Early Childhood Education Update - March 2013

March 12, 2013 | Child Care and Early Education

 In this issue:


Since 2007, CLASP has conducted a yearly analysis of the Program Information Report (PIR) from the Office of Head Start. All Head Start programs (including Head Start preschool programs, Early Head Start, and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start) are required to complete the PIR on an annual basis. The PIR collects data on all children and pregnant women who participate in Head Start at any point during the program year, including those who do not complete the year.

CLASP's most recent analysis of 2011 PIR data show that:

  • Although in 2011 the number of Head Start preschool grantees decreased by 15 nationally, there was an increase of grantees for both Early Head Start (EHS) and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) (21 and 1, respectively).
  • In 2011, Head Start programs increased their total funded capacity by 5,643 participants. This is due to an increase in EHS and MSHS slots and a small decrease in preschool Head Start capacity.
  • Total actual enrollment of participants increased by 224,190 in 2011. While 31,551 additional children and pregnant women enrolled in Early Head Start, there were small decreases in Head Start preschool and MSHS enrollment.
  • In 2011, 79% of all Head Start, Early Head Start and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start Families accessed at least one family service through Head Start. This is up 3 percent from 2010. Fifty-two percent of families received health education. This is up from 49 percent in 2010.
  • In 2011, 63 percent of families using Head Start included at least one employed parent. This is down slightly from 65 percent in 2010.

Visit the CLASP DataFinder to find the latest available Head Start and Early Head Start calculations for your state >>

View the Head Start preschool and Early Head Start 2011 Fact Sheets >>


President Obama's State of the Union address on February 12, 2013, signaled that an early childhood education initiative, and a universal preschool program in particular, would be important components of his second term agenda. The President's initiative focuses on:

  • building on Early Head Start and Head Start, as well as leveraging the significant investments states have already made in preschool initiatives, to offer children in families below 200 percent of poverty access to preschool. The initiative specifically includes an emphasis on class size, teacher preparation, curriculum, comprehensive services, and evaluation.
  • strengthening coordination and partnerships between Early Head Start and child care programs to provide more infants and toddlers from low-income working families with much-needed, high-quality, full-time child care and comprehensive services.
  • incorporating preventive services for families with infants and toddlers, most notably extending access to evidence-based home visiting programs, which have been shown to have a positive impact on children's development and family well-being.

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) outlined what the President's early learning initiative means for ACF programs. ACF states that as part of the initiative:

  • Head Start will not be block granted.
  • The federal administering body for Head Start will remain the Early Childhood Office at ACF within the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The Administration will remain committed to providing comprehensive early childhood learning programs.
  • The lowest income and most vulnerable children will continue to be targeted.
  • The Administration remains strongly committed to encouraging parent engagement.

A new brief from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) addresses the facts and misconceptions surrounding the President's preschool proposal. In the piece, Getting the Facts Right on Pre-K and the President's Pre-K Proposal, NIEER reviews four common questions surrounding the current preschool debate:

  • Does high-quality pre-kindergarten have lasting benefits?
  • What is the evidence for the seven dollars to one dollar return on investment in pre-kindergarten?
  • Do non-disadvantaged children benefit from pre-kindergarten, and is a targeted or a universal approach to pre-kindergarten more effective?
  • Are large-scale public programs, including Head Start, effective?

The NIEER brief assesses research behind each of these questions. Using the most recent and comprehensive meta-analysis of 123 studies on preschool, they find that the positive effects of preschool did decline slightly throughout grade school, but these effects did not disappear and remained substantial through school years. When programs are properly designed, the benefits are shown to be significant and long-term. Looking at return on investment for preschool, the brief refers to (or cites)  multiple studies that project a range of returns, with the 7:1 estimate most in line with a Chicago Longitudinal Study of the Chicago Child Parent Centers (CPCs), which were similar in design and cost to current state preschool programs.

NIEER cites research showing that preschool has larger benefits for disadvantaged children, but that preschool programs still have benefits for other children. Research shows that disadvantaged children benefit from attending programs with more advantaged children. The brief also cites research showing positive spillover effects to learning in kindergarten through third grade when children have more classmates that have attended preschool.

Lastly, the brief addresses whether large-scale public programs are effective. While large-scale programs tend to have smaller effects, NIEER points out that these programs are often less intensive and less well funded. High-quality larger-scale public programs have produced substantial long-term gains. Additionally, NIEER points out that programs like Head Start have never been funded to produce the gains that intensive, small scale programs have, and that Head Start also offers services that are not offered in small scale programs. The brief points out that the Head Start Impact Study "very likely underestimates the effects of participation in Head Start" because children did not always comply with their random assignment, children in the control group frequently attended other early education programs that had positive impacts, and it's likely that compensatory efforts in public schools contributed to Head Start's waning effect in early elementary grades.

To learn more about the President's proposal, read CLASP's analysis, information on what the initiative means for ACF programs, and the research underpinning the benefits of preschool read NIEER's Getting the Facts Right on Pre-K and the Presidents Pre-K Proposal.


The Equity and Excellence Commission is a federal advisory committee chartered by Congress to provided advice to the U.S. Department of Education on the disparities in meaning educational opportunities that lead to the achievement gap.  The Commission recently released the report, For Each and Every Child: A Strategy for Education Equity and Excellence. The report calls for strengthening the federal government's role in partnerships with states, districts, and schools to improve the education system. The report makes five overarching recommendations:

  • 1. improve school finance and efficiency;
  • 2. attract and train quality teachers and school leaders;
  • 3. ensure access to high-quality early education for all children, particularly for those from low-income families;
  • 4. provide critical support services and parent engagement opportunities; and,
  • 5. make changes to the accountability and governance mechanisms within the education system.

The Commission's recommendation on  high-quality early childhood education include funding a new initiative to make significant investments, with the assistance of state match programs, to ensure that in 10 years all low-income children have access to high-quality early education. Additionally, the Commission recommends that government programs, like Head Start, are grounded in research on effective early education practices and that all early childhood funding streams are aligned and coordinated with one another. In order to better align early education with K-12, the report also recommends requiring the Department of Education to administer Head Start.

Read more about The Equity and Excellence Commission's recommendations for utilizing early childhood education to help create an equitable K-12 system >>


The Pew Home Visiting Campaign recently released a brief synthesizing the findings of 12 home visiting studies. These studies look across a range of home visiting models and community programs to assess the impact home visiting programs are having on gains in education, health, and long-term outcomes. The brief's key findings show that:

  • Being an evidenced-based program includes more than selecting a proven model; it takes continual data monitoring, analysis, feedback, experimentation, and testing to improve quality and maximize outcomes for children and families.
  • Programs need to maintain a strong focus on relevant content areas, such as parenting skills and children's cognitive development, to work towards positive outcomes for child and families.
  • For the first time, the Home Visiting Program Quality Rating Tool offers opportunities to assess and compare service quality across home visiting models.
  • Home visiting can significantly improve first-graders' school readiness and reduce the rate of children having to repeat first grade.
  • Families' participation in home visiting programs can lead to short-term positive returns on investment by integrating families into the appropriate level of services.
  • Home visiting programs can benefit at-risk mothers who already have children as much as the programs benefit first-time mothers.

Read the full brief and access all 12 studies from the Pew Home Visiting Campaign.


The National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) released a new set of fact sheets on low-income children to reflect data from 2011. The fact sheets offer data on:

  • the number of low-income children;
  • children's race and ethnicity;
  • family and parent education, employment and geographic characteristics; and,
  • information on low-income children and families' access to health insurance.

NCCP provides specific fact sheets for children 0 through 18 years old, children under 3 years, children under 6 years, children 6 through 11 years, and children 12 through 17 years.

To preview these fact sheets: In 2011, 24 million children under 6 years old lived in low-income families, and over 11 million infants and toddlers under 3 years lived in low-income families. These numbers have increased 12 and 7 percent, respectively, since 2006.      

Access the complete set of profiles >>


The report, National Status of Child Care Health Consultation 2012, offers an updated look at Child Care Health Consultants (CCHCs) around the U.S. The National Training Institute of Child Care Health Consultants (NTI), which is active in preparing Child Care Health Consultant Trainers, sent a questionnaire to each of the 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. CCHCs work in child care settings to help enhance the health and safety of young children being cared for in these settings.  

The results of the questionnaire found that child care heath consultants have an active presence nation-wide. CCHCs are most commonly offered networking, continuing education, and job training resources. Twenty-seven of the states that have CCHCs also have quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS), however only 6 of these states include child care health consultation as part of the QRIS rating system. Funding is a major challenge to the success and sustainability of programs for over two-thirds of the states with CCHCs. The challenges of funding also have an impact on areas such as inadequate staffing and staff preparedness, a lack of supportive resources and policies, and difficulties around utilization of services by child care facilities.

In order to confront these challenges, NTI makes the following recommendations.

  • Incorporate, or at least utilize, CCHCs in assessing a facility's QRIS rating scores. This would help increase demand for child care health consultation services, and encourage the development of the supports necessary to build and sustain these services.
  • Improve collaboration among child care health and safety stakeholders to minimize overlap and benefit from collective efforts.
  • Develop advocates at all levels to promote the benefits and utilization of child care health consultation services.
  • Increase information sharing about child care health consultation programs.
  • Devote funding to child care health consultation. For example, include a percentage of the quality set-aside dollars from the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to support child care health consultation.
  • Develop a federal mandate to include child care health consultation in Title V Performance Measures, which would help increase the sustainability of these programs and lead to the development of a public health model supporting child care health consultation.
  • Provide training and technical assistance to child care health consultation programs.

Read the full brief on CCHCs in the U.S. >>


The Division of Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children, the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and National Head Start Association (NHSA) jointly released a paper defining early childhood response to intervention frameworks. RTI frameworks "are a means of implementing a hierarchy of support that is differentiated through a data-based decision-making process."  They have traditionally been used as a K-12 initiative, and only recently has the RTI framework been introduced into early childhood. The paper lays out 1) how to approach RTI within the unique context of early childhood education, 2) definitions and features of RTI in early childhood, 3) misconceptions around RTI and its use in early childhood, and 4) future opportunities for the use of RTI in early childhood.

Many states and programs are starting to apply RTI in early childhood programs because its core principles align with recommended practices in early childhood. For example, both RTI frameworks and high-quality early childhood program principles address specifying multi-tiered systems of supports, early provision of support and intentional teaching/caregiving, using data to inform teaching and caregiving, and maximizing the use of research-based practices. The bottom tier of the RTI framework encompasses the core or universal outcomes and teaching/caregiving strategies that apply to all young children. The following tiers reflect greater specialized and individualized instruction.  In the RTI framework, children move between and within tiers, receiving less or more frequent instruction. Children may also be in different tiers for different areas of instruction/care. For example, a child might be at a higher tier in language but at the base tier for social-emotional development. The RTI framework includes the use of a high-quality curriculum that features ongoing assistance and continuous monitoring of progress.

RTI models are not meant to replace comprehensive evaluations for disabilities or delays, but are rather a way of addressing the needs of each child in a developmentally appropriate way. Fully utilizing RTI in early childhood settings requires overcoming the challenges of limited research on the impact that RTI tiered systems and outcomes have on young children, particularly infant and toddlers. There is the need for additional and adequate assessment instruments designed for use within RIT frameworks. Also, greater professional development is needed on how to implement RTI and collect and interpret data. However, RTI frameworks offer the opportunity to integrate programs and supports for young children and their families and address the developmental needs of each child appropriately.  

Read the complete paper, Frameworks for Response to Intervention in Early Childhood >>

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