A million dollars, 570 hopefuls, and 15 winners: How a new competition aims to boost babies and toddlers

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

(Chalkbeat) - A Colorado team is one of 15 winners to share in $1 million awarded by a Denver-based organization as part of a new contest recognizing innovative efforts benefitting children from birth to 3 years old. 

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County trims childcare assistance benefit

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

(Aspen Daily News) - Pitkin County, which has seen a sharp increase in funding allocated to childcare assistance in the last two years, is lowering the maximum amount a family can make to qualify for a state aid program.

The county, which administers the Colorado Childcare Assistance Program (CCAP), is on track to pay out $274,139 in benefits this year to local families, which is more than double the $129,618 the state has allocated its way, according to a presentation at Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners work session. In the first quarter, childcare assistance expenditures were $76,717, up from $48,325 in the first quarter of 2017 and $38,678 from the same time period in 2016.

Though this year’s shortfall will be covered by dollars reallocated from other counties that do not use all their state funding for childcare, Pitkin County health and human services officials expect that the need will continue to increase. There is not certainty that reallocated funds from other counties will continue to be available.

Those circumstances brought forward a difficult question for county commissioners on Tuesday. Pitkin County currently provides assistance to families making 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level. For a family of three, that comes to $41,560 per year, or $50,200 for a family of four. All families that apply and are qualified — there are currently 21 open cases and 34 children served — receive assistance.

The state legislature this year passed a bill lowering that qualification threshold to 185 percent or less of the federal poverty level, which would be $38,443 for a family of three or $46,435 for a family of four.

Nan Sundeen, director of the county’s health and human services department, and Sam Landercasper, economic assistance manager, told commissioners that if the county wanted to continue offering assistance at the 200 percent level, it would have to use local funds for any benefits granted to families in between 185 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

County commissioners agreed to the lower threshold, which Sundeen estimated would officially take effect in July. Landercasper said that the change would affect only one or two families currently enrolled in the program, whose benefits would be phased out when they reapply for funding. New applicants would have to meet the lower income threshold to qualify.

Board Chair Patti Clapper said that if the shift has a larger impact than Landercasper’s forecasted one or two families, she may want to revisit the change.

In another policy change, the county will also require families seeking assistance to apply for child support, if one of the parents is not in the home. This has the benefit of getting the non-custodial parent more involved in the child’s upbringing while possibly helping the custodial parent better afford childcare. It also helps weed out fraudulent applications that do not accurately list all sources of income within a household, Landercasper said. He added that if there is any reason why a parent seeking child support could be a detriment to their family’s health and safety, they can get a waiver from this requirement.

The board declined to implement a cap on the number of families served and an associated waiting list.

Landercasper said that the program receives roughly five to seven CCAP applications per month, of which roughly one to three qualify at current levels.

Childcare assistance needs are also met through the city of Aspen’s Kids First program, which provides benefits to families making 400 percent or less of the federal poverty level. Shirley Ritter, Kids First director who attended the county meeting, said the program is budgeted to spend $365,000 this year.

Sundeen said that a concerted effort over the last few years to raise awareness about the program is a significant factor in increased demand for childcare support. Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties hired a coordinator to connect eligible families with the program and assist in the complicated application process and as a result all three counties are seeing higher numbers.

Sundeen said she did not think that the need for assistance has changed over time as much as the awareness and utilization.

Still, Pitkin County is among the most expensive places in the state for childcare, which Sundeen said averages around $72 per day here. Landercasper added that the ability for parents to find safe childcare so they can continue working is critical to overall community function.

In that sense, the county overspending its state allocation is a good thing, Sundeen said, because it means more families are getting access to safe, early childhood education and all its attendant benefits to a child’s development.


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A growing Jeffco program trains future early childhood workers while they’re still in high school

Monday, May 21, 2018

(Chalkbeat) - Julian Salazar pushed preschoolers on swings, weaving deftly between them as the children careened back and forth. Earlier in the afternoon, the 18-year-old had worked mazes, played a number-themed card game, and snacked on Goldfish crackers with the 3- and 4-year-olds.


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Survey Finds Majority of K-3 Teachers Feel Unity With Preschool Educators

Monday, May 21, 2018

(Education Week) - Sometimes there seems to be a disconnect between educators who work with children prior to elementary school and those who teach in the early grades, but new survey results find a strong connection between the two groups.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children, or NAEYC, recently released results from a survey of more than 530 current or recent K-3 teachers. The group also conducted online, in-depth qualitative interviews with 14 K-3 teachers.

On average, two-thirds of the teachers who were surveyed viewed themselves as "early-childhood educators." The numbers were highest among kindergarten teachers with 93 percent agreeing with that statement, while it dropped to 52 percent among 3rd grade teachers.

Lauren Hogan is NAEYC's senior director of public policy and advocacy. She also managed the polling for this project.

She recently discussed the findings with us via email and said they show that the perceived divide between these groups is not as wide as many believe.

"My sense from this research is that K-3 teachers want to be attached to and included in 'early-childhood education' because they understand that it's about a child's development across multiple domains—cognitive, social-emotional, physical, etc.—and they know how much the young kids they work with need and will thrive with that developmentally appropriate approach," wrote Hogan.

The survey also found that 76 percent of K-3 teachers supported the creation of a unified and aligned system of early-childhood education from birth to age 8.

Hogan said by working together these groups would be able to accomplish a lot because voters view K-12 teachers as trustworthy sources of information.

"If they were to come together more consistently with educators of children 0-5 around a shared message of the critical need to invest in early-childhood education, it would be very powerful indeed," wrote Hogan.

Those surveyed indicated that a unified and aligned system has several potentially important outcomes such as more developmentally appropriate standards for students (92 percent) and higher wages for teachers (88 percent).

Kindergarten teachers showed the most support for a unified system with 87 percent in favor of it. But that support drops off significantly among 2nd and 3rd grade teachers to 71 and 69 percent respectively.

Teacher Training

The survey also questioned the teachers about their thoughts on preparation programs. A small majority (54 percent) thought early-childhood educators should be required to have a four-year degree.

Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed viewed their pre-service training as "excellent" or "pretty good." Of those who rated their preparation as "excellent," 35 percent were certain they would stay in the profession. Only 24 percent of those who rated their preparation as "pretty good" said the same, and that number dropped to 21 percent of those who rated their preparation as "only fair/poor."

Hogan said she found that correlation intriguing and wanted to know if teachers who described their training as excellent were more likely to remain in the profession long-term or if excellent training could influence a teacher's commitment to the classroom.

"I think we know a lot about how much retention matters—for a teacher's own quality of teaching, to the relationships they are able to develop with students, to school and community stability—and it's helpful to think broadly about what we can do, from the start of a career all the way through the end, in order to help great teachers keep teaching," wrote Hogan.

The survey was conducted by a bipartisan team of researchers including Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Mertz & Associates (FM3) and Public Opinion Strategies with support from the Richard W. Goldman Family Foundation.


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WSW: Preschool Expansion, Quantity And Quality

Monday, May 21, 2018

Upjohn Institute Researchers Tim Bartik and Brad Hershbein say high quality pre-kindergarten programs can have positive results that last into adulthood. But identifying what quality means is difficult. 

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Districts partner with communities to focus on 'literacy gap'

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dive Brief: 

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California Lawmakers Move to Ensure Lead-Free Water in Child Care Centers

Thursday, May 17, 2018

(EGW News) - California lawmakers are moving toward ensuring that lead-free drinking water is required in all child care centers, catching up with Oregon, Washington and four other states.

More than 700,000 California children are enrolled in state-certified child care centers, which are mostly housed in privately owned buildings. Since 2017, state law has required lead testing of water in public schools and child care centers based in schools, but it does not cover privately run child care centers.

Licensing regulations say private child care providers must serve safe drinking water from “non-contaminated fixtures,” which would seem to disallow lead-contaminated water from lead-leaching faucets. But the regulations do not require these centers to test the water children drink or that is used to mix formula.

Local water agencies don’t usually monitor lead levels in private businesses, even if they provide a public service. But based on a sampling of water at public schools and school-based child care centers, there’s reason to be concerned that thousands of children may be drinking water from lead-contaminated faucets.

EWG analyzed limited lead-testing data from the State Water Resources Control Board and found many examples of school drinking water well in excess of the Environmental Protection Agency’s action level of 15 parts per billion, or ppb, of lead. The board is expected to release lead-testing data for all schools soon.

For example, a water fountain at a Daly City elementary school contained 1,900 ppb of lead, a San Francisco school’s water contained 860 ppb, and a fountain in a Bakersfield school had 240 ppb. The drinking water at an East Oakland school’s on-site child care center contained 256 ppb of lead, water at a San Diego school-based child care center had 53 ppb, and a San Bernardino preschool’s water had 25 ppb.

Under federal regulations, lead concentrations in drinking water must be below 15 ppb, and water agencies whose water is found to have higher levels must take action to reduce the water’s lead content. But health experts believe the 15 ppb action level still exposes children to too much lead.

Lead is a severe neurotoxin that can cause health damage that lasts a lifetime. Even small amounts of lead can lower a child’s intelligence, cause behavior and learning problems, slow growth, and harm hearing. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that lead be removed from contaminated housing and child care facilities, and that water from fountains in schools should not exceed lead concentrations of more than 1 part per billion.

According to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, children absorb half of the lead they ingest, and if a child is malnourished, they will absorb lead faster. Children are exposed to lead in many ways, but the EPA says as much as one-fifth of a child’s exposure to lead is from drinking water. The EPA also estimates that up to 60 percent of formula-fed infants’ lead exposure can come from water used to mix formula.

Lead was banned from paint and gasoline many years ago, but only recently has federal law required the reduction of lead in water pipes and faucets to trace levels. Without regular testing of child care centers’ drinking water, we can’t be sure that hundreds of thousands of children aren’t getting daily doses of the neurotoxin.

EWG is sponsoring legislation by Assembly Member Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, to require the state Department of Social Services and the Water Resources Control Board to develop regulations mandating that all child care centers test their drinking water for lead and act to abate contamination.

But many centers operate on shoestring budgets, so they won’t be able to afford testing and fixing their drinking water systems on their own. The state needs to prioritize the health of our youngest citizens and allocate resources to pay for a centers’ lead tests and remediation when centers can’t manage the costs. At EWG’s request, 22 assembly members and senators have asked the Legislature’s budget committees to provide such funding in next year’s state budget. The committees are now considering this bipartisan request.


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KinderCare® Teachers to Enroll in Teachstone's new online learning program, CDA with CLASS®

Thursday, May 17, 2018


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The Impact of Natural Elements on Early Learning Spaces: A Global Perspective

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Monday, May 21 at 3 p.m. ET

 In this edWebinar, Gary Bilezikian, President of Guidecraft, will take you on a tour of global early childhood education – from New Zealand, to Thailand, to Chile, to China – in search of nature-based environments that promote a holistic educational model. You’ll learn how the legal, cultural, political, and religious frameworks impact and shape our understanding of the environment. Gary will also discuss great products and ideas that will inspire how you think about your environment, as well as provide ideas and strategies to enhance organic experiences within the built environment.


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Pre-to-3: Research finds reading aloud has many benefits, from birth on

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

(Education Dive) - Parents and early-childhood educators know that reading aloud to young children builds their vocabularies and supports other early literacy skills. But a recently published study also shows a positive connection to better behavior, such as less hyperactivity, when the children are ready to enter kindergarten. 

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