31 December 2009

Approximately 3 out of 5 Family-based Child Care Programs Restrict Mobile Play As A Form Of Punishment: Findings From A Recent Study

Stewart Trost, Oregon State University researcher and expert on obesity problems, surveyed approximately 300 family-centered child care facilities serving families with children aged 2 to 5. Even though about 4 out of 5 surveyed programs provided more than an hour of mobile playtime per day, approximately 2 out of 5 indicated that the children enrolled in their programs were required to sit still for prolonged time periods. Two-thirds of providers surveyed reported that they leave the television switched on for most of the school day.

Perhaps even more distressing was that over 60% of the surveyed child care staff reported that they withheld mobile playtime and movement (sometimes called “time-out”) as a punitive measure. Although time-out is preferred to corporal punishment, requiring children to sit still doesn’t improve behavior if what they really need is to burn off some energy. “Would you withhold fruits and vegetables for kids who misbehave and negatively affect their health?” Troft asks.” All the research shows that restricting physical activity makes children more, not less, likely to misbehave. So, it’s not even an effective means of punishment.”

Play is one of the most critical things a child does. Through active play and engagement with adults and other children, a child explores her surroundings, retains important information and builds connections in her mind. Play also provides children with the opportunity to develop crucial social traits (BBB, 2007).

As Trost suggests, preventing children from participating in the act of play is not effective in changing inappropriate behavior. Need ideas on parenting and discipline techniques that work? Please visit The Urban Child Institute’s resource page on sensitive discipline techniques at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Parenting.

Better Brains for Babies. (2007). Better Brains for Babies Trainer’s Guide. Athens, GA: Better Brains for Babies.

Kids in home-based day care lack exercise. (2009, December 18). Yahoo! News. http://news.yahoo.com/s/hsn/20091219/hl_hsn/kidsinhomebaseddaycarelackexercise/print

22 December 2009

Preparing Early Childhood Staff To Adapt To The Diverse Educational Setting: Findings From a Recent Study

Today’s early education environments exhibit our country’s evolving cultural landscape. In the future, most early childhood educators will doubtlessly interact with an increasing number of children from families very different from their own. The transforming makeup of the American educational system demonstrates the advancing unification of ethnicity, faith, physical capability and language. This inspiring (yet demanding) cultural phenomenon mandates that new educators be increasingly perceptive and ready to teach young, multifaceted pupils, as well as become powerful advisors in the multicultural educational setting.

Leaders in college-level early childhood education programs have reacted uniquely to this crucial concern. Little is understood about variables that may influence how diversity and language issues are approached in university early childhood degree programs. Recently, the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina conducted a study examining the impact of geographical locations, institutional features and program components on the diversity-related educational requirements in over 400 Bachelor’s degree programs that educate early childhood teachers.

Some Findings:
- Four-year degree programs with a higher number of nonwhite faculty were more likely to mandate more coverage of cultural issues in the ECE program. This finding implies that attracting and maintaining a diverse faculty may be a critical approach for creating a culturally sensitive early childhood labor force.
- Early childhood programs in rural locations were less likely to require coursework focused on linguistic diversity than programs located in metropolitan areas[1].

The complete results of the study emphasize the significance of coordinating best practices with teacher readiness mandates, retaining a diverse faculty, and providing information about cultural contexts to the largely White early childhood teaching personnel.

The University of Memphis offers a four-year program in which students can earn a Bachelor’s of Science degree in early childhood education. Prior to earning the degree, students are required to complete coursework relating to race and ethnicity, family and culture and gender issues. For more information about the early education program, please call 901.678.5915.

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Home/.

[1] For a more complete listing of the findings, please visit the UNC Child Development Institute’s website at http://www.fpg.unc.edu/

10 December 2009

New Research Suggests That Daily Television Viewing Time Varies Significantly By Type Of Child Care Setting

According to new research published this fall in the journal Pediatrics, young children enrolled in out-of-home care may be spending over 30% of the time they are awake each day watching television. The study (the first in more than two decades to examine television watching in the child care setting) suggests that television viewing patterns vary significantly by type of child care setting- about 70% of family-based child care programs reported daily television watching, while 36% of center-based child care programs reported daily television viewing.

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle and a researcher at the University of Washington, surveyed 168 licensed daycare programs in four different states. The results suggest that among preschool-aged children, those in family-based day care programs watched television for 2.4 hours per day on average, compared to 24 minutes in larger centers. Only family-based providers conceded to placing infants (less than 12 months of age) in front of the television, for an average of about 12 minutes per day.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any television watching of any kind during the first 24 months of life and advises a daily restriction of 60 to 120 minutes of superior programming for older children. Young children attend child care programs in order to foster social abilities, cultivate cognitive skills and partake in creative play, as well as allowing parents to work. According to Christakis, “It’s not what parents have signed up for. I’m not sure how many parents are aware of this…We know what is good for children and we know what’s not. High quality preschool can make a very, very positive difference. We’re so far from meeting that, that we really have a lot of work to do…It’s alarming to find that so many children in the United States are watching essentially twice as much television as we previously thought.”

Other studies have linked extreme television watching during early childhood with language problems, weight issues, attention difficulties and hostile behavior. (See Television Viewing Associated With Increased Combative Behavior In Young Children ). Christakis suggests that one of the primary issues with television watching for young children is that it replaces time that could possibly be spent running in the backyard, reading a story, playing with toys and interacting with adults and peers- all behaviors and activities that promote optimal cognitive, social and emotional development during the first years of life.

For more information on the well-being of young children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.


Blankinship, D.G. (2009, November 23). Study: Kids watching hours of TV at home daycare. Associated Press: Yahoo! News.

Measuring Quality in Early Childhood Care and Education: Moving from an “Inputs” Focused Program to an Outcomes Based Model of System Reform

All across the U.S., low income and minority students are consistently less likely to be prepared for kindergarten, less likely to be proficient on achievement tests, more likely to be held back and less likely to graduate from high school; this phenomenon is called the “achievement gap”.

Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke at the annual meeting of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) that was held in Washington D.C. During his remarks, Secretary Duncan commented on the importance and value of early learning systems that span pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade as the best opportunity policymakers have to “get schools out of the catch up business” (Duncan, November 2009, para. 6). In other words, - as NAEYC’s call to action on pre-K to 3rd grade systems states-, “to close the (achievement) gap, we must prevent the (achievement) gap” (Duncan, November 2009, para. 5).

However, the most interesting aspect of Secretary Duncan’s speech is not in recognizing the role of early education in helping to prevent achievement gaps between children from different backgrounds. Instead, his most valuable point is that system reform in early childhood can not have the intended effect of eliminating the achievement gap, unless reform efforts are measured in terms of children’s “outcomes” instead of “inputs” to their early education.

Traditionally, education reform in early childhood has been focused on raising teacher qualifications, lowering staff to child ratios and improving curriculums. While these are all “inputs” which have been linked to better child outcomes in research studies, Duncan’s larger point is that it is ultimately not enough to simply raise the quality of early childhood education. We have to know if reform efforts are leading to better outcomes for children served by the system.

What types of outcomes? Kindergarten readiness has traditionally been thought of as a child’s academic or intellectual preparation for school. Certainly knowing letters of the alphabet, having a large receptive vocabulary and the ability to distinguish beginning and ending sounds of words are all important to the process of becoming literate. Many, if not most, of our current assessments of pre-kindergarten programs are focused on children’s intellectual preparation for kindergarten. However, we also know that social and emotional development, which encompasses the ability to self-regulate and participate in groups, is a key component of school readiness. Therefore, as Secretary Duncan pointed out, effective outcomes measurement must be expanded to include all dimensions of school readiness, not just the ones we actively know how to measure.

There are several valid tests of children’s social and emotional development including:

- Behavioral Skills Rating Scales of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development;

- Ages & Stages Questionnaire on Social and Emotional Development; and

- The Brief Infant Toddler Social Emotional Assessment (BITSEA).

Currently in Shelby County, Head Start and Early Head Start are the only early care and education programs that are required to asses and track children’s social and emotional development. Head Start and Early Head Start are also the only early care and education programs that are required to help children access physical, mental, and developmental health services. Children need to be academically, social/emotionally and physically prepared to participate in school from day one. Effectively expanding and improving our current early care and education system to help eliminate the achievement gap locally should include assessment of the full range of children’s developmental preparation for school.


Duncan, Arne. November 18, 2009. The Early Learning Challenge: Raising the Bar — Secretary Arne Duncan's Remarks at the National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Education. [Accessed December 3, 2009]

Action Steps To Improve Child Well-being In Memphis: Call the White House Today!

Children’s early brain development occurs through a process of interaction between children and their environments. The quality of these environments and relationships shape the degree to which children’s brains will develop effectively. Children’s early developmental experiences build the foundations for their subsequent success in school and life.

More than half of the children born into our community every year are raised in families lacking access to resources that children need for healthy development. As a community, we need to understand that many of our problems stem directly from the earliest experiences of our children. We can’t wait- NOW is the time to invest wisely in our youngest citizens in order to achieve an ideal future for the city of Memphis.

The national financial plan is crucial to maintaining and expanding high-quality early childhood education programs, such as Early Head Start and early intervention programs for children with special requirements. In order to confirm that the federal 2011 national budget incorporates the monetary support that these programs need to assist vulnerable young children, we are encouraging all Shelby County citizens to communicate with the White House in order to advocate for early childhood issues.

Why contact the president NOW? The Obama cabinet is presently laboring over the financial plan suggestions for the next fiscal year and we need to guarantee that programs that serve infants and toddlers are penciled in. President Obama’s financial plan delivers a message to Congress regarding the issues that should be the primary expenditures during the next financial phase- fundamentally setting the model for what is incorporated into our national budget.

Why is expansion in these early childhood programs critical for the Memphis community? We have a tremendous number of susceptible young children who are not receiving federal services that could be hugely beneficial to families and the greater Shelby County community.

- Designed to promote healthy physical, emotional and cognitive growth for at-risk children, Early Head Start (EHS) has been shown to improve child developmental outcomes and strengthen parenting skills. Currently, less than one percent of eligible children in Shelby County have access to EHS.

- Early Intervention services support optimal early childhood development, and help families trying to provide for their children’s special needs. Approximately 2% of Shelby County children under three are enrolled in the Tennessee Early Intervention Service system. Recent estimates suggest that our community has a significant need to expand enrollment in services for children with disabilities or developmental delays.

You can help by asking for increased funding for Early Childhood Programs. Please take action today by contacting the White House in one of the two following ways:

1. Leave a message for the Obama administration on the White House Comments line. To call the White House Comments line, please dial 202-456-1111.

2. Send President Obama an e-mail in support of the expansion and maintenance of quality early childhood programs. To e-mail President Obama, fill out the form on this website: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.

For more information on the well-being of young children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute website at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/Home.

04 December 2009

Perry Pre-School: Still a Good Investment but Not as Good as Previously Reported

The last 10 years have seen enormous growth in the amount of state and federal funding being directed towards creating pre-kindergarten programs. In spite of a grim economic climate nationally, state pre-kindergarten programs were slated to receive $5.3 billion in state and federal funding next year (Pre-K Now, October 2009, 2). Why are pre-kindergarten programs becoming a major target of public spending? Many pre-kindergarten programs have been funded in the hope that they will help low income children be better prepared for kindergarten and that they will narrow the achievement gap and earnings between lower and upper income children as they grow to adulthood. So where does Perry Pre-School fit into this picture?

The Perry Pre-school Project was a two year, high quality early childhood education program offered to low income children in Ypsilanti, Michigan in the late 60’s. The notable thing about Perry Pre-School is that its original researchers created equally sized control (children who did not participate in the program) and experimental (children who did participate in the program) groups at the beginning of the project. Then they tracked each group of children for the next 40 years to measure how the control and experimental groups did on various indicators as they grew to adulthood. For instance, they tracked whether or not the children failed grades, were suspended in school, became teenage mothers, graduated from high school, went to college, went to prison, how much they earned in adulthood, how often they used welfare and food stamps, etc.

Forty plus years into the program they can now demonstrate that children who participated in Perry Pre-School at ages 3 and 4 have lead significantly more productive and stable lives. For instance, they were less likely to fail grades in school, less likely to be suspended, less likely to go to jail, less likely to be teen parents, more likely to go to college, more likely to be employed, etc. All of these findings on the experimental group were then compared with the results of the control group in order to calculate the long range cost savings associated with having participated in the program. Researchers then compared the cost savings generated by program participants to the initial cost of providing them with high quality pre-kindergarten. For many years, this return on investment (ROI) was calculated for Perry Pre-School as being either 16 or 17 to 1. In other words, for every dollar invested in the program, the program participants cost society $16 or $17 less than they would have if they had not gone through the program (Rolnick & Grunewald 2003, Belfield et al., 2006).

This fall, Nobel prize winning economist James Heckman revisited the earlier work of the return on investment from Perry Pre-School to determine the accuracy of the estimated ROI. They found that due to errors in earlier estimation analysis, the ROI for Perry Pre-school has been overstated. They describe an estimated ROI of between $7 and $10 for every dollar invested in Perry. While this is much smaller than the earlier estimates, it still represents a substantial return (Heckman et al., November 2009).

Given the reality that much of the enthusiasm for investing in state pre-kindergarten programs has been fueled by the promise of generating large ROI’s for the next generation, it remains to be seen whether or not a $7 to $10 ROI is large enough to inspire lawmakers nationwide to continue to invest in these programs. It should also be noted that Perry Pre-School was only able to demonstrate a $7 to $10 ROI after 40+ years of tracking its participants. None of our current state pre-kindergarten programs has existed long enough for us to know whether or not they will prove as cost-effective as Perry Pre-School.


Belfield, C.R., Nores, M., Barnett, W.S., Schweinhart, L., (2006). The High/Scope Perry Preschool program: Cost-benefit analysis using data from the age-40 followup. Journal of Human Resources, 41, 1, pg. 162-190.

Heckman, J.J., Moon, S.H., Pinto, R., Savelyev, P.A., Yavitz, A. (November 2009). The Rate of Return to the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program. NBER Working Paper No. 15471. [Accessed November 11, 2009] http://www.nber.org/papers/w15471.pdf

Pre-K Now. (October 2009). Votes Count: Legislative Action on Pre-K Fiscal year 2010. Washington D.C.: Pew Center on the States. [Accessed November 10, 2009]

Rolnick, A., Grunewald, R. (2003). Early childhood development: Economic development with a high public return. Tech.rep., Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN.