Early Childhood Education Update-June 2014
June 03, 2014 | Child Care and Early Education
In This Issue:
- CLASP Presents at Smart Start Conference
- Work Support Strategies Policy Brief Guides States towards Policies That Simplify Child Care Assistance Programs
- CLASP Policy Brief Details the Importance of Increasing Access to Paid Leave for Low-Wage Workers
- Report Investigates the Role Quality Plays in Head Start’s Impact on Child Development
- National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) Releases their State of Preschool 2013 Yearbook
- Fifteen Years after New Jersey’s Landmark Supreme Court Ruling, the Education Law Center Releases New Progress Report
- Policy Brief from the Future of Children Describes the Negative Effects of Toxic Stress on Children
Last month, CLASP’s Child Care and Early Education Team, along with Executive Director Olivia Golden, presented at the National Smart Start Conference in Greensboro, NC. The presentations covered many important, innovative, and urgent topics across the field of child care and early education, including:
- Income Inequality and the Role of Two-Generation Strategies. This presentation proposed new solutions for moving families beyond poverty, including a look at how two-generation strategies can create opportunity.
- Better for Babies: Improving State Early Care and Education Policies. CLASP shared strategies for improving the early care and education experiences of infants and toddlers through state child care policies and investments.
- Engaging Families in Children's Learning from Birth through School Age. Parents are a child’s first and most important teachers. This presentation summarized related research, outlined family engagement, and highlighted emerging directions in policy and practice.
- More than Assessments: Supporting Developmental Screening in ECE Settings. In high-quality early childhood settings, caregivers play an important role in connecting families to health care coverage and services, conducting screenings, and communicating with parents about the health and developmental needs of their children. This presentation discussed state policy strategies to finance comprehensive services and integrate them into programs.
- Navigating the Maze: Simplifying & Aligning Child Care with Other Work Supports. While conversations on program alignment commonly focus on aligning core programs like Head Start, child care, and pre-kindergarten, a parallel alignment effort is occurring across work support programs including child care, SNAP and Medicaid. This presentation highlighted how states are redesigning service delivery to allow families to access and retain benefits for which they are eligible, with minimal burden.
The Work Support Strategies (WSS) initiative is a multistate initiative led by CLASP in partnership with the Urban Institute (UI) and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). As part of the WSS initiative, CLASP and UI have released a new policy brief that addresses the challenges faced by low-income families struggling to access and maintain child care and other work support benefits, as well as the burdensome processes agencies face administering these programs.
Across the country, state policymakers are working to simplify access to child care assistance programs while aligning eligibility with other benefit programs, such as nutrition assistance and public health insurance. The brief presents a new vision of child care assistance that includes simplifying and aligning child care with other work support benefits.
While detailing steps states can take to begin the process of simplification and alignment, the brief also presents examples from states that have already implemented some of these strategies. This information will allow states to identify policies and procedures that will help clients access and retain work support benefits, while also improving the delivery of services and reducing the burdens of administering these programs. Although implementing these strategies will be a difficult task, WSS research will assist states in making these systemic changes and ultimately improve the well-being and economic success of low-income families.
In a new policy brief, CLASP describes how lack of access to paid leave is further widening the gap between higher- and lower-wage workers. With no federal minimum standard for private sector employees to earn paid leave, workers may not receive these protections unless an employer provides paid leave voluntarily. Employers tend to offer paid leave to their higher-wage workers and some offer disparate levels of benefits to higher-wage and lower-wage workers— even when they are employed at the same company. Lack of paid leave can make even high paying jobs unstable, but is especially detrimental to the economic stability of low-income individuals and families.
The brief stresses the need for policymakers to confront inequities in paid leave with a comprehensive policy response. While paid leave legislation has passed at the local and state levels, legislation at the national level would expand these protections to all workers. According to a national survey of Americans from across the ideological spectrum, a strong majority of the public supports increasing access to paid leave for all workers. Policies such as universal access to paid leave promote economic equality and mobility and are a key aspect of compensation that cannot be overlooked.
A new report from the Office of Planning, Research, & Evaluation at the Administration of Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services discusses how variation in Head Start program quality affects a child’s development. The report examines how high-quality preschool experiences impact children compared to low-quality preschool experiences. Past literature suggests that access to more enriching resources, positive teacher-child interactions, and exposure to more academic activities will lead to better outcomes for children.
Using measures informed by early childhood development experts, researchers analyzed Head Start Impact Study evaluation data and found little evidence that quality of a Head Start center leads to better outcomes or impacts that last through third grade. The authors noted that the measures originally used in HSIS may be outdated and that improvements in quality measurement could determine the need for an alternate way to measure quality. This could have implications for future research on the topic.
The newest edition of NIEER’s annual profile of state-funded pre-kindergarten programs presents data from the 2012-2013 school year. The yearbook, which serves as a resource for policymakers and educators, highlights trends in enrollment across the United States for state-funded programs, including information on preschool access and quality standards.
The annual yearbook is important to tracking long-term trends in the field of early childhood education across the country. Important items to note in this year’s edition are:
- State funding for pre-kindergarten increased by $30.6 million over the previous year; however, this increase did not reverse the sequestration cuts from the previous school year.
- In spite of increased appropriations, there was a nationwide decrease in children enrolled across 40 states and the District of Columbia.
- For the first time, all state-funded programs now have comprehensive early learning standards. However, 41 percent of enrolled children across the country attended programs meeting less than five of the quality standards benchmarks.
The Education Law Center’s (ELC) new report, The Abbott Preschool Program: A 15-Year Progress Report, discusses the successes and challenges of implementing a 1998 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that mandated full-day preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-olds living in 31 of the state’s poorest school districts. The program was successful in creating a high-quality preschool system, which now serves as a national model for pre-kindergarten expansion. The report also highlights the challenges districts face and offers potential solutions.
The report indicates that school districts are not enrolling more children in spite of the growing number of who are eligible. While some districts must increase their capacity in order to enroll more children, others need to target efforts towards matching eligible children with unfilled open seats. The report suggests that districts are not focused on enrolling three-year-olds—a missed opportunity to add more children to the rosters for two years, instead of only one.
Legislation passed in 2008 called for an expansion of Abbott preschool to accommodate all low-income children in the state within five years, but this has not been realized. ELC provided a list of recommendations for correcting these issues; if implemented, they would significantly increase the number of three- and four-year-old children who have access to high-quality preschool in the state of New Jersey:
- Districts should increase outreach to families in order to promote the benefits of preschool while also increasing enrollment. The report emphasizes the need to enroll more three-year-olds in the program, as research has shown that two years of preschool is better than one.
- Districts need more support from the state in the form of additional funding and more permanent facilities to accommodate the additional seats some areas need.
- State policymakers should provide additional funding and other provisions to help implement high-quality preschool for all low-income children throughout New Jersey.
A recent companion brief to Helping Parents, Helping Children: Two-Generation Mechanisms highlights how poverty, abuse and neglect, homelessness, and other conditions make children vulnerable to damage caused by toxic stress. The researchers provide evidence on how chronic stress can alter young children’s brains and biological systems, such as the immune response systems, and the negative impacts of these changes on a child’s physical and mental health and well-being. In order to combat the effects of chronic stress, policymakers can support evidence-based programs, including high-quality home visiting, child care, preschool, and health care programs, which provide families with support and guidance during difficult times and can improve outcomes for children and families.