Alliance for Early Success: Policy Framework and Guidelines 

11/2015

The Alliance developed and published an initial Framework in 2013 with input from more than 150 experts representing early childhood and K-12 advocates and leaders, researchers, communication professionals, policymakers, and foundation leaders. The 2015 revision reflects input from a high level Advisory Group as well as additional experts in health and family support. Policy options are updated to reflect the latest research and best practice evidence. The most significant change is the inclusion of cross-cutting policy choices that address multiple issues.

The Framework has four policy pillars.

  • HEALTH:  Children are born healthy, stay healthy, and are surrounded by healthy adults
  • FAMILY SUPPORT:  Families help their children explore, learn, and grow in safe and nurturing places.
  • LEARNING:  Children arrive at Kindergarten with the skills and abilities to meet developmental milestones, read on grade level, and reach achievement goals.
  • CROSS-CUTTING POLICIES: Children thrive in families and communities that support their healthy development.

Source: Alliance for Early Success

Available at: http://earlysuccess.org/our-work/policy-framework

Choosing Parenting Curricula: Introducing a Compendium of Evidenced-Based Parenting Interventions

11/2015

Strong parent-child relationships set the stage for children’s success in school and in life. Discover ways to partner with families to strengthen these relationships in your program using this compilation of evidenced-based parenting interventions for children ages birth to 5. Research has shown that the parenting interventions in this guide support children’s learning and development.

The Compendium includes all the information you need to make choices about parenting interventions you can implement in your program. Many of these parenting programs provide opportunities for parents to learn more about their child, reduce family stress, and deepen parent satisfaction. Find information about cost, training, length of the parenting group, and the goals of the intervention.

Source: National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Partnerships and the Early Childhood Knowledge and Learning Center

Available at: http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta-system/family/docs/compendium-of-parenting.pdf

What Should Smarter Testing Look Like in the Early Grades?

10/30/2015

The proper role of testing in our nation’s schools has been a hot topic of conversation this week. It all started last Saturday when the Council of the Great City Schools released a study of 66 urban school districts that found students take about 112 mandatory standardized tests between pre-K and 12th grade. That averages out to about eight tests per year and consumes about 2.3 percent of students’ total class time. The study found a great deal of redundancy and overlap among the tests that students take each year. Perhaps most importantly, the study pointed out that there is no correlation between the amount of mandated testing time and student test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly known as “The Nation’s Report Card.”

Prompted in part by the release of the Council’s study on Saturday, the Department of Education released a Testing Action Plan on the same day, while President Obama emphasized the need for smarter testing in schools. Most notably, the Testing Action Plan calls for a two percent cap to be placed on the amount of classroom instructional time that is dedicated to test-taking. However, this cap doesn’t address the large amounts of time schools spend on test preparation prior to students actually taking the tests. The plan advocates for fewer and smarter assessments by ensuring that any tests administered be high-quality, time-limited, and properly aligned to the content and skills students are currently learning. The Department wisely points out that a well-designed test is not used only to assess what students know at one point in time, but is part of a broader strategy to inform and guide additional teaching. The Department has promised to issue clear guidance by January 2016 on best practices for using testing as a learning tool.

Source: EdCentral

Available at: http://www.edcentral.org/testing/

Windows of opportunity: Their seductive appeal

10/22/2015

A major theme in early childhood education is that brain research has established the importance of early windows of opportunity that can be exploited to assure optimal brain development and life-long well-being. Explanations involving brain science have a seductive appeal, especially among the general public and policy-makers. Thus, neuroscientific evidence requires special scrutiny in the policy realm. Consideration of the neuroscience behind claims about windows of opportunity reveals a contrast between what is claimed in the policy as opposed to the scholarly literature. The advocacy literature tends to tell only half of the story about the effects of experience on synapse formation. The full story raises doubts as to how much specific guidance neuroscience can provide policy makers about what should go into those windows of opportunity.

Source: The Brookings Institution

Available at: http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2015/10/22-childhood-education-neuroscience-window-opportunity-bruer

Effects of early childhood education and care on child development

10/21/2015

This report considers international research on the impact of early childhood education and care (ECEC) provision upon children’s development and, while not exhaustive, is an extremely comprehensive review, using studies reported from a wide range of sources including journals, books, government reports and diverse organisation reports.

Early research was primarily concerned with whether children attending non-parental care developed differently from those not receiving such care. Later work recognised that childcare is not unitary and that the quality or characteristics of experience matters. Further research drew attention to the importance of the interaction between home and out of home experience. High quality childcare has been associated with benefits for children’s development, with the strongest effects for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. There is also evidence that negative effects can sometimes occur. The results of studies partly depend upon the context and ECEC systems in place in different countries, but there is sufficient commonality of findings to indicate that many results are not culture-specific.

While the research on pre-school education (three+ years) is fairly consistent, the research evidence on the effects of childcare (birth to three years) has been equivocal with some negative effects, some null effects and some positive effects. Discrepant results may relate to age of starting and also differences in the quality of childcare. In addition childcare effects are moderated by family background with negative, neutral and positive effects occur depending on the relative balance of quality of care at home and in childcare. Recent largescale studies find effects related to both quantity and quality of childcare. The effect sizes for childcare factors are about half those for family factors. The analysis strategy of most studies attributes variance to childcare factors only after family factors has been considered, and, where the two covary, this will produce conservative estimates of childcare effects.

Source:  Child care Canada

Available at: http://childcarecanada.org/documents/research-policy-practice/15/10/effects-early-childhood-education-and-care-child-developmen

U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services Release Early Learning Challenge Annual Performance Reports for 20 States 

10/27/2015

The U.S. Department of Education released a report today that shows Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge states are rapidly improving the quality of early learning programs while enrolling more children, especially from low- and moderate income families, in the highest-quality programs.

What’s more, thousands more children are receiving health screenings to help detect medical or developmental issues earlier, the report shows. The report comes from the annual performance reviews for the 20 states that have received more than $1 billion in Early Learning Challenge grants since 2011. These reports capture the successes achieved and obstacles overcome by states in the last year.

“By investing in high-quality early learning through programs like the Early Learning Challenge, states are giving many more children a strong start in life,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “Thanks to the leadership of governors, state officials and education advocates, these states are implementing plans to develop high-quality early learning systems that improve the quality of learning and provide our youngest citizens with the strong foundation they need for success in school and beyond.”

The Early Learning Challenge is a historic federal investment that supports states in building strong systems of early learning and development to ensure that underserved children – including low-income and minority students, as well as students with disabilities and English learners – and their families have equitable access to high-quality programs.

Highlights from the reports:

  • More than 72,000 early learning and development programs are now evaluated under their states’ Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (TQRIS) – an 87 percent increase since the states applied for their grants.
  • Nearly 14,000 programs are in the highest quality tiers of their states’ rating system – a 63 percent increase since the states applied for their grants.
  • Significantly more children with high needs are enrolled in programs in the highest quality tiers of their states’ rating system.
  • More than 200,000 children with high needs are enrolled in highest rated state-funded preschool programs.
  • Nearly 230,000 children with high needs are enrolled in child care programs that receive federal child care subsidy funds and are in the highest tiers.
  • More than 150,000 children with high needs are enrolled in Head Start/Early Head Start programs in the highest tiers.

“The Early Learning Challenge, an education reform initiative announced by President Obama in 2009, has been a catalyst for advancing state-led efforts to improve education. When we invest in early education, the benefits can last a lifetime,” HHS Administration for Children and Families Acting Assistant Secretary Mark Greenberg said. “Children who attend high-quality early learning and preschool programs are more likely to do well in school. We all gain when our country has strong early childhood systems in place to support our children on the path to opportunity.”

Duncan discussed the report at the annual grantee meeting in Virginia for the thirty-two states implementing the Early Learning Challenge, as well as Preschool Development Grants. Launched in 2011 as a historic joint initiative of the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, the Early Learning Challenge now has 20 states participating: California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state and Wisconsin. These grantees are working to align, coordinate and improve the quality of existing early learning programs across multiple funding streams that support children from birth through age 5.

Duncan also spoke about the Preschool Development Grants, a program jointly administered by both Departments. In 2014, 35 states and Puerto Rico applied for the Preschool Development Grants, jointly administered by the Departments, to expand high-quality preschool for children from low- to moderate-income families. Due to the limited funding, awards were made only to 18 states in over 200 high-need communities that span the geographic and political spectrum. Despite the evidence showing the importance of early learning and the unmet need for preschool in America, earlier this summer, House and Senate committees authored partisan spending bills that make significant cuts to programs that provide important services such as health care, public health and safety, job training, and education. Both bills eliminate Preschool Development Grants, jeopardizing critical early education opportunities for more than 100,000 children in the last two years of the grants.

This Early Learning Challenge report provides a high level overview of the progress made by Early Learning Challenge states in key areas as they implement their state plans. For more detailed information, see the individual state annu

Source: U.S. Department of Education

Available at: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-departments-education-and-health-and-human-services-release-guidance-including-children-disabilities-high-quality-early-childhood-programs-0

Achieving Kindergarten Readiness for All Our Children: A Funder’s Guide to Early Childhood Development from Birth to Five

10/20/2015

When every child has the opportunity to meet his or her full potential, we strengthen families, our communities, and the nation’s economic future. Remarkably, one in four American children come from low-income families and enter kindergarten not ready to learn and, as a result, fall behind from the very start. Our nation pays a heavy price through larger taxpayer burdens in remedial and special education, more costly health interventions, and increased criminal justice expenditures. Research shows that for a fraction of those costs, preventive investments in high-quality early childhood programs can avoid the high price of remediation and bring enormous benefits to the economy. Further, early intervention strengthens families and accelerates a child’s ability to learn, thus increasing the effectiveness of K–12 education.

America vastly underinvests in early childhood programs that work, especially in the critical period from pregnancy to age three. This guide offers numerous specific, evidence-based public investment opportunities private donors and government can pursue immediately to make an impact. We cannot afford to wait. Philanthropy, business, and government must work together to expand early childhood opportunities so that all children arrive at school ready to learn and with an equal chance to achieve success throughout their lives.

Source: The Bridgespan Group

Available at: http://www.bridgespan.org/Publications-and-Tools/Youth-Development/early-childhood-funder-guide-2015.aspx#.VkvpQdDMD2A

Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism

10/14/2015

Chronic absenteeism—or missing at least 10 percent of school days in a school year for any reason, excused or unexcused—is a primary cause of low academic achievement and a powerful predictor of those students who may eventually drop out of school. An estimated five to seven and a half million students miss 18 or more days of school each year, or nearly an entire month or more of school, which puts them at significant risk of falling behind academically and failing to graduate from high school. Because they miss so much school, millions of young people miss out on opportunities in post-secondary education and good careers.

Chronic absenteeism is also an equity issue, and it is particularly prevalent among students who are low-income, students of color, students with disabilities, students who are highly mobile, and/or juvenile justice-involved youth—in other words, those who already tend to face significant challenges and for whom school is particularly beneficial. Moreover, chronic absenteeism is often confused with truancy, which can lead to disproportionate suspensions and expulsions from school and inappropriate referrals of students and families to law enforcement.

In response and in support of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative (MBK), the U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Justice (DOJ) are launching Every Student, Every Day: A National Initiative to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism to support coordinated community action that addresses the underlying causes of local chronic absenteeism affecting millions of children in our Nation’s public schools each year. We believe that when a diverse coalition of local stakeholders work together to engage and support students who are chronically absent, youth and family outcomes of entire communities can be dramatically improved. In short, we believe chronic absenteeism in communities is a solvable problem.

ED, HHS, HUD, and DOJ, as part of the Every Student, Every Day initiative, are pleased to release the following resources:

  • Dear Colleague Letter to States, School Districts and Community on the need to reduce chronic absenteeism by at least 10% each year.
  • Every Student, Every Day: A Community Toolkit to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism. This Toolkit offers information, suggested action steps, and lists of existing tools and resources—including evidence-based resources—for individuals, leaders, and systems to begin or enhance the work of effective, coordinated community action to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism, including actions steps for:
    • Youth
    • Parents and Families
    • Mentors and Volunteers
    • School District Superintendents and Staff, and School Personnel
    • Early Learning Providers
    • Health Care, Public Health & Human Service Agencies & Providers
    • Public Housing Authorities
    • Juvenile Justice and Law Enforcement
    • Homeless Services Providers
    • Mayors and Local Government
    • Community, Faith-Based, and Philanthropic Organizations
  • White House Fact Sheet that includes additional details on Every Student, Every Day, including information on upcoming activities, technical assistance, and events.
  • Every Student, Every Day: A Virtual Summit on Addressing and Eliminating Chronic Absence. The U.S. Department of Education, Attendance Works, Everybody Graduates Center and United Way Worldwide invite you to attend Every Student, Every Day: A Virtual Summit on Addressing and Eliminating Chronic Absence on Nov. 12. This online summit will outline key steps that states, districts and communities can take to improve student achievement by monitoring and reducing chronic absence. Featuring two of the nation’s premiere experts on absenteeism: Johns Hopkins researcher Bob Balfanz and Attendance Works Director Hedy Chang, this virtual summit will:
    • Explain the importance of looking beyond average daily attendance rates to identify students who are missing so much school that they are falling behind academically.
    • Share strategies that work for improving attendance and achievement, including positive messaging, family outreach, student incentives and mentoring programs.
    • Highlight the importance of engaging community partners, such as, health providers and criminal justice agencies.

Balfanz and Chang will also introduce school district leaders who are using these strategies to improve attendance and achievement. The summit is hosted by the United Way Worldwide.

Source: US Department of Education

Available at: http://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/chronicabsenteeism/index.html

Bullying Prevention Month 2015: Have We Come To The End of This Policy Cycle?

10/14/2015

It is hard to believe it is October again, our designated “bullying prevention month.” Typically at this time of year my inbox is full of requests for interviews or information on bullying and my Google newsfeed alerts ping hundreds of articles about the issue. Though these are still trickling in, somehow this year seems much slower than any in the past five. Perhaps it was the recent news that rates of bullying are down for students ages 12-18, or the fact that every state in the country now has an anti-bullying law (which, at least according to one recently released study, seem to have a positive relation to decreased rates of bullying). Whatever the reason, it seems like the once-widespread focus on bullying among school-aged youth seems to be fading.

In their pioneering book Tinkering Toward Utopia, David Tyack and Larry Cuban write that policymakers’ attention to a topic often follows public interest, for better and worse; tragedies or news stories can increase the likelihood of real action, but those chances wane when public attention fades. We have seen this already with bullying. The first panic about bullying followed a string of school shootings in the 1990s, reaching its peak with the Columbine massacre in 1999. But attention to bullying dwindled until the next panic involving youth suicides in 2010.

Despite the public’s seemingly short attention span, however, dedicated researchers, advocates, and policymakers took up the cause driving towards the progress we have seen to date. This relatively quiet bullying prevention month is the perfect time to reflect on our progress and plan for the next policy cycle, which will hopefully not be triggered by a tragic event like those in the past.

The last five years have been a firestorm for work on bullying. A simple Google Scholar search reveals over 9,000 publications since 2010 with “bullying” in their title. Everyone, from President Obama to Lady Gaga to Big Bird to Monica Lewinsky, has spoken up about bullying. Anti-bullying wristbands and posters are so commonplace now, it is almost more surprising to walk into a school and not see these types of campaigns. Bullying as an issue is so recognized now that it has lost much of the meaning that was once ascribed to it. As danah boyd has long argued, the term bullying often doesn’t resonate with today’s youth. Today, everything is bullying and yet nothing is bullying (and it doesn’t help that those of us who work on the issue can’t agree what it is, either). It comes as no surprise then that, after five years, there is a general malaise in the discussion.

But perhaps this is exactly where the conversation needs to be. As I have long argued, simply telling youth not to bully and raising awareness about the issue is unlikely to actually change the behavior. Instead the conversation now seems to have shifted to one that could have a real impact: building social and emotional skills in youth, addressing trauma, creating more positive school climates, and focusing on positive behaviors, rather than negative ones. By focusing on these protective factors, at increasingly earlier ages, we are more likely to impact bullying than awareness campaigns like bullying prevention month.

So as this bullying prevention month quietly continues, don’t despair that attention has been lost. Instead look towards the promise of the new policy cycles, new research, and new prevention efforts that might have the biggest impact of all.

Source: Child Trends

Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/bullying-prevention-month-2015-have-we-come-to-the-end-of-this-policy-cycle/

Early Learning Language and Literacy Series

10/2015

Welcome to the Early Learning Language and Literacy Series! This series of professional development modules on early literacy learning, birth to kindergarten, is designed to support the work of early education initiatives across the fifty states and the territories to support the language and literacy development of young children. The two key objectives for the Early Learning Language and Literacy Series are:

  1. To provide teachers with background information/research on early language and literacy
  2. To provide evidence-based strategies to support the language and literacy development of young children

Intended Audience. These modules are designed for professionals who are working with young children, birth to five. Participants may include teachers and administrators from early learning centers, family child care, Head Start, home visiting programs, nursery or preschools, or Early Intervention programs. Students from high school or college-level early education programs can also benefit from the presenters’ rich knowledge-base and informative presentations. The modules may be used for family education topics as well.

Facilitator Role. Facilitators have a critical role in assuring the successful delivery of the literacy series. Facilitators should be early childhood content experts with some basic knowledge about emerging literacy in young children. They should be comfortable with a webinar delivery system for professional development.

Format and Suggested Delivery. The series consists of 14 webinar-based modules, which together present a comprehensive look at literacy learning for young children and provide the viewers with a strong foundation for supporting children’s literacy development in their settings.

Each module is a stand-alone session and can be presented to a group independently or in a different order than is suggested. However, it is strongly recommended that all 14 modules be delivered as a series to expose participants to the full range of language and literacy domains, skills and instructional techniques that support young children’s development. Additionally, Module One provides the framework for the remaining 13 sessions and should be delivered first as the introduction to the series.

Getting Started. In addition to the video presentations, facilitators will have access to a set of documents that will enhance the delivery of the Early Learning Language and Literacy Series. They are housed in two locations: the Facilitator Toolkit and within 14 individual Module Kits. An overview of the series and supplemental materials are included in the Facilitator Toolkit. The individual Module Kits include all of the materials needed to facilitate that particular session. The Facilitator Toolkit and individual Module Toolkits should be used in tandem.

Source: GRADS360°, Preschool Development Grants, U.S. Department of Education

Available at: https://pdg.grads360.org/#program/early-learning-language-and-literacy-series