Clayton Early Learning
22Feb/12Off

Children’s Behaviors: When Parents and Teachers See Things Differently

Mary Klute

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Mary Klute

I got an email from my son’s teacher the other day to let me know that he hit another child in the face at school.  She also mentioned that she was having optional spring parent-teacher conferences, just in case we wanted to sign up for a time.  The fact that she paired these two messages in one email left me wondering if she might have more to tell us about his behavior at school.  I’ll find out in an hour, when I go to the conference.  I think my son is a sweetie.  Sure, he is a handful sometimes, but generally speaking, he is a good kid.   But I’m probably biased.  And maybe he just behaves differently when he is at home and at school.

As part of some of our research projects, we ask parents and teachers to rate children’s socioemotional development.  We find in our data that parents and teachers often rate children quite differently.  At first, I was surprised by this, but then I did a little reading.  I found out that previous research has demonstrated that parents’ and teachers’ reports don’t tend to be highly correlated, with correlations in the .2 to .3 range (Achenbach et al., 1987; Cai et al., 2004; Crane et al., 2011; LeBuffe & Naglieri, 1999; Winsler & Wallace, 2002).   This left me curious about why this is, so I started poking around in our data to answer the question:  When are parents and teachers more likely to agree and when are their views more likely to be different?

Before turning to the data, I did some more reading and came across another line of research examining parent stress and other parent risk factors in relation to child socioemotional development.   Studies have found a link between parenting stress and children’s socioemotional functioning as rated by parents and teachers (e.g., Anthony, Anthony, Glanville, Naiman, Waanders & Shaffer, 2005; Whittaker, Jones Harden, See, Meisch & Westbrook, 2011).  Others have demonstrated links between parent mental health (e.g., depression, psychopathology) and ratings of children’s socioemotional functioning (e.g., Jones Harden, Winslow, Kendziora, Shahinfar et al., 2000; Linver, Brooks-Gunn & Kohen, 2002).  Others have demonstrated links between distal risk factors, such as adequacy of financial resources, and children’s socioemotional functioning (Jones Harden et al., 2000; Linver et al., 2002).   It is noteworthy that all but one of these studies used either parents’ or teachers’ ratings of children’s socioemotional functioning, but not both.

We have some information about parents in our dataset, so I decided to take a look to see if these things were related to parents’ and teachers’ ratings.  Specifically, I looked at the following child characteristics: age, gender, IEP status, and child’s general health.  I also focused on three parent factors: parent depression, parenting stress and food insecurity.

When we looked at child characteristics, we didn’t find a strong pattern of findings.  However, when we looked at the parent characteristics, the data told a more consistent story.  Parents experiencing depression, higher levels of parenting stress and food insecurity tended to rate their children more negatively than those without these stressors, while teachers’ ratings were similar for both groups.

This pattern of results indicates that parents’ reports of their children’s socioemotional development tend to be less positive when parents are under stress.  However, children from high stress families tended to be rated similarly to their peers by their teachers.  This pattern of findings suggests that some children who appear to be doing well in the classroom environment may be struggling socioemotionally at home.  To fully support all children’s development, it is important for programs to consider the totality of the context in which they are growing up to ensure that all children and families get the support they need.

I’ll be presenting this research at the Head Start National Research Conference in Washington DC in June 2012.  If you are there, please drop by and say hi!

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11Nov/11Off

Appropriate Preschool Assessment Doesn’t Take Time Away From Play

Mary Klute

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Mary Klute

This is a busy time of year for me at work  Every fall, staff in the Research and Evaluation Department here at Clayton Early Learning conduct standardized assessments with over 200 preschool-aged children in our program.  After we finish assessing all the children, we meet to go over individual scores with the classroom teachers, the child-family educator who works with the program, and the mentor-coach for the classroom.  We do all of this so that teachers can use the data we collect in combination with their own observations and assessments of children to guide what they do with each individual child in the classroom.

I had a half-hour between meetings earlier this week and I used the time to catch up on some of the blogs I follow.  I ran across this post about a recent article in Scientific American Mind, that makes the case that play is far more important (and effective) for children’s development than direct instruction.  I’m totally on board with that argument.  You won’t find me advocating for flash cards, lectures and structured seat work for preschoolers….and I love it when the popular press shouts that message from the rooftops!  But then I noticed the title of the preview of the Scientific American Mind article on their website: “Preschool Testing Takes Time Away from Play—And Learningand I thought, “uh, wait a minute…I have 6 appointments on my calendar today to share the results of testing with teachers.”

Scientific American Mind’s website only gives a little snippet of the article, so I quickly bought it and read the whole article, which, by the way, actually has the title, “The Death of Preschool.”   Interestingly, the article makes absolutely no reference to testing in preschool. The only reference they make to testing is a passing reference to the testing required starting in third grade by No Child Left Behind.  What the article does describe is a preschool where children are quizzed on topics like parts of the human skeleton and the geography of Southeast Asia.  It describes a school where children spend their day in an environment that sounds more structured than my daughter’s third grade classroom.

So the title of the teaser on Scientific American Mind’s website is unfortunate and inaccurate.  It prompted at least one sale of that issue of their magazine, so from their point of view, it is probably a success.  However, another benefit of it, I suppose, is that it prompted me to reflect in my free moments in the past few days about why we assess children in our Educare School.  All Educare Schools are guided by 12 Core Features.  One of these core features is “Use Research-Based Strategies,” which includes a commitment to continuous improvement and use of a local evaluation partner and participation in a national, multi-site evaluation.  As we implement this core feature, we engage in the very rewarding, but very hard work of developing a research-program partnership.  We strive to gather rich information about the children and families we work with in our program.  We, as the local evaluation partner, work to bring the information we collect back to the Educare School at multiple times and in multiple ways.  We share individual child scores (as I described above) two times per year with each classroom team.  We share “hot off the presses” aggregate data with program leadership about every other month.  Finally, we share our more thoroughly and thoughtfully analyzed data with program leadership, staff, parents and our Board annually through our Annual Evaluation Report.

We do all of this for two main reasons: 1) to provide information that can be used in combination with many other sources of information (e.g., teachers’ observations, authentic assessments, other data collected by the program, etc.) to guide planning for individual children and for the program as a whole.  2) To tell the story of the great things that happen every day in our Educare School, none of which, by the way, involve the use of flash cards or quizzing children on the location of countries in Southeast Asia.  Our efforts are far from perfect, but we try to learn from our mistakes and missteps and continually improve because we believe that this is an important and valuable use of data and testing that doesn’t take away from play and learning, but actually promotes it.  What do you think?

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29Sep/11Off

Authentic Assessment of Infants and Toddlers: Exciting New Research on the Learning Through Relating System

Mary Klute

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Mary Klute

Think back to the greatest teachers you ever had.  When I do, I think of teachers who challenged me, rarely presenting me with material or tasks that were too easy for me.  And when they challenged me, they did so by pushing me to achieve things that required real effort, but weren’t so hard that I felt frustrated.  Doing this for every child in a classroom is precisely what educators are talking about when they use terms like “individualization” (in the early childhood world) and “differentiation” (in the K-12 world).  When you consider how varied children are in their abilities in different areas, you can appreciate what a monumental task it is to meet each and every child where they are and support them to get to the next level.

Before a teacher can engage in this monumental task, they have to get some idea of where each child is developmentally.  In a high quality early childhood program, teachers do this via a process called authentic assessment.  Authentic assessment is the process of on-going observation in the context of everyday classroom environments. Teachers make notes throughout the day when they see children display various skills while participating in classroom activities. Using authentic assessment techniques, children are not put in a testing situation, rather, teachers document relevant observations in the form of ‘anecdotes’ that they refer to later when completing a developmental checklist.

Many authentic assessment tools are available for the preschool age range and to guide early intervention efforts.  However, few options exist for authentic assessment during the infant and toddler period.  In response to this, the Learning Through Relating system was developed with funding from the Administration for Children and Families.  When this project started, my colleague, Amanda Moreno and I were working at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.  Amanda was working closely with the staff here at Clayton Early Learning Institute, particularly Chris Sciarrino, to create an authentic assessment for infants and toddlers.  When the grant opportunity came along, we were thrilled to obtain funding to further develop the system and to conduct research on it. With this funding, we were able to implement the curriculum in Clayton’s Early Head Start program and provide intensive coaching to support teachers and home visitors to use the curriculum well.

Learning Through Relating is unique in that it is not a downward extension of a preschool curriculum.  Instead, it was created with the key developmental tasks for infants and toddlers in mind.  In addition, the system includes a curriculum that is linked to the assessment.  The curriculum offers caregivers guidance about how to provide meaningful learning opportunities for children that can be customized to meet each child where he or she is.

One of the most frequent questions I’ve heard when I’ve spoken to people about Learning Through Relating has been, “that sounds great, but is it reliable and valid?”  I’m thrilled to now be able to answer that question, “YES!”  A journal article documenting the reliability and validity of the Learning Through Relating Child Assets Record was published in this month’s issue of Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

The development and refinement of the Learning Through Relating System has truly been the result of an ongoing partnership.  Over the years, many people have provided valuable input to refine the Learning Through Relating system including teachers and home visitors in Clayton’s Early Head Start program and Clayton infant-toddler coaches, Shelly Anderson and Laura Rothe.  We are deeply grateful to them for their contributions.

26May/11Off

Relationships Form the Foundation for All Learning–Even When the “Teacher” is a Cartoon Character!

Mary Klute

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Mary Klute

A while back, I wrote a post about a study focusing on infants and toddlers and TV.  One of the conclusions of that study was that there was no positive effect of "educational" TV for the young children they studied.  Often, when I talk to parents about the research on TV and children's development, they tell me things like, "but she does learn things from TV!  She knows all about those dinosaurs whose names I can't even pronounce from watching that show."  Clearly, anecdotal evidence exists that children can, under some circumstances, learn things from watching TV.  Which leads to the question, what are those circumstances?  And how can this research on learning from TV inform us about the nature of learning in general?

In an article published earlier this year in Child Development, Rebekah Richert and her colleagues reviewed the research on this very topic.  They concluded that children under 3 may not learn well from TV because they view the people on TV differently from people they encounter in real life.  One way in which they differ is that people on a screen don't scaffold children's learning in the same way as real live people can.  Some experimental studies have tried using a live video feed where a person interacts in real time with an infant or toddler, just via the video screen rather than in person (something sort of like Skype).  Children did learn better from this sort of video interaction than they did when they viewed the type of pre-recorded programming that children encounter much more in daily life.  Other research has demonstrated that children need to view televised information for more time and have it repeated more often to learn as much as they do from just one in-person interaction.  All of this underscores the social nature of learning for children of this age--and why we, in the field, talk so much about contingent, responsive interaction with infants and toddlers.

But what about preschoolers?  Interestingly, research suggests that preschoolers often assume that what they see on TV is make believe, so, at least at first, they are unlikely to view on-screen characters as sources of reliable information.  This limits what they can learn from them.   However, many children's shows attempt to form what the authors call "parasocial" relationships with children, by having characters talk directly to the viewer, establishing mock eye contact with the viewer, and pausing so children can answer questions.  As it turns out, several research studies suggest that children learn more from these shows when they have developed a "relationship" with a character in the show.  For example, in one study, children who interacted more with Dora the Explorer during the show were more likely to understand the main points of the episode.  In addition, when children viewed themselves as similar to Dora, they were more likely to learn more from the show.  This work with preschoolers underscores the social nature of learning for preschoolers as well.  Relationships, even with fictional characters, are the foundation for learning.

What do you think?  How does this information affect your views about television viewing for children?

13Apr/11Off

Look for us at the Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference!

Mary Klute

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Mary Klute

This Friday and Saturday, the very first Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference will be held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.  This exciting event is co-sponsored by the Colorado Association for the Education of Young Children, Colorado Head Start Association, Denver Preschool Program, and Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado.

We are thrilled to be a part of several presentations at the conference:

Friday Sessions

  • From 9 to 5, Clayton's own Joanne Dalton and Lynn Andrews will be presenting with our colleagues Carolyn Elverenli and Ginger Maloney from University of Denver in a session called Leading for Change in ECE: Leadership Development.
  • Also from 9 to 5, Clayton Professional Development Coaches Toni LaTronica and Sheryl Robledo will be presenting a session called Growing Readers and Writers: Strategies to Use Throughout the Preschool Day
  • From 9 to 11:45, Clayton Professional Development Coaches Shelly Anderson and Laura Rothe and Clayton Educare Teacher Kelly Shultz will be presenting a session called Authentic Assessment: Exploring the Connection Between Observing, Planning and Building Relationships with Infants and Toddlers
  • From 1:45-3:15, I'll be presenting with my colleague Bob Palaich from Augenblick, Palaich and Associates in a session called The First Years of the Denver Preschool Program:  What Have We Learned?
  • Also from 3:30-5:00,  my fellow blogger Geri Mendoza will be presenting along with our colleague Sondra Ranum of the Colorado Department of Education in a session entitled Coaching EC Professionals: Connecting Awareness with Application & Deepening of Practice.

Saturday Sessions

  • Geri Mendoza will be back,  along with Clayton Educare Child-Family Educator Jennifer Garcia to present a session called Learning Languages and Loving It from 8:30-10.
  • From 8:30-11:45, Clayton VP Nancie Linville and Lynn Andrews will be presenting with Diana Romero-Campbell of Mile High United Way, Susan Gallo of the Mayor's Office for Education and Children, and Tikki Hublein and Denys Vigil of Center for Alternative and Responsible Education (CARE) in a session called School Readiness for All: Colorado's Plan for Supporting Children and Families Using Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care.
  • Also from 8:30-11:45, Clayton's Environment Rating Scales team, Brenda Cobb, Renee McLaughlin and Debbie Gray;  Clayton Educare staff members, Karyn Andrus and Jenny Smith; and Scott Burns from Lakeshore will be presenting a session called Creating a Nature-Inspired Outdoor Learning Environment.
  • From 10:15-11:45, Clayton Professional Development Coach Christine O'Brien will be presenting  on Promoting Healthy Habits.
  • Also from 10:15-11:45, Clayton Professional Development Coach Sofia Sychla will be presenting a session entitled Como Prevenir La Obsesidad Taller de Los Niños en Su Casa.
  • Tina House, blogger on this site and manager of  Clayton's Colorado Parent Information & Resource Center, will be presenting on Smoothing the Transition to Kindergarten from 1:45-3:15.
  • Also from 1:45-3:15, Nancie Linville, Clayton VP, will be back along with Shirley Perea of Otero Head Start, Lorrel Esterbrook of Adams County Head Start, and Linda Schlansker of Community Partnership for Child Development to present on Child Outcome Data In Head Start Programs.
  • From 3:30-4:30, my fellow blogger Rebecca Soden will be presenting with three Educare Teachers on Technology in Early Childhood: Approaches in Maximizing Learning.
  • Also from 3:30-4:30, Clayton Educare's Family Liaison Specialist, Maureen Carney, will presenting on Developing Healthy Relationships.

Also, please be sure to look for us in the Exhibitor Area in the Korbel Ballroom!

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2Mar/11Off

Young Children and the Media: A New Study Confirms Old Advice

Mary Klute

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Mary Klute

Last week, our family got hit hard with the flu.  It was a week of staying home, lounging around and a lot of screen time.  My seven year old spent most of her time either watching TV or playing her DS.  My four year old spent a lot of time playing games on my laptop and watching TV.  I spent a lot of time feeling like this was not my finest hour as a parent.  While I have (dare I say, fond?) memories of lounging around all day watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch when I was a sick kid home from school, I feel like I’m definitely doing something wrong when I let my children watch a lot of TV.  But am I?

My ingrained ideas about minimizing screen time come from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations.  Based on a review of the literature, they issued a set of recommendations back in February 2001.  There is a long list of recommendations, including:

  • no screen time for kids under age 2
  • limiting older children’s screen time to 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day.

However, 2001 was 10 years ago—a lot has changed since then.   More research has been conducted on this topic in the last 10 years and children’s programming has changed (in part based on the results of the research).

Serendipitously, when I returned to the office after getting over the flu, I came across two recent research articles about children and TV.  The first was an article by Suzy Tomopoulos and her colleagues that was published last December in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.  She and her colleagues examined a group of six month olds from low-income families.  Their research was innovative in that they didn’t just look at how much screen time children were exposed to, they also looked at the content.  They divided media into three types: educational programming aimed at young children, non-educational programs aimed at young children, and media aimed at older children or adults.  On average, these 6 month olds viewed about 2.5 hours of media per day, and about 60% of it fell into that last category—media aimed at older children or adults.  They found that 6 month old children who viewed more minutes of media per day were likely to have lower cognitive and language skills at age 14 months, supporting the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations.

The researchers wondered if the impact of amount of media exposure would vary depending on the type of media kids were watching.  Indeed they found this to be true.  When children were exposed to more minutes of older child/adult oriented media, their cognitive and language skills were lower when they were 14 months than children who had been exposed to fewer minutes.  They found no association for the other two types of media.

This research has two main take-home messages.  First, exposing your baby to media not designed for them can be harmful. I doubt too many parents are seeking out shows like Law & Order or Hannah Montana for their children to watch intently.  It is more likely that babies are exposed to this type of media while being held by an adult or because they are doing something else (playing, eating) in a room where the TV is on.  I’d also venture a guess that many of these parents assume that their children aren’t paying much attention to what’s on the TV—and they are probably right, at least some of the time.  However, the authors hypothesize that time spent watching TV together is harmful because time spent watching TV is time that adults are not spending playing with and interacting with babies…and face to face, responsive play does wonders for babies' cognitive and language development.

The second take home message is that there is no evidence from this study of a positive effect of so-called “educational” media for children this young. Why is that?  Researchers have done a lot of experiments in recent years to try to sort that out, and that was precisely the topic of the second research article I came across recently.  I’ll write more about that next month…but in the meantime, what are your ideas for why “educational” media for children don’t seem to have a big impact?

20Jan/11Off

New Report on Child Care Instability: What Role does CCAP play?

Mary Klute

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Mary Klute

When life gets chaotic, it isn’t good for kids or the adults that care for them.  For many working families, child care is a key ingredient in their efforts to balance work and home life.  Sadly, for a large number of families, instability in child care makes this balancing act difficult.  A recent report by The Urban Institute examines the issue of child care instability.  The authors of the report examined causes of child care instability, and particularly the role the subsidy system plays in instability.  The authors also made some policy recommendations to promote stability in child care.

The report describes how changes in child care arrangements can happen for a variety of reasons.  For example, parents’ might experience a voluntary or involuntary change in their employment or child care providers might decide to stop providing care.  Sometimes parents may feel the need to change an arrangement because they are dissatisfied or because they feel it is time for their child to move on to a new setting because they are getting older.  Parents also sometimes face financial (e.g., can no longer afford care) or logistical issues (e.g., transportation issues) that force them to change their child care arrangements.

The authors report that the subsidy system (i.e., CCAP) can promote both stability and instability in child care arrangements.  When everything goes smoothly, it promotes stability by helping to make child care affordable for families and helping families maintain stable employment.  However, when everything doesn't go smoothly, certain aspects of the subsidy system can promote instability.  For example, receipt of the subsidy is tied to factors that can change quite a bit over time (e.g., employment, income, family size), making the subsidy unstable for families.  A family that needs to move to another county or a parent that experiences an unexpected change in the number of hours they are scheduled for a work can lose their subsidy, even if these changes are temporary.  With more families needing subsidies than can possibly be served by the funds available, states are under pressure to tightly monitor eligibility, which makes it harder for families to obtain and keep their subsidies.  Here in Denver, the demand for CCAP far exceeds the funds available, resulting in a very long wait list for families.  As of November 2010, over 3000 families were on the waitlist in Denver.

The Urban Institute report suggests several policy changes that might increase child care stability for families.  Not surprisingly, several of their recommendations focus on the subsidy.   These recommendations are timely since the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which funds the federal subsidy, is up for reauthorization.  They suggest reworking policies to promote stability, which could mean viewing eligibility more broadly, rather than depending so much on current work status.  This could include lengthening authorization periods for families or instituting policies that allow families to keep their subsidy during employment gaps.  They also suggest examining the impact of the current subsidy policies on child care providers who accept the subsidy.  This represents an important recognition that child care will not be stable if providers can’t stay in business.  In sum, the Urban Institute report suggests that the issue of child care instability “should be a priority as policymakers consider how to help the CCDF support parental work, parent choice of providers, and healthy child development” (p. viii).

If you receive the subsidy or work with families who do, what are your ideas about how the subsidy could better support families and the child care programs that serve them?

Filed under: Policy 4 Comments
8Dec/10Off

Who sends their children to preschool? What difference does it make?

Mary Klute

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Mary Klute

I’ve come across a few reports in the news recently about the tendencies of certain demographic groups to send their children to preschool (or not).  For example, I read this recently: “In Illinois, Latino children were half as likely to enroll in preschool as white and African-American students, a disparity that threatens to widen the academic divide between them, according to a new report out Tuesday.”   There were also the recent reports about the shockingly huge achievement gaps between African-American boys and White boys on the National Assessment of Educational Progress assessment in fourth grade.  Most reports that I read on these NAEP results highlighted the idea that these gaps start well before children enter kindergarten.

I was pondering these two news reports when the latest issue of Child Development arrived in my mailbox.  Included was an article by Daphna Bassok entitled “Do Black and Hispanic Children Benefit More From Preschool?  Understanding Differences in Preschool Effects Across Racial Groups?”  Using a nationally representative sample of over 7000 children, she examined differences in the effect of preschool for different racial and ethnic groups after first taking into account a wide variety of child and family characteristics that might be related to choosing to put a child in care and to child development.  She found that, among children living in poverty, there were no racial or ethnic differences in the impact of preschool.   Poor children who attended preschool scored about a quarter of a standard deviation higher on a literacy assessment, on average, than their peers who did not attend preschool, regardless of their racial or ethnic background.  Among the non-poor sample, the effects of attending preschool were much larger for Black children and Hispanic children whose families primarily speak Spanish than for White children and Hispanic children whose families primarily speak English.

These findings are interesting, but they leave me feeling unsettled.  As I pondered these results, I came to the conclusion that this research cannot be used to inform policy and practice until we really understand why we see this pattern of results.  All of my academic training was heavily influenced by the ideas of Urie Bronfenbrenner and his students (one of his students was my advisor in graduate school).  Bronfenbrenner argued that it is impossible to understand child development without examining the context in which children develop.  Groundbreaking at the time, these ideas are well-known and accepted now.  Bronfenbrenner also warned against too much reliance on what he called “social address variables” in research.  These are demographic characteristics (e.g., race, ethnicity, poverty status) that are often related to differences in development, but they tell you absolutely nothing about why such differences exist.  Social address variables are useful as a starting point for researchers because they are easy to collect.  It is a lot easier to ask someone their race than it is to delve deeply into every aspect of what their culture means to them.  However, Bronfenbrenner argued that we should always strive to go a step further to understand the processes or mechanisms that produce differences that we see among social address groups.  For example, there could be differences is parenting beliefs or the quality of preschool that are associated with race that might, in part, explain the differences we see in child outcomes.  Bassok’s study used data from a large-scale study that was simply not designed to go much beyond the social address.  However, we as a community have an opportunity to generate hypotheses about why she found what she did.   What do you think is going on in children’s everyday lives that might explain why these differences exist?  And perhaps more importantly, what hypotheses do you have about how our ECE policies and practices could be shaped to meet all children where they are and prepare them well for school?

27Oct/10Off

Advice for EHS Programs: “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”

Mary Klute

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Mary Klute

This quote from Tony Robbins expresses a key part of the philosophy of Early Head Start (EHS), a federal program that allows grantees to use a variety of approaches to meet the needs of low-income families with infants and toddlers.  Recent research sheds some light on why EHS programs, like Clayton Educare, that offer more than one service option to families might be more likely to have greater impacts on families.

Clayton was one of the very first EHS programs funded when the program began back in 1996.  Our program was one of 17 selected to participate in a national study to evaluate EHS.  These 17 programs could be classified into three different types: those that provided primarily home-based services (program staff visit families in their homes to work with both the parent and child), those that provided primarily center-based services, and those that provided a mix of the two.  Study researchers have followed thousands of families participating in the study for years to examine the long-term impact of the program.  Half of these families were randomly assigned to participate in EHS and the other half were randomly assigned to a control group that may or may not have received other services in the community.  After all children turned three, statistical analyses were conducted to provide evidence for the impact of EHS at the age when children leave the program.  This report found that mixed model programs—programs that offer more than one service option—produced the widest pattern of results.  They had impacts on children’s development, parent-child relationships, parenting behaviors and parent self-sufficiency.   The other program types also had significant effects, but they were more limited in scope.

I became involved with EHS research in 2003, when I started working with my colleague, JoAnn Robinson.  JoAnn had been involved with the EHS national study since the beginning.  When the report came out showing a stronger pattern of effects for mixed-model programs, JoAnn and some of her colleagues naturally wondered “what is it about mixed-model programs that produced this wider pattern of effects?”  JoAnn and I got to work right away trying to sort this out.  We dug into some complicated data documenting the services that each of the thousands of families participating in the study received during each year of their participation in EHS.  We did this in an effort to understand what sort of services families in each of the program types received, how intense the services they received were, and how services changed over time.

We found that families in mixed-approach programs often received weekly home visits prior to their child turning 1.  The proportion receiving weekly home visits declined as children’s age increased.  Meanwhile, the proportion of children in center-based care increased slightly as children got older with more children over age 1 in center-based care than children under age 1.  But we felt like we really got a better picture of what was going on when we looked at these two types of services together.  Specifically, we looked at the proportion of families receiving what we called intensive combined services at each year of the program.  We defined intensive combined services as receiving at least monthly home visits and attending center-based care.  Because part of the role of EHS programs is to connect families with services, we counted services provided by any agency, not just EHS.   In their final year in EHS, when children were between age 2 and 3, about one in 5 children in mixed-approach programs were still receiving intensive combined services. This is compared with about 1 in 7 in home-based programs and about 1 in 10 in center-based programs.  We concluded that this mix of services provided children with an opportunity to have direct experiences with cognitively and socially rich childcare settings at the same time their parents experienced benefits from long-term relationships with home visitors and their children’s classroom teachers.  We weren’t able in this study to definitively link the timing and combination of services received to children’s outcomes, but this work does suggest that a program that utilizes more service modalities might be better able to meet families where they are and have a wider impact on families.

If you work in an EHS program, let us know what you think about this research.  What real world challenges are there to providing a mix of services to families?  How have you met those challenges in your own work?

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22Sep/10Off

Clayton Educare Named One of Ten Centers of Excellence in Early Childhood

Mary Klute

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Mary Klute

Yesterday, we received the very exciting news that Clayton Educare was named one of ten Centers of Excellence in Early Childhood Education.  We are thrilled to receive this prestigious designation! It was a result of a very competitive competition, which started when our program was nominated by Governor Ritter.  As a Center of Excellence, we are charged with disseminating best practices to other early childhood education programs including, but not limited to, Head Start and Early Head Start Programs.  Our dissemination efforts will focus on furthering our work to deeply embed evidence-based practice into our programming and to sharing what we learn about this with other programs.  In particular, we will focus on a coaching model to improve the delivery of instruction and a model for delivering culturally-relevant mental health services.

Please join me in congratulating all of our staff at Clayton Educare for this tremendous achievement!

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