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/

Create a Culture of Acceptance and Kindness in a Challenging World: It all Starts in Your Early Childhood Program

1/25/2017
2 – 3:30pm ET

Presenter: Jacky Howell

In a time where there seems to be many negative messages in the media and beyond, we in early childhood programs experience the effects on young children.  This webinar will share a variety of ideas and strategies to use in your programs that embrace a culture of acceptance and kindness.

Objectives:

  • Description and examples will be given defining a classroom that embraces a culture of acceptance and kindness.
  • Concrete strategies and ideas will be shared that participants can bring back to use in their settings.
  • Opportunity will be provided for question/answer.

Source: Early Childhood Webinars

Register at: http://www.earlychildhoodwebinars.com/presentations/create-culture-acceptance-kindness-challenging-world-starts-early-childhood-program-jacky-howell/

 

Assistance to States for the Education of Children With Disabilities; Preschool Grants for Children With Disabilities; Final Rule

12/19/16

The Secretary amends the regulations under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) governing the Assistance to States for the Education of Children with Disabilities program and the Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities program. With the goal of promoting equity under IDEA, the regulations will establish a standard methodology States must use to determine whether significant disproportionality based on race and ethnicity is occurring in the State and in its local educational agencies (LEAs); clarify that States must address significant disproportionality in the incidence, duration, and type of disciplinary actions, including suspensions and expulsions, using the same statutory remedies required to address significant disproportionality in the identification and placement of children with disabilities; clarify requirements for the review and revision of policies, practices, and procedures when significant disproportionality is found; and require that LEAs identify and address the factors contributing to significant disproportionality as part of comprehensive coordinated early intervening services (comprehensive CEIS) and allow these services for children from age 3 through grade 12, with and without disabilities.

Source: Federal Register, Volume 81 Issue 243

Available at: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-12-19/html/2016-30190.htm

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

Improving the Odds 

5/2016

Recent research and advocacy efforts have led funders, politicians, and the business community to agree that the first years of a child’s life can determine the rest of their development. Across ideological divides, there is consensus that investing early makes sense—it helps children prepare for successful futures and creates a high return on investment of public dollars.

We have created this short guide, featuring examples and how-to’s based on our work with more than a dozen foundations working to make progress in the early care and education space. The guide highlights 7 principles to help funders understand and anticipate the challenges and opportunities of supporting early care and education, including practical advice on how to:

  • Inclusively identify and constructively connect the many actors that provide quality care and education to children and their families.
  • Navigate challenges that arise from a sector filled with different approaches and business models.
  • Balance long-term strategies and outcome measures with short-term wins and progress markers.

Source: FSG

Available at: http://fsg.org/tools-and-resources/improving-odds

CDC: Flu Vaccination Rates Remain Low 

12/12/2016

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported low overall flu vaccination rates of 40% for this season, a similar number as last year’s coverage.

The current estimates are based on survey data from up to early November and show that 37% of children aged 6 months to 17 years and 41% of adults aged ≥18 years have received the flu vaccine. The Healthy People 2020 goal is to reach 70% coverage across all age groups.

“We are urging parents to make sure their children get a flu shot this season, as the nasal-spray vaccine is not recommended for the 2016–2017 flu season. An annual flu vaccine is very important protection for children,” said Joe Bresee, MD, chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of CDC’s Influenza Division.

Source: CDC: MPR

Available at: http://www.empr.com/news/cdc-flu-vaccination-rates-remain-low/article/578669/

Continuing Resolution is Signed, Keeps Federal Government Funded through April 2017

12/12/2016

After last-minute action on Friday by the U.S. House and Senate, along with President Obama’s signature this morning, the federal government has a temporary spending bill that keeps the doors open for another 20 weeks, through April 28. The first “Continuing Resolution” (CR) for the federal Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), which began October 1, 2016, expired on December 9. 

This temporary spending bill is the last action the current Congress took before adjourning for the year. The spending bill for the rest of FY17 (covering the period of April 29 to September 30), along with an FY18 bill, will be taken up by the newly elected Congress in the spring. Based on the proposals that Republican leaders in the House and Senate have made, those budgets could make deep cuts in core programs intended to address the needs of the 13.5 percent of Americans who live in poverty–woefully underfunding programs like Head Start, job training, and Pell grants that help low-income families, workers, and students. At the same time, Republicans will likely seek to sharply increase the budget for defense spending and reduce taxes for the richest Americans. As the new president and Congress act on the budget next spring, they must remember that investments in education, employment, young children, and anti-poverty strategies are crucial to America’s future. 

In the interim, CRs, which are used in the absence of an approved federal spending bill, typically continue the funding for discretionary programs at a rate or formula consistent with the previous fiscal year. This CR includes a 0.19 percent across-the-board cut, which is compounded by the fact that the FY16 budget was the lowest in a decade when adjusted for inflation—meaning that this latest CR represents a significant effective decrease. 

Specific examples of the consequences of temporary funding levels in the bill include the following:

  • Reducing current child care funding, which is already sharply inadequate, leaves states without the resources necessary to implement the critical improvements passed by Congress in 2014 to improve the health, safety, and quality of child care and to provide low-income working families with more stable child care assistance. Already, the number of children receiving child care funded through the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant program has fallen to a 16-year low, with just 1.4 million children being served in 2014, and more will surely lose access without new funding. 
  • Fewer workers will receive the skills training and postsecondary credentials they need to move toward better jobs, since this year’s funding level for adult education is more than 6 percent below the FY 2017 amounts authorized in 2014’s bipartisan reauthorization of the federal workforce development law. Moreover, current funding for key adult and youth employment and training is more than 3 percent lower than WIOA-authorized levels for next year. This would continue a decline in funding for these programs of more than 30 percent in real terms over the past 15 years.
  • Communities of color have been hit especially hard by federal disinvestment in key programs such as child care, workforce training, and Head Start. Youth of color, particularly out of school youth, simply don’t have the resources they need to succeed, and young children cannot get the start they need and deserve without help. With children of color soon to be half of all children—and already half of children under five—their success matters deeply to America’s future.

Our country can help offset the damaging prevalence of poverty and economic insecurity by making a strong commitment to addressing poverty. Such a commitment should start with the enactment next year of FY17 and FY18 spending bills that expand and invest in the crucial education, child care, safety net, and workforce development programs that help people get and keep a job, stabilize families, and promote success. In addition, policymakers must focus resources and attention on those who face the most barriers—children, youth, and families of color, immigrant families, and those whose opportunities are limited by pervasive poverty in their neighborhoods and communities. 

Unfortunately, the current statements of Congressional leaders suggest that the spring’s budget could reflect just the opposite priorities—tax cuts for the richest Americans and sharply eroded help for everyone else. CLASP intends to redouble efforts to ensure policymakers make the right decisions for those children, families, and individuals struggling to make ends meet. To that end, we are working closely with the Coalition on Human Needs on a variety of efforts, including this sign-on letter that the Coalition’s “Save for All” campaign will be sending in early January to the president and members of Congress. Hundreds of national, state, and local organizations have already taken the concrete step of signing on, and you may do so here

Source: CLASP

Webinar: Consultants’ Essentials: Websites 101, by Lindsey Engelhardt

January 12, 2017
2:00 – 3:30

You know you need a website. But where do you start? Join Lindsey Engelhardt to learn how to build your own website from the ground up–without the need to know code. This session will demonstrate actionable steps for consultants and small business owners based on years of experience developing and maintaining several websites. We’ll explore what to consider in your website’s blueprint, what tools are essential for the job, and how to create a functional space that provides you with room to grow. Participants will get a sneak peek into the backend of Lindsey’s website to see an example of how easy it is to create a beautiful, manageable online “storefront.”

Join this webinar to learn:

1. What you should consider before you build
2. What essential tools to use for construction
3. How to create a space that works now–and provides room for growth
4. How to integrate a website into a basic marketing/communications plan

 

All sessions are 1.5 hours long, and include a brief announcement from our sponsor.

2:oo PM – 3:30 PM Eastern Time.

Can’t participate in our webinars at the appointed time? Never fear! All of the webinars are recorded. To view the recording, simply register now and you will receive an email with a link to the recording when it is ready to be viewed.

Only 1,000 people at one time can attend our webinars, but registration often tops 4,000. Only the first 1,000 people to click the link to attend the webinar will be able to get in. We start the webinars 30 minutes in advance of the start time. Arrive early to make sure you get in.

Please be advised that you will only be eligible for the great door prizes if you participate in the live session.

Because this webinar is intended for consultants, we will not offer Certificates of Attendance for this session or the other sessions in the Consultants’ Essentials Webinar Series.