Children's Defense Fund

Early Childhood News – December Edition

Kindergarten And Common Core Standards—Let’s Talk About It

With the increasing focus on the preparation of children to meet college and career-ready standards in reading, language arts and math, early childhood educators are struggling to find balance in the development of a curriculum that does not omit other important elements related to social and emotional development, the arts and physical activity. This struggle extends to how to best assess young children while recognizing they are in periods of uneven development. While there are no plans to develop common core standards for pre-k classrooms, the impact of the rigorous expectations for students defined by the kindergarten common core standards will influence decisions around pre-kindergarten curriculum and assessment.

A front page article addressing concerns about the impact the adoption of the Common Core Standards by 46 states could have on pre-kindergarten programs was published in Education Week on December 6, 2011. It was a well researched article referencing leaders in the field of early childhood education on issues such as assessment, teacher effectiveness and appropriate curriculum development and instructional practices, but with one glaring omission: no discussion of the challenges facing kindergarten students and their teachers in meeting the standards.

Click here to read the Common Core Standards.

Click here to read the Education Week article.

Some may argue that kindergarten doesn’t belong in THAT discussion because it is considered a part of the K-12 education system. Others may conclude that in the pre-k through third grade early learning continuum, kindergarten is pivotal and should be part of the conversation when discussing the Standards in that context. Regardless of the stance taken, the discussion is not occurring and big challenges for children and teachers are fast approaching:

  • There are inconsistent numbers of hours in an instructional day in kindergarten across states and within states. Some states require schools to provide full-day kindergarten at no cost to all students and others only require the provision of a half-day of instruction, while some don’t require kindergarten to be offered in any form. How will student assessments be conducted and analyzed fairly when students are not given equal access to learning time?
  • If student outcome scores are utilized as part of the teacher’s evaluation, how can evaluators adequately assess teachers as to their effectiveness when the learning day is not the same across school districts, states and even schools?
  • In developing state level P-20 or P-12 longitudinal data systems, how can the differences in learning time be universally coded so national data analysis can be accurate and data points reflect the reality of child outcomes in the context of exposure to learning time?

CDF National Conference—SAVE THE DATE

The Children’s Defense Fund is very pleased to announce a National Convening scheduled for July 23-25 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The conference will offer a strong early childhood education track where thought leaders, educators and advocates from all professions can come together and learn, share solutions and ideas that change the odds and outcomes for children who suffer from poverty, racism, poor health, poor educational programs and unstable home settings. Nationally recognized researchers and practitioners will engage participants in sessions where new information relating to the connection between poverty and race and the development and education of young children is discussed and successful strategies for closing the gaps between what we know and what we practice are presented.

Click here to sign up for information about the conference in 2012.

New America Foundation Raises Questions About Recent Report

In a recently released Early Ed Watch blog entry, Lisa Guernsey reminds readers that research reports, even those posted by reputable sources, are not always the best designed and the reported results can be problematic for policy makers. In October, the Center for Public Education, an initiative of the National School Boards Association, published the report, “Starting Out Right: Pre-K and Kindergarten.” The data studied comes from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten (ECLS-K), a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, which interviewed parents of 21,500 kindergarten students in 1998 and later collected information on children’s reading skills through a test administered in the third grade. Several early childhood researchers are taking issue with the methodology use by Jim Hull, the report’s author. Follow this link to read more and comment online. This is a very important topic and this forum should be used to stimulate discussion.

New Workshop Report Released on the Early Childhood Workforce from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies

A recent report released by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council summarizes a workshop held this year. The purpose of the meeting was to describe the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) workforce and outline its parameters. Speakers explored issues in defining and describing the workforce, the marketplace of ECCE, the effects of the workforce on children, and the contextual factors that shape the workforce. Also featured were presentations on the challenges and opportunities that exist in strengthening ECCE as a profession.

NIEER Releases New Brief on Preparing Skilled and Effective Teachers of Young Children

Marcy Whitebrook and Sharon Ryan provide food for thought and policy recommendations in the context of the current debate surrounding the qualifications required of pre-school teachers (e.g. AA vs. BA). One focus of the brief is on the quality and content of teacher education programs and how new research is shaping the discussions on how to best educate and provide “real world” experience to produce effective teachers. The publication also covers other thoughts on the quality of the work environment and effective teacher practices as well as the need for more and better designed research on the issues surrounding teacher effectiveness.

CDF Supports National Survey of Child Care Providers

Within the next few months, the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC) research unit will contact approximately 30,000 child care providers. NORC is conducting a survey sponsored by the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The purpose of the survey is to collect data about the current types of early care and education available in the country and demographic information to help the field learn more about those who provide child care and educate our children. We encourage you to participate if contacted. Follow this link to learn more.

Changes in CDA Requirements

The Council for Professional Recognition has announced that effective November 15, 2011, all Child Development Associates (CDAs) seeking renewal will have to show a current pediatric first aid certificate. More information can be found here.

Rule Change For Head Start

President Obama recently announced a major rule change on how the Office of Head Start within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will establish a designation system for renewal to determine if Head Start and Early Head Start agencies are delivering high quality and comprehensive services to the children and families they serve. This designation system for renewal will determine which grantees must compete for on-going funding. To learn more contact Colleen Rathgeb at 202-205-7378 (not a toll-free call).

New Deputy Assistant Secretary and Under-Departmental Liaison for Early Childhood Development

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on November 21 the appointment of Linda K. Smith as deputy assistant secretary and inter-departmental liaison for early childhood development. In this capacity, Smith will provide overall policy coordination for the child care and Head Start programs, and serve as the liaison with the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies. Click here to read more about the new deputy. Congratulations to Linda!

Aid for Child Care Drops When It Is Needed Most

The New York Times reports on the paradox that many low-income parents are facing in these tough economic times. Parents are forced to work longer hours to make ends meet while fearing the very real possibility of losing access to the government subsidy that helps pay for child care. With states under pressure to cut their budgets and federal stimulus money depleted, low-income families are once again hit the hardest.

Happy Holidays from CDF!

As we prepare for the holidays, don’t forget to give yourself the gifts of rest, time for yourself, a fun adventure with a good friend and a moment with your family that is just for your enjoyment—like making the children bake cookies with you even if they are 20 years old! We wish a brighter new year for all of our children, but we already can see we are going to need many more lanterns and folks to carry them for the days to become brighter. Rest up, holding those lanterns can be tiring after a while!


–Cathy Grace and Rashanda Perryman

CDF’s Early Childhood Team

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