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“The latest results of the longest-running study of state-funded pre-K in the nation strengthen the case for universal programs open to all young children.

“Released Tuesday by researchers at Georgetown University, the results show that young adults who attended a universal pre-K program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as 4-year-olds were more likely to graduate from high school on time and enroll in college than peers who didn’t attend.

“They’re also more civically engaged. The percentage of former pre-K students who registered to vote and actually cast ballots was 4.5 points higher than for those who started kindergarten without pre-K.

“ ‘Middle class kids benefit from a strong program,’ said William Gormley, a professor and co-director of the Center for Research on Children in the U.S. ‘Disadvantaged kids benefit even more.’ ”

“Results From Long-Running Study Bolster Case for Universal Pre-K,” by Linda Jacobson, The 74, September 20, 2022

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kindergarten

Photo: Ksenia Chernaya, Pexels

Parents can’t always count on kindergarten. That’s the moral of a story told in the Atlantic.

“At age 5 and 6, children are at a crucial stage in brain development,” the Atlantic’s article says. “Educators, advocates, researchers, and state officials largely agree that full-day [kindergarten] programming is beneficial for children, both academically and socially. Studies have shown that kids enrolled in full-day offerings make greater advances in literacy than those enrolled in half-day ones. These gains are maintained for years.”

In other words, free, full-day kindergarten programs ought to be easy to find.

However the growth of kindergarten in public schools, the article explains, has “happened gradually. It arrived in the 19th century as a privately funded educational venture. By the start of World War I, the grade had become part of all major city public-school districts, and by 1965, more than 2 million children across 40 states were enrolled. Most early kindergarten programs offered only half-day coverage, but in the past several decades, full-day programs have become more common. The grade got more attention in the early 2000s with the introduction of the No Child Left Behind Act.”

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“To meet the caregiving needs of the K-12 educator workforce and the developmental needs of the youngest students, the United States needs sustained, significant federal investments in the accessibility and affordability of high-quality child care.”

“Why K-12 Teachers and Their Students Need Investments in Child Care,” by Emily Katz, The Center for American Progress, June 8, 2022 

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The new 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out. It’s the annual, Annie E. Casey Foundation report that takes a deep dive into how the nation’s children are doing.

This year, the data book points out that while the pandemic and widespread economic uncertainty have caused harm, there are also pockets of progress. 

This year’s report focuses on children’s mental health.

“As of July 2022, the health crisis had killed more than 1 million people in America, including more than 1,600 children,” the foundation says of the pandemic’s impact. “During this same time span, more than 200,000 kids had lost a parent or primary caregiver to the virus.”

This has “helped fuel what the U.S. surgeon general has called a mental health pandemic for youth. According to the Data Book, the incidence of anxiety and depression among kids has spiked. Comparing pre-pandemic to the first year of the COVID-19 crisis: The share of children struggling to make it through the day rose nearly 26% — from 9.4% (5.8 million kids) in 2016 to 11.8% (7.3 million kids) in 2020.”

Another challenge is racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties that have con­tributed to “dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly trou­bling men­tal health and well­ness con­di­tions among chil­dren of col­or. Nine per­cent of high-school­ers over­all but 12% of Black stu­dents, 13% of stu­dents of two or more races, and 26% of Amer­i­can Indi­an or Native Alaskan high-school­ers attempt­ed sui­cide in the year pri­or to the most recent fed­er­al sur­vey.”

In addition, “many LGBTQ young peo­ple are encoun­ter­ing chal­lenges as they seek men­tal health sup­port. Among het­ero­sex­u­al high school stu­dents of all races and eth­nic­i­ties, 6% attempt­ed sui­cide; the share was 23% for gay, les­bian or bisex­u­al students.”

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“More than two years after the start of the pandemic, the child care workforce—mostly employing women and, disproportionately, women of color—continues to operate below pre-pandemic levels. This not only harms the sector but also precludes workers with caregiving responsibilities, primarily mothers, from fully participating in the labor force.”

“Without new government investments aimed directly at improving job quality—including through increasing wages for staff—the child care sector will not make up its significant shortfall in workers. Policymakers must meet the moment and invest in child care immediately, particularly since child care workers are essential to keeping the U.S. economy strong.”

“The Child Care Sector Will Continue To Struggle Hiring Staff Unless It Creates Good Jobs,” by Maureen Coffey and Rose Khattar, The Center for American Progress, September 2, 2022

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Photo: Huong Vu for Strategies for Children

The federal government has just released new Covid guidance for schools, camps, and for early childhood programs.

One key change is that people who have been exposed to Covid no longer need to quarantine.

“We’re in a stronger place today as a nation, with more tools—like vaccination, boosters, and treatments—to protect ourselves, and our communities, from severe illness from COVID-19,” Greta Massetti says in a press release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Massetti is a CDC senior epidemiologist. “This guidance acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.”

Instead of quarantining, those who are exposed to Covid should “wear a high-quality mask for 10 days and get tested on day 5.”

Educators and providers in Massachusetts can also refer to the state’s related guidance.

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“In this article, we aim to shed light on the race and parental status of the workers who were more likely to leave the ECE industry and how working conditions have changed for those who remain. These differences can help policymakers better understand the challenges facing the industry and how to best allocate a recent influx of federal funds for ECE.”

“We found that, compared with the pre-pandemic period:

• ECE teachers are less racially diverse and are less likely to be mothers of young and school-age children.
• Those who stayed in the ECE industry had higher health risks but only a small pay increase.
• None of these effects are found among K–8 teachers.”

“…at a time when there are unprecedented federal funds allocated to improve the ECE industry, prioritizing efforts to make the industry more career oriented could improve the outcomes of ECE teachers, the children attending centers and their families. As this funding runs out in the coming years, fundamental hurdles will remain as the ECE industry recovers from the pandemic.”

“Black Workers, Mothers Leaving Early Education and Child Care Jobs amid Health Risks, Low Pay,” by Anna Crockett and Xiaohan Zhang, The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, August 11, 2022

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“One sure fire way to warm up children’s attitude towards mathematics is to build math activities and lessons out of the books they all love to listen to and read.”

“When reading and listening to books, mathematical situations come to life in new and fanciful ways. And, we’re not just talking about books that are explicitly mathematical, since math is often central to the problem and resolution of our favorite stories.”

“The Best Children’s Books for Early Math Learning,” Erickson Institute Early Math Collaborative 

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“Child care provider Damaris Mejia is about to get the biggest pay raise of her life, starting this summer: the District of Columbia will send her and her co-teachers each a big check, between $10,000 and $14,000.

“At last, ‘I will have happy teachers!’ she says, laughing.

“It’s part of a broader push — made more urgent by the pandemic — as D.C. and dozens of states try different ways to fix a child care system that is badly broken. Some are using temporary pandemic aid, while others seek longer term funding. Last year, Louisiana passed a sports betting bill that designates 25 percent of revenue for early learning programs. Wherever the money comes from, advocates across the country say something must be done to ease the fundamental challenge of providing care families can afford, while allowing providers to earn a living.”

“Mejia pays her teachers $17 an hour. Now, that’s well above the national median of $13 an hour that makes child care one of the country’s lowest paid occupations. But in pricey D.C., it’s barely above minimum wage, which became $16.10 as of July 1. Mejia earns about $30,000 a year. Her profit margin is so thin, she’ll sometimes forgo her own pay to meet bills, and she’s behind on taxes.

“She says her pay bump will go first toward helping pay those back taxes. One of her teachers, Ana Gonzalez, says it will help her finally achieve a goal of having her own house; she and her 24-year-old daughter plan to split the cost and buy something together.”

“Bonus checks! One year free! How states are trying to fix a broken child care system,” by Jennifer Ludden, NPR, July 13, 2022

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“A new report from the Connecticut Association for Human Services estimates that public and private child care centers in Connecticut are serving 24,000 fewer children than they were before the pandemic. Across the wider group of home-based and center-based programs CAHS surveyed for the report, which serve a range of children from infant to school-aged, enrollment was at about 75% of capacity as of April of this year.

“Liz Fraser, policy director for CAHS and author of the report, attributed the decline to staffing shortages.

“ ‘We’re serving fewer kids, and it’s not because fewer families need care — it’s that they can’t find the staff to fill the positions,’ she said. 

“Earnings for child care teachers are low, and as wages rise in other sectors, many are choosing to leave the profession.”

“Report: Thousands fewer CT children in child care since COVID,” by Erica E. Phillips, The CT Mirror, July 13, 2022

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