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Posts Tagged ‘Early Childhood Education’

In case you missed it last month, on July 8th Rally4Babies hosted a virtual rally on Google+. Rally4Babies is a partnership sponsored by Zero to Three (The National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families). The event, hosted by Soledad O’Brien, featured guests Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. Department of Education, and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Department Health and Human Services.

O’Brien and her guests talked about the success of Head Start, Early Head Start, Home Visiting Programs and other programs offering early childhood education.  Secretary Sebelius described how babies are learning every day, and emphasized that a safe, secure and stimulating environment both inside and outside the home can “make a world of difference” in language development and other fundamental skills.  Along those same lines, Secretary Duncan is concerned because low-income children who do not have the advantage of quality early learning experiences can start Kindergarten a year, to a year and a half, behind their peers.

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Backed up by research from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, we know babies begin developing the skills necessary for lifelong learning shortly after birth. The Center’s InBrief report, Executive Function: Skills for Life and Learning, tells us the optimal window for dramatic growth occurring between ages 3 to 5. (more…)

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This post is written by Amy Fain.

A new research study finds children who have received poor childcare are impacted negatively for many years, even after they leave the low quality care environment.  This study looked at 1364 children from varied background and found a similar patterns to their behavior as old as fifteen.   The study was started with the growing concern for so many children being cared for outside the home.   One interesting fact the researcher found was that poor care impacted the children regardless if the care was provided in their home or outside their home.   One important note the researchers did find that the influence of parents and family member were “clearly more important than child care”.

Researchers had speculated that the negative effects of lower-quality care would disappear as the influence of other factors, such as peers, teachers and maturation, overcame the early childhood experience. But in the latest analysis of the data, they discovered that teenagers who had received higher-quality child care were less likely to report engaging in problem behaviors such as arguing, being mean to others and getting into fights. Those who spent more hours in child care of any kind were more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behaviors. And those who received moderately high- or high-quality care scored higher on tests gauging cognitive and academic achievement.

As an early childhood professional I found this research to be very important to support more teacher training, degreed teachers in the classroom and funding to help support the cost of providing high quality early childhood learning environments.

Amy Fain is Professional Development Coordinator at Community Action Project.

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We here in the Innovation Lab recently launched our second “Innovation Challenge” to CAP employees. These challenges are meant to leverage the creativity of all of our staff so that we can identify problems and solutions that would never have occurred to us in the safety of the group cube. Our last challenge sought ideas about building strong connections among the people we serve: What challenges do we face that could be solved by building better connections between the people we serve?

The motivation behind the latest challenge was T.J. Sexton’s research into social networks and “co-production.” “These relationships build connections among families and enlist them as partners to contribute their creativity and ambitions in achieving our shared goals.”

Upon my recommendation, T.J. ordered a book I’d heard about called Unanticipated Gains, which reviews the benefits of social connections at child care centers. Since I suspect he’s taking his time wading through it (T.J. being a very busy innovator), I thought I’d help out and link to a video interview with the book’s author, Mario Small.

Allow Early Ed Watch to provide you the summary:

In the video, Small says that he found that mothers with children in childcare centers were less depressed and exchanged more information about child rearing. They also found out about resources like health clinics and museums that catered to children. Instead of being thought of as simple drop-off spots for babysitting, Small argues, “the centers have quite a few benefits for the social networks and social well-being of the mothers.”

Small talks, too, about how certain characteristics of centers can encourage or discourage parents to get to know each other. For example, he says, child care centers that set specific drop-off and pick-up times are better at enabling parents to meet, talk and compare experiences.

Small mentions that parents with children at child care centers had more friends than other disadvantaged parents. I’m not sure of the extent to which this is really true within our own early childhood program, based on some surveys I’ve conducted, but that’s the point of the innovation challenge: we want to identify problem areas that would benefit from stronger connections between parents. If you work for CAP, read about the challenge on InsideCAP and submit an idea to us. (Soon! The deadline is tomorrow.) If you don’t, you are always welcome to contribute your ideas as comments right here.

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Heritage is shocked, SHOCKED, that someone would want parents to have the option to bring trained professionals into the home to help their children develop. Isn’t there a T.V. show with this theme?

Section 440 of the House bill – Home Visitation Programs for Families with Young Children and Families Expecting Children – would provide grants to states to establish home visitation programs to educate parents on child behavior and parenting skills. The “well-trained and competent staff” will:

…provide parents with knowledge of age-appropriate child development in cognitive, language, social, emotional, and motor domains…modeling, consulting, and coaching on parenting practices; [and] skills to interact with their child…

Aside from the obviously questionable role of the federal government in such practices, the vaguely-worded program specifics are troublesome. The home visitation provision dictates that the state will “prioritize serving communities that are in high need of such services, especially communities with a high proportion of low-income families or a high incidence of child maltreatment.” While the home visitation program is described as “voluntary,” it’s not clear whether it would remain voluntary throughout or just up to the time a parent trainer enters the home.

When you write hyperventilating nonsense about whether the government will force their way into your home against your will so that they can observe your child at play, well, you invite nonsense in your comments. Take it away, Jerry Smith from Oklahoma:

What in the world is wrong with the american people letting congress run their lifes (sic). They cannot run their own lifes (sic). People Please pull your head out, open your eyes up and see what (sic) going on, their (sic) trying to detroy our country (sic) within, call your congressman tell them, there will be changes (sic) 2010, they will lose their jobs if they keep spending our money, they won’t (sic) to control our lifes (sic), so wakeup (sic) people, and call your congressman now, before it’s to (sic) late.

Meanwhile, less panicky people have found such programs increase the health of mothers and their children, increases the level of father involvement, improves mothers’ employment, increases children’s school readiness, and even reduces the use of welfare and food stamps. I thought conservatives wanted “welfare queens” to work, fathers to take responsibility for their children, and families to get off the government dole. Oh, and since it provides parents another educational option, shouldn’t the “school choice” people (and I generally consider myself one) like that? (It might, after all, equip parents with the skills needed to homeschool their children or take greater interest in their educational development.) Guess not.

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Congressman George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, has proven himself an avid reader of our little blog! You see, in response to my highlighting of this morning’s Quote of the Day, about how the most important reform in post-secondary education is the advancement of early education, the good Chairman has introduced the Student Aid and Financial Responsibility Act.

SAFRA will lower the costs of higher education and help more Americans complete college by reforming the federal student program so that the federal government provides student loans directly rather than through private financial institutions subsidized by the tax dollars. (See here for more background.) Basically, the federal government’s Direct Loan Program is more efficient than the private student loan market and so tax dollars are wasted on needless subsidies to these companies – many of whom only exist thanks to the subsidy. SAFRA will eliminate these subsidies and capture the savings for other educational uses, primarily an increase in need-based Pell Grants.

So now we see how this is an important post-secondary reform, but how does it advance early education? Early Ed Watch is on the case:

Miller’s legislation would capture a portion of those savings — $10 billion over 10 years — to fund Early Learning Challenge Grants. […]

summary of the bill posted online earlier today says that to win these grants, states would need to commit to build comprehensive early childhood systems that include:

(more…)

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“The most important ‘post-high school’ education and training reform is a strong early childhood and elementary and secondary education system.”

– From the Council of Economic Advisors report “Preparing the Workers of Today for the Jobs of Tomorrow

By the way, you are owed a substantive post from me and you shall get it. Get excited!

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The organization Pre-K Now has a blog called Inside Pre-K that shares the stories and experiences of actual pre-K teachers. The advocacy organization already does very good policy work and an excellent daily newsclipping email, and the Inside Pre-K is a very creative contribution to the advocacy world. They should be congratulated on recognizing the saturation in the policy-oriented advocacy world and choosing instead to fill an important gap with personal stories and experiences.

I tell you all that because, despite my praise of their experiential niche, I’m linking to them today because of a very good policy post. J.M. Holland, a Head Start teacher in Virginia, rebuts some tired criticisms of pre-K program effectiveness by marshalling up some evidence I hadn’t seen before:

It is strange that [pre-K critic Chester] Finn would say that only a “few tiny, costly programs targeting very poor children have shown some lasting positive effects.”

A RAND corporation study disagrees and suggests that pre-k positively impacts the impact of every child who attends. RAND suggests that in calculating potential benefit of high quality preschool, high risk students may realize 100% of benefits, medium risk students may realize 50% of benefits and low risk students may realize 25% of benefits. A voluntary universal pre-k system would increase the total number of children realizing benefits that would be passed on to our society as well as provide the most benefit to the students that most need it.  

And:

It seems that high SES students would not benefit as much from attending a public preschool program but benefits exist. Affluence does not mean a student is not at risk.  In fact, high SES students have been shown to be at greater risk than low or middle SES students for depression and drug use in adolescence, both issues that are positively affected by preschool.

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