Early Childhood Education Update - May 2012

May 04, 2012 | Child Care and Early Education

In this issue:


CLASP has released three new factsheets to provide a snapshot of the 1.7 million children who received child care assistance through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) in 2010.

CCDBG Participation in 2010 provides a range of information on the ages of children served, the settings that children were served in, the children's racial/ethnic backgrounds, and the reasons why families received CCDBG assistance.

Two additional factsheets, Infants and Toddlers in CCDBG: 2010 Update and School-Age Children in CCDBG: 2010 Update, highlight key information about younger and older groups of children receiving child care assistance through CCDBG. Nationally, 30 percent of children served by CCDBG in 2010 were under age 3, 37 percent were ages 3 to 5, and 33 percent were ages 6 to 13. However, in each state these percentages can vary widely-infants and toddlers made up one-third or more of all children served in CCDBG in 19 states. The percentage of school-age children served by CCDBG also varied across the states, ranging from 17 to 42 percent.

State-specific information on CCDBG participation is also available via CLASP's individual state Child Care Assistance Factsheets or by creating custom tables using CLASP's DataFinder tool.


The U.S. Department of Education published revised non-regulatory guidance on serving preschool children through Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The Title I preschool program guidance is meant to provide clarity and information on how to use Title I funds to implement high-quality preschool programs for children who are eligible. Guidance on the use of Title I funds for preschool programs was last issued in 2004.

The Department's 2012 guidance addresses many of the same questions that are addressed in the 2004 guidance, offering information on children who are eligible for Title I preschool programs, qualifications of early childhood educators in these preschool programs, and coordination with other federal programs. However, the 2012 and 2004 versions vary with respect to the amount of information on meeting the supplementing not supplanting provision of Title I and information on what high-quality preschool programs look like. The 2012 guidance offers significantly more information on what qualifies as supplementing as opposed to supplanting when using Title I funds for different types of preschool programs.

Read the full 2012 Title I non-regulatory guidance for preschool program >>

Learn more about Title I funding for early education >>


CCDF functions as a key work support for families, serving 1.7 million children in 2010. A key goal of CCDF is to also support the availability and quality of care that families, and low-income families in particular, have access to.  Urban Institute and the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) recently released the brief, A Summary of Research on How CCDF Polices Affect Providers, as part of their CCDF-Research Synthesis series. The purpose of this particular brief is to summarize research that can inform the implementation of CCDF policies that are fair to providers. Fairness to providers is not written into CCDF law, but CCDF does require that policies reflect the private market for care and advance the goals of the CCDF, which are to maximize child care choices available to low-income families and support families receiving CCDF assistance so that they may access the care that families not receiving CCDF assistance have access to. Factors to consider in evaluating the fairness of CCDF policies include payment rates, payment policies, timeliness of payment, and administrative costs of participation.

The brief offers a set of considerations for policymakers to determine and implement CCDF policies that are fair to providers. These considerations include:

  • Evaluating how policymakers on all levels can more explicitly include, define, pursue, and measure the goals surrounding fairness to providers.
  • Determining whether or not changes can be made to reduce the difference between CCDF voucher payment policies and the policies that child care providers implement for private-paying parents.
  • Assessing if changes can be made to reduce, or compensate, the costs that providers incur when working with CCDF agencies and families that receive CCDF assistance.
  • Reviewing the validity and reliability of market rate surveys to ensure that the methods employed provide valid and reliable results.

Included are multiple suggestions for further research that could be useful to policymakers when determining the fairness of CCDF policies toward providers. Some suggested topics are: looking at states who are implementing innovated policies, evaluating the extra costs associated with delivering child care to families receiving CCDF assistance, determining if different policy scenarios affect the revenue providers receive under CCDF, and studying what is effective in supporting provider efforts to supply high-quality care.

Read more about implementing CCDF policies that are fair to providers >>


The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its latest Preschool Yearbook for 2011, which finds investment in pre-kindergarten fell this past year. The annual Preschool Yearbook provides information on the resources and access to pre-kindergarten programs that individual states and the nation as a whole provide.

NIEER finds that enrollment in pre-kindergarten programs over the last 10 years has increased, with 30,818 more children being served in 2011 than 2010. However, funding has slipped, leaving programs supporting additional children with less money. This past year state funding for pre-kindergarten programs decreased by $60 million, and only 11 states out of the 39 states that offer state-funded pre-kindergarten programs raised per-child spending in 2011. Adjusted for inflation, state funding for pre-K programs plummeted by more than $700 per child over the past nine years. The number of states conducting regular site visits of pre-kindergarten programs fell. NIEER also finds that over half a million children are served in programs that met fewer than half of the quality benchmarks that NIEER ascribes to high-quality preschool programs. 

The Yearbook also offers a set of recommendations for policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels. These recommendations include:

  • Providing a stable source of additional federal funding to aid in offsetting the differences between states' financial capacity to support quality pre-kindergarten programs.
  • Continuous monitoring and evaluation of a state's own pre-kindergarten program.
  • Having all 50 states support a state-funded pre-kindergarten program.
  • Providing increased flexibility among funding streams that offers states the ability to facilitate a joint service provision by Head Start, education, and child care agencies.

Read more about pre-kindergarten programs in 2011 >>


In the U.S., more than one in four young children under age 6 have a parent who speaks a language other than English, and one in seven children has at least one parent who is Limited English Proficient (LEP). As more children grow up in households where the primary language is not English, schools are addressing the language needs and skills of young learners. A recent publication from New America Foundation looks at how Illinois is trying to address the needs of ELLs before they enter kindergarten.

The report, Starting Early with English Language Learners: First Lessons from Illinois, describes Illinois' policy to extend its ELL program for elementary students to state-funded pre-kindergarten programs, which was initiated with a 2008 law and is set for implementation by 2014. The policy requires that Illinois: 1) Develops a pre-kindergarten workforce so teachers have the skills and knowledge to teach ELLs; 2) Builds an accurate diagnostic process that identifies young children who are ELLs; and 3) Provides schools with appropriate curricula for ELLs, as well as research-based models that offer guidance on how to instruct ELLs and track their progress.

While the report highlights Illinois' policy, it also offers a broader look at the history and development of ELL policy on a national level, and offers recommendations for both Illinois and other states on how to implement and improve high-quality programs for ELLs. These recommendations include:

  • Ensure that pre-kindergarten providers and schools receive financial support from the state and their local districts for resources they spend on English Language Learners, and that adequate funds are provided to cover all children who are eligible for ELL instruction and services.
  • Track ELL students' outcomes over time and provide funding for evaluative studies that can help determine where investments are most and least effective.
  • Align the ELL experience across pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and the early elementary grades. Additionally, enable shared professional development opportunities for teachers across the span from pre-kindergarten through third grade.

Read the full report on Illinois & ELL policy >>


 As more states try to assess and monitor their preschool programs and young children, there is a growing need to understand the assessment process and its challenges. Education Testing Services (ETS) published a Policy Information Report, which summarizes the challenges with assessing young children, offers an overview of the different types of instruments being used to assess pre-kindergarten students and programs, and looks at current state policies toward pre-kindergarten assessment.

Traditional testing methods used for older students do not work with young learners because they are not effective and do not produce useful data. Other challenges of assessing pre-kindergartners stem from younger children developing at vastly different rates with development changes happening episodically, erratically, or rapidly even among what some consider a "typically" developing child. Children also come to pre-kindergarten with widely different knowledge and skills depending on home environments and previous child care experiences. All of these factors make assessing preschoolers challenging, and should be taken into account.

States currently use a variety of assessments from direct assessments, which can provide individual scores and aggregated data for groups of children, to observations and checklists that involve teacher observations of children's classroom performance, and samples of children's work that are purposeful samples and documentation of a child's abilities.

Through an analysis of the 54 pre-kindergarten programs that are outlined in NIEER's 2009-2010 State Preschool Yearbook, as well as a separate state personnel survey of these 54 programs, ETS provides an overview of the pre-kindergarten assessment policies in states for the 2011-2012 school year. Specifically they look at the measures and assessment approaches of a program, the degree of choice providers have in selecting the measure of assessment, and how often pre-kindergarten assessments are administered and reported. The results of this analysis widely vary across the state pre-kindergarten programs.

  • Four programs reported policies that require the use of direct assessments, while 19 programs reported that they require the use of observation checklists and scales, and eight programs reported policies that use measures represented through a combination of direct assessments, observation protocols, and/or portfolios. Additionally, 19 programs allow individual providers to choose one or all of the measures used to determine a student's learning outcomes.
  • With respect to provider choice, 21 programs reported policies mandating the use of required measure or measures, 10 programs have policies that allow providers to select from a menu of approved child outcome measures, and 19 programs allow a provider different degrees of freedom to select which outcome measure(s) should be used.
  • There is also variation among the frequency with which child outcome data are collected and reported. Three programs require child outcome measures be taken once a year, 14 programs require two times a year, and another 14 programs require three or four times a year. Ten programs have measure-dependent policies where some assessments are used at particular times of the year, and eight programs do not report policies on how frequency child outcomes should be assessed and reported.

Continued monitoring of these systems that assess young children will be necessary as states continue to implement pre-kindergarten assessment practices.

Read the full primer on pre-kindergarten assessments >>


A new issue brief from the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) looks at quality in home-based child care. Over half of young children in non-parental care spend some time each week in home-based child care environments. Families that are low-income, single parent, or parents with limited education are also more likely to use home-based child care, yet there are fewer instructional supports for home-base care than for center-based care. The purpose of this brief is to offer guidance on content for professional development efforts that target home-based child care providers. To achieve this, OPRE studied home-based providers who participated in a multi-state study. These providers were grouped into three quality categories based on their scores in observations of teaching and interaction, tone/discipline, provisions for health, instruction supports for literacy, and caregiver sensitivity.

Based on OPRE's information collection of participating home-based providers, OPRE divided providers into three groups-low, moderate, and above moderate quality. The majority of providers in the study (88 percent) were in the low or moderate quality group; 38 percent of the sample scored in the low quality group, 50 percent in the moderate quality, and 12 percent were rated above moderate. OPRE's analysis showed that providers with more experience and training, those who were licensed, had attitudes that were child-centered, and belonged to professional organizations were the providers who rated as above moderate. Additionally, providers who scored higher on one measure of quality also tended to score higher on other aspects of quality. This also applied to low quality providers-those that scored low on one measure tended to score low on other measures.

These findings highlight the need to raise quality in home-based child care settings. OPRE recommends expanding the current professional development system to make it more accessible to home-based providers, and targeting the content of professional development to the needs of home-based providers. Further research on the effectiveness of different professional development systems, specifically for home-based providers, is needed.

Read OPRE's full brief on quality in home-based child care >>


The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) put out two new reports that provide information on early learning programs and initiatives that are being undertaken in the states. The first report discusses the Educare model and its implementation around the country, and the second report is a follow-up report to the CCSSO's 2009 report, A Quiet Crisis: The Urgent Need to Build Early Childhood Systems and Quality Programs for Children Birth to Age Five, and offers information and examples of what Chief State School Officers are doing in their own states to advance quality early childhood opportunities.

Educare Re-envisioning Education Beginning at Birth This brief is targeted toward education and state policy leaders, and provides a look at the Educare model and its development. It begins with an overview of the Educare strategy, which includes offering state-of-the art facilities, a research-based birth to age 5 program, partnerships between early childhood and public education as well as between public and private sectors, and offers a platform for policy and systems change. The report provides a summary of recently collected early evaluation data on the impact of Educare on children in the first five operating Educare schools (Chicago, Omaha, Milwaukee, Tulsa, and Denver). Lastly, the report provides a set of implications of the Educare model for public education and early childhood policy.

Educare centers focus on changing the trajectory of children at risk of entering kindergarten already behind. The program offers children and families consistent and individualized attention, providing services that cover all domains of a young child's development and strong support to parents. The program also includes highly-trained and well-compensated staff with a focus on staff support and retention.

CCSSO offers lessons for public leaders from Educare to help them advance future early childhood programs. These include: building coherent, integrated early childhood programs serving children birth to age 5; offering comprehensive, high-quality programs that are appropriately funded; and partnering with public schools to plan, finance, and oversee early childhood programs.

Read the overview of Educare programs >>

Confronting the Quiet Crisis: How Chief State School Officers Are Advancing Quality Early Childhood Opportunities In response to CCSSO's 2009 report, A Quiet Crisis: The Urgent Need to Build Early Childhood Systems and Quality Programs for Children Birth to Age Five, this new report is meant to help chiefs implement the recommendations in the old report, discuss how states can make early childhood investments given the current budget context, and offer leadership when early childhood programs are managed by different agencies and through different funding streams. Chiefs from Maryland, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Minnesota are interviewed along with other state leaders, advocates, and early childhood partners to learn how these states have been able to expand early childhood opportunities. 

The report highlights eight key leadership strategies that came from the interviews and examples of the states. These strategies include:

1. Talking about the importance of early childhood education and integrating early childhood into a broader K-12 context.
2. Hiring and supporting early childhood experts in state departments of education.
3. Engaging school boards, superintendents, and principals on early childhood issues.
4. Supporting program quality through high standards, continuous improvement, and appropriate funding.
5. Creating a structure that supports cohesive birth to grade 3 plan.
6. Building relationships with leaders in corresponding agencies.
7. Engaging the private sector, philanthropic organizations, and media outlets.
8. Increasing state investment and providing, stable, secure funding for high-quality early learning programs.

Read the full discussion on early childhood initiatives in the states >>


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