Close your eyes. Can you imagine children 100 years from now? What will their world look like? What will they play with? 100 years from now will children still build with wooden blocks?
Caroline Pratt, founder of the City & Country School in New York City is lauded as the creator of the unit block, the standard wooden blocks found in preschools, early childhood classrooms, and homes across the country and around the world. And as 2013 comes to a close, let's take a moment to celebrate, as this year marks the 100th anniversary of the unit block.
The Block Book, a classic in early childhood education describes the many ways young children learn through block building and block play. The book also highlights the historical factors that contributed to Caroline Pratt’s interest in hands on education – one being that the world was becoming increasingly complicated. She wanted to offer children a material (wooden building blocks) children could use in their play to recreate and understand their world.
Fellow educator Lucy Sprague Mitchell wrote about the increasingly complicated world that concerned Caroline Pratt in this way:
Modern children are born into an appallingly complicated world. A three-year-old in a city environment may be whisked to his steam-heated nursery in an electric elevator, fed from supplies which are ordered by telephone, sent up in a dumbwaiter, and stored in an electric refrigerator: he may be taken to a hole in the sidewalk and borne rapidly on an underground train to a distant place. The forces which move his elevator, warm his nursery, extend his mother’s voice to a grocery store, cook his milk, propel the subway train, are complicated and difficult to understand not only at three, at six, at nine, but even at forty. (excerpted from The Block Book, pg. 1 )
100 years ago the concern was about dumbwaiters, elevators, phone orders for groceries, and refrigerators – technology that educators thought might make it harder for children to understand the world.
Could Caroline Pratt and Lucy Sprague Mitchell have imagined a future with our technology? Probably not! But perhaps they could have imagined a future where no matter the technology, children continue to play, learn, and explore, recreating their world to learn and understand how it works. Yes some of the tools children use to understand and recreate their world (like apps for digital story telling) are different but some like the unit block are remarkably the same.
Happy birthday unit blocks!
Susan Friedman is Executive Editor of Digital Content at NAEYC. Many years ago, she taught preschool at City & Country School in New York, NY.
By: Anni Krummel Reinking
The opportunity to attend the NAEYC conference was an extraordinary experience not only for myself as a professional, but also for my classroom and school community. I was able to build great connections with multiple individuals. I gained information and tools needed to present quality professional development to my staff and other co-workers. I gained great information for my administrator. And, I also gained knowledge on developmentally appropriate ways to engage my students in all areas of the classroom from math and reading to science and social engagement. For example, I got more information on websites for tracking, interactive learning websites, and programs that will benefit the students in my classroom. I was also able to gain professional connections for my own research and professional development as an Ed.D. student.
While attending the sessions and networking with individuals, I learned many new ideas and also confirmed my passion and love for early childhood by interacting with like-minded individuals. However, the most beneficial learning experience I had was the hands-on sessions that provided implementable activities that I can do with my students and help the teachers I mentor implement immediately. I learned how to do science in a developmentally appropriate way for my students that will get them involved. I also learned, from the amazing Opening Ceremony by Wolf Trap for the Performing Arts, the dynamic ways the performing arts can be incorporated to help students learn core subject areas.
The most memorable session I attended was a smaller session about incorporating service learning into the classroom to help students understand what volunteering is, beyond raising funds and gathering canned goods. From this session, I was able to gain ideas and begin to brainstorm how I can incorporate service learning into what I am already doing in my classroom. It is important for any student to learn through active service and interacting with community leaders in many different areas.
Next year at the 2014 Annual Conference in Dallas, or at any NAEYC conference, I would recommend that participants plan! There are so many sessions and planning ahead to choose the ones you want to attend is essential. I would also recommend doing some of your own homework. After finding the sessions that sound interesting to you, investigate the topic, look up the presenter, and make sure the session is one that will be applicable to you. But most importantly, do not be afraid to session jump.
This is my second NAEYC conference, and overall the conference is always excellent and always brings great presenters, exhibitors, and professionals from around the world who are all passionate about one thing, early childhood education and the quality our children deserve.
Anni Krummel Reinking is one of the 2013 NAEYC Legacy Annual Conference Scholarship recipients. She is an early childhood special education teacher in Central Illinois and an Ed.D. student at Illinois State University.
By: Jamellah Reid
Attending last year’s Annual Conference in Atlanta, GA was one of my best memories as a professional in the field of Early Childhood Education. I anticipated meeting other professionals in the field from all over the nation, and I did. But I also gained a wealth of knowledge from sessions and brief conversations with conference attendees. This was all very valuable information that I was able to share with my peers who could not attend the conference.
While it was my first national conference, I managed to participate fully and comfortably by keeping some of the following tips in mind:
Plan ahead: There is SO much going on during all 4 days; the best way to maximize your experience is to plan out in advance (the date, time, location) of the events you would like to partake in.
Dress Appropriately: Wear comfortable shoes. It’s a big conference and there’s lot of walking.
Recharge: I carried light snacks and a drink to keep my energy up throughout the day. Finding time for larger meals was a challenge for me. I attended 2-3 sessions per day so I refueled with snacks and then ate one meal at the end of the day.
Organize: I used the final conference program to help me find my way around, by using the maps and layouts of the halls and rooms.
Bring a journal or notebook that has a pocket folder for note taking. The folders will give you room to collect informational brochures, business cards, pamphlets, and everything else you may pick up at the conference. I still have the journal I used last year, which I currently use as a resource.
Lastly, make sure you find time to reflect on your experiences from the conference events. There is usually so much educational information flying around from attendees, presenters, and displays in the exhibit hall. We forget that our primary reason for participating in the conference is for the early learning of young children and their families. The exhibit hall is always a great way to end a busy day of sessions and presentations!
I am looking forward to attending the 2013 NAEYC Annual Conference in my hometown of Washington DC, and learning even more this year!
Jamellah Reid is one of the 2012 NAEYC Legacy Annual Conference Scholarship recipients. She is currently the Center Director for the Georgetown Hill Early School and NRC in Rockville, MD.
By: Kyle Snow
Teachers, family child care providers, program directors, professional development specialists– all contribute to the education of our youngest children. But describing the individuals who make up the workforce serving children birth through age five has been remarkably challenging.
First, the dedicated people who work with the youngest children are counted in a variety of occupational categories (such as child care worker, preschool teacher, or educational administrator) not necessarily exclusive to early childhood. Many who care for the children of family, friends or neighbors don’t even appear on any public lists, making data gathering difficult.
Second, there has not been a lot of research describing the early childhood work force. The most recent large-scale nationally representative study of regulated early childhood programs was conducted more than 20 years ago.
That is why the recently released report, Number and Characteristics of Early Care and Education (ECE) Teachers and Caregivers: Initial Findings from the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) from the National Survey of Early Care and Education is especially important as it provides a real window into those professionals and programs providing early care and education to young children before kindergarten in centers and homes.
Some of the early findings confirm long-held views of the field (i.e., largely female, under-paid) while others may be a bit surprising (e.g., number of early educators with college degrees).
Here ’s some of what we learn from this report:
The size of the early childhood workforce
There are an estimated 1 million teachers and caregivers working in center-based programs and 3.8 million home-based teachers and caregivers. About 41% of center-based teachers work in programs that are at least partly publicly-funded (e.g., Head Start, Early Head Start, public pre-k). Nearly all (97%) of home-based teachers and providers who are listed (included on federal, state or local listings of providers) are paid, while only about 25% of those not listed (individuals regularly caring for at least unrelated child but not listed on any public list of providers) are paid.
The Educational Background
One of the ongoing debates in early childhood focuses on the importance of completing a bachelor’s degree. There is general agreement that both degree level and quality early childhood content are critical components in teacher training. Standards for the preparation of teachers are also important. This national survey collected data on degrees and field of study, although only the level of degree attained is provided in this initial report (addressing the issue of the content of the degree must wait for future reports).
Among teachers and caregivers (including teachers, assistants and aides) in centers, 39% have at least a bachelor’s degree (BA). About 19% have a high school diploma or less, 28% have some college credit but no degree, and 17% have an associate degree (AA). There is a striking difference in educational levels based on the age of child served. For those working with children age 3 to 5 years, 45% have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 19% of those working with infants and toddlers. Conversely, 28% of those working with infants and toddlers have a high school diploma or less, compared to just 13% of those working with 3 to 5 year olds.
Home-based teachers and caregivers are less likely than their center-based counterparts to have completed any college degree (with 32% having either an associate or bachelor’s degree). Listed home-based teachers and providers generally have a high school diploma or less (34%) or some college credit (34%). Nearly half (47%) of unlisted home-based teachers and providers have completed high school or less.
While the report confirms the common view that early childhood professionals receive low wages, this report also shows that there is a wide range in salaries.
Among center-based teachers and caregivers (again including teachers, assistants and aides), hourly wages were higher among teaching staff for 3- to 5-year-olds than for infants and toddlers ($11.90 versus $9.30). Teaching staff with a BA or higher had hourly wages substantially higher ($14.70) than those with AA degrees ($11.00) and some college but no degree ($9.30) or high school diploma or less ($9.00).
Striking differences in wages were found when considering education and the center’s type of sponsorship and funding. In school-sponsored centers, teaching staff with a BA or higher degree earned a median hourly wage of $20.60 compared to $15.90 for those in Head Start funded centers, $16.20 in centers with Public Pre-K funded programs not sponsored by schools or Head Start, and $13.90 in all other centers. Differences were less dramatic for those with high school degrees or less, ranging from $11.60 per hour in school-sponsored centers to $8.00 in Head Start funded programs, $8.40 in Public Pre-K funded programs, and $9.60 in all other centers. This suggests that centers that are not sponsored by public schools and that do not receive Head Start or Public Pre-K funding have salary schedules that offer less incentive for higher levels of education. More than half of all centers (59%) were found to be in this category of funding or sponsorship.
When considering the hourly median salaries, the study points out that Census data indicate that the average hourly wage across all occupations for workers with a BA degree is about $27 an hour.
Years of Experience
Despite the low wages, center-based teachers and caregivers have a great deal of experience, with a median of 10 years. As with wages, the mean was found to be higher than the median, suggesting a small number of teachers and caregivers with a very large number of years of experience. Just 23% of all center-based teaching staff have 5 or fewer years of experience. In other words, 77% have more than 5 years of experience. This reflects a stability in the workforce overall (although not necessarily within a specific program) that is noteworthy. Listed home-based providers also have substantial experience, with a remarkable 84% reporting more than 5 years of experience. Unlisted providers were the least experienced, but still 50% reported having more than 5 years of experience.
A striking finding from the NRC report was the lack of benefits (generally health care, retirement, and paid time-off) received by many in the early care and education work force. The importance of these benefits is underscored by a recent study of the health and well-being of Head Start teachers in Pennsylvania.
Teachers and providers in both center- and home-based settings were asked if they had health insurance, and whether this was provided to them through their employer, through their spouse, an individual plan, or a public health fund. Here, the news is positive – three-quarters of teachers and caregivers in centers, and in listed and unlisted home programs reported they had health insurance.
Key takeaway points
The data provided in this initial report are extraordinary. Future reports are likely to be just as valuable. Being able to define the number of early care and education teachers, their education levels, whether or not they have health insurance and other benefits and other general characteristics is critical in defining the profession. Data reported here offer some confirmation of some long held views, especially as to how underpaid early childhood teachers and caregivers are when compared to other professionals, given the importance early learning and their work. These disparities are even more striking given the higher than expected level of educational qualifications and years of experience of many in the early childhood work force. The findings suggest that recent state and national efforts to focus on early childhood professional development have made a difference, and they underscore that investments in professional development are worthwhile because of the professionals’ commitment to remain in the field. The study also makes clear the need for additional funding with a target of improving compensation, with particular focus on equity for those working with infants and toddlers.
Many questions remain that should be addressed in future analyses, for example, how do educational qualifications and salaries vary by professional role (lead teacher, teacher, assistant or aide)? What is the content of the degrees held by teachers and caregivers? How common is specialized content in child development and early childhood education? We are likely to be turning to these data for many years to come as we work to advance high quality services for more young children and strengthen the early childhood profession.
Resources and Additional Information:
Number and Characteristics of Early Care and Education (ECE) Teachers and Caregivers: Initial Findings from the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE) (2013) Information about the study's methodology
Some technical notes about this study - What you should keep in mind:
It must be noted that the data provided in the report (and future reports) are estimates. This means that they are the best estimate that can be obtained based upon the sample and design of the study. It also means there is room for error – the standard error (this is similar to the “plus or minus” when you hear results from public opinion polls). Generally, the smaller the error, the better the estimate is.
This study sought to include all settings, including licensed and unlicensed center- and home-based programs. It also sought to identify all teachers and caregivers, including those working for pay and those not paid. For home-based providers, the study includes those who are “listed” – meaning they are appear on state or national lists (including licensing, registries, or Early Head Start) of regulated providers as well as “unlisted” providers who were identified by contacting a sample of households directly to identify individuals caring for at least 1 unrelated child between birth and kindergarten entry, for at least 5 hours per week. As such, the workforce this study describes is much broader than in previous studies, including for example, an unpaid neighbor providing care for one child as well as a public preschool teacher in a classroom of many children.
The report makes an important note that looking at the average (the “mean”) wage may be misleading because it can be affected by a few very high, or a few very low, paid individuals. Because the report found that some teachers are paid far above the mean, it uses the median estimate instead. This estimate describes the wage in the middle of the entire population – it is the 50th percentile value – the wage that is higher than that earned by half of the field and lower than that earned by half of the field.
Wage data is provided only for center-based teachers and caregivers only. It is important to note that these figures include all instructional staff and do not differentiate by roles, for example, lead teacher, teacher, assistant teacher or aide.
By: Kyle Snow, Ph.D.
There’s new research on how infants learn language. Here’s why it’s important:
1. We already knew that vocabulary acquisition was important to children’s success in school.
2. This new research tells us that how children process words (vocabulary) is also important. Dr. Ann Fernald, a researcher at Stanford University, explains the concept of language processing in this video and describes the study in this video.
3. Teachers can learn from the new research and adapt how they speak to children.
4. Teachers can make sure to give children time to process instructions and additional time to respond.
5. Programs that reach children very early on (like home visiting services that educate parents on children’s language development) and early education programs can make a difference.
A recent New York Times story highlighted the latest findings from a series of research studies related to children’s language development during late infancy (18-24 months and older). Dr. Anne Fernald has long studied how infants learn language. Her latest findings reveal income-based differences in children’s vocabulary starting as early as 18-months. What’s exciting about this research is that it both confirms and extends what we already know about the potential impacts of living in poverty on children's language development. And the more we know, the more we can positively impact children.
The new research adds to a growing body of work that identifies income-based disparities long before children enter school. In her work, Fernald found differences in vocabulary as early as 18-months of age, with a large vocabulary gap emerging by the time children reach 2-years. These results amplify the results from analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth cohort, reported by Child Trends, which found disparities in general cognitive functioning as early as 9-months of age.
Vocabulary – Size and Speed Matter
Fernald’s research extends our current understanding by not just looking at the size of children’s vocabulary, but how children process words in their vocabulary. Consider what it takes to use vocabulary – a series of words is heard, their meaning is interpreted, and then some response (maybe none) is produced. “Everyone come here and each take a cookie” requires some pretty good vocabulary skills. Each child needs to figure out what the words mean, and then process what they mean within the rest of the sentence. Speed of processing is important because a child’s working memory (think of this as the mental space that is currently used to guide activity) is limited in size and duration – if a child spends too much energy and time trying to figure out what a single word means, he or she will not have as many resources to act on that information, and in this case, miss out on a cookie. While we have begun to recognize that the size of children’s vocabularies may differ based upon their family’s incomes, Dr. Fernald’s study is the first that I know of that looked explicitly at processing language. The resulting knowledge – not only do children from lower income homes tend to have smaller vocabularies as early as 18-months, they also process language less quickly than their peers from higher-income homes. The differences are so pronounced that at 24-months of age, children from low-income homes are processing language at same speed as children from higher-income homes could when they were 18-months old.
What does this mean for young children?
As summarized by Harvard’s Center for the Developing Child, early experience affects brain development and lays the foundation for children’s development. We know from a wide range of research that disparities in children’s development and learning related to living in poverty persist and sometimes grow larger over time. This is especially true when there is no change in the nature of children’s experiences. In a recent paper, Drs. Clancy Blair and Cybele Raver concluded that “Poverty presents a remediable rather than a static set of environmental conditions that must be borne by families and children.” In other words, we can change the nature of children’s experiences. Programs like home visiting for new parents can affect the child’s language experience at home. Access to high quality early care and education outside of the home can extend the opportunities for children to learn and develop. Dr. Fernald’s findings that important disparities are present as young as 18-months underscores the need for high quality programming to be available as early as possible - before pre-kindergarten programs which generally begin at age 3.
The research tells us that by waiting to act until children are 4-years old, we have wasted precious time in closing known, predictable gaps in children’s learning and development. We also would have ignored the arguments of Nobel prize-winning economist James Heckman, who has argued that investments made earlier carry the greatest return on investment (see also this summary).
For teachers working with young children, these findings suggest the need to provide vocabulary-rich experiences for all children. It also means recognizing that children differ in how quickly they can act on instructions or respond to questions. While the differences in processing speed reported in the research are fractions of a second, even these small differences can be important. They suggest using language in ways that allow for children to completely process words and ideas before moving on to new words and ideas. Use short sentences. Also allow all children time to respond. Some of this may be habit – not calling on the first child to respond, for example. But considering that differences in how quickly children react may be due in part of differences in how they process language may provide new insight into their learning and behavior.
Learn More with these Additional Resources:
Author Q&A with Mary Benson McMullen, one of the editors of Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Focus on Infants and Toddlers – November 4-8
Research on Children’s Language Experiences:
The Early Catastrophe: The 30 million Word Gap by Age 3: The ground-breaking findings from the Hart and Risley study in 2003 underscored the different language experiences children have based upon whether their families lived in poverty or above the poverty line. Their work was largely considered to have importance in describing the differences in children’s language experience when they entered school.
This past April, The Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation (TLLCCF) awarded NAEYC member Lisa Janis the 2013 Helene Marks Award as National Child Care Teacher of the Year! "It is such a gratifying feeling to know that everything I have been working for is being recognized! It's so rewarding to know other people acknowledge early childhood education as the foundation of children’s education," said Janis, in the June/July issue of TYC.
The Helene Marks Award is presented to the child care teacher who is selected from among the top ten applicants of the National Child Care Teacher Awards. The recipient receives the Helene Marks Award and the honor of being named the National Child Care Teacher of the Year and an additional $1,000.
We are so excited about the upcoming online Q&As featuring Annual Conference speakers and authors of our books and articles.
These online events feature experts on a range of early childhood topics who answer questions online. These events are free and open to everyone.
|Online Author Q&A|
If you've never participated in one of these online Q&A's give it a try. Think of how you might imporve your practice, solve a problem or learn something new through the information you reflect on in the author's book and pose your question.
Here are some details on the events for the rest of the year:
STEM Learning Through the Arts: Join Akua Femi Kouyate & Amanda Layton Whiteman, two of our Annual Conference Opening Keynote speakers, in an online Q&A on Early Childhood STEM Learning Through the Arts. Ask questions before the conference session and lean how you can find synergies between STEM and the arts in your classroom. - October 21-25
Developmentally Appropriate Practice: Focus on Infants and Toddlers: Pose a question to Mary Benson McMullen, professor, researcher and one of the authors of a the new DAP books focused on infant and toddlers. Learn more about DAP and how you to apply it to your work with infants and toddlers. - November 4-8
Class Meetings: Teachers, you won't want to miss the December Q&A with Emily Vance, author of Class Meetings: Young Children Solving Problems Together. Ask questions and learn about how to use class meetings effectively to support positive changes in class and individual communication and problem-solving skills. - December 2-6.
Be sure to visit our Online Q&A page to participate!
NAEYC Accredited Program Director in the news!
NAEYC member Kimberlee Kiehl is Director of the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, an NAEYC Accredited Program in Washington DC impacted by the Federal Shutdown.
We want to hear more from and about NAEYC members!
1. Be one of the first members featured in our Member Spotlight!
2. Nominate a member you're proud of.
3. Have an idea you'd like to write about? Contribute to the NAEYC blog.
The latest issue of TYC features a list of encouraging things to say to children instead of "Good job!"
Parents and teachers often say “good job” as an automatic response to a child’s action. “You ate all of your peas. Good job!” “You did a good job putting away the toys.” A “good job” now and then is fine, but it doesn’t help children understand why what they did was good. Preschoolers need to know what they did, why it worked, or why it shows they are capable. Try the following suggestions to give preschoolers specific, detailed information that recognizes their achievements and encourages their learning. (Read the article.)
We posted the article on social media and so far it's been liked, shared, forwarded, and commented on - exponentially reaching more than 70,000 educators.
We're thrilled that so many of you find this set of tips useful and are sharing with the teachers in your program and in your own virtual communities. Below we've included some of the feedback we've received.
And now we want to know - what other topics would you like covered in this way? Please let us know and thank you for all you do for children...good job! (Just kidding!)
Derry Koralek, TYC Editor in Chief and the TYC Editorial Team
Along with our coalitions and other national organizations, we are participating in a Twitter Storm to urge Congress to vote on a clean continuing resolution. Join us on Thursday, October 10 from 2 -2:30 pm (EST) for a #JustVote Twitter Storm! We invite groups to share stories, resources, and messages highlighting all of the shutdown issues affecting children and families and the reasons the government shutdown should end.
NAEYC put out a statement on Monday – Whole Child, Whole Budget – on the need to move forward with a real budget, using real appropriations bills and the right investments. The proposed approach in the House of Representatives to fund one program at a time for a few months is not workable and not the right solution to this impasse. Feel free to re-tweet the NAEYC statement link or post it to your Facebook!
Sample Twitter Storm Tweets (feel free to use):
1. Children and families deserve a federal budget that invests in them on behalf of all of us. #JustVote
2. Don't delay any longer. Pass the funding bills, invest in children now. #JustVote
3. Whole budget is needed to support the whole child and family. #JustVote
If You Don’t Have Twitter…
We are hearing from many that Congressional offices are not picking up their phones. However, calls are still being tallied through the below number.
Call your Representative toll-free: 1-888-659-9562 Wednesday through Friday, October 9 – 11.
Picking apart the funding program-by-program instead of a real appropriations bill is the wrong way to solve this impasse. Children and families don’t come in pieces, nor should the funding for the programs that help them prosper and reach their potential. It’s time to end the shutdown and to invest in our children and families.
Please share this invitation with all of your networks, families and friends