Pennsylvania's Promise for Children  
Early Childhood Education Newsletter

 

July 24, 2009

Trends & Reports

OCDEL Corner

In the Community

Upcoming Events

Employment Opportunities

Higher Education & Early Childhood Career Preparation News

Resources for Early Learning Professionals

  

Trends & Reports 

As part of the initial implementation of the Early Learning Network (ELN), the William Penn Foundation commissioned OMG to conduct an assessment of early implementation.  Through a survey of key stakeholders, OMG has provided initial findings on the early success of the Early Learning Network in three areas: 1) the vision and buy-in for ELN across the state; 2) how providers are being prepared to implement the system; and 3) how ELN is being incorporated into practice at early care and education centers.  These are summarized below, along with next steps for OCDEL to take based on this initial evaluation study.

1.  Vision and buy-in
There is broad support and shared vision for the Early Learning Network among key stakeholder groups.  Advocates, providers, and policy makers are able to articulate the ways in which ELN will benefit young children in Pennsylvania and the early childhood system.  Stakeholders repeatedly referenced three goals for ELN: 1) informing policy; 2) increasing cross-agency collaboration; and 3) improving communication between stakeholder groups. State leaders indicated that success in any of these goal areas would be a major contribution to the early childhood field both in the state and on a national level.

2.  Provider preparation
OCDEL has made significant efforts to provide training and professional development to early childhood teachers and directors on components of the ELN system.  A 2009 survey of PA Pre-K Counts providers addressed early response to training and use of the tools.  Work Sampling training participants were satisfied with the training they received: 95% of survey respondents reported that the training helped them to assess children, and 85% rated the training as Good or Excellent.  There was a concern that training is “one size fits all” without consideration of the provider’s technical ability or familiarity with the tools.  Providers found in-person training more productive than remote training, through webinars or conference calls.  In preparing for the launch of ELN, OCDEL has created a telephone help desk and an email-based help desk to offer technical assistance to providers.

3. Early Implementation
The survey also addressed early implementation. The majority of providers expressed that the reporting is both easy to do and useful in developing their lesson plans and communicating with parents. Fortunately, some concerns with early implementation, such as time away from children and difficulty, are not being realized among providers.

Contrary to early concerns among leaders in the field, providers do not seem to be spending an exorbitant amount of time on Work Sampling online data entry.  The majority of providers reported that they spent approximately 1 to 2 hours three times per year entering data on the children in their care.

According to surveys results, these tools are easy to use: 95% of providers who responded to the survey indicated that that data entry was Easy or Very Easy to do.  Furthermore, providers report that they are already using Work Sampling reports in several capacities: over 75% indicated that they use the reports to assist with lessons plans and 85% use them to communicate with parents about their children’s progress.

Finally, there is a significant appetite among providers to use the ELN data entry system in greater depth, if given the resources to do so.  Nearly three-fourths of providers reported that they would like further technical assistance on the optional functions of Work Sampling, such as the tool for developing portfolios.

According to the survey, teachers were more likely than directors to be entering data on children.  95% of teacher respondents were personally entering child-level data into the system, and 54% of directors were entering child-level data.  This is in line with OCDEL’s intent that teachers should be responsible for entering their own child assessment data into the ELN.

Next Steps: OMG has made several recommendations to OCDEL, which OCDEL intends to address, including increasing the depth of communication with the ELN Advisory Board; modifying the ELN provider training in response to feedback; offering additional technical assistance; and continuing to assure data quality is addressed.

 

The Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for Young Children (TACSEI) recently published Evidence-Based Social-Emotional Curricula and Intervention Packages for Children 0-5 Years and Their Families (pdf). This synthesis provides information that programs can use as guidance in selecting curricula or intervention packages that are most appropriate for their setting and that best meet the needs of the children and families they serve.

 

 

 

On July 9, 2009, the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee released their afterschool program report which featured information as to the availability and affordability of afterschool programs in the commonwealth.  Highlighted was the cost of afterschool programs, issues for afterschool programs, engaging specific age groups, the demand for programs, locating programs, and recommendations.

 

Available is the Highlight Report (pdf) and the Full Report (pdf).

 

 

Television reduces verbal interaction between parents and infants, which could delay children's language development, says a U.S. study appearing in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.  The study challenges claims that certain infant-targeted DVDs actually benefit youngsters. The researchers studied 329 children, aged 2 months to 48 months, and found that for each additional hour of television exposure, there was a decrease of 770 words (7 percent) heard from an adult by the children. The study also found that the more hours spent watching television, the fewer vocalizations infants made when adults talked to them.  

 

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OCDEL Corner

In a speech delivered to the NAACP on July 16, 2009, in which President Obama spoke of the Early Learning Challenge Grant, he also referenced Pennsylvania's success in early learning, stating, "We should raise the bar when it comes to early learning programs. It's not enough just to have a babysitter. We need our young people stimulated and engaged and involved. We need our folks involved in child development to understand the latest science. Today, some early learning programs are excellent. Some are mediocre. And some are wasting what studies show are by far a child's most formative years."

He continued with a challenge--referencing the Early Learning Challenge Grant.  "That's why I've issued a challenge to America's governors: If you match the success of states like Pennsylvania and develop an effective model for early learning; if you focus reform on standards and results in early learning programs; if you demonstrate how you will prepare the lowest income children to meet the highest standards of success -- then you can compete for an Early Learning Challenge Grant that will help prepare all our children to enter kindergarten all ready to learn."

The Obama Administration's Early Learning Challenge Grant proposal would challenge states to develop effective, innovative models that promote high standards of quality and a focus on outcomes across early learning settings, and dedicate $10 billion over ten years toward this effort.  States would compete to establish model systems of early learning that:

  • Drive results-oriented, standards reform across programs, setting a high standard of quality for programs to strive toward, in order to better promote early learning, child development, and school readiness.
  • Fund and implement pathways to improve existing early learning programs, with the goal of increasing the number of low-income young children who participate in higher-quality settings.
  • Ensure that more children enter kindergarten ready, with the healthy cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills and ability necessary for success.

The initiative incorporates two funding elements:

Quality Pathways Grants, as awards to high-capacity States pursuing models of reform and excellence in early learning. Innovative plans would already reflect significant progress toward establishing the elements of needed to improve quality and learning outcomes for children, and a desire to take such improvements to scale.

Development Grants, as awards to a population of developing States that show promise for strengthening and expanding their early learning system, but who need additional assistance to launch a standards-based, outcomes-driven system.

Obama's speech also referenced the need of a world-class education as a prerequisite for success, stating, "There is no stronger weapon against inequality and no better path to opportunity than an education that can unlock a child's God-given potential" and conveying the need to raise the bar when it comes to early learning programs, specifying rewarding states and public school districts that adopt 21st century standards and assessments.

The U.S. House may soon be voting on HR 3221, the “Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009,” legislation that would create the Early Learning Challenge Fund. To find contact information for your US. Representative, visit the United States House of Representatives website.

To view the complete transcript of the speech, please visit the Chicago Sun Times website.  Additional information on the Early Learning Challenge Fund, and the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Summary, Section III. A. Elementary and Secondary Education can be located on the U.S. Department of Education website.

 

On July 21, the House of Representatives voted (49-150) to non-concur with the Senate version of HB 1416, which cut more than 17,000 children from early education programs. You can view how your Representative voted at Pennsylvania House of Representatives website.

The bill now goes into conference committee where the legislative caucus leaders and Governor negotiate a final budget. The Conference Committee is scheduled to meet Monday, July 27.

Earlier today, the Governor shared with the CEGs on their weekly outreach call his great appreciation for the work that everyone is doing in the community to mobilize their networks. He has recognized the amazing work the community has done to raise the profile of early education with their legislators. Like never before, more legislators are speaking on behalf of early education during debates on the budget bills, and contacting members of the early education community directly to share their views on early education and the budget process.

Because the budget deal could be made as early as mid-week, it is crucial for the early education community to continue communicating with their legislators and Governor Rendell that early education must be a priority. For information on what you can do to communicate your interests to your legislators and Governor Rendell, visit the PA Promise website. As we enter final budget negotiations, every communication is critical - whether you've made contact one time or 100 times, please contact them again.
 
Because there is still no budget for this fiscal year, OCDEL unfortunately does not have authority to issue payments to ECE providers who do business with OCDEL. Some providers have worked to open lines of credit in the interim; please contact your OCDEL representative if you have questions.

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In the Community

Children at the SmartKids Child Care and Learning Centers (2), in Washington PA, are supporting their local communities by participating in various service projects conducted throughout the year.  Not only are the children working with the staff at the SmartKids facilities, but parents are being encouraged to become involved to make a difference in the community too!

Throughout the year the children have engaged in projects such as creating Easter placements and Thanksgiving centerpieces for local shelters, making donations to local food pantries, participating in a community clean up day,  making Get Well cards for patients at the local hospital, weeding elderly neighbors’ flower gardens, collecting blankets and clothing for the shelters, and much more.

Parents are being encouraged to model for their children “what can be accomplished when communities work together”.   SmartKids highlights each family community service project by displaying “Family Community Service Trees” inside the entrance to the facilities.  Lists containing suggested service projects are available as well as “Code of Service” emblems which are affixed to the trees, and contain the family’s name and a description of their service project.

Kudos to SmartKids for coming up with a unique and fun way to engage children and parents in worthwhile activities that support and enrich the family and the community!

For more information, please contact Renee Heckler, Director of SmartKids - Canonsburg at 724-743-3201.

Representative Sandra Major met with staff from H.A.N.D.S. of Wyoming County (pdf) in her Tunkhannock Office to receive a present on July 3rd, 2009. The present was a caricature (pdf) created by H.A.N.D.S. director, Annette Smith's, husband Dale Smith. The caricature was a thank you present for her continued support for early childhood education. The mat surrounding the artwork was signed by children attending pre-school at the Child Development Council, Tunkhannock center. In a follow-up thank you letter sent by Major, she thanked H.A.N.D.S. for a wonderful gift and said she was having it framed to hang in her Harrisburg office.

For more information, please contact Annette Smith, H.A.N.D.S. of Wyoming County at 570-836-2350 or hands2217@yahoo.com.

Since the mid-1990s our business and law-enforcement leaders have understood that investing in Pennsylvania's early-childhood education programs, such as Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, Head Start Supplemental, Keystone STARS, Child Care Works and Early Intervention, are highly effective and cost-efficient in ensuring that children succeed in school and in providing the competent workforce necessary to support economic growth.

In a July 15, 2009 article (pdf) appearing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bill Isler, president of Family Communications, Inc. and a member of the Pittsburgh school board, and William P. Mullen, sheriff of Allegheny County, provide their take on how early education has both short and long term benefits.  These payoffs include short-term stimulus to the economy, keeping parents employed and  off public assistance, decreased need for special education services in kindergarten, and longer term payoffs, such as students who do better throughout their school years; are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college or job training programs; have higher earnings, and are more likely to own a home. 

The article also highlights that early education also is important to law enforcement because high-school dropouts are three-and-a-half times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested, and more than eight times as likely to be incarcerated. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that 68 percent of state prison inmates do not hold a high school diploma.

For the complete article (pdf), please visit the PA Promise website.

Pre-school students at Memorial #1 Head Start recently visited Albright LIFE Center (pdf) in conjunction with a PA One Book reading of the story “If You Were a Penguin”, a program implemented locally by the Lycoming County Community Engagement Group (CEG) in partnership with the James V. Brown Library.

The state of Pennsylvania’s “One Book, Every Young Child” initiative encourages adults to not only read to children, but engage in discussion about stories, which is crucial to early learning. “We were thrilled to have more than 100 readings to 3,000 pre-school and kindergarten-age children throughout Lycoming County from Hughesville to Jersey Shore this year,” said Jennifer Bolich, of the CEG and early childhood education coordinator at LCUW. “We have chosen to use the PA One Book as a transition tool by reading throughout preschool classrooms in the Spring and supplying it to kindergarten teachers to use in the Fall.”

The CEG placed adult readers in many pre-school and day-care facilities throughout the five week period, but in this case, the students went to the readers instead of the reader coming to the pre-school or day care.

When 16 pre-schoolers arrived at Albright LIFE, it was difficult to tell who was more delighted the children or the seniors.  Barbara Shirk, a day-care participant at Albright LIFE and former Head Start bus driver, first read “If You Were a Penguin” to the students before they split into pairs so that each child could share the story he or she had written with the seniors.

“The kids really enjoyed the story and the interaction with the seniors. We appreciate the Community Engagement Group and United Way bringing us [Head Start and Albright LIFE] together. We plan to continue this partnership and outings with Albright LIFE because it is a win-win situation. It helps to build social skills for the children and provides an enjoyable interactive activity for the seniors,” said Sally Lomison, teacher at Head Start.

For more information on Albright LIFE call 570-322-5433 or 1-800-907-LIFE.  For more information on Head Start, call 570-601-9600. For more information on Lycoming County Community Engagement Group or Lycoming County United Way, call 570-323-9448. 

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Upcoming Events

 

As part of the revitalization of the Market Square area of downtown Pittsburgh, Downtown Pittsburgh Partnership, Read 365!, The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Shady Lane School, Reading is Fundamental, Point Park University Children’s School, and the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children have teamed up for the third consecutive summer to present KidsPlay Market Square. The hour long literacy and craft event on Fridays targets neighboring downtown child care centers, but is open to the community at large. This year, there have been KidsPlay events on ten Fridays, from May 22nd through July 31st. Renovation to Market Square forced the dates to be pushed back by a few weeks; typically the program ends in mid-August.

Each week has a theme such as Hats Off to You!, So Dirty!, or Build it Now! There is always a special guest to either read a book (sometimes their own), or to demonstrate their profession, such as carpentry. Crafts range from hat making to book making, to writing a letter with Mr. McFeely. Unique visits also occur from fire trucks and garbage trucks, oftentimes allowing the children to climb on! Each child who attends also gets a free book related to the week’s theme; this proves to be especially exciting because the theme can then be continued in the classroom or at home.

The true community collaboration has made this event a success and has been a fun way to engage children and families while bringing them to Market Square to encourage the importance of literacy.

There are two remaining sessions: July 24th and July 31st. The program begins at 10:30 am. For more information, please contact Molly Mickinak, Administrative and Program Manager, Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children at 412-421-3889.

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Employment Opportunities

Southeast Regional Key Grant Quality Supervisor’s primary responsibilities are the oversight of those actions and activities that are related to ensuring that the Key’s data is accurate and accessible by management and state entities.  This position supervises the operation and staff of the data department to maintain compliance of the internal SERK database, as well as the state databases with state auditor’s regulations and requests encompassing the issuing, processing, tracking, closing, and auditing of grants issued through the SERK.  The Stars Grant Supervisor provides oversight and management of state fiscal grant allocations and provides ongoing reporting of said funds.  This position is also responsible for the training of SERK staff in the use of said databases as deemed necessary, and is supervised by the SE Regional Key Director.

For essential functions and responsibilities, core competencies, qualifications and requirements, please see the STARS Grant Supervisor document (pdf).

Interested candidates may send their resumes to mveitz@seregionalkey.org or fax it to Mary Veitz, Outreach & Operations Manager, at 215-271-1607.   

The Professional Development Manager of the SE Regional Key is responsible for the day-to-day management of the professional development, technical assistance, and early childhood mental health (ECMH) project functions. This includes working with other Key managers and staff to achieve effective integration of all departmental functions throughout the Key, management of essential databases, provision of financial and contract oversight, producing financial and project reports, and developing systems for the smooth implementation of professional development, technical assistance, and ECMH activities.

The Professional Development Manager reports to and is supervised by Key Director.  He/she interacts with Key staff, and collaborates where appropriate, so as to enhance services to early care and education providers.  The position is full time, 100% FTE.  The position of Professional Development Manager operates from the SEPA Regional Key, 1500 South Columbus Blvd, Philadelphia, PA. For additional information about the position and requirements, please see the Professional Development Manager document (pdf).

Interested candidates may send their resumes to mveitz@seregionalkey.org or fax it to Mary Veitz, Outreach & Operations Manager, at 215-271-1607.

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Education is recruiting educators to serve as program reviewers for initial teacher certification program applications from institutions of higher education.  The Department is required to conduct reviews of these applications as mandated by the PA School Code, Title 22, and Chapter 49.  Recent changes in legislation and State Board regulations have resulted in the need for colleges and universities to prepare applications for new programs in Early Childhood Education, Elementary/Middle Level Education, Special Education, Principal K-12 and Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility. 

In order to conduct the reviews, educators from the higher education and K-12 community are being recruited at this time.  PDE is in need of PreK-4, 4-8 and Special Education content reviewers to assist us in the program approval process.  The Initial application review process will not require you to participate in an on-campus review.  The process will be electronic and allow you the ability to review the applications and support documents via the Internet.   Your report will also be transmitted electronically.  The Department will provide reviewers with a $500 honorarium and 10 ACT 48 hours for each review.

If you are interested in being considered for participation in this very worthwhile professional development activity, please submit a current vitae to Christina Baumer at cbaumer@state.pa.us. You will be placed into the Department’s databank and notified when training opportunities are available.

If you need any additional information, you should contact Christina Baumer at 717-783-6720 or via e-mail at cbaumer@state.pa.us.

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Higher Education & Early Childhood Career Preparation News

California University of Pennsylvania’s Advanced Studies in Teacher Education is a completely online 33 credit or 24 credit graduate program for certified teachers interested in gaining additional certification in Early Childhood Education.  The curriculum is aligned with National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) standards.  Graduate students in the early childhood education degree program will apply knowledge of child development, families, and best teaching practices to a variety of educational settings including public schools pre-kindergarten to grade four primary programs, preschool programs, Head Start, child care, parenting and family support programs.   New career opportunities have evolved for educators with a strong background in the early childhood field of education.  This degree will enable the early childhood educator to meet the specific needs of children and work with parents and other adults to nurture children’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual growth n a child development framework. 

There are two options within the early childhood education program: A master’s degree and certification with thesis, action research, or internship (33 credits); A certification only program with thesis, action research, or internship (24 credits).  It required that the internship be completed if the student does not have early childhood experience (i.e., formal work and/or teaching experience working with Pre-K children).

The Masters in Early Childhood Education is based on and supports as well as implements the principles prescribed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and include these five standards:

Standard 1.  Promoting Child Development and Learning
Standard 2.  Building Family and Community Relationships
Standard 3.  Observing, Documenting, and Assessing to Support Young Children and Families
Standard 4.  Teaching and Learning
Standard 5.  Becoming a Professional

This program emphasizes a Constructivist teaching philosophy that takes into consideration the prior knowledge and background of individual learners.  The program is based on best practices, is performance-based, and engages learners in research-based practices that will prepare professionals to work with children pre-kindergarten to fourth grade.

This program is of value to teachers because upon receiving teaching certification most states require teachers to receive on-going professional development credits beyond their bachelor's degree.  In Pennsylvania for example, teachers need to obtain 24 credits after their bachelor's degree.  In addition, some states are now requiring teachers to receive professional credits.  In Pennsylvania, every teacher must receive 6 credits (or equivalent) of professional development every five years. 

In addition to developing a deeper understanding of instructional pedagogy, one of the goals of this program is to prepare teachers work with PreK-fourth grade.  Both the federal and state governments have multiple initiatives dedicated to early childhood education and providing early intervention and instruction for the nation’s youngest children in order to prepare them for success in their K-12 education.

For more information about this program please California University of Pennsylvania’s Advanced Studies in Teacher Education website or via email at elemedonline@cup.edu.

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Resources for Early Learning Professionals

The Prudential Foundation supports initiatives that strengthen public education. Education grants emphasis is placed on: systemic school reform; improving leadership skills for education stakeholders; increasing parent involvement and community engagement; providing opportunities for arts education and out-of-school-time youth development programs; ensuring that parents and caregivers have the resources needed to support the development of their children.  

Sony's company-wide philanthropic efforts reflect the diverse interests of our core businesses and focus on several distinct areas, which includes education.  The company provides positive consideration is given to efforts that promote literacy and basic educational competency.  In the area of Education, Sony US Foundation is responsive to grant-seekers and institutions who bring commitment and innovation to the task of strengthening education at the primary and secondary school levels, with consideration also given to selected higher education initiatives.

The Charles Lafitte Foundation's Education Program provides support for innovative programs aimed at resolving social service issues, assisting students with learning disabilities, providing technology and computer based education, creating access to education of the arts, supporting at-risk children from pre-school to college and providing learning enhancement, including the development of leadership skills. The Education Program includes support for research and conferences as well as support for programs that promote academic excellence in institutions of higher learning. 

The Foundation is also committed to improving the "quality of life" of children by supporting programs, which encourage children to reach their fullest potential. The best chance a child has to reach that goal is to be provided with sufficient education, health care, housing and love. To that end, the Foundation supports programs that deal with issues such as child abuse, foster housing, literacy, educational advancement, after-school programs, hunger projects and the general well-being of children. The mission of the Children's Advocacy Program is to improve outcomes for children and youth of all ages and to maintain a vital, attractive community where children and families can thrive.

The Innovating Worthy Projects Foundation provides financial grants for structuring, developing, or altering special-needs children’s programs. The Foundation offers grants to organizations working on developing innovative programs, disseminating ideas, or providing services and care to children with special needs, acute illnesses, or chronic disabilities.  Eligible applicants include tax-exempt organizations under Section 501(c)(3) or agencies that are members of the Federal, or any State, County or local Municipal government. 

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