Early Childhood Education Update - January 2012

January 10, 2012 | Child Care and Early Education

In this issue:


CLASP's Director of Child Care and Early Education, Hannah Matthews, alongside Helen Blank from the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), Adele Robinson from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and Harriet Dichter from the First Five Years Fund led a conference call providing an overview of funding and legislative developments for early childhood programs in FY 2012. The discussion covered appropriations for the FY2012 budget as well as prospects for funding in the FY2013 budget, reauthorization status of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), ongoing reauthorization plans for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), and the status of Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grants.

Listen to the full audio conference online or read the transcript >> 


"Charting Programs for Babies in Child Care," a CLASP project that provides recommendations for what babies and toddlers need in child care, recently published four new state examples. These examples focus on policies, projects, or the implementation of tools within states that help support babies and toddlers in child care settings. The new state examples include:

In addition, the Charting Progress website includes multiple other state examples that provide guidance for states on how to create and implement policies and programs that positively support babies' and toddlers' needs in child care.

View all state examples on the Charting Progress website >>


In recent years, states have paid greater attention to kindergarten readiness assessments. Even before the introduction of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge competition, which included a priority on developing kindergarten readiness assessments, about half of states had already introduced some form of kindergarten entry exam or readiness assessment. However, the development and use of such assessments has widely varied. The Center for Applied Research at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) developed guidance for states to support their development and implementation of kindergarten readiness assessments and other early childhood assessments.

NAEYC's guidance looks comprehensively at early childhood assessments, asking questions and providing information on what types of assessments to consider, what to include in assessments, the cost, administrative support, frequency, and how to handle assessments in multiple languages. In addition, there are multiple considerations and caveats that are outlined for states to consider as they think about early childhood assessments. When designing an early childhood assessment, NAEYC makes clear that fundamental decisions about instrument selection, administration, and data utilization are interconnected; and choices made with respect to one of those will influence the others and the overall outcome of the assessment.

Read the full guidance on designing and implementing early childhood assessments >>


Increasing attention is being paid to holding preschool programs accountable and measuring their effectiveness. A recent study from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) entitled, Improving Early Education Programs through Data-based Decision Making, provides recommendations for states considering program effectiveness. Challenges to studying these programs come from the fact that children are in early stages of development, and that there is a wide variety in programs, which makes considerations and goals different between different states.

The NIEER report looks at five options for studying program effectiveness and provides a detailed methodology of the design as well as the positive and negative aspects of each design approach. In addition, the report provides an estimate of costs for each type of evaluation. The design options include:

  • Utilizing Extant Data: This design approach uses already existing data to answer research questions. Additionally, it addresses the differences at kindergarten entry and third grade between children who attended the preschool program and the children who did not. One large concern with this design is that it can be difficult to choose children to fit into the two groups of those who did attend preschool and those who did not. Other factors for attending or not attending preschool may bias the results.
  • Nonequivalent Groups, Post-test Only (Kindergarten): This study design can answer questions about children's academic achievement and social skills from kindergarten entry and over the course of time. Starting in kindergarten, the study uses two groups-those who attended preschool and those who did not. Because of the group selection, the study runs into the problem of groups differing inherently. However, one strength of the study lies in that it provides student data over time.
  • Nonequivalent Groups Pre-and Post-test (Preschool): This design is similar to the designs above, except that the children in this study are selected and assessed before the beginning of the preschool program. This allows for pre-determination of who receives preschool and who does not, which helps reduce any concerns over fitting children into groups of those who attended preschool and those who did not. However, this study is more expensive because it requires an extra year of data collection.
  • Regression-Discontinuity Design: In this study strict age cut-offs are used to define the groups. It tests groups using the age cut-offs and then statistically adjusts for age variation, allowing for a reduced likelihood that age differences will bias the study's results. This approach works best when executed with a large sample size. In addition, this study can be combined with a nonequivalent comparison group longitudinal study, allowing for the study of children who did and did not attend preschool from kindergarten to third grade.
  • Randomized Trial: This is the best design to prevent bias when selecting groups of children to attend preschool or not by randomly assigning children to either the group that does or does not attend preschool. This design study is best implemented when there is a waiting list for preschool, which allows for a lottery or when there is an expansion of preschool services to a group not currently served.

Other considerations when trying to study preschool effectiveness include looking at preschool quality by examining a number of classrooms. NIEER also recommends performing some type of cost analysis with varying levels of detail depending on the study's objective.

Read NIEER's full report on designing studies to measure preschool effectiveness >>


On December 16, 2011, the Obama Administration announced the winners of its Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant competition. The nine winners include California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington. In response to the announcement of the award winners the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) conducted an analysis of where each of the grant winners falls in terms of child care assistance policies.

NWLC's results indicate that the RTT-ELC winners have many gaps in their child care assistance policies, making it difficult for low-income families to afford high quality child care. Many of the states that won have reduced their income eligibility limits for child care assistance. None of the nine states have reimbursement rates set at the recommended 75th percentile of current market rates, which is the rate set to give parents access to 75 percent of providers in their community. Two of the state winners, California and Washington, are considering proposals that would dramatically cut child care assistance programs.

The goal for the RTT-ELC competition is to increase access to high-quality early learning programs and to focus particularly on those that are most vulnerable, such as low-income families and children. The hope is that these states will make an effort to increase low-income families' access to high-quality early care and learning programs that support children's healthy development.

Read NWLC's full analysis >>


Maine's Head Start Program Outcomes report uses data from the 2009-2010 Program Information Report (PIR) to analyze who within the state is served by Head Start, who is eligible, funding for the program, and the impact that Head Start is having on the state. Currently, 3,819 Maine children are funded and enrolled in a Head Start or Early Head Start program, with 93 percent of these children served in Head Start and seven percent in Early Head Start. Of the children who are income-eligible to participate in Head Start or Early Head Start, only 30 percent are actually enrolled.  

In terms of school readiness, across the domains of social/emotional development, physical development, cognitive development and language/literacy development, children who participated in Head Start and entered Kindergarten in the fall of 2011 scored at 85-95 percent across each domain in school readiness assessments. Additionally, many Head Start participants are receiving ongoing preventative medical, mental, and dental health services. From 2008 to 2010 the number of children receiving treatment for asthma has decreased by 9 percent, while the number of children receiving treatment for being overweight has doubled to 32 percent. The report offers a detailed look at how Maine's children are being served by Head Start across a variety of educational and health domains, looking at the most recent data as well as across years from 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Read the full report Maine's Head Start outcomes >>


Nearly 25 percent of U.S. children have at least one parent who was born outside of the country, the majority of whom are Latino. Critical to supporting this growing population of children is to understand and help provide for their educational and developmental needs. Child Trends published a brief that provides an overview of why it is particularly important to focus on out-of-school time programs for children of Latino immigrants as well as tips on how communities can reach out and support Latino children through OST programs.

OST programs can provide Latino children with structure and supervision, emotional support, cultural support, academic assistance, as well as provide or connect children with counseling services. Latino immigrants are overrepresented among poor families; children of Latino immigrants may be limited English proficient, lack supervision at home because immigrant parents often work long hours, late shifts, or have irregular schedules, or have parents who do not have a high school education. OST programs can help support children of immigrants by offering access to resources these children might not have at school or home. To attract and maintain the participation of immigrant children and youth in OST programs, Child Trends provides seven tips for communities:

  • Be culturally sensitive
  • Be aware of the personal and family responsibilities participants might have
  • Subsidize the cost of participation
  • Address language and communication barriers
  • Provide safe spaces
  • Gain the trust of parents
  • Work with parents to overcome gender stereotypes about whether their child's participation in activities is appropriate

Read the full brief >>


The National Center on Family Homelessness released their State Report Card on Child Homelessness: America's Youngest Outcasts 2010. This report updates a previous report on child homelessness in the states that was based on 2006 data. America's Youngest Outcasts 2010 looks at the most recent data on child homelessness within the states and around the country, focusing on the numbers of homeless children in every state, their well-being, the risk for child homelessness, and state level planning and policy activities. Based on these four domains the report ranks the states in terms of child homelessness both overall and with respect to the individual domains from 1(best) to 50 (worst).

Findings from the report show that some of the states doing the best in terms of child homelessness include Vermont, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Maine. Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, California, and New Mexico rank as the states currently experiencing the greatest challenges with child homelessness. Overall, 1.6 million children in the U.S. are homeless in a year, which equates to one in 45 children. Children who experience homelessness also often suffer from hunger, poor physical and emotional health, and fewer educational opportunities. While child homelessness is a problem around the country, only seven states have detailed plans on how to address child homelessness in their communities and 16 states have no plan related to child homelessness.

To support families and children currently experiencing homelessness, the National Center on Family Homelessness recommends implementing affordable policy solutions through cost effective investments in supporting the homeless and helping prevent homelessness rather than having to pay costly emergency services. By focusing on policies specifically addressing issues of housing, child care, education, domestic violence, and employment, state and federal governments can help stabilize and support families and children who are currently at risk or already are experiencing homelessness.

Read the individual state report cards on child homelessness >>


First Focus in conjunction with Brookings has updated their brief, The Recession's Ongoing Impact on America's Children: Indicators of Children's Economic Well-Being Through 2011, to include up-to-date indicators from states: children with an unemployed parent, individuals receiving nutrition assistance benefits, and child poverty.

Based on data from the first nine months of 2011, an estimated 6.5 million children under the age of 18 have at least one parent who is unemployed. In California alone over 1 million children have an unemployed parent. Across the U.S. over 3 million children have a parent who has been out of work for more than six months. According to the brief, children in California, Florida, Michigan, and Nevada are particularly likely to have a parent who has been unemployed for six or more months.

Additionally, close to half of individuals receiving SNAP benefits are children, and over the past four years the number of SNAP cases has increased 70 percent to 45 million. Currently, 21 million children receive SNAP benefits and six states have one in five residents on SNAP, including the District of Columbia, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oregon and Tennessee.

Finally, child poverty rose to 22 percent in 2010 and some states see child poverty rates over 30 percent. The brief predicts that 2011 will see continued increases in child poverty by a half percentage point with 27 states reaching poverty rates over 20 percent in 2011, a steep increase when compared to just 14 states in 2007.

The report provides more evidence of how children and families continue to suffer from the effects of the recession. With children's economic well-being worsening in the past few years, the organizations call for policymakers at the federal and state level to address the need for increased assistance for children and families.

Read the full report on children's economic well-being >>

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