Subscribe Here                                                                        Dec. 16 , 2015
Eyes on the Early Years exclusive:

NAEYC: Low wages "a major challenge" for 84% of early childhood educators

Rhian Evans Allvin is executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Her group is kicking off a campaign to draw attention to working conditions and public perceptions of early childhood education teachers. According to a recent story on EdSource Today, making ends meet is a constant struggle for California's early education workforce.

NAEYC has just released a new poll (poll results are available as a pdf download under "Key Findings"). She spoke to EdSource on Dec. 9.

Rhian Evans Allvin
NAEYC advocates for improving the quality of early education -- why is teacher pay a focus of your new campaign?
We wanted to find out more about the perceptions of early education workers, from infant to preschool, and understand their motivators and "de-motivators." We found out that they are motivated by what I call "heart and soul" reasons -- the sense of accomplishment in seeing young children grow. But the most powerful de-motivator is the issue of wages and benefits.
We are at a moment in time when public support has moved dramatically in support of early education across the political spectrum, and yet the linchpin of quality programs that bring real benefits to children -- excellence in teaching -- has not been on the radar.
Perhaps part of the disconnect is that child care is so expensive for families, yet simultaneously teachers who take care of young kids are often paid very little.
It boils down to the number of children in a classroom. Unlike third grade where you can put a larger number of children in the classroom, you can't have 18 crawling babies with a single teacher. Higher quality programs do cost more, but the science is clearly telling us that those settings are the ones that make a difference in children's life chances.
What are you hoping will happen as a result of this campaign?
Two things: With early education workers, we want to reinforce that their profession is worthwhile and meaningful and better understand the issues they deal with as teachers.
With likely voters and decision makers, we've got to have the public behind increased investments in early education if we are going to be able to have high-quality programs.
In our recent poll, early education workers were perceived highly by the public, almost on a level with firefighters and nurses -- they are heroes. Likely voters were strongly in support of increased federal and state investments in early childhood education.

And interestingly, that support didn't change even if the increased funding was specifically earmarked for wages. This is powerful data.

Credit: Liv Ames, EdSource
A new report from the American Institutes for Research examines the impact of California's transitional kindergarten (TK) program, and whether it is meeting its goal of preparing young five-year-olds for kindergarten. The study, which was designed to compare students who were close in age, examined two groups of kindergartners at 164 elementary schools in the 2013-14 school year:
  • 1,562 children who attended transitional kindergarten and whose birthdays were between Oct. 1 and Dec. 2.
  • 1,302 children who were ineligible for transitional kindergarten because their birthdays were between Dec. 3 and Feb. 2. (Most kids in this comparison group had attended some type of center-based preschool.)
Using assessments and teacher interviews, the researchers found that the children who had attended transitional kindergarten were academically as much as five months ahead of their peers. Transitional kindergarten students had higher literacy skills, such as identifying letters and sounds, and more advanced math skills, such as counting objects and completing word problems, than those who did not go to transitional kindergarten.

The students who had attended TK also showed better ability to remember rules and think flexibly, but did not show improvement over their peers in social emotional skills such as cooperation and engagement, or in decreased problem behaviors, according to the report.

Additional research is currently underway on another cohort of students, as well as on whether the TK advantage identified in this report is sustained over time. Click here to read the full study or executive summary.

Read more at EdSource Today.
EdSource Today 
Credit: Sarah Tully, EdSource
About half of the children in Head Start and centers funded by the California State Preschool Program speak a language other than English at home, but there is a good chance they will not be in classrooms with teachers and teacher assistants who are bilingual or trained specifically in instructing English learners.

This reality has broad implications for the ability of California's public education system to promote successful outcomes for students who are learning English.

Read more at EdSource Today.

Credit: Liv Ames, EdSource

The revision of No Child Left Behind signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 10 has an increased level of support for early childhood education that advocates are calling "historic."

The bill makes permanent a grant program for early education and has a number of new provisions aimed at ensuring the effective use of resources among federal, state and local governments.

In signing the law, Obama praised its commitment to early leaning: "We know that early years can make a huge difference in a child's life, so this law lays the foundation to expand access to high-quality preschools."

Read more at EdSource Today.

   Credit: Liv Ames, EdSource
California lost about 2 percent of its licensed child care slots over a recent two-year period, with the biggest decline in care providers who offer more affordable services by operating out of their homes,  according to a new statewide report.

Many of the counties that lost spaces had high poverty and unemployment rates. Because families didn't have jobs, they weren't putting children in child care, or in some cases, they couldn't find jobs because they lacked child care.

Early Education News Briefs

Launa Hall, a teacher in Northern Virginia, questions whether the price of a quiet classroom might not be too high when young students are given iPads and similar technology.

Young students, she writes, "need time to learn communication skills -- how to hold your own and how to get along with others. They need to talk and listen and talk some more at school, both with peers and with adults who can model conversation skills.The iPads subtly undermined that important work. My lively little kids stopped talking and adopted the bent-neck, plugged-in posture of tap, tap, swipe."

In our most recent issue, Eyes on the Early Years looked at the issue of preschool suspensions. In a recent piece in The Atlantic, Melinda D. Anderson provides additional data about the issue, citing a troubling racial component to suspensions from preschool, "often for relatively minor disruptions and misbehaviors."

According to Walter S. Gilliam, a psychologist and researcher at Yale University's Child Study Center quoted in the story,
"There are some children who do not benefit from early-care and education programs -- the ones not allowed to attend because they were kicked out,"

Read more here. 

The Washington Post has reprinted a speech from Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early childhood expert, in its entirety.

In her speech, Carlsson-Paige warns that although "decades of research in child development and neuroscience tell us that young children learn actively," play is disappearing from early ed classrooms, especially those that serve low-income communities. These kids, she says, "get heavy doses of direct teaching and testing. They have to sit still, be quiet in their seats and comply. Many young children can't do this and none should have to."

Read more here.

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