Category Archives: state policy

Pre-K is Good for Pennsylvania Business

Pre-K for PA Infographic

Pre-K for PA Infographic

Pre-K for PA released a report prepared by ReadyNation/America’s Edge which shows the economic boost that prekindergarten investments can generate in the state economy.  For each dollar invested in pre-k in Pennsylvania, a total of $1.79 in economic activity is generated in the state.

The report also estimates that if Pennsylvania invested funding in pre-k to provide access for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the Commonwealth, that investment would generate an additional $800 million in goods and services outside the early learning services sector.  This additional $800 million would be generated in the following major Pennsylvania sectors as follows:

  • Chart showing sectors of the economy with additional investments in early learningprofessional, business and other services (23%);
  • insurance, money and finance (18%);
  • construction and real estate (17%);
  • retail and wholesale trade (13%);
  • health services (12%); and
  • other sectors (17%).

Pre-K for PA is an issue campaign in support of access to high-quality pre-k for every 3- and 4-year-old in Pennsylvania.  Its founding organizational members are key early childhood and children’s organizations (Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, Public Citizens for Children and Youth, the Pennsylvania Head Start Association, PennAEYC, PAEYC, and DVAEYC) and supporters of pre-k investments (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, Mission: Readiness, and the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia).

This report is one in a series of reports by ReadyNation I co-authored which document the potential economic impact of investments in early learning.

Edited to add:  Press coverage of the report:

 

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Filed under early childhood education, Pennsylvania, state policy, Uncategorized

Narrowing the Skills Gap in New York by Investing in Education

In New York State and in many places around the nation, there are not enough skilled workers to meet the needs of today’s workplaces.  And the need for skilled workers keeps growing.

skills gap report chart

Chart from report. ReadyNation/America’s Edge.

When we think about jobs with different skill levels, we may think of white collar jobs or blue collar jobs.  But a substantial and growing segment of jobs are middle skill jobs — those that require more than high school but less than a four-year college degree.  In New York, these middle-skill jobs comprise 33 percent of all jobs in the state.

A new report released today by ReadyNation/America’s Edge shows that New York is projected to face a deficit of 350,000 middle-skill workers needed to fill jobs in the state. By 2020, 81 percent of the high-growth, high-wage jobs in the state will require at least a two-year degree.  And in STEM fields, 95 percent of jobs in New York will require education beyond high school.

What can New York citizens and policy makers do to address the growing demand for skilled workers?  The report calls for innovative high school education approaches, along with rigorous Common Core Learning Standards, to help prepare tomorrow’s workforce and help close these skills gaps.  These education models each promote a set of cross-cutting skills referred to as 21st century learning skills, which include: critical thinking, problem solving, working collaboratively, and communicating effectively. These education models, such as Career Academies, Big Picture Learning, and the New Tech Network, prepare students for college and career success.

The press release of the report.  

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Filed under child policy, education, New York, program models, state policy

Early Learning Investments Can Help Kids AND the Economy

Report cover image

Those of us working on children’s issues know that investing in high-quality early learning for young children pays off over the long run, with better academic performance in school, increased rates of employment, and decreased involvement with crime.  Less well known are the impressive short-term benefits of early learning for the local economy.

The business leaders’ organization ReadyNation/America’s Edge released a report today, which I contributed to, illustrating the short-term economic activity that can be generated by early learning in Illinois.   As the report states:

For every $1 invested in early care and education in Illinois, an additional 94 cents are generated, for a total of $1.94 in new economic activity in the state.  This strong economic boost for local businesses is higher than investments in other major sectors such as transportation, retail trade and manufacturing.  This strong economic boost for local businesses is higher than investments in other major sectors such as manufacturing ($1.79), transportation ($1.91) and retail trade ($1.93).

While investments in any industry generate additional economic activity, what’s impressive here is that the early learning sector has one of the highest “multiplier effects” in the local economy compared to other major sectors.  Although the figures cited here are specific to Illinois, the same general pattern holds true across the country, with the early learning sector at or near the top compared to other major sectors.

Early learning promotes economic development.  Not only does it help kids get the right start in life, it generates additional economic activity in the local economy which benefits businesses and our communities. When policymakers are faced with tough budget choices, its good to know that early learning is an investment that can help children learn, help parents work and help grow the economy.

The press release for the report.

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Filed under early childhood education, Early Ed Quality, Illinois, state policy, Uncategorized

State Action for Kids: in Nebraska, New Mexico, Virginia, and Maryland

State legislative sessions are underway around the country, and advocates are busy at work seeking policy wins for children.  Here are updates on several state policy advocacy efforts this week:

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Filed under child policy, early childhood education, foster care, Maryland, minimum wage, Nebraska, New Mexico, state policy, Virginia

Study of North Carolina Pre-K and Child Care Explores Community Effects, Finds Improved Reading and Math Scores

Recently published research on the community-level effects of pre-K (More at Four) and child care (Smart Start) in North Carolina finds that both programs led to increases in reading and math scores in third grade.

  • North Carolina third graders had higher reading and math scores in counties that had received more funding for Smart Start and More at Four when the children were younger.
  • The estimated effects of Smart Start and More at Four investments were equal to test score gains of about four months of third grade reading instruction and two months of math instruction.  Notably, these results are for all children in the community, not just children who participated in either early childhood program.
  • While the authors did not do a full benefit-cost analysis, they note that the benefits in math and reading gains outweighed the program costs.  The expected savings from reduced instructional costs for children whose community received Smart Start or More at Four funding was at least equal to the cost of those programs.

Community-level effects – the concept of spillover:  One really interesting aspect of this study was that the researchers assessed the outcomes of children at the county level, including children who participated in the preschool or the child care initiative as well as children who did not.  The authors note that this approach allows them to measure the potential spillover effects of the program; that is, children living in the county but not participating in the program may also be affected indirectly, by other students’ participation in the program.  In theory, spillover could be positive or negative.  Positive spillover effects could occur in the elementary school classroom, for example, with a larger proportion of classmates arriving at elementary school ready to learn, enhancing the learning environment in that classroom.

More study details:  The article by Duke University researchers Helen Ladd, Clara Muschkin, and Kenneth Dodge and published in the Winter 2014 issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, examined the effects of two North Carolina early education initiatives:  Smart Start, the comprehensive child care and community services initiative, and More at Four, the state-funded preschool initiative.  The study used county-level program spending data matched with children’s birth records for children born between 1988 and 2000 and their third grade test scores to look at changes in test scores that took place after the introduction of More At Four and Smart Start in those counties.  The differences in when counties invested in these initiatives across the state allowed the researchers to assess the impact of More At Four and Smart Start on children’s math and reading performance.  To address other potential differences over time in counties which could also affect children’s math and reading scores, the researchers included statistical controls for related variables, a common and appropriate technique.

The numbers behind the basic benefit-cost results reported in the study were:  math and reading test score gains of two to four months translate into cost savings of $1,700 and $3,400 per child in the community (based on per-month costs out of a 10-month school year, which was $8,500 per child in North Carolina).  This was compared to program costs for More at Four and Smart Start of $1,100 per child in the community for each program.

Another benefit of measuring community-wide effects is that the authors were able to avoid a common potential problem in research studies that do not randomly assign people:  selection bias.  Selection bias is the potential bias that is created in a study based on how participants are chosen, such as when people self-select into the “treatment” being studied.  In this case, the treatment is preschool or child care, and the children whose parents sent them to public preschool may be different in meaningful ways (such as child health, family income, or parent education level, to name a few) than the children whose parents did not send them to preschool.  The differences observed between kids in preschool and those not in preschool may be due to preexisting differences between those groups of kids, rather than due to the experience of preschool itself.  Since this study examines outcomes for all children in the county, those participating and not participating in the preschool and child care initiatives studied, the researchers avoided this self-selection problem.

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Filed under early childhood education, research for policy, state policy

The First Eight Years: KIDS COUNT Report Calls for Comprehensive Services

The Annie E. Casey Foundation‘s new KIDS COUNT reportImage First Eight Years Report Cover calls for a comprehensive and integrated system of supports and services for children from birth through age eight and provides new data to help make the case.  The report, The First Eight Years: Giving Kids a Foundation for Lifetime Success, reviews the research evidence about the importance of early childhood investments, and documents disparities in young children’s development and access to services by income and race/ethnicity.  The comprehensive, integrated services called for in the report include parent education and income supports, improved access to quality early care and education,  health care, and developmental screenings.

The report features new analysis of nationally representative data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study  – Kindergarten Class of 1998-99, focusing on third-grade results.  Especially valuable are the data breakouts by income and by race and hispanic origin.

Here are a few compelling findings from the report:

  • Only 36 percent of third graders nationally were on track in cognitive knowledge and skills.  This means that children scored at or above the national average on math, reading, and science assessments.
  • An analysisFigure 1 image third grade outcomes by income level shows economic disparities, with only 19 percent of third graders in low-income families being  on track in cognitive knowledge and skills, compared with 50 percent of third graders in higher-income families. (Low-income was defined as families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold.)
  • Just 56 percent of third graders nationally were on track in terms of their physical well-being, which included healthy weight and very good overall health.

For a full overview, check out the Foundation’s press release, which provides key findings and policy recommendations.

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Filed under child policy, early childhood education, federal policy, home visiting, state policy

QRIS Status in the States: 37 States and DC Have Statewide Systems

The QRIS National Learning Network has a handy map showing QRIS status in the states, updated May 2013.  This map shows that:

  • 37 states and the District of Columbia have launched a statewide QRIS;
  • 2 states (California and Florida) have regional QRIS;
  • 3 states (Virginia, New Jersey, and Hawaii) have a QRIS pilot program launched or completed;
  • 1 state (Missouri) requires legislation to implement a QRIS; and
  • 7 states (Alaska, Connecticut, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Alabama, and West Virginia) are planning a QRIS.

Quality Rating and Improvement Systems have made great strides in the past few years; estimates from even two years ago indicated that approximately half of states had a QRIS in place.

Quality Rating and Improvement Systems provide ratings of the quality of early childhood education programs, so parents, child care providers and the state will know the level of quality of a given program.  Rating systems typically use star ratings, ranging from one to four or five stars, not unlike hotel or restaurant ratings.  The criteria used for different ratings levels are far more substantive than satisfaction ratings, generally based on research evidence and professional practice for program quality in the early childhood education field (here is a fuller definition of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems).

QRIS is a major strategy being used by states to provide better information to parents, and to incentivize providers to improve their quality, often for enhanced funding. States vary in whether QRIS participation is voluntary or required for programs, and in the range of early education programs participating (child care centers, family child care providers, pre-k and Head Start).

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Filed under early childhood education, Early Ed Quality, state policy