BUILDing Strong Foundations

What We're Reading This Week at BUILD - July 17

7/17/2017 12:00:00 AM
Posted by: Build Initiative

Equity

  • The Guardian: The neuroscience of inequality: does poverty show up in children's brains?  In 2015, Noble co-authored the largest study to date. Using MRI, researchers examined 1,099 children and young adults, and found the brains of those with higher family income and more parental education had larger surface areas than their poorer, less-educated peers. The strongest correlation came in brain regions associated with language and executive functioning.

Family Engagement and Family Voice

QRIS

  • Oregon State University and Portland State University: Oregon’s Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) Validation Study One: Associations with Observed Program Quality  Oregon has mostly a “building blocks” system, which means that programs must pass all or most of the standards for the 3-, 4-, or 5-star level to achieve a rating at that level. Level 1 of Oregon’s QRIS represents programs that are licensed but have not voluntarily participated in the rating process. Level 2 (termed “Commitment to Quality” or “C2Q”) indicates that the program has made a formal commitment to quality improvement by attending a QRIS training. Many of these Level 2 programs have not submitted portfolios; others have submitted a portfolio but did not earn a rating of 3 or higher. Programs are only required to submit materials specifically related to the star level for which they are applying. Accredited and Head Start programs only needed to submit documentation on standards not included in NAEYC or Head Start/Early Head Start standards. The QRIS ratings also rely on data from licensing and the Oregon Registry Online.
  • Wisconsin Policy Research Institute: How Wisconsin’s child care quality rating and improvement system measures up  YoungStar is still a work in progress. Initial, limited research funded by the state in recent years has been unable to determine if higher-quality early child care programs result in better school readiness. But higher-quality programs do benefit children through warmer teacher-child interactions, activities, and better health and safety routines. If you want your child to be happy and safe, in other words, the YoungStar system is worth using.

Health

Early Learning

  • New America: Increasing Early Childhood Teachers' Education, Compensation, and Diversity  Increasingly, policymakers, parents, and early childhood teachers themselves accept the notion that ECE professionals should be well-educated and have rigorous preparation. In the last 10 years, for instance, policies in Head Start and many state pre-K programs have required these teachers to obtain bachelor’s degrees with specialization in ECE. In 2015, this trend culminated in the release of “Transforming the Workforce,” a report from the National Academies that recommended that all lead teachers of children from birth through age 8 obtain at least a bachelor’s degree with specialized early childhood competencies. The report also called on all levels of government to invest in pathways to help existing and new teachers reach that goal. (Full disclosure: I was part of the committee that produced the report.)
  • New York Times: Free Play or Flashcards? New Study Nods to More Rigorous Preschools  As school reformers nationwide push to expand publicly funded prekindergarten and enact more stringent standards, more students are being exposed at ever younger ages to formal math and phonics lessons like this one. That has worried some education experts and frightened those parents who believe that children of that age should be playing with blocks, not sitting still as a teacher explains a shape’s geometric characteristics.
  • Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology: Do academic preschools yield stronger benefits? Cognitive emphasis, dosage, and early learning  Earlier research details how quality preschool offers sustained benefits for children from poor families. But the nation’s typical program yields tepid effects for the average middle-class child. We ask whether pre-k impacts range higher when teachers spend more time on activities emphasizing language, preliteracy, and math concepts. Stronger effects are observed for children attending academic classrooms: up to about 0.27 SD in preliteracy and math concepts, compared with peers in home-based care at 52 months of age (n = 6,150). Black children enjoy strong benefits from academic pre-k, up to 0.39 SD for math concepts. Estimate benefits equal 0.43 SD for the average child attending academic pre-k after about eight months. Gains persist through kindergarten. Results stem from a national sample of children, employing a quasi-experimental method to account for confounders related to family practices and children's earlier proficiencies. Future work might focus on the interplay of academic activities with social dimensions of instructional support.
  • Too Small to Fail: Not Just “Soft Skills”: How Young Children’s Learning & Health Benefit from Strong Social-Emotional Development  One aspect of early learning that is less understood than other types of learning—but equally important—is social-emotional development. Children with strong social-emotional skills are more interested in all types of learning, form healthier relationships with others, persist longer at difficult tasks, and can better control their emotions. Social-emotional development is an aspect of typical brain development that depends both on genetics and children’s early experiences, including support from parents and caregivers. The more nurturing and loving support a child receives from a parent or caregiver during activities like talking, reading, and singing, the better developed that child’s social-emotional skills.
  • Child Care & Early Education Research Connections: Annual Meeting of the Child Care and Early Education Policy Research Consortium Resources  The CCEEPRC 2017 meeting brought together the excellent work and diverse perspectives of Consortium members examining related questions in different program and policy contexts. As such, we continued to welcome our Head Start research and evaluation grantees and contractors, in addition to our Child Care research and evaluation grantees and contractors. The complementary lenses helped to strengthen our understanding of early childhood policies and human services to promote the economic and social well-being of low-income and vulnerable children and families. The discussions that took place at the meeting were designed to inform future research, including new methodologies, areas for deeper explorations, and critical gaps in next steps to strengthen the knowledge base and the bridges between research and policies. Plenary sessions addressed the implementation of Federal guidelines for Child Care and Development Fund programs and Head Start programs, State approaches to improving the early childhood workforce, research-to-policy translation, quality improvement in home based child care, and generally, a selection of topics highlighting some of the current challenges and opportunities for ECE policy research. Breakout sessions aimed to encourage discussions about how our individual inquiries and projects connect, how they inform each other and policy, and what comes next.
  • News Observer: NC’s prekindergarten efforts shown to help children for years, report card finds  North Carolina’s prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds, established 15 years ago, has produced learning gains for children, sometimes well into elementary school, a new report from UNC concludes.
  • New America: Our Take on New Paper: Rethinking Credential Requirements in Early Education  Specifically, the paper pushes back against recommendations requiring lead educators obtain a bachelor’s degree, arguing that the low wages that plague most of the pre-K sector, combined with the rising cost of higher education, make the BA too much of a burden on an already vulnerable workforce. It also suggests that four-year degree programs are not a good fit for the professional development needs of many early educators, who would be better served by shorter programs that include more on-the-job training and mentoring. 
  • U.S. News: Don't Overlook Pre-K Curriculum  But preschool policy and advocacy have often given short shrift to curriculum, focusing instead on teacher characteristics and practices. Since the early 2000s, advocates and policymakers have sought to improve preschool by raising teacher education requirements. As a result the share of state preschool programs that require preschool teachers to hold a bachelor's degree increased from 45 percent in 2002 to 59 percent in 2016, and 75 percent of Head Start teachers now hold bachelor's degrees. More recently, public policies and improvement efforts have emphasized the quality of adult-child interactions in preschool programs. The 2007 Head Start Act, for example, required Head Start's monitoring system to incorporate a "valid and reliable" observational measure of adult-child interactions. Research suggests that teacher-child interactions are a crucial component of preschool quality. And there is some evidence that quality of interactions in Head Start programs is improving.

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