Determinants of Subsidy Stability and Child Care Continuity. Final Report for the Illinois–New York Child Care Research Partnership 

9/1/2015

This mixed-methods multiyear (2010–14) study, the Illinois–New York Child Care Research Partnership Study: Phase 1, analyzed the experiences of a new cohort of child care subsidy clients residing in four sites in Illinois and New York. The study used longitudinal state administrative data from child care payment records in combination with newly collected telephone survey and qualitative interview data from subsidy clients to identify patterns of program use and to examine factors that predict exits from the subsidy program and from subsidized providers. This research report discusses findings from the administrative data analysis and telephone survey.

Source: The Illinois/New York Child Care Research Partnership Study

Available at: https://ssascholars.uchicago.edu/ccrp/news/determinants-subsidy-stability-and-child-care-continuity-final-report-illinois%E2%80%93new-york

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

Program for parents helps sustain learning gains in kids from Head Start to kindergarten

10/20/2015

An instructional program for parents helps young children retain the literacy skills and positive learning behaviors acquired in Head Start and retain them through to the end of the kindergarten year, according to researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The program appears to offset what education researchers call “summer loss,” or the tendency of children to forget during summer break what they learned during the previous year.

Head Start is a federal program designed to improve school readiness among children living in poverty. In the current study, researchers evaluated the Research Based, Developmentally Informed Parent (REDI-P) program. The problem of summer loss has long been known to affect children of all ages, but it is especially pronounced among children from disadvantaged backgrounds who are just starting school.

The program is centered around home visits from educational counselors, who provide parents with materials, such as books and learning games, and coach them on how to use them.The materials reinforce the social and academic lessons, and preparations for kindergarten that the children learned in the Head Start classroom.

Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Available at: http://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/program-parents-helps-sustain-learning-gains-kids-head-start-kindergarten

Responding to the Tennessee Pre-K Study

9/29/2015

By Linda K. Smith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development

A new study of the Tennessee Pre-K program came out this week. Researchers at Vanderbilt University have been conducting an evaluation of the program for a number of years and the latest study reflects findings on children at the end of the third grade. Not surprising, the study shows that improved outcomes gained during the Pre-K year are not sustained by the end of the third grade. These results are similar to the Head Start Impact Study and are not particularly unique. They may be troubling, but not for the reasons one might think. Can – or should – we assume the cause of “fade out” is attributed to just the Pre-K program? What else should we consider?

First, fade out is not well understood. There are several things that should be considered. Do the gains fade out because of the quality of the Pre-K program or because of the quality of K thru Grade 3? Is the fade out the result of K-3 teachers focusing on those children who have had no formal early learning experiences – sometimes referred to as “catch-up?” – or is the dosage of the Pre-K experience (one year vs. two years or half-day vs. full-day) something that needs to be better understood?

Second, what do we really know about the quality of the Pre-K experiences overall? The quality of early learning programs has not been studied closely. In the years since the Head Start Impact Study was conducted in 2002, much has been done to improve the quality of Head Start. For example, significant improvements have been made in teacher qualifications, curriculum, classroom assessment and overall monitoring. The impact of these and other improvements have yet to be studied.

Third, how a child performs on certain scales such as literacy and mathematics are important, but alone are not the only measure of how a child is doing. It is well understood that the social-emotional development of children is at the core of their ability to learn academic skills and function in society. The Vanderbilt Study acknowledges that children arrive at Kindergarten socially and emotionally better equipped to learn, but what happens after that? As anyone who has ever taught kindergartners will attest, skills such as self-regulation may be the biggest indicators of how a child will perform later in life. What happens to this aspect of development during the K thru Grade 3 period deserves more study to not only better understand the Tennessee study but better approaches to the birth to five years as a whole.

Fourth, another question that is still largely unstudied is how the quality of the learning experiences in the schools the children attend impacts fade out and why. Do the gains fade out because there is alignment between the Pre-K and elementary school approaches to learning or curriculum? If so, how do we improve the alignment between two systems that are so different? According to the recent NAS Study on the Early Childhood Workforce “proficient learning in each domain of develop and early learning is facilitated when standards, curricula, assessment and teaching practices are aligned with each other and across ages and grade levels, based on rigorous research and evaluation and implemented with fidelity”. There is much we don’t know about alignment in each of these areas.

Fifth, are there more sustainable gains if children are provided rich early learning experiences earlier, beginning at birth, as the neuroscience suggests? If, as research demonstrates, by the age of three, poor children have heard 30 million words less than their economically advantaged peers, then the time to start is much earlier than Pre-K for four-year-olds.

One last thought – the Parents. Early childhood programs, especially those conducted in community-based programs, have much more engagement with parents. In part because of their children’s age, parents must deliver and pick them up directly, which provides for almost daily communication with teachers. The importance of this cannot be over-estimated but has not been studied extensively. Parent communication and involvement changes dramatically once a child enters school.

As my friend and colleague, Walter Gilliam PhD, Director of the Yale Child Study Center, once said, “if you eat a good dinner and go to bed full, it should still come as no surprise that you are hungry  the next day”. Maybe, just maybe, the fade out occurs because we are focusing too narrowly on just one “meal” or one year of a child’s life. What happens during the years before and the years after Pre-K are just as critical as the experiences during that single year of the child’s life.

World Family Map 2015: Mapping Family Change and Child Well-Being Outcomes

9/2015

The World Family Map report monitors the global health of families by tracking 16 indicators in 49 countries, representing all regions of the world. This year’s report includes an essay examining how parents divide labor-force participation, housework, and child care.

Source: Child Trends

Available at: http://www.childtrends.org/?publications=world-family-map-2015-mapping-family-change-and-child-well-being-outcomes

Early childhood interventions—a slow fade and a strong comeback? 

9/24/2015

When trying to improve educational outcomes, it is hard not to feel the need for urgency. We want to figure out what works now and implement changes immediately—because if we wait, kids who are in schools now will miss out. Unfortunately, this pressure to act quickly may be fundamentally at odds with the ability to measure what really works, since meaningful changes in the trajectory of student achievement are not always apparent until years later. Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach of Northwestern University provides a compelling example of exactly this conundrum.

Schanzenbach’s thesis is that too often, education research only assesses an intervention’s immediate or intermediate outcomes without capturing its long-term benefits. This may be particularly relevant, she asserts, when judging the impact of early childhood investments.

Schanzenbach offers the example of two studies (both of which she co-authored) on the famous 1990s Project STAR class size experiment in Tennessee. That well-known experiment assigned students randomly to either regularly sized classes or smaller ones. Researchers behind both papers (the first from Dynarski, Hyman, and Schanzenbach and the second from Chetty, Friedman, Hilger, Saez, Schanzenbach, and Yagan) found that the smaller kindergarten classes yielded an immediate bump in student test scores for that year; but both papers report that this bump faded as students entered middle school.

That’s not the end of the story, though. When the students became adults, clear positive impacts reemerged for those students who had been placed in the smaller classes. Schanzenbach concludes, “We find that the actual long-run impacts were larger than what would have been predicted based on the short-run test score gains.”

The failure of test score gains to endure and carry through to what later turn out to be positive outcomes may confirm public skepticism about test scores as an accurate indicator of long-term achievement.

But not so fast.

Schanzenbach is right in noting that the fade-out of higher test scores between two and six years after the intervention did not correlate with more positive life outcomes. However, the immediate test score gains from the year of the intervention, when students were in kindergarten, were highly predictive of students’ college attendance and degree completion. Schanzenbach admits as much, stating the first paper that “the short-term effect of small classes on test scores, it turns out, is an excellent predictor of its long-term effect on adult outcomes.”

Schanzenbach’s theory finds stronger footing in her second publication. This study looked at both kindergarten class size and each student’s kindergarten classroom quality (as measured by the average test scores of his classmates at the end of kindergarten—a proxy for a combination of peer effects, teacher effects, and other classroom characteristics). Again, small kindergarten classes correlated with higher kindergarten test scores and higher college attendance.

Moreover, while the higher kindergarten test scores were correlated with higher earnings at age twenty-seven, they provide a statistically significant explanation for only a small portion of the difference in earnings. Thus, the short-term test score bump can barely begin to explain the benefits students derived later in life from having been assigned to a smaller or higher-quality class.

The missing piece of the statistical puzzle was students’ non-cognitive skills. When the STAR students were in fourth and eighth grades, they were assessed on non-cognitive outcomes, with results finding stronger non-cognitive outcomes but faded test-score gains for the students who had been in the small class sizes.

Furthermore, these non-cognitive measures seem to explain a much greater share of future earnings than do the academic outcomes. Teasing apart the positive impact of higher test scores and stronger non-cognitive skills achieved in a higher-quality kindergarten classroom, the higher fourth-grade test scores would predict an additional $40 of income at age twenty-seven, but the non-cognitive skills would predict an additional $139 in earnings.

Although we think Schanzenbach’s characterization of the findings in undersells the predictive power of immediate test score gains, she does raise several critical points. The first is that early childhood interventions may foster outcomes that most strongly emerge long after the initial study period has ended, thereby eluding researchers who only measure immediate and intermediate outcomes for a few years. The second is that interventions may yield effects that cannot be evaluated purely by measures of academic skills and content. As our understanding of the importance of grit and executive functioning grows, so too should our measures of the impact of classroom experience on these skills alongside standardized test scores.

Source: The Thomas B. Fordham Institute

Available at: http://edexcellence.net/articles/early-childhood-interventions%E2%80%94a-slow-fade-and-a-strong-comeback

Home Visiting: The Expansion of an Idea 

8/2015

Investing in home-based services for pregnant women and new parents is a topic of high interest. Of the myriad ways to reach out to young children and their parents, home visiting has surfaced as a uniquely promising approach for promoting the early intervention mission.

These features include:

Reaching new parents in a nonstigmatizing manner: Outside of public education, prenatal and obstetric care are among the most broadly accessed services in the United States. Offering home visiting within a health care framework engages new parents without requiring them to be singled out as facing unique difficulties. Similarly, all parents share a common interest in preparing their children for later learning and insuring they are well positioned to nurture their child’s healthy development and early learning.

Minimizing barriers to accessing service: Accessing any intervention can be daunting, particularly for parents lacking experience and skills in navigating complex service delivery systems. Home visiting helps parents overcome barriers to service access and connects families with appropriate supports in a timely manner.

Individualizing the message: Home visiting providers tailor their messages to fit a parent’s specific knowledge, skills, cultural beliefs, and learning style. Personalizing services is particularly important given the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity of a state’s new parent population.

Opportunities to evaluate the home environment and engage other caregivers: Delivering services within a participant’s home offers a unique opportunity to determine the physical safety of a child’s most proximate environment. Repeated home visits allow for a more nuanced assessment of the home’s general stability, relationships among family members, and availability of informal and formal supports.

Since the early 1970s, home visiting programs have proliferated in the United States. They have been promoted as a strategy to engage parents in their young child’s early learning, to insure a new mother and her infant have access to a high-quality medical home, and to address parental and contextual challenges that place a young child at risk for child maltreatment or poor developmental outcomes. Changes to federal policy in 1989 allowed states to use Medicaid dollars to support early home visiting. Over the past 40 years, several states, such as Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia, have used these funds, and state-generated resources, to expand home visiting programs they found promising or establish at least one new parent initiative to support a parent concerned about how she might best care for her children. Federal investments in home visiting also were available through the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). In the 2003 CAPTA reauthorization, voluntary home visiting was identified as one of the core Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP) program services included in Title II of the Act.

In 2010, Congress passed the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill provided for a $1.5 billion public investment to assist states, territories, and tribal entities in replicating evidence-based, targeted home visiting programs and building a comprehensive early childhood system to promote the health and safety of pregnant women, children ages 0–8, and their families. This legislation, while dramatically increasing home visiting services across the country, benefited from the early replication work achieved by states, often working in partnership with one or more national home visiting models.

This video provides a visual of how home visiting has spread throughout the country as seen through the lens of five evidence-based home visiting models. These five include four of the oldest and most widely available models in the country (Healthy Families America, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters – HIPPY, Nurse Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers) as well as one of the newer models gaining increased attention (SafeCare). The video does not represent all investments—either state or federal—in home visiting at any point in time. Rather, it illustrates the date at which each model’s current affiliate agencies began enrolling families. Collectively, the video illustrates how these five models have expanded over the years and how communities increasingly gained access to a greater array of home visiting options.The continued expansion of home visiting and the ability to provide families with access to an array of strategies is essential if the approach is to achieve its goal of providing all parents the capacity they need to insure their child’s healthy development and safety.

Source: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago

Available at: https://vimeo.com/134656037

The Effects of Two Influential Early Childhood Interventions on Health and Healthy Behaviors

8/2015

By Gabriella Conti, James J Heckman, and Rodrigo Pinto

This paper examines the long-term impacts on health and healthy behaviors of two of the oldest and most widely cited U.S. early childhood interventions evaluated by the method of randomization with long-term follow-up: the Perry Preschool Project (PPP) and the Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC). There are pronounced gender effects strongly favoring boys, although there are also effects for girls. Dynamic mediation analyses show a significant role played by improved childhood traits, above and beyond the effects of experimentally enhanced adult socioeconomic status. These results show the potential of early life interventions for promoting health.

Source: The National Bureau of Economic Research

Available at: http://www.nber.org/papers/w21454

The Birth Through Third Grade Learning Hub

7/2015

The goal of the Birth through Grade Three (Birth-Third) Learning Hub is to support communities in their efforts to improve young children’s learning and development. This website tracks, profiles, and analyzes Birth-Third initiatives with the aim of promoting learning, exchange, and knowledge-building across communities.

Building Capacity and Knowledge Across Communities.  An underlying premise of the hub is that the more Birth-Third leaders know about the work of other communities, the better able they will be to design and implement effective strategies. Recent work on education reform in high-performing countries and regions emphasizes the importance of building capacity across communities, capacity built by developing knowledge, relationships, networks, and regional collective commitment. Through case studies, analysis, guidance documents, tools, videos, and collaboration with technical assistance providers, the Learning Hub promotes sharing of promising practices and collaborative problem-solving directed towards common problems.

Real-Time Action Research. In recent years both the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Aspen Institute have released concept papers based on years of research on community change and innovation at scale—innovation at the community-level. These papers–Networked Improvement Communities and Building Knowledge About Community Change–call for action research in service to community change that is applied, timely, informed by practitioner perspectives, and formative in nature. Consistent with the messages of these reports, the Learning Hub aims to synthesize findings across Birth-Third partnerships and provide analysis–informed by the research literature–of common trends, patterns, challenges, and innovations. See this page for a description of Birth-Third strategies. Key topics of interest include the following:

  • Strategy and Planning and Plan Management
  • Standards and Curriculum
  • Assessment and Data-Driven Inquiry
  • Effective Teaching Strategies
  • Developmentally-appropriate Practice
  • QRIS
  • English Language Learning
  • Professional Learning Communities
  • Coaching and Professional Development
  • Home Visiting
  • Parenting
  • Special Needs
  • Transitions and School Readiness

Source: The Birth Through Third Grade Learning Hub