BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD: Power to the Profession Task Force’s Decision Cycles 3-5

Unifying and strengthening the early childhood workforce may be the single most important step towards closing the opportunity/achievement gap. The Foundation for Child Development has committed its energies and resources towards professionalization of the early childhood field, improving the quality of professional practice, and enhancing early childhood teacher preparation.

In 2000, the National Research Council’s Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers report and the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) From Neurons to Neighborhood: The Science of Early Childhood Development report gave the early childhood field its scientific foundation and the standards for high-quality teacher preparation. We also support the long-term vision and teacher competencies proposed by the 2015 IOM report, Transforming the Workforce for Children from Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation. Moving forward, the Foundation has positioned the research base and recommendations from these landmark reports at the center of our 100-plus years of funding research into the care and education that all children need for a strong start in life.

The Foundation’s support of Power to Profession was spurred by the 2015 IOM report and the vision it articulated. We acknowledge both the importance and difficulty of asking the initiative’s Task Force to do what has never been accomplished in the early childhood field: Envision a unified, diverse, well-prepared, appropriately compensated workforce and determine the competencies and qualifications early childhood professionals must have at every level of practice in order to guarantee that all children have equal access to high-quality early care and education. Recognizing that increasing competencies and qualifications among a diverse workforce would require an equitable pathway for professional development, and the compensation that must come with it, the Foundation also funded the 2018 National Academies’ Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education report that outlines a financing framework and funding strategy based on increased competencies while also retaining diversity in our workforce.

Therefore, we view Power to the Profession’s work as framed by these seminal reports, which emphasized what works for all children and developed a vision that demands equal access to high-quality care and education, access that begins each day in the arms of qualified professionals across every community, not just for those who can afford the best for their children.

THE TASK FORCE’S PURPOSE.

The work of the initiative’s Task Force is an opportunity for social and systemic transformation that cannot be squandered. It is within this context that we strongly believe that the draft recommendations in Decision Cycles 3-5 fail to seize the moment to look beyond the systemic and fiscal constraints of the present. Instead, we urge the Task Force to envision what could be and embrace what educators do best by setting higher professional standards that lead all children to better school and life outcomes.

The question today is not whether quality early childhood education works, but rather how we can make it work for all children and for all early childhood educators.

Much has been done over the past decade to convince policymakers and the public of a fundamental truth: High-quality early care and education is the vehicle of social mobility, the accelerator of better education, health, social, and economic outcomes for children and our nation.

Our charge is to close the opportunity gap that too many children and families in our society experience due to lack of access to quality early care and education. The reality is that children in the greatest need deserve early care and education provided by professionals with the highest qualifications — yet they are least likely to get them. A diverse group of competent, qualified, and fairly compensated early childhood professionals, working in every community, is a force that can eliminate the gap and lift an entire generation out of poverty to make sure that each child — regardless of the zip code in which they live — has a clear path to their full potential.

We must see the early childhood workforce as the engine of positive social and economic change that it can be. We cannot be satisfied with the status quo. We cannot be so constrained by the present realities that we cannot envision a new and better reality for children, families, and the profession of early childhood educators.

The time is now. Parents, stretched to the breaking point between their aspirations for their children and what they can afford to provide, demand something better. That demand can be harnessed to drive greater public investment, but only if early childhood educators leverage the trust that parents have in their work and their professional knowledge and skill. We have a golden opportunity to deliver a vision of and transition towards a professional structure that elevates a diverse workforce while providing uniform access to high-quality care and education for all children.

The Task Force’s vision, as currently drafted in Decision Cycles 3-5, will fail to accomplish these big but necessary goals.

We cannot have progress without change. The draft document settles for the low bar of the status quo — which further perpetuates the reality that both the quality of children’s early childhood experiences and the compensation for early childhood professionals are highly dependent on the settings in which they are enrolled or work.

In its current form, the document does not describe a clear strategy to incentivize and facilitate upward mobility across professional roles in the profession. It does not provide specific individual competencies that would describe what early childhood professionals should know and be able to do across professional roles. Nor does the current iteration of the document ensure that all children and families have access to competent professionals across all settings at every stage of early childhood education and care.

DECISION CYCLES 3-5 SET THE BAR TOO LOW…

For more: https://www.fcd-us.org/power-to-the-profession/

Source: 

The Perils of Confusing Performance Measurement with Program Evaluation

A group of researchers recently published a paper critiquing the child outcomes performance indicator for Part C and Part B 619. They also presented some of their thoughts in a recent webinar sponsored by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). The researchers’ critique is based on several faulty assumptions and consequently unfairly discredits the system for measuring child outcomes and the use of the data. Let’s look at our concerns with their critique.

First, the authors have confused performance measurement with program evaluation.

Their primary argument is that the child outcomes measurement requirement produces misleading information because it is based on a flawed evaluation design. The researchers’ critique wrongly assumes that the child outcomes indicator is designed as an evaluation. The child outcomes measurement is not a program evaluation; it is one performance indicator embedded within a larger performance measurement system that is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). States report on a number of performance indicators that address compliance with federal regulations and program results. As such, these indicators yield information that supports program improvement and ongoing monitoring of program performance. Performance measurement systems are common in both the public (for example, Maternal and Child Health) and the private sector (for example, the Pew framework for home visiting). The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) implemented the child outcomes indicator in response to the Government Performance and Results Act which requires all federal agencies report on results being achieved by their programs. OSEP also uses the child outcomes indicator data to monitor states on results achieved, consistent with the strong emphasis in IDEA to improve results for children with disabilities.

The Government Accounting Office has produced a succinct summary that highlights some of the differences between the performance measurement and program evaluation. Performance measurement refers to ongoing monitoring and reporting of program accomplishments. Performance measures may address program activities, services and products, or results. The OSEP child outcomes indicator is a performance measure that addresses results. Examples of other results performance measures are teen pregnancy rates, percentage of babies born at low birth weight, 3rd grade reading scores, and high school graduation rates. In contrast, program evaluationsare periodic or one time studies usually conducted by experts external to the program and involve a more in depth look at a program’s performance. Impact evaluations are a particular type of program evaluation that determine the effect of a program by comparing the outcomes of program participation to what would have happened had the program not been provided.

Performance Measurement Compared to Program Evaluation

Feature Performance Measurement Program Evaluation
Data collected on a regular basis, e.g.,  annually Yes No
Usually conducted by experts to answer a specific question at a single point in time No Yes
Provides information about a program’s performance relative to targets or goals Yes Possibly
Provides ongoing information for program improvement Yes No
Can conclude unequivocally that the results observed were caused by the program No Yes, if well designed impact evaluation
Typically quite costly No Yes

A major difference between measuring outcomes in a performance measure system versus a program evaluation is that a well-designed impact evaluation is able to conclude unequivocally that the results observed were caused by the program. Performance measures cannot rule out alternative explanations for the results observed. Nevertheless, performance measurement data can be used for a variety of purposes including accountability, monitoring performance, and program improvement. Data on performance measures such as the Part C and Part B Section 619 child outcomes indicator can be used to track performance compared to a target or to compare results from one year to the next within programs or states. They can be used to identify state or local programs that could benefit from additional support to achieve better results. Comparing outcomes across states or programs should be done with an awareness that they might serve different population which could contribute to different outcomes. The solution to this is not to conclude that results data are useless or misleading but rather to interpret the results alongside other critical pieces of information such as the performance of children at entry to the program or the nature of the services received. Two of OSEP’s technical assistance centers, the Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems (DaSy) and the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA, have developed a variety of resources to support states in analyzing child outcomes data including looking at outcomes for subgroups to further understand what is contributing to the results observed. Just like tracking 3rd grade reading scores or the percentage of infants who are low birth weight, there is tremendous value in knowing how young children with disabilities are doing across programs and year after year.

Second, the authors incorrectly maintain that children who did not receive Part C services would show the same results on the child outcomes indicator as children who did.

The researchers’ claim that the results states are reporting to OSEP would be achieved even if no services had been provided rests on a flawed analysis of the ECLS-B data, a longitudinal study of children born in 2001. For their analysis, the authors identify a group of 24 months olds in the data set who they label as “Part C eligible children who did not receive Part C services.” These children

  • Received a low score on a shortened version of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (27 items) administered at 9 months of age by a field data collector; and
  • Were reported by a parent when the child was 24 months old as not having received services to help with the child’s special needs.

Few would argue that the determination of eligibility for Part C could be replicated by a 27-item assessment administered by someone unfamiliar with infants and toddlers with disabilities. Furthermore, data from the National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study show that very few children are identified as eligible for Part C based on developmental delay at 9 months of age. The first problem with the analysis is assuming all of these children would have been Part C eligible. The second problem is that it is impossible in this data set to reliably identify which children did and did not receive Part C services. Parents were asked a series of questions about services in general; they were not asked about Part C services. As we and others who have worked with national data collections have learned, parents are not good reporters of program participation for a variety of reasons. The only way to confirm participation in Part C services is to verify program participation which the study did not do. Given that children who received Part C services cannot be identified in the ECLS-B data, no one should be making conclusions about Part C participation based on this data set.

The authors also argue that a measurement phenomenon called “regression to the mean” explains why Part C and Part B 619 children showed improved performance after program participation. In essence this argument says that improvements seen in the functioning of the children are not real changes but are actually due to measurement error. One can acknowledge the reality of errors in assessment results but to maintain that measurement error is the sole or even a major explanation for the progress shown by children in Part C and Part B 619 programs is absurd.

Moving Forward

State Part C and 619 programs are required by IDEA to report on multiple performance indicators including child outcomes as part of a larger performance measurement system. The child outcomes indicator was developed with extensive stakeholder input in order to maximize its utility to local programs, state agencies, and the federal government. The process of building the infrastructure needed to collect and use child outcomes data has been complex which is why states have been working on it for over ten years. State agencies continue to identify and implement strategies for improving the data collection and use of the data. We know that the data collection processes are not perfect and more work needs to be undertaken to address data quality and other concerns. Building a national system for measuring the outcomes for young children with disabilities receiving IDEA services is a long-term undertaking that requires ongoing effort to make the process better. Disparaging the performance indicator and the data reported by states based on incorrect assumptions and flawed analyses is not productive. Instead, the field needs to collectively engage in ongoing dialogue around critical issues of data quality, data analysis, and appropriate use of the data based on an informed understanding of what the child outcomes indicator is and is not. Part C and Part B 619 state agencies and OSEP are on the forefront of collecting and using early childhood outcomes data to improve programs – which is exactly what performance measurement is intended to do.

Source: DaSy: The Center for IDEA Early Childhood Data Systems

Available at: http://dasycenter.org/the-perils-of-confusing-performance-measurement-with-program-evaluation/ 

Implications for PreK-12 Education in Trump’s New Budget

On Monday afternoon, the Trump administration released its FY 2019 budget. While the budget proposal was quickly dismissed by some as “dead on arrival,” it is still an important indicator of the administration’s priorities for the upcoming year.

The proposal includes a 5.6 percent decrease in funding to the Department of Education. If enacted, this would amount to a total funding cut of $3.8 billion compared to what was enacted in the 2017 fiscal year. The administration originally sought a far larger cut of $7.1 billion to the department, but $3.3 billion were restored in an addendum that reflects the increased spending levels reached in last week’s congressional spending deal.

The proposal also includes a 21 percent decrease in funding to the Department of Health and Human Services, requesting a total of $68.4 billion for HHS. HHS is where many early care and education programs are housed, such as Head Start and grants to subsidize child care.

This post provides an overview of what the proposed budget means for public education.

Source: New America

Available at: https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/edcentral/implications-prek-12-education-trumps-new-budget/

High Court Argument to Center on Level of Benefits for Spec. Ed. – Education Week

 

When the U.S. Supreme Court made its first substantive interpretation in 1982 of the main federal special education law, it was careful to say that courts should not impose their own view of education adequacy upon states and districts for children covered by the law.

In that case, Board of Education of the Hendrick Hudson Central School District v. Rowley, the court created a definition of a “free, appropriate public education” in the special education arena that has stood for decades. Under the definition, special education must confer “some educational benefit.”

But in a case set to be argued Jan. 11, the court is weighing in on what “some” should mean. The question at hand: What level of educational benefit must school districts provide to students with disabilities in order for them to receive that free, appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?

Source: Education Week

Available at: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/01/11/high-court-argument-to-center-on-level.html

U.S. Department of Education Announces $3 Million in Pay for Success Grants for Preschool Programs

12/22/2016

The U.S. Department of Education announced today more than $3 million in grant awards to eight government organizations for Preschool Pay for Success feasibility pilots that will support innovative funding strategies to expand preschool and improve educational outcomes for 3- and 4-year-olds. These grants will allow states, school districts and other local government agencies to explore whether Pay for Success is a viable financing mechanism for expanding and improving preschool in their communities in the near term.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence that attending high-quality preschool can help level the playing field for our most vulnerable children, we continue to have a huge unmet need in this country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “We’re pleased that these grantees will work in their communities to make the case for investing in early education and drive expansion of high-quality preschool.”

Pay for Success is an innovative way of partnering with philanthropic and private sector investors to provide resources for service providers to deliver better outcomes—producing the highest return on taxpayer investments. Through Pay for Success, the government agrees to pay for concrete, measurable outcomes, but taxpayer funds are spent only if those outcomes are achieved.

Twenty-one applications were reviewed.  Among the 8 winners are one state (Minnesota), one charter school, one school district and five local government agencies.

  • Napa Valley Unified School District, CA, $380,944
  • Santa Clara County Office of Education, CA, $392,704
  • Ventura County Office of Education, CA, $397,000
  • Minnesota Department of Education, MN, $397,158
  • Mecklenburg County Government, NC, $335,677
  • Cuyahoga County Office of Early Learning, OH, $374,320
  • Clatsop County, OR, $350,000
  • The Legacy Charter School, SC, $381,815

These feasibility studies will advance the understanding of how Pay for Success can be used to expand and improve the quality of preschool programs for low-income and disadvantaged preschoolers. Each grantee identified potential outcome measures for students that attend preschool, such as improved kindergarten readiness, reading and math growth or achievement, and improved social and emotional skills. Those outcomes will be evaluated over the course of the grant. The grantees will also examine whether children’s social and emotional development is predictive of future school success, cost savings and other societal benefits.

Each Pay for Success project will include an assessment of the design and expansion of an evidence-based preschool program and a cost-benefit analysis showing the return on investment to the community. In the event the Pay for Success model is determined to not be a viable model for funding early childhood learning in a particular community, the grantee’s final report will detail those reasons and offer potential alternatives to Pay for Success that would positively impact early childhood learning.

The grants require safeguards to protect the rights of children with disabilities if the reduction in the need for special education is one of the outcome measures explored in the feasibility studies.  Three of the studies included special education as an outcome measure, and the proposals for all three of these include safeguards and emphasize the importance of engaging special education and disability stakeholders.

The Education Department supports initiatives that are based on evidence, focus on outcomes, and improve education for students at all ages, including early childhood, elementary and secondary education, career and technical education, post-secondary and adult education. Pay for Success is one of several strategies that the Department can use to promote evidence-based policy. In addition to its potential to lead to high-quality Pay for Success projects that provide or expand early education for children, these investments will add knowledge to the field about a wider range of outcome measures that preschool Pay for Success projects should consider and will encourage other entities to set strong guardrails when using special education as an outcome measure.

Today, the Department also released another resource to explore how educators might build on and sustain the positive effects of preschool.  A new case study of five programs examined two types of promising strategies to support children’s learning in early elementary school: (1) aligning instruction from preschool through grade 3, and (2) differentiated instruction.  The five programs included:

  • Boston Public Schools
  • Chicago Child–Parent Centers (Chicago and St. Paul)
  • Early Works (Portland, Oregon)
  • FirstSchool (Martin County, North Carolina)
  • Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL) program (Redwood City, California)

Findings indicate that all five aligned instruction across grades by coordinating standards, curricula, instructional practices and professional development. Common elements of these programs included the use of professional learning communities, coaches, parent engagement, and play-based or student-initiated learning. All reported using strategies to accommodate students’ different skill levels, including modifying assignments, adapting learning materials, providing different levels of support, or using small-group instruction.

Source: Office of Early Learning, U.S. Department of Education

The Obama Early Childhood Legacy

12/15/2016

By Laura Bornfreund and David Loewenberg

In a matter of weeks, the portrait of President Obama that hangs in the lobby of the Department of Education will be taken down. What policies and programs come down with it remains to be seen, raising questions about what the Obama legacy in education will be: How will he be remembered? What indelible mark has his administration left on education in our country?  What policies, if any, will outlive his administration? Finally, however the recent election alters (or tarnishes) his legacy, will his administration’s mark on early childhood education withstand?

While early learning was arguably overshadowed by K-12 reforms during the Obama administration’s first term, over the course of the past eight years, great strides have been made to improve the quality—and increase the availability—of high-quality early education offerings across the country.Since 2009, federal investment in early childhood programs has increased by more than $6 billion. Thanks to that funding, thousands more children are being served in state pre-K programs, steps have been taken to improve the quality of childcare, and Head Start—the nation’s largest federally funded early education program—has been overhauled to make it a higher quality, more flexible program. Today, nearly all states provide some funding for pre-K, and state investment in pre-K continues to rise. What’s more, 40 states are measuring early childhood program quality—up from 17 at the beginning of Obama’s administration.

Through the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), 20 states have received a combined total of more than $1 billion to improve children’s access to high-quality early learning programs. And for the first time ever, there is a dedicated Office of Early Learning in the Department of Education (ED) — a move that proved to be significant in both symbolic and practical terms. Since its creation in 2011, the office has worked to thread early learning across ED offices and has improved coordination between ED and the Department of Health and Human Services which administers Head Start and other early childhood programs.

Perhaps most importantly, though, the president has used his bully pulpit to lift early education into the national spotlight. This was never more evident than in 2013 when President Obama used his State of the Union address to highlight the promise of early learning. Speaking on perhaps the most prominent stage in politics, the president set the ambitious goal of making high-quality pre-K available to every single child in America. This historic shout-out for early education was followed by the rollout of his “Preschool for All” proposal. While the proposal never gained much legislative traction, for the first time in recent memory, early childhood education became a centerpiece in the national conversation around improving education.

So has the access and quality of early childhood education for children and families improved over the last eight years of the Obama administration? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.”

There is room for debate, however, when it comes to whether the actions and rhetoric of the Obama administration have ushered in the type of sustainable, large-scale improvements that are needed.

While state pre-K programs are serving thousands more children, and while nearly all states now fund pre-K, the percentage of children served has remained relatively flat. Just 41 percent of four-year-olds and 16 percent of three-year-olds were enrolled in publicly-funded pre-K programs in 2015 — an increase of a mere 3 percent from 2008 levels and a far cry from the president’s 2013 call for “Preschool for All” four-year-olds.

And while it is certainly true that more states are investing in their youngest, the state of early education in the U.S., as a whole, is one that remains plagued by significant issues when it comes to quality, cost, and the workforce. The quality of state pre-K programs and other early childhood programs remains extremely varied, the cost of good child care is still far out of reach for most families, particularly low-income families, and the early childhood workforce continues to be severely underpaid.

Further complicating the record of progress, kindergarten and the early grades are still largely ignored in much of federal and state policy and the notion of a birth-through-third grade system — even a pre-K-3rd grade system — as a whole, is still just that, an idea rather than common practice. And as skeptics of large-scale pre-K programs will point out, we still don’t fully understand how best to ensure that the academic benefits of pre-K endure over time.

In short, progress has been made but significant work remains if the U.S. hopes to arrive at a place where its youngest children receive the educational opportunities they need and deserve.

Undoubtedly the Obama Administration did more than those that came before to make children’s earliest years an important part of the national education conversation. By incentivizing state and local investments and creating a national platform for the issue, the Obama administration has unmistakably helped to strengthen the quality and availability of early learning across the country. Still, rather than fundamentally transforming the early education landscape, it may be more accurate to say that the Obama years have laid important groundwork necessary for large-scale efforts in the years to come — should there be future leaders who make doing so a priority.

Source: New America

Available at: https://www.newamerica.org/weekly/edition-146/obama-early-childhood-legacy/

Head Start is underfunded and unequal, according to a new study

12/14/16

Head Start, the federal program that provides education, nutrition and health services to low-income children and their families, is not adequately funded and is administered so differently from state to state that children do not benefit equally, according to a new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research.

The 478-page report, “State(s) of Head Start,” released Wednesday, calls for a near tripling of the program’s budget — to more than $20 billion — to fully meet its goals for serving 3- and 4-year-old children living in poverty. It also points to wide gaps in Head Start programs related to quality of instruction, amount of instruction, access to programs and levels of funding.

“Despite decades of bipartisan support for Head Start, we conclude that the program suffers from inadequate overall public investment,” the report’s authors wrote. “Simply put, the program is not funded at a level that would make it possible to provide child development services of sufficient quality and duration to achieve its goals while serving all eligible children even at ages 3 and 4, much less for those under age 3.”

The report, which compiled program data from 50 states, the District of Columbia and six territories, provides a deeper understanding of who Head Start serves and where it operates best, said Steven Barnett, executive director of NIEER and one of the study’s authors. But it also makes clear, he says, how and where the program has fallen short.

“The percentage of poor kids that Head Start serves nationally could be as low as a quarter, meaning that 75 percent of the children in poverty are not getting Head Start,” Barnett said in an interview. “I don’t think people understand that. And then if you say that the intended population is not just kids who are poor, but kids who are near-poor, then I think people don’t understand that that’s half the children in the country.”

The report arrives as Donald Trump prepares to step into the White House amid uncertainty about funding priorities in the new administration. The Health and Human Services Department, which is expected to be led by Trump’s nominee, Tom Price (R-Georgia), runs Head Start.

Barnett said that while there are questions about the new administration’s plans, he believes there is reason to be optimistic…

Source: The Washington Post

Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/head-start-is-underfunded-and-unequal-according-to-a-new-study/2016/12/14/54b01b24-c095-11e6-897f-918837dae0ae_story.html

Fewer Babies in Poor Families Are Overweight

12/13/2016

The percentage of overweight babies in poor families in the United States may be on the decline, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that fewer babies enrolled in the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutritional assistance program had a high “weight-for-length” in 2014, when compared with 2010. The percentage went from 14.5 percent to just over 12 percent in that period.

The WIC program helps low-income pregnant women, new mothers and children up to age 5. With federal funding, states provide those families with supplemental foods, nutrition education and health care referrals.

Researchers said the new findings are “encouraging.”

High weight, even in infancy, has been linked to an increased risk of obesity later on, said study author David Freedman. He is a researcher with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And children in low-income families are at particular risk of both a high weight in infancy and childhood obesity, Freedman pointed out.

Dr. William Dietz, director of the Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., agreed that “high weight-for-length is beyond ‘chubbiness.’ ”

Dietz, who was not involved in the study, pointed to a finding he thought was particularly encouraging: Weight improvements were greatest among babies in certain minority groups. Hispanic and Native American babies showed the biggest changes.

The prevalence of high weight among Hispanic babies dropped from 17 percent in 2010 to just under 14 percent in 2014; among Native Americans, the prevalence fell below 16 percent — down from almost 19 percent, the findings showed.

Meanwhile, just under 12 percent of black babies had a high weight in 2014, compared with 11 percent of white babies.

“The declines were greatest in groups disproportionately affected by obesity,” Dietz said. “So those disparities, at least in this youngest age group, may be narrowing. That’s an important finding.”

The results were based on nearly 17 million U.S. babies younger than 2 whose families took part in WIC between 2000 and 2014.

Between 2000 and 2004, the proportion of babies with a high weight-for-length rose from roughly 13 percent to 14.5 percent. That figure held steady through 2010, then dropped to just above 12 percent by 2014.

Why did the picture improve? Changes to the WIC program are one likely reason, Freedman said.

During the study period, the program’s food allocation package was revamped to fall in line with federal dietary guidelines, as well as infant feeding recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“There were changes that resulted in increased consumption of whole grains, fruits and vegetables,” Freedman said.

Plus, he added, those years saw a growing awareness — among health professionals and parents — of the childhood obesity problem.

Freedman did underscore a limitation of the study: Since the findings come from the WIC program, they do not reflect U.S. families as a whole.

However, recent studies have found that early childhood obesity seems to be on the decline nationwide. According to the CDC, just over 9 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds were obese in 2014 — down from 14 percent a decade earlier.

That’s in contrast to what’s going on with older kids and adults, Freedman pointed out.

Among 2- to 19-year-olds, the CDC says, the prevalence of obesity has remained stubbornly stable — at around 17 percent. And roughly one-fifth of U.S. teenagers are obese.

Still, the fact that the youngest kids are showing a different pattern is a positive sign, according to Dietz.

“This shows that we are making some progress,” he said.

Freedman agreed. “We are seeing some positive results,” he said. Now, the question is whether the encouraging trends will continue, he added.

More information

The CDC has more on childhood obesity.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Available at: https://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/obesity-health-news-505/fewer-u-s-babies-from-poorer-families-are-overweight-now-cdc-717726.html

Federal Report Recommends Teaching Self-Regulation in Schools

12/6/16

A new federal report recommends that schools emphasize building children’s “self-regulation” skills in order to increase opportunities for student success in a number of areas. The recommendation is one of several in the report, the fourth in a series on self-regulation research and practice from the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Researchers have zeroed in on the importance of self-regulation skills, which allow children to manage their thoughts and feelings, control impulses, and problem-solve.

“Self-regulation affects wellbeing across the lifespan, from mental health and emotional wellbeing to academic achievement, physical health, and socioeconomic success,” said Desiree Murray, associate director of research at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and lead author of the report. “Unfortunately, prolonged or pronounced stress and adversity, including poverty and trauma, can delay children’s self-regulation development.”

Murray said the good news is research shows that interventions can improve outcomes for children from backgrounds of risk and adversity. Her research team, which includes Duke Center for Child and Family Policy’s Katie Rosanbalm and Christina Christopoulos, recommend embedding a focus on self-regulation in schools and other settings.

“For optimal self-regulation, a child or adolescent needs to have a full bucket of skills and supports on which to draw,” Murray said. “There are two crucial periods when children are developing their self-regulation skills the most—in early childhood and early adolescence—when teachers and parents can help them build the skills they need for the rest of their lives.”

Murray said many self-regulation interventions are designed for use in schools.

“Schools are an ideal place for interventions because there is opportunity to build skills in a cohesive approach from preschool through secondary school and because of the potential power of shared learning with peers,” she said. “Interventions in schools can impact the culture and climate in a way that benefits all students.”

According to the report, strengthening self-regulation can be thought of like teaching literacy. Similar to literacy, self-regulation develops with simpler skills first, which build upon one another.

Murray and her team outline a comprehensive approach to the development of self-regulation, which includes teaching skills through repeated practice and frequent feedback in a supportive context. They suggest providing universal interventions across childhood and into early adulthood, with a strong emphasis on teaching caregivers (including teachers and other school staff) how to support children.  She said the keys to this support are warm and responsive relationships, paired with positive discipline and consistency.

The report also recommends providing more intensive intervention to children who are experiencing self-regulation difficulties. In 12 elementary schools, Murray’s team is currently delivering and studying a small-group pull-out program teaching socio-emotional skills from “The Incredible Years.”

“Some children and youth may need additional supports, such as those provided by ‘Incredible Years’ programs,” Murray said. “These and other interventions may be particularly beneficial for youth who live in adversity, increasing children’s resilience to the negative effects of stress.”

Murray’s team based their report’s recommendations on two comprehensive reviews of research. “We capitalized on important recent findings from developmental neuroscience, and looked at a wide range of interventions that have been evaluated in the last 25 years,” she said.

The Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation in the DHHS’s Administration for Children and Families commissioned the report. Murray and Rosanbalm currently are developing a series of briefs to support use of their recommendations for different age groups, including new professional development for practitioners in the field.

Source: FPG Child Development Institute

Available at: http://fpg.unc.edu/node/8716

High-Quality Birth-to-Five Programs Produce a Greater Return on Investment

12/12/16

Professor James Heckman and colleagues have just released The Lifecycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, the results of a new analysis demonstrating that high-quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% per year return on investment—a rate substantially higher than the 7-10% return previously established for preschool programs serving 3 and 4-year-olds.

Heckman’s team used data from FPG’s Abecedarian Project and FPG’s Carolina Approach to Responsive Education, and this new analysis includes the value of health outcomes, as well as the economic benefits of providing child care to mothers.

In a two-page research snapshot, Heckman and colleagues recommend “more and better” programs for young children in poverty.”Child poverty is growing in the United States,” they write. “Investing in comprehensive birth-to-five early childhood education is a powerful and cost-effective way to mitigate its negative consequences on child development and adult opportunity.”The authors also suggest that policymakers coordinate early childhood resources “into a scaffolding of developmental support for disadvantaged children” and that such support “provide access to all in need.”According to the researchers, “the gains are significant because quality programs pay for themselves many times over. The cost of inaction is a tragic loss of human and economic potential that we cannot afford.”

Source: FPG Child Development Institute

Available at: http://fpg.unc.edu/node/8730