Tag Archives: early childhood education

Bringing Evidence to the Early Childhood Conversation: A Timely Issue

Behavioral Science & Policy AssociationImproving access to quality early childhood education is increasingly a priority for policymakers at all levels of government. But smart policies to expand early learning opportunities need to be based on research and evidence. A newly released feature in the Behavioral Science & Policy Journal seeks to provide an overview of relevant research, and includes a piece from me and my colleague Ashley LiBetti Mitchel.

The issue looks at what we’ve learned from recent policy developments and research on home visiting programs, state pre-k programs, and Head Start. Ron Haskins, who edited the series, provides an overview of the current landscape of early childhood education programs. Cynthia Osborne offers four lessons policymakers should take from research on home visiting. Dale Farran and Mark Lipsey and Christina Weiland offer differing takes on the potential to scale high-quality preschool. Ashley LiBetti Mitchel and I describe recent research and policy developments related to Head Start. And Ajay Chaudry and Jane Waldfogel outline a vision for a much more robust system of early care and education policies to improve results for American kids.

In our piece, Ashley and I argue that, while research demonstrates Head Start’s positive impacts on participating children, it also suggests that Head Start’s results vary widely across grantees and do not match those of the most successful early childhood programs. Given this evidence, we argue that the relevant question for policymakers is not whether Head Start works but how to increase the number of Head Start centers that work as well as the most effective Head Start centers and state-funded pre-K programs. We review the effect of recent policy initiatives that have sought to do this, and offer recommendations for future policies to further support improvements in Head Start quality and outcomes.

You can read our piece, as well as the entire issue, here.

 

How ESSA Title III Could Encourage Improvements for Dual Language Learners

English learners from ages 0-8, also called dual language learners (DLLs), are a growing population of students who face daunting achievement and graduation gaps. New guidance out recently from the Department of Education highlights some opportunities for pre-k through third grade system improvements for DLLs under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), specifically around how school districts may spend their funds for Title III. Title III provides approximately $760 million to states to improve instruction for English learners and immigrant students. These funds could be used to create better systems for DLLs if school districts partner with early childhood education (ECE) providers to take up some of the options in the new law and run with them.

  • Include pre-k teachers in professional development: First, ESSA specifically encourages states and districts to include preschool teachers in professional development on improving teaching skills for DLLs. This includes school-based ECE teachers, as well as Head Start teachers and community-based providers. Simply getting elementary school teachers and community-based ECE teachers in the same room is unusual, doing so while addressing the diverse needs of DLL students could be could be a big step forward.
  • Support effective language instruction across ECE: The guidance encourages school districts to make preschool language instruction part of their overall language instruction strategy, and this doesn’t only apply to on-site classrooms: school districts may sub-grant some of their Title III funds to support DLL instruction in ECE settings. While schools are rarely thrilled to give away funds, early action to support DLLs will yield dividends once those students transition into elementary schools.
  • Engage families early: ESSA adds a new Title III spending requirement: parent and family engagement. Families are young children’s most important resource for language learning and healthy development, as was reaffirmed in a joint policy statement on DLL family engagement earlier this year. Under ESSA, Title III family engagement is not limited to K-12 schools; school districts can use Title III funds to support DLL family engagement in ECE settings, and the guidance gives examples of how Title III can be used to support broader family engagement efforts.  
  • Share data effectively with ECE providers to inform improvement: School districts are required to share data and coordinate activities on DLL instruction with local Head Start agencies and other ECE providers, on topics such as standards, curricula, instruction, and assessments. The requirements on what data to share and what activities to coordinate aren’t very specific, but the aim is to create “a feedback loop that informs the improvement of programs and supports,” for DLLs. If this is done well, ECE providers could see how their DLL students are doing in elementary school, and open lines of communication could help schools and ECE providers both improve.

This is all a lot to accomplish with a limited pool of Title III funds — 71% of Title III school districts found funding for DLLs to be a moderate or major challenge according to a national evaluation published in 2012. But, with smart coordination, combining funding from other grant programs and funding streams, and improved relationships between schools and ECE providers, ESSA Title III requirements could be the nudge some school systems need to take action towards building better pre-k through third grade systems for DLLs and all young students.

#16for16: A Policy Agenda for the Next President (Whoever That Is)

WhitehouseThis election season has been long on drama and vitriol and woefully short on substantive policy ideas. And K-12 education might win the “Most Ignored Major Policy Issue” superlative in the yearbook of the 2016 campaign. Isolated references to charter schools and feel-good statements about teachers aside, neither Clinton nor Trump has proposed a comprehensive vision for our nation’s public schools. This lack of attention belies the importance and need for an education vision: Although the current administration presided over the passage of the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), the devil is in the details, and the critical work of its implementation will be left to the next administration. But we’d be hard pressed to identify what policies might emerge come January.

We’re here to help.

Bellwether has compiled a collection called 16 for 2016: 16 Education Policy Ideas for the Next President. We solicited ideas from a range of authors across the ideological spectrum, both inside and outside the education sector. You are almost guaranteed to love some of these ideas, and probably hate some too, and that’s the point. No matter who prevails in November, the new presidential administration will need to set an ambitious education agenda. And with this collection, we are priming the pump for whichever candidate is sitting in the Oval Office in January.

In this volume, you’ll find: Continue reading

What is This HIPPY Business?

Many viewers of Bill Clinton’s DNC speech on Tuesday likely wondered: “What is this HIPPY business?” Politico claims the organization received its own version of a convention bounce from his prime-time mention. While many early childhood education advocates know the program by its acronym, it’s relatively small in the U.S. — only serving 15,000 participants in 22 states and D.C.

HIPPY, which stands for Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, is a home-visiting model of early childhood education which helps low-income families and parents of English language learners prepare their children for school through a language-rich home environment. The program was created in 1969 by researchers at Hebrew University who developed the program for immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East with little formal education. Through this model, peer educators provide weekly home visits to parents and use role-playing to teach effective and developmentally appropriate ways to talk and read to young children. Parents then use HIPPY materials to develop their children’s literacy and problem solving skills.

So how does HIPPY fit into the U.S.’s fragmented early childhood education landscape? Since only about half of the roughly 8.1 million three- and four-year-olds in the U.S. are enrolled in pre-k, (and most programs are low quality), the education children receive from their parents has a major impact on how ready they are for kindergarten.

HIPPY has long-term positive impacts for children who participate in the program. Independent research, including randomized controlled trials, shows that children ages three, four, and five who participate in HIPPY are more prepared for school and have better school-related behaviors, including higher attendance rates, self-esteem, and love of reading. Moreover, studies in four states found that higher reading, math, and social studies scores persisted into third, fifth, and sixth grades.

HIPPY has been particularly important in Arkansas, where it was introduced by Hillary Clinton in 1986, and other states with very rural communities — including Colorado and Texas. These rural communities often have few nearby pre-k programs and parents are isolated from resources. HIPPY has proven crucial in communities where children otherwise would have little formal schooling before Kindergarten.

There has been a growing momentum for universal pre-k in the United States. In fact, universal pre-k is one of Hillary Clinton’s campaign promises. Even if the U.S. finally provided universal pre-k to all three- and four-year-olds, HIPPY could still play an important role in an evolving U.S. early childhood education landscape.

In recent years, HIPPY and Head Start have recognized their shared goals and local grantees of each program have started to collaborate. Researchers have only just begun to explore the impact of these collaborative efforts. For example, a research study in Texas found that children who participated in Head Start and HIPPY scored “developed” on all sections of the Texas Primary Reading Inventory, whereas 33% of children who participated in only Head Start scored “developed.”

For now, HIPPY remains like most high-quality early childhood programs: a program delivering a tremendous impact for a select few. As a result of Bill Clinton’s speech, many more eyes will be watching to see what happens to the program after its convention bounce.

Serving Children in Poverty While Living in Poverty

image via woodleywonderworks on flickr

Have you ever tried to guide half a dozen two-year-olds through discussion of a book? Or managed a classroom of four-year-olds each doing an independent activity? During law school, I worked at the Georgetown Law Early Care Center under the mistaken impression that working with small children would provide a nice break from long hours reading legal cases. I quickly learned that I misjudged the energy and effort required to care for young children. I can only imagine how much harder my job would have been if I was working full-time earning $10 an hour, unable to afford health insurance, and managing a second job in an effort to support a family.

But these conditions are, unfortunately, all too common for our country’s early childhood educators. Last week the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley released a groundbreaking report focused on the challenging conditions facing the U.S. early childhood workforce. The results show that even though generations of psychologists, neuroscientists, and economists have outlined the crucial role of early childhood education to child development, academic success, and the U.S. economy, the early childhood workforce continues to live in poverty and under extreme stress. Nearly half of early childhood education workers receive some type of government assistance and their median wage is $9.77, less than the hourly fee paid to a high school babysitter in many communities.

The fact that young children are under the care of adults subject to chronic stress is a critical problem that has tremendous consequences for young children and U.S. society at-large. The foundation for lifelong literacy, attention, and self-regulation is built during the years from birth to age five. Young children’s brains are influenced dramatically by the quality of their relationships with those caring for them. In fact, research has determined that early educators’ skills are the most important factor determining the quality of children’s early learning experiences.

Many believe that the best way to set students up for life long success is to ensure all children have access to two years of high-quality preschool. While this change would dramatically increase long-term outcomes for American children, it is impossible to achieve this without transforming the early childcare workforce and the conditions under which they toil. States must increase workplace supports and compensation. The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment report aims to be a yearly report, so here’s hoping the next index will show dramatic improvements in the right direction.