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Cheyanne Nichter

Cheyanne Nichter and her son

This Spring, I will be graduating from Bunker Hill Community College with honors and an associate degree in Early Childhood Development. Over the course of the semester I have been working as an intern for Strategies For Children, exploring issues and opportunities in our field as well as my own abilities and passions. I have also reevaluated my goals and future pathways in both my academic and professional pursuits. As a result of the pandemic, and the fact that I live in a child care desert, I took on these challenges with my young son on my hip. 

During my time at Strategies, I saw first-hand how early childhood programs, families, diversity, sociology, research/data collection, and the pursuit of societal justice all intersect in the world of advocacy and engagement. This led me to do an independent research project that draws on my analysis of how the use of digital platforms and trends corresponds to social shifts, and how advocacy organizations can capitalize on digital resources to reach more deeply into the community. My presentation, “Modern Engagement: Making Advocacy Accessible”, covers how organizations can use interactive social platforms for effective communication and engagement. This approach uses modern communication tools and strategies that meet communities where they are, allowing them to access and participate in the dialogue and to use the advocacy resources within their personal bandwidth.

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“A new Yale study found that child care programs in the United States that practiced child masking early in the COVID-19 pandemic (May-June 2020) experienced a 13% reduction in program closure within the following year, and continued child masking throughout the one-year study period was associated with a 14% reduction in program closure.

“The first-of-its-kind study of child masking, published today in JAMA Network Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Medical Association, followed the experiences of 6,654 center-based and home-based child care professionals from all 50 states during a one-year period (May/June 2020 through May/June 2021).”

“ ‘We have been seeing increased numbers of children, especially young children not yet able to be vaccinated against COVID-19, admitted to our children’s hospital,’ said Thomas Murray, associate medical director for infection prevention at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital and the study’s lead author. ‘It is heartening to know that following child masking recommendations for children two years and older may be an effective means for keeping young children in child care programs and potentially lowering their risk for COVID-19.’ ”

“ ‘It’s the disruptions in learning opportunities and care routines that harm children, not the masks,’ said Walter Gilliam, a professor of child psychiatry and psychology at the Yale Child Study Center and the study’s senior author.

“Research has shown that children two years and older can safely wear masks in child care settings. ‘It is our responsibility to protect our young children by providing them with safe learning environments,’ Gilliam said. ‘But we also need to remember that young children are incredibly observant. If they cannot see us smile with our mouths, they still will see us smile with our eyes or in the way in which we talk with them. Young children are incredible that way.’ ”

“For child care programs, masking helped minimize closures, study shows,” Yale News, January 27, 2022

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“Federally funded universal pre-K has the potential to greatly benefit families, children, and the economy at large. A substantial body of research finds that high-quality pre-K can have a meaningful impact on children’s short- and long-term development, providing them with valuable skills to succeed in school and beyond. And two years of pre-K for the child also means two years of reduced child care costs for the parents. A study in Washington, D.C., even found that access to universal pre-K improved mothers’ workforce participation. And yet, despite such clear evidence of the benefits, six states still don’t offer state-funded pre-K programs for four-year-olds, and within the states that do, quality and access vary significantly depending on where a child lives, and very few programs offer universal access. But Build Back Better could provide states with the funding to improve the quality of programs and vastly expand access.”

“The Universal Benefits of Universal Pre-K,” by Aaron Loewenberg, Abbie Lieberman, and Laura Bornfreund, New America, January 4, 2022

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“A growing body of research points to the enormous benefits to children and program quality when early educators from all levels of the field have access to relational and entrepreneurial leadership training. Relational leadership recognizes the expertise or authority of each person to exercise leadership to influence change, regardless of formal titles or roles. Entrepreneurial leadership focuses on designing and leading efforts to solve seemingly intractable problems for which there are no existing or predefined solutions.

“Early educators who receive such training experience transformative shifts in their mindsets. They redefine leadership from something that is hierarchical to leadership that is highly collaborative, relational, and purpose-driven. They connect their new understanding of leadership with their past and present actions and capabilities. They see themselves as leaders, often for the first time.

“What do early educators do with their new leadership skills? They pursue entrepreneurial ventures that increase the supply of quality child care in their communities. They provide expert testimony to lawmakers and share their expertise with media to educate the public about the importance of investing in the field. They experiment with innovations that improve the quality of their programs.”

“Early investment in child care workforce may pay big dividends,” by Anne Douglass, CommonWealth Magazine, November 15, 2021

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Photo: Naomi Shi from Pexels

 

As the country recovers from the pandemic and rebuilds education, policymakers should keep an eye on kindergarten – and take steps to shore up its power.

“Kindergarten is designed for young children, who learn best by doing,” an article in the Hechinger Report noted last year. “And while pre-literacy and math skills are covered, building block towers, playing make-believe and mastering the playground equipment are also key elements of this critical grade.”

“ ‘I don’t want to pit one grade against another,’ said Laura Bornfreund, the director of early and elementary education policy at New America, a progressive think tank. ‘But the foundational knowledge, the skills to be able to learn and do well in school later are so important. Kindergarten matters a lot.’ ”

This year, New America is sharing insights from the results of two studies that the organization conducted with “the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Department of Early Childhood before the pandemic, which found that kindergarten is a critical setting for supporting young children’s learning and development.” (more…)

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How have families been doing during the pandemic?

NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research) used a national survey to find out.

“The pandemic has dealt a one-two punch to the nation’s young children, decreasing opportunities to learn in preschool programs while sapping parents’ capacity to support learning at home,” W. Steven Barnett says in a news release. Barnett is NIEER’s senior co-director and founder and an author of the survey report.

The survey results were collected in December 2020 “from a nationally representative sample of one thousand and one parents of children age three to five.” This builds on a previous survey that NIEER conducted last spring.

“Overall, we found the pandemic resulted in significant loss of important learning opportunities for young children through the fall into December,” NIEER says in a press release.

“Participation in preschool programs declined sharply from pre-pandemic levels. Although most who attended preschool programs did so in-person, this was not true for young children in poverty who had less than 1/3 the access to in-person education of children in higher income families.” (more…)

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The pandemic is decimating the early education and care workforce.

A new publication — that draws on the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — explains how. 

“As we find ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic, child care has been hailed as essential, yet policy responses to COVID-19 have mostly ignored educators themselves, leaving most to choose between their livelihood and their health,” the report – “Early Childhood Workforce Index 2020” – says.

The index is released every two years by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE), based at the University of California Berkeley

“Over the course of the first eight months of the pandemic, 166,000 jobs in the child care industry were lost. As of October 2020, the industry was only 83 percent as large as it was in February, before the pandemic began.”

“Even before the pandemic, the index found, progress toward better compensation had been limited and uneven across states and among different classifications of early educators,” a news release explains. “Child care workers earn a national median wage of just $11.65 an hour for a job that is critically important not just to children and their parents, but to the entire U.S. economy.”

“…many child care workers number among America’s working poor, with wages too low to make ends meet,” the news release adds.

“For single adults working in child care, pay falls short of a living wage in a majority of states. For single adults with one child of their own, the median wage is not enough to live on in any state.” (more…)

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A few months before the pandemic hit, the University of Massachusetts Boston conducted a survey of the early education and care workforce.

The survey results are a pre-pandemic snapshot of a shaky situation that policymakers can use to understand the toll that the pandemic has taken on providers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that early care and education is a key piece of infrastructure for the economy,” Anne Douglass, the executive director of UMass Boston’s Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, says in a blog post. “Parents need early care and education options that are high quality and affordable because when child care isn’t available, parents can’t work.”

The institute released a report on the survey results along with UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and its Center for Social Policy. The survey was commissioned by the Department of Early Education and Care.

One important lesson from the survey, Douglass says, is that “returning to pre-pandemic ways of doing business is not an option.” (more…)

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“COVID-19 revealed to the entire country what the early education and care field has known for years: Childcare is the backbone of our economy,” a new report says.

Unfortunately, that backbone is badly broken.

The report – “Boston’s Child-Care Supply Crisis: What a Pandemic Reveals” – was released by The Boston Opportunity Agenda and the Boston Birth to Eight Collaborative. The report’s findings were shared this week in a webinar that included Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign. A recording of the webinar is posted here.

The report highlights Boston’s shrinking supply of child care, a decrease that began long before the pandemic. Between 2017 and March 2020, the city “experienced a net loss of 3 percent of its licensed child-care seats for children 0–5 years old,” the report says. This loss worse in individual neighborhoods, including a 14 percent loss in Dorchester and a 15 percent loss in East Boston.

Add the pandemic in, and this loss is staggering. “Between December 2017 and September 2020, the loss at the city level was estimated at 16 percent.” At the neighborhood level, “East Boston, Dorchester, Hyde Park and Roxbury lost, respectively, 33.5 percent, 24 percent, 18 percent, and 17 percent in that period.” (more…)

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Source: Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women

 

COVID-19 is taking a huge economic toll on women.

The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW) explains how in a new report, “Child Care and Education During COVID-19: A Report on the Economic and Social Impact on Women in Massachusetts.”

“We are hearing about – and many of us are experiencing – intense stress related to the impossible task of simultaneously working and providing care,” commission chairwoman Denella Clark says in a press release. “It is time that we as a Commonwealth understand that early education, care, and school are essential components to families’ economic stability and the state’s economy.” Clark explains more in this Legislative briefing video.

To write the report, the commission drew on testimony delivered during a virtual hearing as well as on a survey that collected 4,000 responses from residents across Massachusetts.

“The last five months have been insane,” a Somerville resident said on the survey. “So many women in my community are at the end of their rope; they’ve had to quit jobs they love or that their families need to survive because it’s been too tough to find childcare.” (more…)

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