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(links to source documents are in the postings below)

1.  National Birth to Eight Strategies - Government, Businesses, Educators, Non-Profits, Academics
2.  Early Childhood Poverty Data in U.S.
3.  Child Poverty and Its Lasting Consequences - The Urban Institute
4.  Poverty's Most Insidious Damage: The Human Brain - Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
5.  The Science of Early Childhood Development - From Neurons to Neighborhoods
6.  Early Learning Developmental Domains - Head Start
7.  Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress - Administration for Children and Families, Dept. of HHS
8.  Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) - Child Trends
9.  Types of Childcare in New York State - NYS Office of Children and Family Services 
10.  Non-Parental Childcare Data - U.S. Department of Education 
11. Formal and Informal Childcare Arrangement - National Center for Biotechnology Information
12. Head Start CLASS Assessment Data - Office of Head Start
13. Early Literacy Skills - National Early Literacy Panel (NELP)
14. Conventional and Emergent Literacy Skills - National Early Literacy Panel (NELP)
15. Early Language Delays (SES) - ASPE, U.S. DHHS
16. Literacy Outcomes for Developmental Constructivism - John Hopkins University
17. The Achievement Gap Fails to Close - Education Next 
18.  2019 NEAP Reading Commentary  - National Council on Teacher Quality
19. "From Neurons to Neighborhoods" - The Science of Early Childhood Development
Birth to Eight Issues - An Introduction 

National Birth to Eight Strategies

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Alliance Early Success 2018 State Policy
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Early Childhood Poverty

Nearly 1-in-4 US Children Under Age 3 Live in Poverty
  • 32% of Latinx and 43% African American Children Under Age 3 Live in Poverty

  • 14% of White Children Under Age 3 Live in Poverty

Nearly half of U.S. Children Under Age 3 are Low-Income

  • 63% of Latinx and 69% of African American Children Under Age 3 are Low-income

  • 33% of White Children Under Age 3 are Low-Income

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  • Poverty = $20,780 for family of 3
  • Low-Income = $41,560 for family of 3 (2x the poverty level)

Impact of Early Childhood Poverty

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Over the past four decades, nearly half (49 %) of children born to poor parents were poor for at least half their childhoods, and there has been little improvement over time.

Roughly one in every three poor white newborns is persistently poor, while two in every three poor black newborns are persistently poor.

Children who are poor early in life—birth to age 2—are 30 percent less likely to complete high school than children who are first poor later in childhood (controlling for poverty duration and other factors).

Poverty early in life has been linked to behavioral problems and lower IQ scores as early as age 5.  It has also been linked with lower academic achievement than poverty experienced in later childhood and adolescence. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that toxic stress in early childhood can lead to permanent changes in the structure and function of the brain; these brain alterations can “create a weak foundation for later learning, behavior, and health” (Shonkoff et al. 2012, e236).

Poverty Impact on Brain Development
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Recent research “provides even more powerful evidence of the tangible detrimental effects of growing up in poverty on brain development and related academic outcomes in childhood. Investigators demonstrated that children living 1.5 times below the federal poverty level had smaller volumes of several brain regions critical for cognitive and academic performance (gray matter, frontal and temporal lobes, and the hippocampus).”


"The findings showed that poor cognitive and academic performance among children living in poverty was mediated by a smaller hippocampus and frontal and temporal lobes and that the decrease in volume of the latter structures explained as much as 15% to 20% of the achievement deficits found. Given the nature of the study sample investigated, where children facing numerous other risk factors for poor brain development were screened out, it is likely that the effects reported represent an underestimate of the magnitude of risk in the general population.”

Core Principles of Child Development 

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  • Human development is shaped by a dynamic and continuous interaction between biology and experience.

  • The growth of self-regulation is a cornerstone of early childhood development that cuts across all domains of behavior.

  • Human relationships, and the effects of relationships on relationships, are the building blocks of healthy development.

  • The broad range of individual differences among young children often makes it difficult to distinguish between normal variations and maturational delays from transient disorders and persistent impairments.

  • Human development is shaped by the ongoing interplay among sources of vulnerability and sources of resilience.

  • The timing of early experiences can matter, but, more often than not, the developing child remains vulnerable to risks and open to protective influences throughout the early years in life and into adulthood.

Early Learning Developmental Domains 

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See: Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework domains.)

  • Language and Literacy:  Promote children's emerging abilities in language and literacy development. This includes vocabulary, engaging children in conversations, and asking questions.

  • Cognition: Through exploration and discovery, young children build their own thinking and processing abilities. Find strategies that parents, teachers, and other adults can use to support cognitive development.  This includes fostering children’s thinking skills and use of the scientific method.

  • Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development:  Explore resources that address young children's development of perception, gross and fine motor skills, and health, safety, and nutrition.  This includes general health, vision, and developmental screenings.

Self Regulation and Toxic Stress
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  • Self-regulation is defined as the act of managing cognition and emotion to enable goal-directed actions such as organizing behavior, controlling impulses, and solving problems constructively.

  • Self-regulation can be strengthened and taught...with focused attention, support, and practice opportunities provided across contexts. Skills that are not developed early on can be acquired later, with multiple opportunities for intervention.

  • Development of self-regulation is dependent on “co-regulation” provided by parents or other caregiving adults.

  • Self-regulation can be disrupted by prolonged or pronounced stress and adversity including poverty and trauma experiences. Although manageable stress may build coping skills, stress that overwhelms children’s skills or support can create toxic effects that negatively impact development and produce long-term changes in neurobiology.

  • Self-regulation develops over an extended period from birth through young adulthood (and beyond). There are two clear developmental periods where self-regulation skills increase dramatically due to underlying neurobiological changes– early childhood and adolescence – suggesting particular opportunities for intervention.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
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Economic hardship is the most common adverse childhood experience (ACE) reported nationally and in almost all states, followed by divorce or separation of a parent or guardian.  Additional adverse experiences include:
1. Lived with a parent or guardian who got divorced or separated;
2. Lived with a parent or guardian who died;
3. Lived with a parent or guardian who served time in jail or prison;
4. Lived with anyone who was mentally ill or suicidal, or severely depressed for more than a couple of weeks;
5. Lived with anyone who had a problem with alcohol or drugs;
6. Witnessed a parent, guardian, or other adult in the household behaving violently toward another (e.g., slapping, hitting, kicking, punching, or beating each other up);
7. Was ever the victim of violence or witnessed any violence in his or her neighborhood; and
8. Experienced economic hardship “somewhat often” or “very often” (i.e., the family found it hard to cover costs of food and housing).
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Listed below are brief descriptions of common types of child care programs in New York State. 

Day Care Centers - provide care for more than six children at a time, not in a personal residence.

Small Day Care Centers - provide care for up to six children, not in a personal residence.

Family Day Care Homes - provide care for three to six children at a time in a residence; may add one or two school-age children. The maximum allowable number of children will depend on whether there are and how many infants are in care.

Group Family Day Care Homes - provide care for seven to twelve children at a time in a residence; may add one or two school-age children. The maximum allowable number of children will depend on whether there are and how many infants are in care. A provider must use an assistant when more than six children are present.

Pre-Kindergarten - usually located in public schools, but can also be found in private schools or day care centers; supervised by the State Department of Education. 

Head Start Centers - targeted for preschool-age children from low income families; federally funded and usually licensed as Day Care Centers.

School-Age Child Care Programs - provide care for more than six children from kindergarten through age twelve. Care for children during non-school hours; also may provide care during school vacation periods and holidays.

Nursery Schools - provide care for three hours a day or less. In New York City, the City Department of Health regulates these programs. A nursery school may voluntarily register with the State Education Department (SED).

Family, Friend, and Neighbors (Informal Care) – is home-based care for one to two children at a time in addition to the provider's children; are not required to register.

Non-Parental Child Care Arrangements

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In 2012 60% of children under age 5 received some form of non-parental care. In 2010, over 50 percent of children entering kindergarten had attended a center care arrangement in the previous year.   In 2016, the percent of children under age 5 in various types of care (note, the percentages below are not substantially different from 2001):

  • Relative Care = 26%

  • Non-Relative Care = 14%

  • Center Based Care = 34%

The evidence suggests that as children get older, parents begin to focus more on  academic skills. Younger children’s parents may be more concerned about factors such as cost and reliability as well as caregivers’ trustworthiness and ability to form caring, home- or family-like relationships with children.

Children in poor families (below poverty line) and those in low-income families (incomes between poverty and twice the poverty line) are less likely than children in more affluent families to be in center-based programs. In 2012, 46% of three- to six-year-olds in poor families, and 52% in low-income families, were in such programs, compared with 72% of children in families with higher incomes. 

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“High-quality early childhood experiences shape children’s readiness for school as well as their later life outcomes. At the same time, the early childhood education and care (ECEC) landscape is marked by low and inconsistent quality.”  

Formal childcare includes Head Start, Pre-K, and center-based care.  Informal care includes family childcare homes and family, friend and neighbor (FFN) care. 

While 56% formal childcare providers caregivers in the formal sector have a degree in early childhood education or a related field, only 9% percent do so in the informal sector. Similarly, 80% formal care providers participate in ongoing training compared to only 16% percent in the informal sector.  Formal care providers are more likely to meet our measure of high quality than informal providers (37% to 2%).

Some 93% of formal ocaregivers reported doing both reading and math activities on a daily basis. By contrast, 68% percent of informal sector caregivers reported daily reading, and 60% reported daily math. While formal sector caregivers reported children spending about six minutes per day watching television, informal sector caregivers reported nearly two hours of daily television exposure.

Differences in quality are not the only plausible explanation for differences in child outcomes across sectors. “Selection,” whereby child characteristics systematically differ across sectors, is another. For example, if children who enroll in informal settings come from lower- income households, it may be that difference and not exposure to different sectors that explains disparities in outcomes.

Head Start Performance on CLASS Assessment
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In 2016, 319 Head Start grantees received CLASS® reviews. The CLASS® tool has 10 dimensions of teacher-child interactions rated on a 7-point scale, from low to high. The 10 CLASS® dimensions are organized into three domains: Emotional Support, Classroom Organization, and Instructional Support.
• Emotional Support assesses the degree to which teachers establish and promote a positive climate in their classroom through their everyday interactions.
• Classroom Organization assesses classroom routines and procedures related to the organization and management of children's behavior, time, and attention in the classroom.
• Instructional Support assesses the ways in which teachers implement the curriculum to effectively promote cognitive and language development.
Early Literacy Skills Predictive Relationship to
Later Literacy Development (NELP) 
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Six early literacy skills or precursor literacy skills have medium to large predictive relationships with later measures of literacy development.

  • Alphabet Knowledge (AK): knowledge of the names and sounds associated with printed letters

  • Phonological Awareness (PA): detect, manipulate, or analyze the auditory aspects of spoken language (including the ability to distinguish or segment words, syllables, or phonemes),

  • Independent of meaning, rapid automatic naming (RAN) of letters or digits: the ability to rapidly name a sequence of random letters or digits;

  • RAN of objects or colors: the ability to rapidly name a sequence of repeating random sets of pictures of objects (e.g., “car,” “tree,” “house,” “man”) or colors

  • Writing or writing name: the ability to write letters in isolation or to write one’s own name

  • Phonological memory: the ability to remember spoken information for a short period of time.

Five early literacy skills were moderately correlated literacy achievement:  

  • Concepts about print such as left–right, front–back and concepts (book cover, author, text)

  • Print knowledge: a combination of elements of AK, concepts about print, and early decoding

  • Reading Readiness: AK, concepts of print, vocabulary, memory, and PA oral language:

  • The ability to produce or comprehend spoken language, including vocabulary and grammar

  • The ability to match or discriminate visually presented symbols.

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Conventional Literacy Skills refers to such skills as decoding, oral reading fluency, reading comprehension, writing, and spelling. The use of these skills is evident within all literacy practices, and they are readily recognizable as being necessary or useful components of literacy. The term conventional literacy skills is not widely used in the field but is adopted here to distinguish between these aspects of literacy that are clearly the focus of the reading, writing,   and spelling instruction provided to elementary and secondary students and those earlier- developing precursor skills that may not themselves be used within literacy practice but that   may presage the development of conventional literacy skills.
Emergent Literacy Skills:  Conventional skills can be thought of as being more sophisticated, mature, or later-developing manifestations of reading and  writing, and they are to be contrasted with precursor, predictive, foundational, or emergent skills (all terms used in this report). The report sometimes uses, more generally, early literacy skills, which can refer to both precursor skills and the conventional literacy skills of preschool and kindergarten children.
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Early language and vocabulary are foundational to emergent literacy and reading skills.  Research consistently shows that children's readiness for school when they enter kindergarten is associated with socioeconomic status Furthermore, children who enter school behind their peers rarely catch up.
The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K), a nationally representative study of children in kindergarten in 1998-1999, has documented the school readiness gap at kindergarten entry; cognitive scores among children in the highest SES group are 60% higher than those of children in the lowest SES group (Lee & Burkam, 2002).
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Literacy Outcomes for "Developmental Constructivist" Approach
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Developmental constructivist programs base their theories of action on the work of Piaget and Vygotsky. These programs have also been referred to as “child-centered” in other reviews. Programs in this category have a strong emphasis on child-initiated activity, play, make-believe, art, music, and movement. Creative Curriculum and High/Scope models are widely known and longstanding examples of this approach.

This study examines the strength of evidence supporting a variety of approaches, which fell into two main categories: balanced approaches, which include phonemic awareness, phonics, and other skills along with child-initiated activities, and developmental-constructivist approaches that focus on child-initiated activities with little direct teaching of early literacy skills.

Thirty-two studies evaluating 22 programs found that early childhood programs that have a balance of skill-focused and child-initiated activities programs had significant evidence of positive literacy and language outcomes at the end of preschool and on kindergarten follow-up measures. Effects were smaller and not statistically significant for developmental-constructivist programs.

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The Achievement Gap Fails to Close

April 11, 2019

Despite the topic’s importance, surprisingly little scholarship has focused on long-term changes in the size of the achievement gap between students from higher and lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Our new research, presented here, attempts to fill this void, using data from four national assessments of student performance administered to representative samples of U.S. students over nearly five decades.

Contrary to recent perceptions, we find the opportunity gap—that is, the relationship between socioeconomic status and achievement—has not grown over the past 50 years. But neither has it closed. Instead, the gap between the haves and have-nots has persisted.

The stubborn endurance of achievement inequalities suggests the need to reconsider policies and practices aimed at shrinking the gap. Although policymakers have repeatedly tried to break the link between students’ learning and their socioeconomic background, these interventions thus far have been unable to dent the relationship between socioeconomic status and achievement. Perhaps it is time to consider alternatives.

2019 NEAP Reading Commentary
National Council on Teacher Quality
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Washington, D.C.—On October 30 the 2019 Nation’s Report Card results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) demonstrated stagnation in student academic performance across the country. Further, 17 states showed declines in 4th grade reading scores and 31 states showed declines in 8th grade reading scores.

“Declining student performance in reading is unacceptable,” said NCTQ President Kate Walsh. “We must consider this a call to action. The science of how to best teach reading has been settled, and both teacher preparation programs and state policymakers have a responsibility to ensure that all teachers know this science. It should be noted that the only state to show an increase in 4th grade reading was Mississippi, which has also been working hard to ensure teacher candidates are trained and current classroom teachers are retrained in the science of reading. We cannot continue to fail our students by not making explicit scientifically-based reading instruction a national priority.”

The National Council on Teacher Quality will be releasing updated scores for how well elementary teacher preparation programs prepare their teacher candidates in the five components of scientifically-based reading instruction early next year in the 2020 Teacher Prep Review

See the 2016 Teacher Prep Review scientifically-based reading instruction scores for elementary teacher preparation programs here.

See the 2018 data for state requirements regarding scientifically-based reading instruction for elementary and special education teacher candidates here.


“From Neurons to Neighborhoods:

The Science of Early Childhood Development”

The complete document can be found here

“Two profound changes over the past several decades have coincided to produce a dramatically altered landscape for early childhood policy, service delivery, and child rearing in the United States.  First, an explosion of research in the neuro-biological, behavioral, and social sciences has led to major advances in understanding the conditions that influence whether children get off to a promising or a worrisome start in life. These scientific gains have generated a much deeper appreciation of:

(1) the importance of early life experiences, as well as the inseparable and highly interactive influences of genetics and environment, on the development of the brain and the unfolding of human behavior;

(2)  the central role of early relationships as a source of either support and adaptation or risk and dysfunction;

(3)  the powerful capabilities, complex emotions, and essential social skills that develop during the earliest years of life, and

(4) the capacity to increase the odds of favorable developmental outcomes through planned interventions.  

Second, the capacity to use this knowledge constructively has been constrained by a number of dramatic transformations in the social and economic circumstances under which families with young children are living in the United States:

(1) marked changes in the nature, schedule, and amount of work engaged in by parents of young children and greater difficulty balancing workplace and family responsibilities for parents at all income levels;

(2) continuing high levels of economic hardship among families, despite overall increases in maternal education, increased rates of parent employment, and a strong economy;

(3) increasing cultural diversity and the persistence of significant racial and ethnic disparities in health and developmental outcomes;

(4) growing numbers of young children spending considerable time in child care settings of highly variable quality, starting in infancy; and

(5) greater awareness of the negative effects of stress on young children, particularly as a result of serious family problems and adverse community conditions that are detrimental to child well-being.

While any given child may be affected by only one or two of these changes, their cumulative effects on the 24 million infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are now growing up in the United States warrant dedicated attention and thoughtful response.

This convergence of advancing knowledge and changing circumstances calls for a fundamental reexamination of the nation’s responses to the needs of young children and their families, many of which were formulated several decades ago and revised only incrementally since then. It demands that scientists, policy makers, business and community leaders, practitioners, and parents work together to identify and sustain policies and practices that are effective, generate new strategies to replace those that are not achieving their objectives, and consider new approaches to address new goals as needed.

It is the strong conviction of this committee that the nation has not capitalized sufficiently on the knowledge that has been gained from nearly half a century of considerable public investment in research on children from birth to age 5. In many respects, we have barely begun to use our growing research capabilities to help children and families negotiate the changing demands and possibilities of life in the 21st century.”

From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development Jack P. Shonkoff and Deborah A. Phillips, Editors; Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development, Board on Children, Youth, and Families, Board on Children, Youth, and Families

National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2000)

Chapter 6 

Communicating and Learning

Through the early childhood years, emerging communication skills and capacities for learning support other critical developments. The infant who learns more readily to replace crying with rudimentary attempts at other forms of communication (e.g., pointing and directing her gaze) spends more time in happier states and is an easier baby for parents to manage during the early months of life (Crockenberg, 1981).  Preschoolers who speak clearly and communicate their ideas more effectively are better able to sustain bouts of play with other children (Guralnick et al., 1996).

Even before children enter school, weak academic skills are associated with, and over time appear to exacerbate, behavioral and attention problems (Arnold, 1997; Hinshaw, 1992; Morrison et al., 1989). This is not to say that efforts to support language and cognitive development or to remediate delays in speech, hearing, and learning, will fix all other early developmental problems.

Rather, without attention to problems in these domains of development, important and sometimes powerfully influential avenues to addressing emotional and behavioral problems may be neglected. Scientists are, however, only beginning to understand how these intersecting strands of development operate to either foster or undermine development as a whole during the early years of life.

One of the most significant insights about educational attainment in recent years is that educational outcomes in adolescence and even beyond can be traced back to academic skills at school entry (Chen et al., 1996; Cunningham and Stanovich, 1997; Luster and McAdoo, 1996; Weller et al., 1992). Academic skills at school entry can, in turn, be traced to capabilities seen during the preschool years and the experiences in and out of the home that foster their development. Children’s cognitive skills before they enter kindergarten show strong associations with achievement in elementary and high school (Hess and Hahn, 1974; Stevenson and Newman,1986) and during early adulthood (Baydar et al., 1993).

Preschool general cognitive ability has also been shown to predict high school completion (Brooks-Gunn et al., 1993). This evidence underpins the national commitment to school readiness and has fueled the proliferation of public prekindergarten programs (Schulman et al., 1999).

It is important to note that children who start school lagging behind their peers in language and cognitive abilities are not doomed to be school failures and dropouts. To the contrary, early interventions can make substantial contributions to the academic skills of young children (see Chapter 13). Moreover, the associations found between early and later achievement leave substantial unexplained variance. This means that there is plenty of room for children to defy the odds, and many do.

Both language development and the emergence of early learning capabilities appear to be relatively resilient processes. This means that they are relatively protected from adverse circumstances, that it may take more to undermine these processes than is the case for other aspects of development, and that they can show surprising recovery if children exhibiting delays are placed in more advantageous environments.

Nevertheless, some aspects of language and cognition appear to be less resilient and more open to environmental influence than others, including vocabulary and attentional capacities. These aspects are particularly important to school success, in part because of what they can set in motion once a child enters formal schooling. They are also characterized by striking socioeconomic differences and therefore contribute to inequities in children’s life chances.

Moreover, the prospects for children with serious delays in language and cognition resulting from developmental disabilities and specific disorders can be seriously constrained and are heavily dependent on early detection and intervention. This chapter illustrates these points first with a discussion of what is now known about the development of communication and language, and then with a discussion of how children learn about the world and come to view themselves as competent individuals.

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