Early Years

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States should use new federal child-care aid as a "stimulus" to rethink the way they deliver services, the Children's Defense Fund advises in a new report.

The Congress appropriated $732 million for the current fiscal year under the new Child Care and Development Block Grant program, and an expansion of the Social Security Act sets aside $300 million per year for five years for child care for families at risk of going on welfare.

While the aid will "'only begin" to meet states' child-care needs, the report says, it should be an impetus to "put in place a coordinated child-care system" and make high-quality child care more accessible to poor families.

The report summarizes the legislation and offers guidance on how to plan for the aid, use it for expansion and improvement, coordinate services, reimburse parents or subsidize programs, and balance quality and cost.

Copies of "The Child Care and Development Block Grant and Child Care Grants to State Under Title IV-A of the Social Security Act: A Description of Major Provisions and Issues to Consider in Implementation" are available free from the Children's Defense Fund, 122 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.

For-profit child-care centers in North Carolina pay workers less, have higher turnover, and offer fewer benefits than nonprofit centers, a new report shows.

The report is based on a survey of child-care workers by the University of North Carolina's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center, the Day Care Services Association of Chapel Hill, and Child Care Resources Inc. of Charlotte. Forty-three percent of the centers surveyed were for-profit, 20 percent were run by community nonprofit groups, 20 percent were church-operated, and the rest were public programs.

While all groups were concerned about low wages and high turnover, the report noted a strong correlation between working conditions and funding structure.

The median teacher pay of for-profits was $4.50 per hour, compared with $4.80 per hour for church-run centers and $5.19 for other nonprofits. For-profits also had the highest staff turnover, with 44 percent annual turnover rates on average, compared with 30 percent for church-run centers and 37 percent for other nonprofits. For-profits also offered the least vacation and sick days.

For-profit center directors also earned the least, and both teachers and directors had less schooling than did those at church-run and other nonprofit centers.

Copies of "Working in Child Care in North Carolina" are available for $5 each from the Day Care Services Association, P.O. Box 901, Chapel Hill, N.C. 27514.

"Middle of the road" approaches to early-childhood education that try to compromise between "child initiated" and "teacher directed" learning are ineffective, concludes a report by the Washington, D.C., schools.

The report says a three-year study of district prekindergarten, kindergarten, Head Start, and 1st-grade classes clearly supports "more active, child initiated" instruction, and that compromising does not work.

Child-centered approaches proved superior not only in helping facilitate mastery of basic skills, but also in spurring social development, the report said. Some children in the study declined in social develoment as they moved through school, a trend the report said was "clearly associated" with more academic, teacher-directed approaches.

The findings were presented at an early-childhood institute held last month to kick off the school board's declaration of 1991 as the "Year of the Young Child."

The district is currently restructuring its preK-3rd grade classes by retraining teachers and principals, upgrading equipment and material, and reducing student-teacher ratios.

The district opened two early-childhood demonstration centers this fall, and it recently awarded $10,000 grants to three schools to plan early-childhood units based on research by national early-childhood experts.

As part of a broader effort to reconfigure schools and reduce class size, the Minneapolis school district is eyeing sites for up to four "early-education centers" for preK- to 2nd-grade children.

Officials say the centers will allow them to develop curricula and materials appropriate to that age group; train teachers in child-centered approaches; and involve parents in children's early learning.

A new book from the Council of Chief State School Officers compiles the group's policy statement, guide for state action, and 12 papers by national experts on how to best aid young children and families at risk.

Copies of "Early Childhood and Family Education: Analysis and Recommendations of the Council of Chief State School Officers" are available for $18.75 each from Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc., telephone (800) 225-5425.

Educators can spend a day in an exemplary early-childhood classroom by viewing a new videotape by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. The videotape and an accompanying manual explore innovative ways to organize and manage classes and offer materials to ease implementation.

"Early Childhood Education: Classroom Management--Curriculum Organization," stock no. V9112, can be purchased for $345 by a.s.c.d. members and for $395 by nonmembers, or rented for $75 by calling a.s.c.d. Member Relations at (703) 549-9110.--dc

Vol. 10, Issue 21

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