Early Childhood Education Update - May 2010

May 05, 2010 | Teresa Lim

In this issue:


As they develop from birth to age 3, young children rely on the adults who care for them to keep them clean, dry, fed, and safe from harm. All babies and toddlers in child care need healthy and safe environments in which to explore and learn. Babies and toddlers have immature immune systems and engage in behaviors that make them particularly vulnerable to illness. Moreover, although overall fatality rates are low for children in child care, babies may be more likely to experience fatalities than older children. To prevent injuries, babies and toddlers need physical environments in center- and home-based child care settings that are specifically prepared for their care and safety. Provider and caregiver training focused on the health and safety needs of young children can also be effective in promoting healthy infant/toddler growth and development.

CLASP has released new resources related to promoting health and safety in child care settings serving infants and toddlers. The resources are part of the Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care project, CLASP's ongoing initiative to promote the healthy growth and development of infants and toddlers in child care settings. Information provided in the resources include:

  • Information on "making the case,"
  • Research bibliography and online resources,
  • Policy ideas for states, and
  • State examples.


On April 19, CLASP held a webinar, Extending Home Visiting to Family, Friend, and Neighbor Caregivers and Family Child Care Providers, which presented findings from CLASP's interview project with national home visiting models and other stakeholders. Information provided in the webinar included detailed considerations for implementing home visiting with family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) caregivers and family child care (FCC) providers, such as matters of curricula, staffing, and service referral. The webinar also reviewed opportunities that result from serving FFN and FCC, concluding with recommendations for states. The webinar was made possible by generous support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.


States are using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds in a variety of ways to support low-income families and child care providers in the economic downturn and to improve the quality of care for young children, including infants and toddlers. The National Women's Law Center released a new report, Supporting State Child Care Efforts with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Funds, which illustrates some of the approaches that states are taking to utilize these funds. Among them, states are using ARRA funds to:

  • Reduce or maintain child care waiting lists;
  • Provide child care assistance to parents seeking work;
  • Reduce copayments for families receiving child care assistance;
  • Maintain or increase reimbursement rates for child care providers;
  • Offer provider training, education, or other professional development opportunities;
  • Create grants for equipment, supplies, or other materials for child care programs; and
  • Provide comprehensive services, such as health care, screenings and assessments, and supports for children with special needs.

According to the report, at least nine states have made cuts to their child care assistance programs that have reduced families' access to assistance and/or their benefits level. Without ARRA funds, the impact of these cuts would likely have been worse. Given that the ARRA funds are set to expire by the end of 2010, the report calls for further federal and state investments to ensure that the progress made through ARRA investments are sustained and that states can continue to move forward in improving access to high-quality child care and early education for low-income families. 


The Improving the Odds for Young Children project at the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) recently updated its set of national and state early childhood profiles. The profiles examine policy actions in three areas affecting the well-being of young children: health and nutrition; early care and education; and parenting and economic supports. Included in the profiles are examples of state uses of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The national profile provides an overall review of the landscape in early childhood policy, while the state profiles present information on services and supports for young children and their families available in each state. Among some of the national profile's findings:

  • Health and nutrition: In 2008, about 10 percent of young children did not have health insurance. Over 60 percent of low-income, young children with a medical home relied on public health insurance.
  • Early care and education: In 2009, 17 states set the income eligibility limit for child care assistance at or above 200 percent the federal poverty level. In addition, 22 states used state or federal funds to support infant/toddler specialist networks. In 2008, nearly all states (forty-seven states) had a state pre-kindergarten program and/or supplemented Head Start.
  • Parenting and economic supports: Nearly half (47 percent) of low-income children had a full-time employed parent in 2008. Among tax credits available for working families, 18 states offer a refundable state dependent care tax credit. Additionally, 16 states maintain co-payments for child care assistance at or below 10 percent of household income for most families.


The Education Law Center has released two policy briefs related to improving access to pre-kindergarten for all children. These briefs are:

  • Including Children with Disabilities in State Pre-K Programs - This brief summarizes major components of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and clarifies what the legislation says about the role of states and school districts in serving preschool-age children with disabilities. The brief explains key terms and language in the law, particularly those on teaching children in the least restrictive environment and the inclusion of children under age three. To help states meet the provisions of the IDEA, the brief offers a set of policy recommendations for making certain that children with disabilities receive an appropriate education in an inclusive environment. These recommendations address a wide range of issues, such as developing specific policies of inclusivity; providing appropriate teacher training and support; and ensuring coordination and partnerships between state and local education agencies. Included with the recommendations are state examples of actions that promote access to pre-kindergarten for children with disabilities.
  • Access to Pre-K Education under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act - This brief summarizes the intent of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Act and discusses how states can increase the number of homeless children participating in pre-kindergarten programs. The brief identifies two major limitations of the legislation in providing access to pre-kindergarten for homeless children. These limitations are an inadequate availability of public pre-kindergarten programs and limited governance over agencies other than state and local education agencies that operate state pre-kindergarten programs. Among other barriers, the brief observes that transportation and school record requirements, such as those for immunization, are obstacles for homeless children in attending pre-kindergarten. The brief offers four overall recommendations for overcoming these limitations and barriers. These recommendations are:
    • Expand state funding of pre-kindergarten programs,
    • Prioritize enrollment of homeless children,
    • Require all state-funded programs to meet the needs of homeless children, and
    • Eliminate other barriers to enrollments. 


Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute have released a joint report, Federal Expenditures on Pre-kindergartners and Kindergarteners in 2008. The report analyzes federal spending on programs serving children age three through age five, using data from over 100 federal programs. Among the report's overall findings on federal spending:

  • Programs for pre-kindergarten/kindergarten-age children: Six programs make up about two-thirds of federal spending on pre-kindergarten/kindergarten-age children: Head Start, Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and the dependent care exemption.
  • Federal and state expenditures: Federal and state governments contribute roughly the same share of public funds on children in this age group. The federal government contributes 47 percent of public funds, primarily in the form of tax, income security, and nutrition assistance programs, while states contribute just over a half of public funds, primarily in education programs.
  • Child care and early education spending: Child care and early education programs targeting children ages three to five account for 23 percent of federal spending for this age group. Head Start is the largest program that invests in children in this age group, accounting for 10 percent of all federal spending for this age group.
  • Future expenditure projections: Short-term estimates indicate that federal spending on pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children will increase as a percent of GDP in 2009 and 2010 due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. However, after 2010, spending is expected to go down again as a percent of GDP.

In addition, the report reviews the research literature on the growth and development of children ages three to five and highlights the positive impacts that high-quality early care and education programs can have on young children, particularly children from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Healthy Child Care America, a program of the American Academy of Pediatrics, released a new summary report, Developmental Screenings in Early Childhood Systems. The summary report compiles key information from a summit held last March that included participants from various fields, including academic, government, and health professions. The summit reviewed the objectives and components necessary for effective developmental screenings and discussed state successes and challenges in implementing screenings. Rhode Island, North Carolina, and New Mexico shared their experiences on implementing developmental screening initiatives in their states. The report presents profiles of the three state initiatives and highlights other national initiatives and current trends in developmental screening. Steps for states to move forward on building early childhood screening systems are outlined in the report based on the summit discussions. These steps include ensuring that there are:

  • Multi-disciplinary partnerships,
  • Adequate resources for early intervention,
  • Reliable and valid screening tools,
  • Optimal screening times and locations,
  • Professional development and training opportunities,
  • Streamlined resource and referral processes, and
  • Appropriate payments for surveillance, screening, and evaluation.


Two new resources examine the developmental growth and well-being of Latino children in the U.S. These resources are:

NCLR Data Book and Online Database on Latino Child Well-Being: In the past two decades, the number of Latino children in the U.S. has doubled, currently representing one of the fastest growing population groups. The vast majority (92 percent) of the present 16 million Latino children and youth are U.S. citizens. The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), in partnership with the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), has recently published a data book, America's Future: Latino Child Well-Being in Numbers and Trends, and an accompanying downloadable database. The data book and database provide comprehensive information on the conditions of Latino children in the areas of population trends/geographic distribution; nativity status/citizenship; family structure and income; health; education and language; and juvenile justice. The data book also analyzes national and state trends over the past decade, comparing the state of Latino children to White, non-Hispanic and Black children. Regional differences in trends are also examined.

Social Competence and Mathematical Understanding Among Latino Kindergarteners: The journal, Developmental Psychology, has published a special section in its latest issue focused on the growth and development of Latino children within family and cultural contexts. One of the articles in the section, "The Social Competence of Latino Kindergarteners and Growth in Mathematical Understanding," presents findings from a study on the social skills of Latino children entering kindergarten and the correlation between these skills and math comprehension. In the study, five measures of social competency were analyzed: approaches to learning, self-control, interpersonal skills, internalizing problem behaviors, and externalizing problem behaviors. The authors compared the social competency and math attainment of Latino children to White and other minority children, as well as within Latino subgroups (based on region of origin), using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. Overall, the authors found that most Latino children entered kindergarten with no major difference in social competency compared to White children, regardless of income status. Disparities in social competency were generally modest and mostly evident among the poorest Latino families and specific Latino subgroups. Middle-class, Latino children showed a comparable level of social competency to White, middle-class children.

The authors also found that Latino children who entered kindergarten with stronger social skills made greater gains in mathematical understanding over the school year. This correlation was statistically significant across all six measures of social competency, with approaches to learning the most predictive competency of gains in mathematical understanding. The authors observe that although Latino children enter kindergarten with strong social competence, approaches to learning may vary between the home and the classroom. For instance, home activities are less likely to be formally structured than lessons taught in the classroom, thus affecting children's responses to the different teaching approach. In addition, some social skills or behaviors may be encouraged and valued at home but go unrecognized at school. Overall, the authors note that further study is needed to understand the diverse cultural and family backgrounds that affect the development of young Latino children and the social competencies that children form before entering kindergarten.


A new issue brief, Literacy Readiness Gaps in Kindergarten Grow, from the Advocates for Children & Youth finds that the gap in kindergarten literacy readiness between low-income children and their higher-income classmates grew over the past year in Maryland. This gap similarly increased for minority children compared to white children. According to the brief's findings, the disparity in literacy readiness between low-income children and their higher-income classmates grew from 17 percent in the 2008-2009 school year to 19 percent in the 2009-2010 school year, while minority children showed larger gaps. The literacy readiness gap between African American children and White children grew by 6 percent during the same period, while the gap between Hispanic children and their White classmates grew by 4 percent. These new figures demonstrate a reversal in a state that has been steadily moving forward to prepare all young children for academic success. From 2006-2009, the disparity in literacy readiness between low-income and minority children and their higher-income and White classmates had been decreasing in much of the state, although in two of Maryland's largest districts (Prince George's and Baltimore City), for instance, gaps in school readiness remained stagnant overall. The brief recommends that the state look at school districts with smaller gaps to identify successful strategies that can be used in other districts. In addition, the brief emphasizes the need to ensure that access to and the quality of existing programs is sustained, while considering additional supports that may be needed to help all children be school ready.


Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) commissioned a study to evaluate children's school readiness after participation in the LAUP program. Findings from the evaluation are available in the report, The Successful Kids in Pre-K Project (SKIPP) Phase II: An Assessment of Los Angeles Universal Preschool Students' Progression Toward School Readiness. The study evaluated the progress of over 400 preschoolers at 24 LAUP preschools across the Los Angeles County in the 2008-2009 school year. Evaluations were conducted by teachers, who assessed preschoolers in the areas of self-care and motor skills: self-regulation, social expression, general knowledge, and overall readiness. Among the study's findings, the overall share of children who showed near-proficiency in the five categories of school readiness grew from 22 percent at the start of the year to 72 percent by the school year's end. In addition, the study found that:

  • Children showed improvements in all individual areas of school readiness with the greatest gains made in the area of general knowledge.
  • The achievement gap between English Language Learner (ELL) children and non-ELL children significantly decreased by the end of the school year, except in the area of general knowledge.
  • While older children scored higher than younger children in school readiness, the latter group showed greater improvements in scores from the beginning to the end of the school year.

The study calls for additional research that examines the extent to which preschool participation and kindergarten readiness are causally connected. Family, student, and other factors that separately affect school readiness should also be analyzed.




















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