July 30, 2016

Head Start program targets young children of farmworkers for early intervention and care 
Finding high-quality, affordable child care is a challenge for many families, but imagine what it's like for parents who are migrant laborers working 12-hour shifts and frequently moving from state to state.

In a story for New America's "Family-Centered Social Policy" blog, Lara Burt describes the impact of the Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (MSHS) Program, designed specifically for the babies and preschool-aged children of migrant and seasonal workers.

This targeted Head Start program provides coordinated daycare and preschool services to mobile families and children as they migrate from state to state and offers programs at certain times of year based on the seasonal nature of migrant work. The Head Start centers often provide extended hours of care, health services, and a bilingual curriculum. At a recent briefing on the program, a child of migrant laborers, now grown and attending college, testified about how MSHS helped her beat the odds of being "another farmworker youth who didn't finish school."

Yet, enrollment in the program is low. In California, where there are more eligible children than any other state, it is estimated that only 10 percent of eligible children were getting placements in 2014. According to an article about the program from The Hechinger Report, migrant workers are often undocumented and may not feel it is safe to take advantage of government-affiliated services. Unpredictable weather and changing migration patterns can make it hard to anticipate where families need support and how many will arrive in farm towns at any given time. MSHS employees have stepped up in-person outreach to families to raise awareness of the program.  Read more here.  

A new study from the University of Michigan Health System published in the journal Pediatrics finds that developmental differences in late-preterm babies (those born between 34 and 36 weeks of gestation) may not show up until after age two: the babies start on track with peers, but may start falling behind by preschool and kindergarten. 

According to the study, which used a nationally representative sample, children who were late-preterm infants demonstrated less optimal scores in preschool and kindergarten reading and preschool mathematics compared with children who were full-term at birth.

Though the authors caution that more research is needed to understand the relationship between pre-term birth and school readiness, the study states that "late-preterm infants may benefit from closer developmental monitoring, targeted assessments, and interventions before school entry." 

California's efforts to rate child care and preschool programs are now in place or being implemented in 48 counties, and as of February, 3,300 family child care businesses or preschools had been rated, out of more than 50,000 statewide according to an EdSource Today report .  

The statewide system launched in 2014 to establish a baseline measurement of child care and preschool quality, with the goal of helping parents decide where to send their children and helping providers improve their services.
The system is focused so far on programs serving primarily lower-income children and those learning English or with other special needs.

Read more about the system here. Or click here for frequently-asked questions about the QRIS for parents.

We've reported on a lot of depressing news about pay for early education teachers. A new report  by the   Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley , the "Early Childhood Workforce Index," is no different, but it offers a few glimmers of hope as well.

The study ranks states and Washington, D.C., in several categories as either "stalled," "edging forward," or "making headway" on various factors in the working conditions of early education teachers. "Stalled" is defined as a state that has made limited or no progress--California was one of 22 states categorized as "stalled" on measures like requiring post-secondary education and training for early education teachers.  But California did receive favorable reviews for laws requiring paid sick days and mandatory paid family leave for many workers.

Marcy Whitebook, one of the study's authors, said that in general the links between pay and quality are becoming better understood. "I think we're in a new period of discussion about it," she said.

Read more .

Jackson Academy: An elementary school with STEM built right in

Nadra Nittle: EdSource

At Jackson STEM Academy, a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) magnet school in the Pasadena Unified School District, science and math are integrated throughout the curriculum, and students work on projects that focus on devising science-based solutions to real-world problems.

Three years ago the district won a $7.9 million Magnet School Assistance Program federal grant to launch magnet programs at Jackson and three other schools. But Hoori Chalian, Pasadena Unified's director of innovative programs, said even schools without grant money or Caltech nearby can develop top STEM programs. 


Preschoolers' 'literacy potential' can be predicted, says scientist
In an NPR "Long Listen" audio interview, Cory Turner and Anya Kamentez profile a scientist who is developing a test that analyzes preschoolers' brain activity to allow early identification ot those at risk for learning problems. The reporters also look at a potential support for literacy development: musical training.

Pre-k and child care dropped from Republican platform
Education Week reports that most references to early childhood education, including a proposed censure of pre-k programs as an intrusion into family life, were dropped from the Republican platform at the recent convention. Instead, the platform focuses on parental choice in education. In contrast, Democrats endorsed high-quality early education and universal preschool as important factors for life success.  

Erin Brownfield, editor