OVAE Connection Newsletter - Issue 172 - November 7, 2013

OVAE Connection

                                                   OVAE Connection Issue 172 - November 7, 2013

Childhood Participation in Early Care and Learning Program

One of the key education initiatives of President Obama’s administration is the focus on early learning. According to the White House, “[E]xpanding access to high quality early childhood education is among the smartest investments that we can make.” The early years of a child’s life “represent a critically important window of opportunity to develop a child’s full potential and shape key academic, social, and cognitive skills that determine a child’s success in school and in life.” This column presents findings from the recent Department report Early Childhood Program Participation, From the National Household Education Survey’s Program of 2012, which focuses on early learning and the learning gap between low-Socio-Economic Status and middle class and more affluent children when entering kindergarten. This report presents selective descriptive information and causal inferences should not to be drawn from this descriptive data. A later column will focus on parental and family involvement in education using data from this survey.

The data in this report pertains to the early care and education arrangements and the early learning of children from birth through age 5 who were not enrolled in kindergarten in spring 2012. Among the findings are:

  • Approximately 60 percent of all children in the study were in at least one weekly nonparental care arrangement.
  • The primary caregiver for 78 percent of children cared for by a relative was a grandparent or grandparents.
  • The mean length of time that 1- and 2-year-old children had been in their primary care arrangements was longer for care by relatives rather than for other arrangements.
  • For all primary care arrangements, when families had out-of-pocket costs for care, those families above the poverty threshold spent about twice as much for center-based care as those below the poverty threshold.
  • Eighty-one percent of children in weekly nonparental care arrangements whose parents were attempting to locate care, had parents to whom learning activities at the child care arrangement were very important when choosing where the child spent most of his/her time. The particular percentage varied by parental education level with those with more education rating onsite learning activities as less important than those with less education.
  • For children aged 3 to 5 who were not yet in kindergarten, about 98 percent were taught letters, words, or numbers by their parents. At least once a week, 95 percent of parents read to their children, 94 percent sang to their children, 86 percent worked on arts and crafts with their children, and 83 percent told a story to their children.

Project Rise: Taking Lessons Learned to Improve Services for Disconnected Youth

The education and social policy research organization MDRC recently released a research brief, Reconnecting Disconnected Young Adults: The Early Experience of Project Rise. The brief examines Project Rise, a program that is part of the federal Social Innovation Fund, and describes the plight of the some 1.6 million young adults ages 1824 years of age in the United States who are both out of school and out of work, and discusses the early lessons from the project as it works to reconnect them.

Educational attainment and early work experience can help young adults gain a foothold in the labor market, and prepare them for adulthood. Yet, disconnected young adults face not only significant limitations in finding employment, but they also are at high risk for involvement with the criminal justice system. Participants are assigned to a case manager who assesses their job readiness and interests, determines the support they need, and develops individual plans with them. They also coordinated referrals and monitored participants’ progress using agreed-upon benchmarks. Paid internships are offered to those who maintain satisfactory attendance in the program’s education component.

Local Project Rise programs have successfully attracted a highly disadvan­taged participant group. Partici­pants are either black/African-American or Hispanic/Latino. They are split almost evenly between males and females, and between 18- to 20-year-olds and 21- to 24-year-olds.

Among the significant challenges confronting these youth at the time they entered the program were that over 70 percent of participants had been suspended from school; nearly half had been arrested; more than a fifth had been in foster care; more than a third were parents; nearly half had changed their residence in the previous six months; a quarter had been referred to psychological or emotional counseling in the previous year; about nine percent had been referred to a substance abuse treatment program; and, all had an average reading and math levels below ninth grade.

While program operations are still in their early stages, some early lessons have emerged:

  • Contrary to expectations, a higher percentage of participants joined Project Rise for the value of its educational component, more than that of the paid internships.
  • Enrollment in cohorts can promote bonding among participants through a combination of peer support and peer pressure.
  • It is important to respond flexibly to participants’ barriers and strengths, given the challenges of engaging them for the full program duration.

MDRC’s implementation research report, to be published in 2015, will address a range of issues, particularly the ways in which program have addressed implementation challenges and adoption of the Project Rise model. Characteristics of the participants and data illuminating their participation and its outcomes will be provided. In addition, reports of participants’ perspectives on their experiences and especially its challenges will be described.

Individuals at the state and local level providing programs and services to adult learners, may wish to consider the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)’s recent release of the results of the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies, (PIAAC), alongside this policy brief. Among the key PIACC findings are that in three domains (literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving in a technology-rich environment), the U.S. average performance is significantly lower than the international average. These findings show that the U.S. has significant basic skill weaknesses within the adult working-age population in comparison to other industrialized countries. These stark findings highlight the target populations of Project Rise. The socio-economic issues confronting disconnected youth in that program represent a microcosm of youths across the nation with limited economic opportunities. Their ability to compete nationally and internationally is impaired by their lack of essential, high-demand skills. Both PIACC and Project Rise reveal steps needed to affect more positive outcomes for this disadvantaged population.