the cognitive, social, cultural, and academic advantages of bilingualism.

Read the Full Report Here>>

The Critical Issue of Providing Access to Quality Early Childhood Programs to African American Children 

Research finds that African American children make substantial and persistent academic gains as a result of high-quality early care and education.  Capitalizing on these findings, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), the Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO), and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans (WHIEEAA), have produced a policy report that highlights the lack of access to high-quality early childhood education experiences for African-American children, and offers recommendations to expand opportunities that will increase access to the most effective early childhood programs.

African American children experience an opportunity gap in the form of limited access to high-quality early care and education, which contributes to the achievement gap between African-American children and their peers from other backgrounds. High-quality early education is one strategy for addressing the achievement gap.

The authors of this report make the following recommendations in order to achieve this goal. 

  • Increase public support for high-quality preschool to expand access to African-American children and to ensure that the programs they attend are of high quality.
  • Offer high-quality preschool education to ALL children.
  • Offer federal incentives for states to expand access to state-funded pre-k.
  • Ensure that data is routinely collected and reported on access to pre-k programs by income and ethnicity and that data on quality is also collected periodically.

Read the Policy Report Here>>

Literature Review Summarizes Research on Child Care Decision-Making 

A literature review co-authored by researchers from Child Trends, The Urban Institute, and George Mason University provides an overview of the factors that influence parents’ decision-making in their child care choices.  By summarizing research on the preferences, constraints, and supports that influence the child care decision-making process for parents with young children, it is the review’s intent to provide an understanding for administrators, as well as early childhood program developers, and policymakers who can use it to improve their programs and services.

The literature review is organized into four main sections reflecting key empirical findings that examine parents’ child care decision-making processes (e.g. number of options considered and duration of search process); parents’ preferences and priorities in selecting a care arrangement(e.g. structural and process-oriented features of quality); constraints to selecting preferred care arrangements ( e.g. limited availability, affordability, and accessibility); and policies and programs that support parents in selecting their preferred care arrangement (e.g. child care subsidies and QRIS).

This review includes published journal articles, reports from studies funded by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation and other federal government agencies, as well as policy-relevant responses to the literature from three state child care subsidy administrators.  Finally, the authors review implications for policy and practice.

Read Literature Review Here>>

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