Volume 17, Issue 4

Hot Topics

You Get What You Pay For

A recent announcement from the Office of Head Start underscores how inadequate funding can undermine a national program dedicated to helping children and families overcome the disadvantages of poverty.

As reported in Education Week, OHS has indefinitely postponed a requirement for programs to offer a longer day and year for 4-year-olds “because the program would need to cut 41,000 slots to make the change under current funding levels.”

In 2016, OHS called for Head Start programs over time to begin providing 1,020 hours per year to give children enough time in the program to make strong developmental gains—a large increase over the prior requirement for 3.5 hours a day and 128 days per year. Congress provided a down payment toward the funding needed to meet this requirement, but it was understood that full implementation would cost more.

The new standard equates to roughly 170 days of six-hours each. Originally, half of the nation’s center-based Head Start programs were supposed to make the change by August 2019, with the rest providing more hours by August 2021. Now those deadlines have been postponed pending adequate funding.

Head Start would need an additional $535 million for half of center-based programs to offer a longer day and year by the first deadline in 2019, EdWeek reported. This year, Head Start received an increase of $85 million over FY 2016, for a total budget of $9.25 billion.

NIEER’s State(s) of Head Start report showed substantial progress would be needed for most states to meet the new requirement:

  • Just 44 percent of Head Start children were served in school-day, 5-day-per-week programs in 2015-16. Nationally, this number has remained relatively unchanged since 2007 (45 percent) despite some small year-to-year fluctuations.
  • Duration varies widely across the states, with Idaho and Wyoming serving only 1 percent in school-day, 5-day per week Head Start programs while other states serve nearly all children on this schedule.

State(s) of Head Start revealed other widespread differences across states in funding, classroom hours, teacher qualifications and compensation, observed quality, and enrollment. Such differences arise, in part, as local programs have been forced to make trade-offs between the number of children served and program features related to effectiveness when there is too little funding to serve all eligible children with even the bare minimum.

As a result, some vulnerable children benefit less than others. Without Congress allocating adequate funding, Head Start programs will continue to be forced to choose between providing high-quality or school-day programs, hiring quality teachers (and paying them adequately), or enrolling more children.

NIEER estimates that federal funding falls $14 billion short of what would be needed to serve all eligible 3- and 4-year-olds in high-quality Head Start programs for 1,020 hours per year (at an average of $10,000 per child). Early Head Start is even further from the funding levels needed to fulfill its expressed mission.

We invite you to follow NIEER on Twitter @PreschoolToday and Facebook at Preschool Today. Please share your social media handles so we can connect.

New on Preschool Matters Today! Blog

Funding the Future

…Early childhood advocates have become adept at explaining the value of investing in a high-quality pre-K program—and state policy makers are listening. When I spoke to commissioners and state legislators, including those from states that do not have state-funded pre-K, the conversation was not whether early learning programs were a good investment, but rather how these programs can be funded and what elements will ensure quality…

However, we know that focusing only on the “P” is not good enough to sustain gains made thanks to quality preschool programs and create better futures for children. Too often, policymakers considering the P-3 continuum leap from “quality preschool” to “third grade reading scores”—skipping what is needed every year to make the most of a strong early learning foundation.

NIEER Activities

NIEER Founder and Senior Co-Director Steven Barnett will be sharing research on different state pre-K funding methods during the upcoming State Education Chiefs’ High Quality Prekindergarten Summit in Washington, D.C.

The purpose of the summit hosted by the Council of Chief State School Officers will be educating policy makers about effective pre-K strategies to address achievement gaps and financing models, as well as articulating a shared vision for high-quality preschool as an integral part of P-12 education reform.

CEELO Update

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes this week updated its webpage devoted to ECE in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, adding new discussion guides developed by the Illinois ESSA Preschool to Grade 2 (P-2) Indicator Working Group along with the group’s recommendations to the Illinois State Board of Education.

ESSA requires states to have a measure of school quality in their accountability system, and ISBE has chosen to include a measure of P-2 quality—which signals to districts the importance of those years.

The discussion guides provide research, state examples and technical considerations for the following indicators in the state’s accountability system: chronic absenteeismclass sizegifted and enrichmentwell-rounded curriculumaccess to resourcesdual language learners, and school climate surveys.


The Role of State Boards in Improving Early Childhood Education

The National Association of State Boards of Education has been deeply committed to advancing ECE for decades. From its influential task force report “Right from the Start” in 1988 to its current cohort of ECE network states, NASBE has been working closely with state boards, state education agencies, and other state agencies to support the delivery of quality services to children and their families.

This new Education Leader Report discusses opportunities for state boards to use this authority to improve ECE policy in their states.

Social and emotional behavioral profiles in kindergarten: A population-based latent profile analysis of links to socio-educational characteristics and later achievement

In this paper reporting on two studies, researchers identify social and emotional behavior (SEB) profiles among kindergarten students in Australia. In the first study, four SEB profiles (SE-Prosocial, SE-Anxious, SE-Aggressive, and SE-Vulnerable groups) were identified among 100,776 students who attended kindergarten in New South Wales. Relationships between the four profiles and socio-educational characteristics were examined.

In the second study, the same four SEB profiles were identified using a second group of children (52,661) who attended kindergarten in New South Wales. The relationship between profile membership and socio-educational characteristics of children were similar to those found in the first study. Further, the four profiles ­were related to achievement levels in Grades 3 and 5.

The highest achievement was reported for SE-Prosocial groups and lowest levels were found for SE-Vulnerable groups. Authors indicate these findings have implications for efforts to promote adaptive social and emotional behaviors among students. They also report this research can inform the development of targeted interventions appropriate to each child’s unique needs.

Promoting Self-Regulation in the First Five Years: A Practice Brief

In this recently released brief by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), authors provide an overview of child skills and caregiver practices that can promote the development of self-regulation in children ages birth through 5 years old. It is based on a series of research reports that reviews the theoretical and intervention literature on this topic.

Self-regulation is recognized as one of the major areas of early child development in the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework. This brief and the major research reports referenced can be used as a complement to that framework, authors suggest. Authors also suggest comprehensive interventions and environmental supports using a self-regulation framework can produce broad, substantive changes in both child self-regulation and caregiver co-regulation skills.

Co-Regulation from Birth Through Young Adulthood: A Practice Brief 

Adult caregivers such as parents, teachers, coaches, and other mentors can support self-regulation development from birth through young adulthood through an interactive process called “co-regulation.” In this new brief released by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), both caregivers and program administrators are provided with guidelines for effective co-regulation support.

This brief is based on a series of research reports reviewing the theoretical and intervention literature on the topic. Authors suggest that training and interventions can promote co-regulation, which in turn can produce significant changes in parent-child relationships, parenting skills, classroom climate, and caregivers’ own self-regulation. Implications for both policy and practice are discussed.

Current Gaps and Future Directions for Self-Regulation Intervention Research

This brief, released by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), examines gaps in the research on self-regulation interventions and recommends future direction for researchers, based on a series of research reports on this topic. Authors examine the gaps in the kinds of self-regulation interventions developed by researchers and gaps in what is known about how self-regulation interventions work, for whom, and for what outcomes.

Additionally, the authors encourage the examination of the critical components of different interventions, when the best time to intervene is, and whether layering or combining interventions has added value. Study authors also suggest the quality of future self-regulation research could be improved by focusing on sample representativeness for the most vulnerable populations, developing and testing specific strategies informed by theory, and considering broader intervention approaches across settings and development. They further suggest that validation of relevant self-regulation measures be undertaken by researchers.

A systematic review of measures of mental health and emotional well-being in parents of children aged 0–5

In a recently released a paper in The Journal of Affective Disorders, authors provide a systematic review of measures of mental health and emotional wellbeing in parents of children aged 0–5. The study aimed to identify the most reliable, evidence-based global measures of mental health for parents of infants from pregnancy to 5 years old.

After reviewing 183 studies, four measures were identified by study authors that had been validated in parents of children ages 1 to 5 years old. Two of the measures found to be the most promising in terms of psychometric properties and clinical utility are identified and described by the researchers.


Equity in Early Childhood Programs Study

The YMCA of the USA, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has developed a survey to assess current policies and practices related to families’ access to high-quality early childhood programs.

The McCormick Center is conducting an external validation study of the survey instrument. If you are affiliated with an early childhood center and enroll children in the age-range of birth through five years, your program can participate. Deadline for staff to complete the brief online survey is Monday, February 5, 2018.


National Early Childhood Inclusion Institute

Tuesday, May 08 – Thursday, May 10, 2018
University of North Carolina

Frank Porter Graham Institute three-day conference attracts participants from all early childhood sectors to learn, share, and problem-solve about inclusion for young children.

The 2018 Inclusion Institute will include world-class experts, dozens of groundbreaking sessions, and state-of-the-art free courses for CEUs. More information and registration here.

Early Education News Roundup

ICYMI: Read this week’s key stories on early childhood education issues.

Highlighting the week's most interesting stories and studies: Head Start Trade-offs, NASBE, and Inclusion