Early Childhood Education Update - July 2012
July 09, 2012 | Child Care and Early Education
In this issue:
- Staffed Family Child Care (FCC) Networks Help Improve FCC Quality
- New Report Analyzes the Well-being of Children of Immigrants
- Results from the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Supplement (MSHS) to the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS)
- National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) Releases New Young Child Risk Calculator & Updated Early Childhood Policy State Profiles
- Participation in Michigan Pre-Kindergarten Leads to Long-Term Benefits
- What Candidates, Advocates, and Voters Need to Know About Child Policy Issues in the 2012 Elections
- Child Care Costs and Quality Analyzed in the Southern U.S.
- Sustaining Program Effects Into Early Elementary Grades: Analysis from Race To The Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Applications
Twenty-nine percent of infants and 25 percent of toddlers who receive child care subsidies are cared for in FCC settings. Focusing on quality improvement initiatives for FCC can in turn improve the quality of care infants and toddlers receive. Zero To Three (ZTT) recently published a paper analyzing the impact and the development of staffed FCC networks. Staffed FCC networks, as defined in the paper, are funded programs that provide supports and services that are focused on the specific needs of FCC providers and are composed of those who have specialized education and expertise that is relevant. These networks provide quality improvement supports that range from one-on-one technical assistance to customized professional development and developmental screenings of children in child care.
Staffed FCC networks are able to provide support that meets the unique needs of FCC providers and, in turn, the supportive and professional relationships built between network and provider increase the likelihood that quality improvement practices will be implemented. The ZTT paper outlines the different configurations FCC networks can take, what network practices are associated with the most promising level of quality in FCC, how staffed FCC networks can be integrated into an early childhood system, how to go about instituting a staffed FCC network in a community, and models of current staffed FCC networks around the country.
In order to encourage states and communities to pursue implementation of staffed FCC networks, ZTT offers a set of state policy recommendations.
- First, states can incentivize FCC providers' participation in staffed FCC networks by including quality indicators within quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) that recognize or reward a providers' engagement with a network.
- Secondly, states can include the FCC network specialists in their larger professional development system. States can formalize the core knowledge and competencies that fully reflect the education and skills needed for FCC network specialists to be successful. Career pathways and credentials can provide ways to formally recognize the education and experience FCC network specialists obtain. Network specialists should also be included in early childhood professional development registries.
- Lastly, states can explore a variety of funding opportunities, including committing federal Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) dollars, braiding and blending related funding stream, and using investments from foundations or private investors. These funding options can be used to create, develop, and/or sustain staffed FCC networks.
The Foundation for Child Development (FCD) recently released the report, Children in Immigrant Families: Essential to America's Future, offering the first-ever detailed assessment of trends in the well-being of children of immigrants. Currently 25 percent of children are children of immigrants, meaning these children have at least one parent who is an immigrant. The report outlines key areas of child well-being, as indicated by the child well-being index (CWI), where children of immigrants are advantaged or disadvantaged compared to children with U.S.-born parents.
The overall CWI for children of immigrants is lower compared to children of U.S. born-parents, 99 versus 103. FCD analysis of CWI indicators finds that the disadvantage children of immigrants face can largely be attributed to disadvantages from lower health insurance coverage, lower reading and mathematics test scores, lower pre-kindergarten enrollment, lower high school graduation rates, lower median family income, and high poverty rates.
In order to address these areas of disadvantage, FCD offers a set of policy recommendations.
- Federal, state, and local governments should increase their investments in pre-kindergarten programs and integrate high-quality pre-kindergarten programs with elementary grades. High-quality pre-kindergarten programs are cost-effective investments that can improve educational attainments for children.
- Many children of immigrants are dual language learners (DLLs), and DLLs often face additional challenges in school. Schools must receive the funding necessary to develop and implement programs that appropriately address the needs of DLLs.
- Lower insurance coverage rates among children of immigrants must be addressed by revising laws to offer coverage to children who are currently not covered, including children of immigrants regardless of immigration status.
- Parents of children of immigrants must also be offered more educational opportunities to help improve their job skills and increase their potential earnings. Policies that take a dual-generation strategy, linking early education of children with support programs for parents, can help address the higher rates of poverty and lower family income that is more common for families with children of immigrants.
- Appropriate investments in work-support and safety-net programs are needed to help support immigrant families. The Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit should both be increased to help families, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) should be reformed to include both documented and undocumented immigrants.
By addressing these policy areas and increasing investments in programs that help children of immigrants and their families, the overall well-being of both children and families can improve.
Every year the NAWS collects data on farmworker populations by taking a random sample of crop farmworkers in the U.S. In 2008, the NAWS team created and piloted a MSHS supplement, asking families about their use of child care. A recent report from the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) offers analysis of both the NAWS information and the MSHS supplement.
To be eligible for MSHS the respondent's household has to have one or more children under the age of six, an income below 100 percent of the federal poverty level for the size of their household, and have a parent who works more time in farmwork than non-farmwork. The NAWS and MSHS results offer a significant amount of information on the demographics of farmworkers and their families as well as information on the obstacles and barriers to MSHS service, including child care utilization, child care preference, knowledge of MSHS, and any obstacles to participating in MSHS.
From February 2008 through September 2009, when the MSHS supplement was used, 22 percent of farmworkers interviewed by NAWS provided responses to the MSHS supplement. Analysis of data was conducted from 700 respondents, who had children under age 6, worked more than 50 percent in agriculture, and had incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Thirty-nine percent of respondents reported using more than one child care arrangement, while 61 percent reported using one type of child care. Spouses and other relatives were listed as the two most popular child care arrangements used. The most common answer for why a specific child care arrangement was chosen was "trust," with over 70 percent of each income group choosing this reason. Less than half of the households reported that they had heard of MSHS before-41 percent for incomes below 100 percent of the poverty level, 36 percent for incomes between 100 and 130 percent, and 40 percent for incomes between 131 and 200 percent. Around 75 percent of families who had heard of MSHS said that they had never used the program with the most common explanation being that they preferred their own child care arrangements.
The Young Child Risk Calculator and updated Early Childhood Policy State Profiles from NCCP offer extensive information for policymakers, advocates, and the general public on the well-being of young children.
The Young Child Risk Calculator looks at multiple risk factors that are known to increase the likelihood of poor health, school, and developmental outcomes for young children. The tool allows users to generate information about the number of children under age 6 experiencing a variety of risk factors and at what income levels. Both state and national data is included. Users can look at the data on young children who experience a variety of risk factors, including living in households without English speakers, large families, low parental education, residential mobility, single parents, teen mothers, and non-employed parent(s). Economic hardship coupled with any one of these risk factors can increase the likelihood of poorer outcomes for children. Children who experience three or more of these risk factors are considered extremely vulnerable to experiencing poorer outcomes.
NCCP's Early Childhood State Policy Profiles were recently updated to reflect new information on young children's well-being in health and nutrition, early care and education, and parenting and economic supports. These profiles offer a comprehensive view of state policies across these areas and allow for national and state-by-state comparisons. According to NCCP's analysis, in the U.S., 13 percent of young children lack health insurance, 12 states set the income eligibility for child care subsidies at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and 44 percent of low-income, young children have a parent who is employed full -time.
PARTICIPATION IN MICHIGAN PRE-KINDERGARTEN LEADS TO LONG-TERM BENEFITS
A recent report from Michigan shows that children who participated in their state-funded pre-kindergarten programs are more likely to graduate from high school on time and are less likely to be held back a grade. These are the findings of HighScope Educational Research Foundation's most recent report, which analyzes the outcomes of children who participated in Michigan's state-funded preschool program, Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), versus those who did not participate. GSRP currently provides pre-kindergarten to around 30,000 children who are identified as poor or at-risk.
The HighScope longitudinal study followed a cohort of 338 Michigan children in GSRP from 1995 through 2011. A group of 258 children from similar backgrounds in Michigan who did not attend GSRP were then used for comparison with the GSRP participants. Studies analyzed the educational outcomes of these two groups of children through elementary, middle, and high school. This most recent report looks at high school graduation and grade retention.
Students who participated in GSRP graduated on time at rates higher than those who did not participate, 57 percent compared with 43 percent. Fifty-nine percent of minority students who participated in pre-kindergarten graduated on time compared to just 37 percent of minority students who did not participate in pre-kindergarten. By grade 12, 37 percent of GSRP students were held back a grade compared to 49 percent of non-GSRP students, while the percent of all students Michigan retained was 35 percent. Michigan also saved money through the reduction in grade retentions; 43.5 percent of the cost of GSRP was recovered by not having to pay for more students to repeat a grade.
While Michigan's GSRP study shows the tremendous benefits state-funded pre-kindergarten programs can have, state investments in pre-kindergarten and early education remain small and are continually threatened. In 2011, state investments in pre-kindergarten decreased, and over the past nine years state investments in pre-kindergarten have fallen over $700 per child.
Read the full report on GSRP's long-term benefits >>
Voices for America's Children released a guide that outlines key child policy issues in the 2012 elections. Meant to be a resource for candidates, advocates, and the general public, the guide offers an overview of seven key child issues as well as outlines what actions candidates, child advocates, and voters can each take to raise these issues in the upcoming election. Children's issues are not often top-tier issues during an election season even though voters unanimously agree that investing in children is important. This guide encourages better understanding of children's issues while also encouraging individuals to take action.
The guide focuses on issues relating to children's health, safety, school readiness and early education, continued school success in grades K-12, poverty and economic security, changing demographics and opportunity, and encouraging and maintaining nurturing families. In order to address these issues, Voices offers recommendations for congressional candidates, child advocates, and voters.
- Congressional candidates can establish child-policy committees within their campaign, and they can ask child policy experts and advocates to provide them with information on child programs both nationally and in their district and state. Candidates can also schedule meetings, listening sessions, and forums on children's issues. They can conduct visits to organizations that work with children or on children's issues. The guide encourages candidates to issue policy statements specifically covering children's issues and include them in public speeches and events. Candidates can enlist volunteers to work on behalf of children's issues, and they can also make a point of raising children's issues when speaking to the media.
- Child advocates can develop an overarching message across their different work groups on the importance of children's policy issues. They can disseminate information to candidates and the media; they can schedule meetings with candidates and their staff. Advocates can attend candidate events and raise questions about children's policy. They can also organize a candidate debate on child policy issues or work to include these issues in existing debates. Child advocates can also highlight candidate positions on certain child issues.
- Voters can learn about how child-policy issues will impact their own community and state and what positions candidates take on issues relating to child policy. Voters can contact candidates and inform them of their own views on children's issues as well as make their views known through letters to the editor, candidate forums, or other political events. Voters are also encouraged find out what candidates say and do on child policy issues and track the winning candidates' actions around child policy.
Child care costs and the quality of child care programs are important issues across the U.S. A recent study examines potential correlations between economic variables like child care costs and the usage of quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) in 14 states in the southern U.S. The southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia) are examined for their higher rates of young children in poverty. Of these 14 states only 6 (Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee) have some form of QRIS.
In order to determine the correlation between quality care, cost, and other economic variables, researchers looked at states with and without QRIS in relation to the following variables: 1) higher average annual fees for infants or for 4-year-olds in full-time family care; 2) higher average annual fees for infants or for 4-year-olds in full-time center-based care; 3) higher median annual income of married-couple families and families headed by single females; 4) higher annual mean wage for child care workers; 5) higher annual mean wages for all occupations. The results of the study found no statistically significant correlation between states with or without QRIS and each of these five economic variables.
The author of the study's report interprets these results as an indication that higher-quality care may not cost more or be associated with higher incomes or wages. However, the report also stresses the need for further research on the correlation between quality child care, its cost, and other economic variables. The report suggests further investigation of these issues through a hybrid quantitative and qualitative study that uses a larger sample size, quality ratings of child care programs, and the incomes of families in those child care programs. Investigation of the relationships between the cost of care, the quality, and parent perceptions of costs and quality is also recommended.
The Ounce of Prevention conducted an analysis of state RTT-ELC applications, looking at states that addressed the issue of how the effects from quality early childhood programs would be sustained into the early elementary grades. While RTT-ELC applicants were not required to address this and it did not contribute to the scoring of the applications, it was an invitational priority and of interest to the department. States that received RTT-ELC grants could put money toward coordinating and aligning with early elementary grades.
Of the 37 states that submitted RTT-ELC applications, 18 addressed linkages and coordination with early elementary grades. The most common answer among the 18 as to how they would address this issue was enhancing standards for kindergarten through 3rd grade by aligning them with domains of development that states often use for their early learning guidelines. Other trends in states' responses include: enhancing and expanding assessments to cover all domains of development from kindergarten to 3rd grade; increasing the capacity of K-12 school leaders and teachers to support high-quality in early elementary grades and coordination of professional development opportunities for early elementary teachers; focusing on the transition from preschool to kindergarten; using place-based or regional strategies for developing plans on promoting continuity and alignment between early childhood programs and early elementary grades; focusing specifically on maintaining the gains in math and reading; and implementing comprehensive family engagement plans and aligning family engagement and health services from birth or preschool through early elementary grades.
In addition to this analysis, The Ounce provides a set of recommendations for where states could expand on efforts to link with early elementary grades. Their recommendations include:
- Improving instructional practices in grades K-3, not only aligning these practices.
- Integrating the skills of social-emotional development, self-regulation, and executive functions into early elementary classrooms, and designing teacher training and credentialing programs that incorporate these skills as well as using evaluation and support systems that support more comprehensive learning standards.
- Looking at how impacts can be sustained within the context of common core standards.
- Extending supports for high-needs populations, like dual language learners and special needs children, as they transition from early childhood programs into early elementary grades.
- Having states consider if, and what types of, governance reorganization need to take place to support alignment of early childhood and early elementary education.