Early Childhood Education Update - July 2013
July 10, 2013 | Child Care and Early Education
In this issue:
- Policy Brief Assesses Need to Strengthen Safety Net Programs
- Early Head Start (EHS) Participants Experience Multiple Program Benefits
- Guidance on Developing a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Validation Plan
- Council on Foreign Relations Recommends Improvements for U.S. Early Education
- New York City Comptroller Recommends Immediate Increase in Early Childhood Program Funding
- New Research Briefs Explore Applying Implementation Science to Early Childhood
- Survey Seeks Information on Local Early Childhood Initiatives
The Foundation for Child Development (FCD) and First Focus recently published a policy brief, A Stronger Safety Net For America's Children, which provides an overview of the opportunities and challenges currently facing public safety net and work support programs. The brief focuses on 11 such programs: Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), Child and Dependent Tax Credit (CDTC), Child Tax Credit (CTC), Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and Medicaid.
The brief explores the key features of these programs, the collective significance of them and the positive impact they have on children's health and development. Additionally, the brief looks at the limitations of the programs, some of the state-level efforts to improve program delivery, and concludes with recommendations for federal policymakers around program delivery and improvement. Recommendations to consider include:
- Maintain support for public safety net and work support programs, which, at the bare minimum should include maintaining funding at the current level.
- Take steps toward reducing the need for safety and work support programs, which includes raising the minimum wage to help reduce the gap between many jobs' low wages and the high cost of basic living expenses. In addition, increasing the number of "good" jobs, which offer benefits like health insurance and retirement savings, can also help reduce the need to utilize safety net and work support programs.
- Improve the effectiveness of safety net and work support programs by targeting aid to children and families most in need, working to ensure the neediest families can access these programs wherever they live, and keeping track of the impacts these programs are having on children and families.
- Encourage state-level reforms. Many states are currently experimenting with how to improve policies, procedures, and administration of safety net and work support programs. The federal government should work to encourage and enable states to continue implementing positive reforms.
This past winter, The Society for Research in Child Development published the study: What Makes a Difference: Early Head Start Evaluation Findings in Developmental Context. The study looked at the impact of EHS at ages 2 and 3, when EHS services were delivered, and at age 5, two years after leaving EHS. The study followed 3,001 low-income families with a pregnant woman or infant under 12 months who were randomly assigned to a treatment or control group; 91 percent of the treatment group received some type of service through EHS.
The study found that at ages 2 and 3 EHS had a positive impact on children and families across all domains observed, including: cognition, language, attention, behavior programs, and health for children; and, parenting, mental health, and employment for mothers. At age 5 all children in EHS had better attention, approaches to learning, and fewer behavior problems. For African American children, cognitive impacts from the program were sustained at age 5, and language impacts for Hispanic children who spoke Spanish were also sustained. The study also found that at age 5 children and families who participated in EHS followed by a formal preschool program had the most positive outcomes overall. However, both EHS and formal preschool were associated with different positive outcomes. Participation in EHS was associated with benefits in language, behavior, and parenting; preschool participation was associated with early school achievement.
The vast majority of states have invested in Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) for early care and education. With this investment, states are seeking evidence demonstrating that QRIS are making progress toward desired goals. The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published a tool to provide QRIS administrators with resources and technical assistance on developing a QRIS validation plan. Key Elements of a QRIS Validation Plan: Guidance and Planning Template offers a practical tool to help states and evaluators with their QRIS validation efforts. The tool outlines four approaches to validating QRIS, and walks the user through the key elements of a validation plan.
Comprehensive QRIS validation plans describe both the context and technical details related to the QRIS. The tool explores seven elements that can help to achieve these goals. The elements include:
- QRIS status and context
- Engaging QRIS stakeholders in the planning process
- QRIS data infrastructure
- Planning specific research questions and validation approach
- Selecting data collection and analytic strategies for each research question
- Presentation of findings to stakeholders
- Qualifications of the evaluator
For each element the tool provides a rationale along with key questions that should be addressed in a state's validation plan.
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) recently released a report detailing U.S. federal education policy as part of the organization's Renewing America initiative. The report assesses education investments and outcomes in early education, the K-12 education system, and postsecondary education. The growing achievement gap between socioeconomic groups is a particular focus of the report.
CFR looks at early education through the lens of the "Pre-K" system. The enrollment of 4-year-olds in preschool has increased over the years, but internationally the U.S. is not keeping pace with peer countries such as the U.K., France, Germany, and Japan that enroll nearly all 4-year-olds in preschool. The report emphasizes the importance of providing access to high-quality early education experiences. In addition, it assesses federal investments in early education through Head Start, child care subsidies for low-income families, and child care tax credits. Ultimately, CFR recommends that federal and state governments make universal preschool their goal, and as an important step toward that goal encourages federal and state governments to focus on ensuring low-income children and families have access to the best quality child care and early education options.
The New York City Comptroller's Office released a report detailing the need for increased investment in the city's early care and education programs. Even though the city currently enrolls 176,153 children in publicly funded early care and education programs, there is a large unmet need for child care and early education programs.
In the report the Comptroller's Office calculated that $6.1 billion is needed to provide universal, comprehensive, high-quality early care and education for all of New York City's children. Current investments from city, state, and federal sources total $1.5 billion. However, the Office found an additional $1.5 billion in new investment that it recommends the city begin immediately phasing in to expand the city's early care and education programs. In particular, the Comptroller's Office recommends funds go towards: 1) Fully funding the city's Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program for 4-year-olds; 2) Creating universal preschool for 3-year-olds (UP3); 3) Expanding the city's Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program to all low-income, first-time mothers. Additionally, the report recommends that the city create an Office of Early Childhood Development and Learning to improve coordination and better align the city's resources and efforts.
Three new briefs released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) focus on using implementation science in early care and education research and evaluation. Implementation science studies how a practice or program that is evidence-based gets translated to different contexts once it's applied in the field. Up until recently the early childhood field lacked common language and a framework for examining critical implementation supports for successful initiatives. OPRE's research brief series is intended to provide early childhood researchers, program developers, and funders with an introduction to implementation frameworks and promising practices in the field of implementation science. The goal is to use this information in early care and education research and program evaluation.
These three new briefs focus on intervention dosage, measuring implementation at multiple system levels, and measuring the quality and quantity of implementation in early childhood interventions.
- Intervention Dosage in Early Childhood Care and Education: It's Complicated looks at dosage and its relationships to early care and early childhood intervention implementation. The dosage, or the amount of intervention delivered, needed to achieve outcomes is important to understand when replicating and scaling up initiatives. This brief provides researchers and practitioners with a framework for better understanding and communicating this idea within the field.
- Measuring Implementation of Early Childhood Interventions at Multiple System Levels looks at the importance of assessing implementation at multiple levels and suggests tools for facilitating multilevel assessments of implementation. Early childhood interventions commonly involve multi-level service delivery, at federal, state, community, classroom, and home levels. To ensure proper implementation across these levels, implementation strategies must be aligned and coordinated.
- Measuring The Quality and Quantity of Implementation in Early Childhood Interventions defines quantity and quality of implementation and embeds these terms in conceptual frameworks and theory about how variation in implementation is linked with program outcomes. In addition, the brief provides examples of how these ideas are examined and discusses the benefits of measuring the quantity and quality of implementation.
The Center for Study of Social Policy (CSSP) is beginning a new initiative - The Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC) - with several innovative community efforts. As part of this effort CSSP is looking to learn more about local city, county or neighborhood initiatives to develop a comprehensive early childhood system (prenatal through age eight, with particular emphasis on the earliest years). CSSP has developed an online survey to gather information from local programs.