Early Childhood Education Update - July 2009
Jul 10, 2009 | Teresa Lim
In this issue:
- CLASP Releases Head Start 2007 Data Profiles
- Title I Early Education: Models for Using Economic Recovery Funds
- State Examples of Policies and Initiatives That Improve Child Care for Infants and Toddlers
- NACCRRA Releases 2009 Update on the Costs of Child Care
- Improving the Health of Americans Starting in Early Childhood
- State Strategies for Improving Service Coordination to Promote Healthy Child Development
- Child Trends Releases Research Brief on Data-Driven Decision Making
- Joint Statement by NAEYC and DEC on Early Childhood Inclusion
- An International Comparison of Early Childhood Initiatives
- Second-Year Report on Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Released
- RAND Releases Fourth Report of California Preschool Study
- Supporting Early Learning and Parent-Child Relationships Through Home Visitation Programs
CLASP has released profiles that show Head Start Program Information Report (PIR) data for 2007, which all programs are required to report to the federal government on an annual basis. A national profile is available, as well as profiles for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the six territories with Head Start and/or Early Head Start programs in 2007. The profiles summarize information on programs, participants, families, and staff for all Head Start programs in each state/territory, including preschool, Early Head Start, American Indian and Alaskan Native Head Start, and Migrant or Seasonal Head Start.
CLASP has launched a new webpage, Title I Early Education: Models for Using Economic Recovery Funds, as a resource for states and local communities that are planning Title I investments in early childhood programs using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The ARRA included $13 billion in funding for Title I of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which provides resources for disadvantaged students. Title I is a flexible funding source that may be used to support components of high-quality early education programs. Spending on early childhood programs for children from birth through the age of school entry has always been a permitted use of Title I funds. Yet currently, only a small amount (approximately 2-3 percent) of Title I funds nationally are spent on early education. Under ARRA, Title I funds may be used for any activities permitted under the Title I provisions of NCLB.
CLASP has extensively studied Title I investments in early education programs in local communities and interviewed Title I directors, district superintendents, and others across the country to look closer at these investments to understand the barriers and flexibility in the law. Through this research, more than 100 schools and districts with some history of using Title I for young children have been identified. CLASP's new webpage offers models that are meant to be illustrative for districts thinking about how to maximize opportunities of Title I funding to improve early education.
States are implementing a variety of policies and initiatives to support the healthy growth and development of babies and toddlers in child care settings. To highlight some of these promising activities, CLASP is profiling specific examples of state policies and actions that benefit this population of young children. The state examples are part of CLASP's Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care project, a multi-year effort to highlight state policies that improve the quality of child care for babies and toddlers and to build an online resource to help states implement these policies. CLASP has recently added new state examples to its Charting Progress webpage, which now offers examples in the following topics:
- Using subsidy policies to promote continuity of care (NEW)
- Providing training, education, and support (NEW)
- Promoting stable, quality subsidy policy (NEW)
- Ensuring small group ratios in center-based care (NEW)
- Supporting competitive compensation
- Using licensing policies to promote continuity of care
- Working with family, friend, and neighbor caregivers
- Supporting a diverse and culturally competent workforce
- Establishing core competencies
- Promoting comprehensive services
- Building the supply of quality care
Additional examples of state policies supporting infants and toddlers will be posted on CLASP's webpage on an ongoing basis.
The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) released its annual report on the costs of child care in the U.S. The report, Parents and the High Price of Child Care: 2009 Update, and executive summary present national and state-by-state data from 2008 on the price of full- and part-time care in center-based and family child care homes for infant, four-year-old, and school-age children. In addition, the report compares the price of child care in rural and urban areas and analyzes the affordability of care for single parent and low-income families. Similar to previous years, the report finds that the price of child care is continuing to increase. From 2007-2008, the price of child care for infants and four-year-olds rose by 4.8 and 6.2 percent, respectively. These increases were higher than the inflation rate of that period, which was 3.8 percent. Among other key findings of the report:
- The average annual price of center-based child care for infants and four-year-olds in 2008 ranged from $4,560 to $15,895 and $4,055 to $11,680, respectively.
- The average annual price of care in a family child home for infants and four-year-olds in 2008 ranged from $3,582 to $10,324 and $3,380 to $9,805, respectively.
- The price of center-based care for an infant surpassed 10 percent of the median income for a two-parent family in over half (37) of states plus the District of Columbia. Additionally, the price for a four-year-old surpassed 10 percent of the median income in about a quarter (12) of states.
- Across the entire U.S, monthly child care payments for two children of any age surpass the median cost of rent and are almost as high as the average cost of mortgage payments.
- In 32 states, the average price of child care for one four-year-old and one infant surpassed 60 percent of the median household income for single parents.
- In urban areas, infant and four-year-old center-based care can cost $1,600 and $1,100 more, respectively, than in rural areas.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Commission to Build a Healthier America released a report, Beyond Health Care: New Directions to a Healthier America, and executive summary that offer a set of recommendations for improving the health of Americans and addressing the disparities in access to health and nutrition services and supports. The report observes that health care spending in the U.S. has increased considerably in the last ten years. Although health care spending has increased by $1 trillion, the nation fares worse than most of Europe, Japan, Canada and Australia in terms of mortality and life expectancy rates. Since 1980, the U.S. has fallen in rank among industrialized nations in these health indicators. The report also observes that low-income Americans are significantly more likely to have poorer health and life expectancies than Americans in higher income groups.
To combat these problems, the report recommends beginning early by building a strong, healthy foundation among young children. A healthy foundation in early childhood can lead to better adult health outcomes. The report emphasizes the need to ensure that all children have access to high-quality, early developmental services, such as child care and early education. This access is especially important for children from low-income families who are most vulnerable to poor health outcomes. To increase both the availability and quality of early developmental services, significant additional investments need to be made into new and existing early childhood programs. Adequate measures must also be in place to ensure accountability. Among other recommendations, the report calls for making certain that federal food assistance programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), provide nutritious foods to families through adequate funding and program design. Other recommendations include providing only healthy foods in schools and building "healthy communities" that utilize public-private partnerships to improve access to services, such as full-service groceries.
The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) released a new report, Improving Care Coordination, Case Management, and Linkages to Service for Young Children: Opportunities for States. The report finds that there is a critical gap between primary health care providers identifying children with developmental delays and children receiving appropriate treatment for these delays. Five major challenges to connecting families to intervention and early care services are highlighted. These include limited resource and referral capacities of primary care providers, lack of continuity between program application and service delivery, and inadequate financing/payment for referral and coordination services. The report looks at ways that states can connect families of children with developmental delays to needed services and support from available programs and resources. Strategies to improve service coordination and case management at the primary care practice, service provider, and system/cross-system level are offered. In general, the report provides four overarching recommendations to apply across all levels:
- Utilize care coordinators and other personnel to ensure effective service coordination and case management.
- Provide support for quality improvement initiatives and monitoring activities that evaluate the quality of services and supports provided to families.
- Provide support for data, information, and technology tools that allow clear communication among families, providers, and agencies.
- Provide support for both individual family plans and cross systems planning to ensure that the needs of families are met.
The report highlights various federal programs, such as the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) Program under Medicaid and Part C of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), that can help states finance efforts to coordinate health and intervention services. The report also notes that states can reexamine their own policies regarding case management rules and payments to ensure that families are able to obtain the services and supports that they need.
Child Trends released a new research brief, Data-Driven Decision Making in Out-of-School Time Programs, as part of a six-part series on "implementation drivers," which are elements critical to implementing innovative policies and evidence-based practices successfully. The new brief examines the pivotal role that decision-support data systems have in decision making processes and program management. Decision-support data systems are computer-based systems and procedures that gather information for a variety of purposes, such as to identify program needs, monitor program progress, and identify program outcomes. The brief identifies four kinds of data that are commonly collected:
- Program quality data: This data is used to help assess whether individual and overall program components are contributing to meet intended program goals.
- Fidelity data: This data is used to assess program implementation and whether a program is following set rules and procedures.
- Participant outcome data: This information is the most common type of data collected and is used to help make program improvements and changes.
- Staff data: This data is used to help program administrators and developers in restructuring programs and evaluating staff performance, including identifying the training and support needs of staff.
The brief elaborates further on the functions that the four types of data serve and identifies challenges to creating and maintaining high-quality data systems. These challenges include the need to acquire specialized software or a management information system (MIS) and having trained staff that have the time to manage the software/system and study the data. The brief offers a set of recommendations for developing and using decision-support data systems:
- Begin with small, targeted systems that fit program needs; systems can later be expanded as programs grow.
- Develop partnerships with other groups, such as universities, to help develop data systems.
- Gather multiple kinds of data to ensure representativeness and comprehensiveness.
- Monitor data systems to ensure useful information is being collected.
- Include staff in the data analysis process in order to keep them informed and monitor their performance to ensure that high-quality data is collected.
A joint statement by the National Associate for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) offers a definition of early childhood inclusion. The definition is in response to the current lack of a shared national description. The two organizations define early childhood inclusion as the following:
Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential. The defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high quality early childhood programs and services are access, participation, and supports.
The statement describes in more detail what factors to consider under the three features of inclusion (access, participation, and supports) and how to promote early childhood inclusion by addressing these factors. Using the definition, the statement suggests various ways that infants and young children with disabilities can be supported, such as creating a system of resources to meet their needs, modifying program and professional standards to make them more inclusive, and reassessing federal and state accountability systems to ensure high-quality services for children with special needs.
A new Commonwealth Fund report, An International Comparison of Early Childhood Initiatives: From Services to Systems, provides an examination of early childhood developments around the world. In particular, the report profiles four countries: England, Canada, Australia, and the U.S. The report provides an overview of key early childhood policies and programs in the four countries and then compares and contrasts their approaches to supporting young children. In the past decade, the report finds that England has made significant investments to eliminate child poverty and as part of the goal of eliminating poverty, taken the greatest action to advance early childhood policy. Canada and Australia place greater emphasis on school readiness than eliminating child poverty. The two countries' national early childhood agenda are less comprehensive than England's. However, the U.S. is the weakest in connecting early childhood policy to the economic well-being of the nation; the country's national early childhood agenda is least clearly defined. The report finds that one challenge all four countries share is a lack of cross-sector integration. Although there is coordination between child care and early education, the report observes that the child health sector is often not incorporated as part of early childhood initiatives; child health is treated separately. In addition, the report finds that there is a lack of training and professional development opportunities for early childhood providers. Among its recommendations, the report calls for further study of early childhood programs to assess their long-term impacts. For the U.S. and Canada, the report also highlights the need to create a stronger early childhood policy agenda at the national level.
The Pennsylvania Build Initiative released its second-year outcomes report on children enrolled in the state pre-kindergarten program, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts. The report, June 2009: Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Boosts Child Learning Outcomes, finds that, similar to first-year outcomes, the program continues to have positive impacts on the school readiness of children. In 2007-2008, almost 70 percent of children showed age-appropriate skills and behavior after attending the program. Among this school year's (2008-2009) results:
- Almost three-quarters of children attending Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts showed age-appropriate skills at the end of the school year.
- By the end of the school year, the number of children who showed age appropriate proficiency in personal and social development, language and literacy, mathematical thinking, and scientific thinking was over double the number of children who showed these skills at the start of the year.
- At the beginning of the year, Spanish-speaking children were three times less likely than English-speaking children to have age-appropriate language and literacy skills. However, by the end of the year, less than 2 percent of both groups of children did not have these skills.
- There was an 83 percent decline in the number of children with disabilities or developmental delays who did not have age-appropriate skills in literacy and language development.
- School districts report that entering kindergarten children who attended Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts were better prepared for school than children who did not attend the program.
The RAND Corporation released the fourth (and final) report of its comprehensive study on California's publicly funded preschool system. The report, Preschool Adequacy and Efficiency in California, synthesizes key findings from the previous three reports, which looked at disparities in school readiness among young children, the use and quality of early childhood services, and available state programs serving preschool-age children. The report summarizes these findings in terms of two overarching issues:
- Adequacy: The report finds that children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds enter kindergarten less prepared than children from more advantaged backgrounds. Moreover, children who show the largest disparities in school readiness upon kindergarten entry are least likely to have attended any preschool or high-quality program. About 50 percent of eligible low-income children are not participating in a publicly funded program.
- Efficiency: The report finds that many publicly subsidized programs have weak regulations and standards that do not meet high-quality expectations. For instance, some providers that receive California Title 5 funding only need to meet state licensing requirements. In addition, the report finds that available resources are not utilized efficiently given the current process in which funds are distributed to providers. Overall, the current system of publicly funded programs in California is complex and difficult to navigate, administer, and evaluate.
The report emphasizes the need to improve the preschool participation rates of disadvantaged children as well as the importance of increasing program quality. In designing a preschool system, four major issues need to be addressed: access, delivery, quality, and infrastructure. The report presents various factors to consider within these issues, such as whether to use a universal or targeted approach in serving children. In addition, the report provides recommendations on how to maximize existing and new resources to develop a more efficient, coordinated preschool system that increases the supply and quality of programs. An executive summary, research brief, and all four reports of the California Preschool Study are also available.
On June 9, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee for Income Security and Family Support held a hearing on the Early Support for Families Act, a bill that would provide funding to states for early childhood home visiting services. At the hearing, Chapin Hall researcher, Deborah Daro, summarized the current research evidence on using home visiting programs as an early intervention tool. Her testimony addressed the following topics:
- Home visiting within the broader context of early learning: The first years of life are a critical, period of child development. To nurture a child's full potential, it is particularly important to support children and parents during these formative years.
- Evidence of successful home visiting programs: Many studies and evaluations of various home visiting models have shown positive outcomes, such as fewer reported cases of child abuse, greater parental involvement, and improved health of both children and parents.
- Standards for evaluating program success: Randomized control trials are commonly used tools that are viewed as effective for evaluating programs. However, these control trials have some limitations, such as the capacity to generalize findings to diverse families and contexts. A recommended alternative approach would include a broad set of well-designed evaluation tools that have the ability to assess comprehensive home visiting models involving services from multiple sectors.
- Monitoring program progress and ensuring continuous improvement: Continuous data collection and monitoring is important to ensuring the effectiveness of home visiting programs. Integrated data systems that allow data across multiple program models to be analyzed can help states identify areas where family needs are not met and make program improvements.