Early Childhood Education Update - October 2011
October 06, 2011 | Child Care & Early Education
In this issue:
- CLASP Provides Resources for States' Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Applications
- Report Profiles Individual Communities' Involvement with the Early Learning Communities Initiative
- Absenteeism Seen as a Problem Even in Early Years
- California's Economy Benefits from Investing in Early Education
- ACF OPRE Releases New Reports on State QRIS
- Improving Preschool Education for Hispanic Children
- Tennessee Reports on Participation Levels During the First Four Years of its Voluntary Pre-kindergarten Program
- HHS Releases Memoranda on Background Checks and Continuity of Care
Last May, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, announced the Obama Administration's allocation of $500 million for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant competition. The RTT-ELC's ultimate goal is to improve the quality of early learning and development, and take steps towards closing the achievement gap for high needs children. The program supports states' efforts to increase the number of low-income and disadvantaged children, birth to five, in high-quality programs. ED/HHS made the application available on August 23; the deadline for submission is October 19 with awards made in December.
CLASP offers a variety of resources to support states as they complete their RTT-ELC applications. CLASP just released a Meeting the Early Challenge paper series, which is a set of three papers that offer states recommendations on providing child care for high needs children, birth to five. The papers are entitled, Better Child Care Subsidy Policies, A Checklist for High-Quality QRIS, and Supporting English Language Learners. There are also online data resources to help states find demographic information, Head Start and Early Head start participation and enrollment data, as well as information on the number of children from low-income families. There are links to CLASP's previous work on building and financing systems, providing comprehensive services, and recommendations on how states can provide infants and toddlers with high-quality child care.
In addition to these online resources, CLASP staff are able to provide technical assistance that is responsive to the needs of individual states on any aspect of the Early Learning Challenge application, including data, model policies, and best practices. Please contact Danielle Ewen for technical assistance requests.
Community support services play a vital role in providing assistance to some of the country's most vulnerable children and families. Through assistance from governmental agencies and Community-based Organizations (CBOs), children and families can access a variety of health, education, housing, and income support services. During February 2010, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) began the Early Learning Communities Initiative to research and support community models for providing comprehensive services for children from birth to eight as well as provide services to their families.
The Early Learning Communities Initiative looks at how communities provide integrated services that address the many needs of low-income families. The ultimate goal of this initiative is to provide Head Start and other community actors with guidance and examples of effective community collaborations. The initiative's framework rests on developing:
- A coordinated system of leadership and planning
- A system of data collection
- A set of quality services and a quality assurance system
- A school system
In order to provide states and communities with direction on how to implement the Early Learning Communities Initiative, ACF published the report, Putting the Pieces Together: Community Efforts to Support our Youngest Children 0-8. This report profiles twelve different communities in total. These communities range in size, geographic location, percentage of families living in poverty, and ethnic and linguistic composition. The communities include: Alameda County, California; Boston, Massachusetts; Cincinnati, Ohio; Colchester, Connecticut; Larimer County, Colorado; Onslow County, North Carolina; Palm Beach County, Florida; Seattle, Washington; Tulsa, Oklahoma; White Earth, Minnesota, Metropolitan Detroit, Michigan; and the Tribal Learning Communities. Each profile assesses the community's:
- Background information, including demographics, the context of the community, and the impetus for beginning their work
- Leadership and planning structure and decision-making process
- Quality services and strategies for meeting the needs of the community through data collection and analysis
- Tracking of outcomes, quality assurance, and ability to ensure accountability
- Connections to schools and work towards helping support student achievement.
The profiles serve as models for other communities looking to provide service integration for young children and families. Included in each profile is contact information for the leaders of each early learning community.
A majority of research on school attendance doesn't start until kindergarten or the first grade, but recent data out of Chicago indicates that attendance can be an issue before children enter grade school. An article from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), reports on information from Catalyst Chicago, an online newsmagazine. During the 2009-2010 school year 62 percent of preschoolers who were enrolled in Chicago's state-funded Preschool for All program were chronically absent. In a quarter of these preschool program settings chronic absenteeism was around 80 percent. In addition, during 2009-2010, 15 percent of children from preschool to grade three missed 18 days or more of school. Absenteeism was particularly high in low-income areas.
It is no surprise that chronic absenteeism can seriously hinder a child's ability to get the most out of school. Absenteeism in early years can also impact a child's school readiness. One Chicago principal told Catalyst Chicago that, "We have an excellent Head Start teacher, but she worries she's not as effective because the students simply aren't there."
The Preschool for All coordinator for Chicago Public Schools believes that only having two social workers and part-day programs may play a role in high rates of preschool absenteeism. The lack of support staff as well as parents who need full day care for children could be enough for parents to seek other child care options and not think much of it. Offering full-day services may be one way to combat chronic absenteeism in preschool settings. Chicago's Preschool for All is looking into establishing a contract system to better communicate expectations. While state-funded pre-kindergarten made great progress in the past decade, making sure children have access to pre-kindergarten programs and that they work with a family's schedule remain critical components to the programs' success.
UC Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education recently released the report, Economic Impacts of Early Care and Education in California. The report highlights the significant workforce benefits that early care and education (ECE) provides California's economy. The ECE industry in California serves more than 850,000 children and families and brings in around $5.6 billion annually. Parents are able to participate in the workforce when they have access to child care, and research cited in the report finds that high-quality and reliable child care increases worker productivity and improves businesses' bottom-line. ECE access also reduces worker absenteeism and turnover, and is tied to the career availability and earnings of mothers, as well as parents' ability to pursue education.
A review of previous research also draws attention to the longer-term benefits of high-quality child care and early education programs. There are substantial benefits derived over years and decades from the reduced need for remedial and special education services, reduced incarceration rates, and lower rates of teen pregnancy, to name a few. Cost-benefit analyses show the immense return on ECE investment-for every dollar spent the public receives between $2.69 and $7.16 in return. Quality programs also help develop and foster a productive future workforce.
The paper builds on earlier research by quantifying the impact the ECE industry has on California's economy, specifically related to parents' purchasing power, economic output, jobs, and tax revenue. According to the study, parents who rely on child care and early education services have a purchasing power of $26.4 billion based on annual earnings. The report also finds that for every dollar spent on the ECE industry the California economy receives two dollars in economic output. Spending on the ECE industry supports close to 200,000 jobs in California-both those directly involved in the industry and jobs in educational supplies, food, health care, and other industries. It also results in more than half a billion dollars in state and local tax revenue. Child Care and early education play a crucial role in developing California's economy and infrastructure. This report adds to the many reports chronicling the economic benefits that come from investing in ECE.
In September 2008, The Administration for Children and Families Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (ACF OPRE) initiated their Quality Rating Systems (QRS) Assessment Project. The project focused on creating resources for states looking to establish and evaluate child care QRS. The project ran for two-and-a-half years, coming to an end in March of 2011. With the project's end came four reports providing in-depth analysis of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Miami-Dade County, and Tennessee as well as a more general QRIS evaluation toolkit for states looking to set-up their own QRIS evaluation. The reports are:
- Child Care Quality Rating and Improvement Systems: Approaches to Integrating Programs for Young Children in Two States - This report looks at QRIS in Indiana and Pennsylvania in order to determine how these two states' QRIS connect with and build on the programs that are already in the ECE system. Specifically, the report asks, "What role do QRIS have and to what extent do they contribute to integration through each of the ECE system components?" and "How could states and localities assess the extent to which QRIS are contributing to ECE system development?" The report looks at eight components of each state's ECE system to analyze the function of the QRIS in system integration. These components include: governance, early learning standards, provider and program engagements, professional development and training, financing, dissemination of information, quality assurance mechanisms, and accountability and data systems. Overall, the report finds that it's difficult to determine whether QRIS increase the rate of integration or, rather, provide the means for integration. In the cases of Pennsylvania and Indiana it appears that QRIS helped increase the rate of integration across areas of professional development and quality assurance. Ultimately, this report and the integration of QRIS and ECE systems in both states, serve as examples for program planning, goal setting, monitoring, and evaluation.
Read the report >>
- Defining and Measuring Quality: An In-Depth Study of Five Child Care Quality Rating and Improvement Systems - Realizing the need for information on QRIS' quality measurement practices, ACF OPRE examined Miami-Dade County in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee to determine each community's and state's approach towards conceptualizing and measuring quality through the QRIS. The report finds that there is generally greater consistency across these five QRIS at the highest rating levels than at the baseline levels, and that cutoffs at intermediate levels seem somewhat arbitrary. At the highest levels, QRIS standards greatly overlap with recommendations provided by accredited organizations. The report closes by suggesting the need for further research concerning whether the features at the highest level of a QRIS match up with the quality guidelines that are linked to positive outcomes for children.
Read the report >>
- Measuring Quality Across Three Child Care Quality Rating and Improvement Systems: Findings from Secondary Analyses - This ACF OPRE report analyzes administrative data across three QRIS-Illinois, Tennessee, and Miami-Dade County. Through more sophisticated and in-depth data analysis techniques, the QRS Assessment Project examines how quality components across providers function in relation to observed quality. Across these three QRIS, secondary analysis is conducted to determine the emphasis a state places on each quality component in the QRIS and how prevalent the quality component is across the three QRIS. The report offers a number of key findings about the percentage of providers who observe and don't observe certain quality components.
Read the report >>
- The Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) Evaluation Toolkit - One of the goals of the QRS Assessment project was to develop and publish a toolkit that states could use to understand, plan, and design an evaluation of their own QRIS. Within the QRIS Evaluation Toolkit states will find a "one-stop shop" for planning a QRIS evaluation. The Toolkit offers information on recording how QRIS work, formulating research questions, determining measures that can be used in evaluation as well as best data collection practices, how much a QRIS evaluation can cost and examples of funding, and lastly it provides guidelines for selecting and working with an evaluator.
Access the QRIS Toolkit >>
As the education debate continues in the U.S., Hispanic student achievement has emerged as a central issue. Critical to increasing student achievement is having access to high-quality preschool and early education services. In 2009, 70 percent of White and 69 percent of Black four-year-olds attended preschool, while only 48 percent of Hispanic children of the same age did. National Council of La Raza (NCLR) cites this low preschool attendance rate among Hispanics as a contributing factor towards the school-readiness gap and future educational disparities between Latino children and their peers.
Hispanic children have a lot to gain from educational reform, and in NCLR's Preschool Education: Delivering on the Promise for Latino Children, the organization calls for more policy initiatives that focus on addressing the challenges that this diverse population faces, which includes low household income, low levels of maternal education, limited English proficiency, and overrepresentation in schools with not enough resources. Through this publication, NCLR highlights ways to improve educational outcomes of Hispanic children starting at an early age. The set of policy recommendations that NCLR offers looks at both the federal and state level. These recommendations address improving the quality of and access to preschool programs for Hispanic children by focusing on polices that address the needs of young English language learners, offer greater family and community outreach, and develop facilities in communities where there are limited early childhood education programs currently available to Latino families.
Tennessee recognizes the many benefits that come from providing high-quality pre-kindergarten access to young children and families. In 2005-2006, Tennessee introduced its Voluntary Pre-kindergarten Program, choosing to direct the program towards four-year-olds receiving free or reduced price lunches, and working to distribute funds across all of the state's counties. In order to meet expansion goals the pre-kindergarten program offered program seats to collaborating partners, such as Head Start and other early education and early care providers.
The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), through the Regional Educational Lab (REL) Appalachia, published a report looking at pre-kindergarten program participation levels from 2005-2009, both overall, within pre-kindergarten collaborative partnerships, and among racial/ethnic and geographic subgroups, as well as looking at pre-kindergarten program site geographical distribution. The study is meant to provide information on pre-kindergarten program growth to other states looking to grow the capacity of their own pre-kindergarten programs. The report's key findings include:
- An increase from 18 percent of eligible participants enrolled in 2005-2006 to 42 percent in 2008-2009 and a 99 percent participation rate among local education agencies.
- The number of students in collaborative partner classrooms increased from 1,428 in 2005-2006 to 3,621 in 2008-2009.
- Participation among all subgroups grew, but at varying rates. Racial/ethnic minority students' participation rate grew faster than the participation rate among White students; and, participation rates were higher in small, rural districts than in large, non-rural districts.
- The majority of pre-kindergarten public cites were concentrated in Tennessee's four largest urban areas (Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, and Nashville). Collaborative partner sites were more evenly distributed between rural and non-rural areas.
HHS, through the Office of Child Care (OCC), recently released new Information Memoranda (IM). The first memorandum recommends that child care providers undergo comprehensive criminal background checks, and the second, advises child care programs under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to adopt policies and practices promoting the continuity of child care services.
Comprehensive Background Checks: On September 20, 2011, the OCC issued an IM strongly encouraging CCDBG Lead Agencies institute comprehensive criminal background checks for child care providers who serve children receiving subsidies. The components of a comprehensive criminal background check include: (1) using fingerprints for State checks of criminal records; (2) using fingerprints for checks of FBI criminal records; (3) checking the child abuse and neglect registry; and (4) checking sex offender registries.
In order to protect the safety of children in child care and minimize a child's risk of abuse and neglect, the OCC recommends child care providers conduct these checks. The OCC links performing comprehensive background checks to the CCDBG regulations that require Lead Agencies certify they have requirements in effect for child care providers that protect the health and safety of children receiving support from the CCDBG program.
The OCC recommends that Lead Agencies require all child care providers serving children receiving CCDBG support to receive comprehensive criminal background checks prior to being authorized to work with child care services. The OCC also recommends Lead Agencies identify appropriate periods of time to conduct periodic background checks. Read the memorandum >>
Continuity of Care Through Subsidy Policies: On September 21, 2011, the OCC released an IM identifying policies and practices that promote the continuity of child care services and enhance the child care subsidy system. This IM encourages states to adopt policies and practices that support the long-term success of children and their families through better continuity of care and reducing unnecessary burdens on families. States are urged to revisit their eligibility criteria and policies, as well as required procedures for families receiving subsidies. The OCC outlines a list of policy options that state lead agencies can integrate into their state CCDBG policies and procedures to best meet the needs of families in their states.
According to the OCC, lead agencies can adopt the following policy options to increase retention of subsidy:
- Implement a 12-month eligibility period.
- Expand the definition of work to include job search.
- Account for changes in family circumstances by creating policies that consider fluctuations in families' economic circumstance such as tiered income eligibility and averaging household income over time.
- Allow retention of eligibility during temporary changes such as extended medical leave from employment.
- Provide coverage for child sick or vacation days.
The OCC also outlines policies and practices that lead agencies can adapt to reduce administrative burden, including:
- Broadening information collection options such as allowing families to submit documentation by email or extended office hours.
- Coordination with partner agencies and organizations, including the alignment of CCDBG eligibility with that of other early education programs.
- Partnering with providers to assist with notifying parents of program requirements.
- Information sharing with other benefit programs such as document sharing across SNAP, Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance programs.
Lead agencies can use these suggestions as an opportunity to evaluate their current policies and make changes that best support the continuity of care for children. Read the memorandum >>