Early Childhood Education Update - January 2013

January 11, 2013 | Child Care and Early Education

In this issue:

STATE INITIATIVES EXPAND ACCESS TO EARLY HEAD START (EHS) PROGRAMS

In conjunction with the report Expanding Access to Early Head Start: State Initiatives for Infants and Toddlers at Risk, CLASP and ZTT have developed nine state profiles to further detail the innovative EHS initiatives in some states. The profiles serve as guides for states interested in learning more about state investments in EHS or that want to work toward setting up an initiative of their own. In brief:

  • The Illinois Prevention Initiative provides grants to home-based and center-based programs to expand access to the EHS model as well as other birth to 3 models. The goal is to serve additional children birth to age 3 and help grantees increase program quality.
  • The Illinois Child Care Collaboration Program promotes collaboration between child care and other early care and education providers, including EHS, by creating policies to ease blending of funds to extend the day or year of existing services.
  • Kansas Early Head Start (KEHS) provides comprehensive services following federal Head Start Program Performance Standards for pregnant women and eligible families with children from birth to age 4.
  • Maine has two initiatives that build on EHS. Since 2001, the Fund for a Healthy Maine has provided tobacco settlement money to existing Head Start and EHS programs to expand the number of children who receive full-day, full-year services. Additionally, Maine has provided state general revenue funds to all Head Start programs to add additional slots, some of which may be used for EHS.
  • Since 2000, Maryland has provided state supplemental funds to Head Start and EHS programs to improve access. Local EHS programs may use funds, through child care partnerships, to extend the EHS day or year.
  • Minnesota provides supplemental state funding to existing federal Head Start and EHS grantees to increase their capacity to serve additional infants, toddlers, and pregnant women.
  • Missouri's Early Head Start/Child Care Partnership Project expands access to EHS services for children birth to age 3 by developing partnerships among federal Head Start, EHS contractors, and child care providers.
  • Since 1999, Nebraska's Early Head Start Infant/Toddler Quality Initiative has supported EHS and community child care partnerships to improve the quality and professionalism of infant and toddler care. EHS programs apply to receive funding to establish partnerships with center-based or home-based child care.
  • The Oklahoma Early Childhood Program uses public and private funds to enhance and expand high quality early care and education opportunities for children birth through age 3.

Read the Expanding Access to Early Head Start paper and state profiles >>

2012 CHILD WELL-BEING INDEX (CWI) SHOWS DECADE-LONG DECLINE IN CHILDREN'S WELL-BEING

The Foundation for Child Development (FCD) released its annual report detailing the well-being of children and youth in the U.S. The 2012 report focuses on how children have fared in the first decade of the 21st century. From 2001 to 2011, the percentage of children living below the poverty line has risen from 15.6 percent to 21.4 percent, and the median income of families has dropped $6,300 in real dollars during this ten-year period. Secure employment is also more difficult to find and maintain. In 2001, 79 percent of children were living in a house where at least one parent was securely employed. This figure has dropped to 71 percent in 2011. Pre-kindergarten enrollment has seen little change in the past decade, increasing slightly from 52.4 percent to 54 percent. Health insurance coverage has also increased only slightly from 88.7 percent in 2001 to 90.6 percent in 2011.

FCD's report recommends that policymakers work to protect and strengthen the economic, health, and education systems that serve children and their families to improve well-being. Specifically, FCD recommends:

  • Protecting programs from cuts and preserving tax benefits, such as the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit, that impact the economic security of children and families.
  • Making substantial and sustained investments in effective early education programs.
  • Continuing to expand health care coverage and working to ensure that provisions in Affordable Care Act (ACA) are implemented to provide coverage to every child.

FCD's report, released each year since 1975, analyzes child well-being across seven domains or indicators; these include family economic well-being, safe/risky behavior, social relationships, emotional/spiritual well-being, community engagement, educational attainment, and health.

Read FCD's full report from 2012 >>

THIRD GRADE FOLLOW-UP TO THE HEAD START IMPACT STUDY RELEASED

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study. This follow-up report builds off of the Head Start Impact Study (HSIS), which reported on the impact that one year of access to Head Start had on children and their families during preschool, kindergarten, and through first grade. The third Grade Follow-up examines the effects of Head Start on children and families through the end of third grade. The study, which began in fall 2002, randomly assigned newly entering 3- and 4-year-old Head Start applicants to either a Head Start group that had access to Head Start services for one year, or to the control group (some of whom attended other early education programs, including Head Start). The study used a nationally representative sample that spread over 23 different states, included 84 randomly selected Head Start grantees/delegate agencies, 383 Head Start centers, and a total of 4,667 newly entering children.

The findings from this follow-up study show similar results to the original first grade HSIS: access to Head Start improved children's preschool outcomes across developmental domains, but these effects did not last from kindergarten through third grade. While children were in Head Start, there is evidence that the program had a positive impact on children's language and literacy development. However, this impact dropped off during early elementary grades. The study looked across the domains of cognitive development, social-emotional development, health, and parent practices.

The results of this study do not take into account changes to Head Start that came with its reauthorization in 2007, which included a greater focus on quality and school readiness by requiring more teachers to have child development associate (CDA) credentials and bachelor's degrees, the use of research-based classroom observational tools, and re-competition for Head Start grants. It also does not provide an understanding of differences across the country or if some Head Start experiences led to stronger outcomes than others.

While the study's findings show virtually no difference at the end of third grade between children who participated in Head Start and those who didn't, the report's authors speculate that there could still be longer-term effects that are not apparent until early adulthood. Additionally, the authors acknowledge that the study has yet to take into account variation in Head Start program quality and the varying amounts of time children may have spent in Head Start programs.

Read the full Third Grade Follow-up to the Head Start Impact Study >>

SMALLER IMMIGRANT GROUPS IN ILLINOIS FACE UNIQUE OPPORTUNITIES AND BARRIERS IN ACCESSING PRESCHOOL

To examine how children and families in immigrant communities fare in Chicago, the Urban Institute has released a series of papers exploring the Illinois Preschool For All (PFA) program  and the barriers and opportunities families in smaller immigrant communities face when it comes to accessing PFA.

Published in 2010, the first paper in the Urban Institute series, Fulfilling the Promise of Preschool for All: Insights into Issues Affecting Access for Selected Immigrant Groups in Chicago, addresses the barriers families from Nigeria and Pakistan face in understanding and accessing PFA. The more recent papers build off the first, extending the study to look at the experiences of Vietnamese, Polish, and Haitian families; examining the role community-based organizations (CBOs) can play in supporting smaller immigrant communities in accessing PFA; and providing a summary of the barriers and opportunities small immigrant communities face.

Across the studies, researchers found that smaller immigrant communities faced challenges understanding and completing forms, a shortage or absence of staff who spoke the families' languages, and confusion over the application process and requirements for accessing PFA in a community-based child care setting. In order to tackle some of these barriers, researchers highlight the role CBOs can play in supporting PFA participation among these smaller groups of immigrants. For example, CBOs can provide basic informational materials, facilitate deeper relationships between PFA programs and CBOs to build trust and cultural awareness, and provide targeted outreach to families around PFA participation. There are also more resource-intensive opportunities to provide child care and early education services and PFA programming through CBOs, including two-generation strategies like offering parenting education or ESL classes on-site. States and communities can take steps to target preschool enrollment outreach to immigrant families and English language learners, as well as expand and support a culturally and linguistically competent and diverse staff.

Read the full series of papers on this topic:

CHILD CARE AND DEVELOPMENT FUND (CCDF) POLICIES DATABASE BOOK DETAILS INFORMATION ON STATE CHILD CARE PROGRAMS

Urban Institute and the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) at the US Department of Health and Human Services, have released a compilation of States' and Territories' Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) policies, which are taken from the CCDF Policies Database. The CCDF Policies Database Book of Tables: Key Cross-State Variations in CCDF Policies as of October 1, 2011 provides detailed information on state policies concerning child care subsidies. On the federal level, the parameters outlining how CCDF funds can be used are broad. States, Territories, and in some cases localities develop detailed policies on how CCDF funds can be used, covering policies concerning child care subsidy eligibility, additional payments for care, application and administrative procedures, as well as reimbursement rates for providers. States and Territories submit plans every other year that outline their CCDF policies.

This report includes 40 tables and covers the following policy areas: eligibility requirements for families and children; family application terms of authorization and redetermination; family payments; and policies for providers, including maximum reimbursement rates. Some findings include:

  • Twenty-five States/Territories require that parents work a minimum number of hours per week to be eligible for care. Among these programs, the minimum required hours range from 15 hours each week in Alabama and Utah to 38 hours each week in Puerto Rico.
  • Among the 41 programs that consider job search to be a qualifying activity, 17 only allow a family that was already receiving subsidies for another reason to continue to receive subsidized care during a job search, while 24 consider job search as a qualifying activity for both initial and continuing eligibility.
  • Twenty-two States/Territories allow child care subsidy applications to be submitted via e-mail or through an internet-based system.
  • Just over half of the CCDF programs use a redetermination (eligibility) period of 6 months for most families. The remaining States/Territories have a redetermination period of 12 months for most families, with the exception of Oregon (8 months) and Texas, where redetermination periods vary at the local level.
  • Eight States/Territories exempt all families with income below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines from paying copayments, with some States/Territories using the 2009 poverty guideline and others using the 2011 poverty guidelines, current to when the plans were written.

Access the complete set of tables on CCDF States' and Territories' policies >>

MORE RESEARCH NEEDED TO UNDERSTAND QUALITY IMPROVEMENT PRACTICES IN EARLY CHILDHOOD CLASSROOMS AND SYSTEMS

The Child Trends brief, On-Site Approaches to Quality Improvement in Quality Rating and Improvement Systems: Building on the Research on Coaching, looks at current research on the quality improvement (QI) practice of coaching and finds it to be a positive tool to improve quality of child care programs and child outcomes. However, there are gaps in research about the specific features and processes of coaching techniques that are most effective. Coaching, defined as "someone with specific expertise working with an early educator on implementing specific practices," is a common practice for trying to improve the quality of early childhood programs.

Researchers reviewed 44 studies examining the practice of coaching in early childhood settings. Of these 44 studies, 33 included a measurement of coaching's impact on early educator quality. Twenty-seven of these 33 studies found that coaching had a positive effect on the observed quality of early educator practice. Twenty-one of the 44 studies included measurements of child development outcomes in response to coaching practices. Of these 21 studies, 16 found that coaching has a positive effect on child outcomes.

The brief recommends focusing on QI practices not only at the classroom level, but also at the early childhood program and system level. The authors advise conducting future research that focuses on efforts to use coaching with program directors and across multiple classrooms. Additionally, the report suggests a greater research focus on system-wide QI practices.

Read the complete Child Trends brief >>

CLASP's Early Childhood Education Update is a monthly roundup of news, legislative developments, research, and other developments of interest to the early care and education community. This update is part of CLASP's project, funded by The Joyce Foundation, to provide techincal assistance to early childhood policymakers and advocates in Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

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