ACS Client Addresses Critical Early Childhood Workforce Issues and Empowers a Profession Child

A recent article appears in Slate as part of its Better Life Lab series that address challenges around advanced degrees for early childhood professionals. As states across the country are increasing the postsecondary degree requirements of early childhood providers, its causing parents everywhere sit back and reflect on what their children need in the classroom. People pursue degrees because it is expected or because they want to grow knowledge and skills; because they want to be better in their jobs, or because their jobs required it; or because they want to increase their compensation, advance in their field, achieve better outcomes, and help support their families. Why is it difficult to understand that early childhood providers might want advanced education in their field for these same reasons?

Research shows have educated educators is good for kids.  But it’s also good for the educators as well. As the article notes, “It’s good for their own families and communities. It’s good for the school systems in the towns where they live; it’s good for the tax base of the nation.” The article also notes that compensation cannot be an afterthought and there should be more dialogue about how to help educators attain postsecondary degrees.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) works with client National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) on their Power to the Profession initiative (P2P) initiative to develop a common vision and framework for a comprehensive policy and financing strategy for the early childhood profession. This effort involves more than 40 national stakeholder organizations and is funded by the Foundation for Child DevelopmentThe Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationAlliance for Early SuccessW.K. Kellogg FoundationBuffett Early Childhood Fund, and Richard W. Goldman Family Foundation. As part of its process, P2P gives early educators an opportunity to contribute input on a comprehensive set of guidelines that is intended to advance their livelihoods and improve their profession. ACS will continue to provide updates on this work as it progresses.

Ohio to Receive $35 Million Child Literacy Grant

The Associated Press reported that the Ohio Department of Education has awarded Ohio a Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant. The grant is for $35 million over three years that will target language and literacy development for early childhood-grade 12 students with a special focus on vulnerable students.

According to state education officials, students living in poverty, students living with learning disabilities, and English Language Learners (ELLs) will benefit from this targeted, programmatic funding from the Ohio Department of Education. This grant will strengthen the state’s existing efforts to increase the number of students who are third grade proficient, meaning they can read at grade-level by third grade.

Advocacy and Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is excited to learn of Ohio’s receipt of the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant. With its vast experience working in early childhood and K-12 education, ACS is eager to analyze this grant’s implementation data to understand the potential impact the grant could have on grade-level proficiency. See more about the work of ACS with its early childhood and K-12 clients here and here.

National League of Cities Features ACS client as model to Address Hunger and Food Waste in Central Ohio

The National League of Cities (NLC) reported on the City of Columbus’ and greater Franklin County’s coordinated efforts to increase residents’ access to healthy food and efforts to minimize food waste.

As the report argues with compelling statistical evidence, Franklin County is a microcosm for the national trends of healthy food access and of food waste. Priscilla Tyson—a current Board Member of the National League of Cities, President Pro Tem of Columbus City Council, a native Columbus resident, and author of the report—explains that one-in-five children in Franklin County are food insecure and food waste comprises roughly 13-percent of the county’s landfill. National statistics state that roughly 12.3 percent of Americans do not have access to healthy foods, yet 30-40% of our nation’s food supply becomes food waste.

Ms. Tyson’s report underscores the prolific detrimental effects of the food crisis by characterizing the crisis as humanitarian, economic, environmental, and educational. For example, with “thirty percent of pre-k students and 28 percent of kindergarten students in Columbus City Schools in 2015” going to school with a Body Mass Index (BMI) that placed them at significant risk for health problems, young children are not set up for success in the classroom because their bodies and brains do not have the necessary nutrition to engage, learn, and grow.

NLC brought together diverse community stakeholders to develop a strategy to “get healthy foods on the tables of [Franklin County] residents, prevent the food from entering the landfills, and stimulate the economy while doing so.” Convened stakeholders include residents, schools, local businesses, community organizations, and local government officials. After two years of collaboration, the group created the Columbus & Franklin County Local Food Action Plan, which contains four goals and 27 recommendations for action that will bring the county closer to achieving these goals. Some recommendations include utilizing vacant land to grow food and create grocery markets to increase access, locally sourcing school programs’ food, and rezoning to increase capacity for local food production.

Advocacy and Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) is assisting Columbus City Council in helping to advance messaging and earned media coverage on the Local Food Action Plan. Stay tuned for other articles!

Impacting Third Grade Reading Proficiency: What Works and What Does it Mean?

The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation and the Institute for Child Success recently released a new resource for states and communities, What Works for Third Grade Reading. As an educational tool for the North Carolina Pathways to Grade-Level Reading (Pathways) initiative, this collection of 12 working papers addresses each of Pathways’ whole-child, birth-to-age-eight Measures of Success for aiding all children to read on grade-level by the end of third grade.

Pathways’ working papers include extensive research- and evidence-based policy, which shows that the best practice for achieving third grade reading proficiency is following a three-prong, comprehensive strategy that coordinates measures of success for child development in health, at home, and at childcare and school.

So what does all this mean? What Works for Third Grade Reading integrates birth-to-age-eight strategies for reading proficiency. Parents and child advocates in the early childhood and K-12 sectors can not only track child achievement in each of the 12 measures of success but then also recommends opportunities for intervention that will put children on track to grade-level proficiency.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC, (ACS) are experts in early childhood and k-12 policy and communication. ACS understands the continuum of birth through age 8 especially through its work with K-12 clients like The Ohio 8 Coalition and The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), and early childhood clients like PRE4CLE and The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). To learn more about ACS’ expertise in K-12 and early childhood education, read our case studies here!

Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program (CHIP) Must Reauthorize By End of September

The deadline for extending federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) draws near at the end of September. Although no reauthorization from Congress has yet occurred, a bi-partisan agreement to extend CHIP was announced by two senators last week.

Chairman of the Finance Committee Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah (R), and Senator Ron Ryden of Oregon (D) announced the agreement on September 12. Congress has been grappling with several components of CHIP, such as the duration of reauthorization and whether the 23-percentage point bump of federal funding under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would remain.

Considering states’ budgets are finalized, and included the enhanced federal funding match of 23 percentage points from a reauthorization of CHIP, the senators spoke of a timeline-adjustment of federal funding for CHIP in order to reflect states’ finalized budgets. ACA increased the federal contribution to the federal-state shared cost for CHIP. Senator Hatch shared that their current agreement will continue the 23-percentage point bump of federal funding for 2018 and 2019 only. In 2020, the federal bump will be halved to 11.5 percentage points. In 2021 and 2022, the federal contribution will be completely eliminated from the program cost.

CHIP was authorized for a two-year extension in April 2015, but Senator Hatch and Senator Ryden’s announcement communicates the goal of a 5-year extension with a declining slide of federal contribution.

Time is of the essence with CHIP reauthorization in terms of children’s healthcare coverage. If reauthorization does not occur by the end of September, then three states and D.C. could expend all of their remaining CHIP funds by December. Additionally, if CHIP is not reauthorized, then 9 million low- and middle-income children will lose insurance. CHIP benefits children in insurance purgatory: their families make too much money to qualify for Medicare, but do not make enough money to afford other insurance. Although these families are able to get coverage under ACA, CHIP offers a more complete benefits package at a lower cost. Bill Lucia, Chairman, President, & CEO of HMS highlighted the importance of reauthorizing CHIP from a long-term cost management perspective in his op-ed in The Hill last week. HMS has been a long time ACS client in Ohio where ACS serves as a lobbyist for HMS and Permedion, Inc., (HMS subsidiary) before the State, including executive agencies and legislators and provides strategic political, advocacy, and communication advice to help advance client priorities. HMS and Permedion are the nation’s leaders in the coordination of benefits and program integrity services for healthcare payers.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plans Due Today: Much to Watch in Coming Months

The deadline for states’ ESSA plans is today, September 18, 2017.  The 34 states that did not submit their ESSA plans in April are expected to submit by this deadline.

The United States Department of Education (USDOE) Secretary DeVos has already received ESSA plans from sixteen states and the District of Columbia, which submitted their plans in April. According to CheckStatePlans.org, the sixteen states include: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont. Education Week offers a complete interactive breakdown of what states, and the District of Columbia, plan to do with their new flexibility under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

ESSA’s new dynamic of state flexibility with federal monitoring has already stirred up more questions than answers. According to reports on USDOE feedback on the ESSA plans submitted in April, some states, such as Connecticut, received DOE approval despite not having resolved the federal areas of concern noted in the feedback. It is not yet known exactly how this approach will impact submissions from the balance of the states but Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC, (ACS) will continue to track and watch what occurs in the coming months. Read our earlier report on ESSA from August 17, 2017 here and if you need help navigating K-12 policy, see what we’ve done with The Ohio 8 Coalition and get in touch with us here with your questions.

A New Kind of Tech Job Emphasizes Skills, Not a College Degree

Nearly two-thirds of Americans do not have a four-year college degree, but a new class of “middle-skill” or “new-collar” jobs in the technology, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing industries are giving many Americans an opportunity to obtain a middle-class lifestyle with shorter, less expensive training programs.

A recent article in The New York Times looked at a new category of skills-based jobs emerging across the country called “middle-skill” or “new collar” jobs. Entry into many of these jobs require a specific skill-set but not necessarily a four-year degree. New skills-based training programs to train employees are being developed through partnerships between nonprofit organizations, schools, state governments and companies, and are providing classes and workplace-based training opportunities that translate into real life skills.

Many of the “middle-skill” jobs are technology based. The tech field has seen success for skills-based training programs because jobs like coding, cybersecurity and software programming require very specific and easily measurable skill sets, and job openings are abundant across the country.

The article noted that both Microsoft and IBM have found great success in hiring employees through skill-based training programs. Microsoft recently announced a grant of more than $25 million for Skillful, a program to foster skills-oriented hiring, training and education. IBM has developed skills programs with many community colleges as well as one-to-two-year programs designed to meet the company’s needs. As a result, nearly one-third of employees hired at IBM in the last two years do not hold four-year degrees.

The article noted that while it is still unclear whether these skill-centered initiatives can train large numbers of people and effectively alter hiring practices across the country, the results in the technology industry have shown promise.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS), presently works with three workforce development boards in nine counties in the Charlotte, North Carolina, region to help them raise awareness of their work and their role to develop partnerships and programs that benefit individuals’ skill development and impact businesses’ success, which bolsters their regional economy.

Every Student Succeeds Act Trends: More States Focus on Career and Technical Education

The latest policy update from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) focused on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its call for adding a measure of school quality and success. Dubbed the fifth indicator, many states are using this call to focus on career and technical education (CTE) goals. By focusing on work-based learning initiatives, industry credentials and dual enrollment in high school courses for college credit, states are showing that college and career pathways are an equal means for success.

In a growing trend across the US, 34 states are utilizing CTE indicators in their accountability and reporting systems, according to the NASBE policy update. Twenty of these states include at least one career-ready indicator and 11 others use a composite measure of college and career readiness.

Why is CTE so important? Far too many students are still graduating without the knowledge, skills and dispositions they need to be career ready. While CTE showed no affect on the number of students in a given area earning four-year degrees, students who had a greater exposure to CTE in high school were more likely to graduate, enroll in a two-year college, and be employed earning higher wages. CTE focuses on learning competencies like problem solving, critical thinking and applied learning, which are all skills needed to do well in a continuously changing work environment. Instead of separating academic and technical education, it integrates them in a way that benefits all students.

To take a deeper look at how individual states hope to measure their fifth indictor, check out the full policy update.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC, (ACS) advocates equitable, high-quality public education for all students through its work with The Ohio 8 Coalition, a coalition of the state’s eight urban school district superintendents and union presidents. These districts enroll 11 percent of Ohio students attending public schools, and can translate that knowledge to advocate for your organization as ESSA is implemented. Read The Ohio 8 Coalition case study here.

States Look at Chronic Absenteeism as Measure of School Performance

Children can’t perform well in school if they aren’t there. In fact, a May 2017 Policy Update from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), argues that chronic absenteeism should be considered a primary indicator for low-performing schools. “Chronic absenteeism” is defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason, excused or unexcused.

According to the update:

  • Children who are chronically absent from preschool, kindergarten, and first grade are much less likely to read at grade level by the third grade.
  • They are then four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school.
  • By high school, irregular attendance is a better predictor of school dropout than test scores.
  • One Utah study showed that students who were chronically absent during just one year between grades 8 and 12 were seven times more likely to drop out of school.

Fortunately, states are paying attention to chronic absenteeism in their ESSA plans. Twelve of the 17 states that submitted ESSA plans in the spring of 2017, plus the District of Columbia, included chronic absenteeism as an indicator for school performance. Another 15 have indicated their intention to include it among indicators in their fall 2017 ESSA plan submissions.

The Policy Update encourages state boards to push for data collection, but to be clear about how many absences will be considered “chronic,” and to be intentional about including both excused and unexcused absences, as well as class time missed because of in-school suspensions, in measures of attendance.  The update notes that students who are low-income, of color, disabled or who have had contact with the criminal justice system are more likely to be chronically absent. In addition, homelessness and ensuing student mobility is also a contributing factor to chronic absenteeism that must be considered in evaluating school performance.

Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) conducts advocacy and strategic communication for The Ohio 8 Coalition to strengthen the eight largest school districts in Ohio and improve academic performance, increase graduation rates and close the achievement. The Ohio 8 Coalition is a coalition of the state’s eight urban school district superintendents and union presidents. Read The Ohio 8 Coalition case study here.  ACS is also committed to providing updates on ESSA implementation and its impact on students and their families.

 

 

GOOD PUBLIC POLICY MAKES A TREMENDOUS DIFFERENCE TO HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF CHILDREN, REPORT SAYS

The 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book report released this month by The Annie E. Casey Foundation provides an annual snapshot of how America’s children and families are faring in areas of economic wellbeing, education, health, family and community in all 50 states.

The KIDS COUNT data shows progress in some categories between 2010 and 2015, but also highlights areas of concern. Of particular note, according to the report:

  • Parental employment and wages are up, and a record number of children have health insurance.
  • Teenagers are more likely to graduate high school and less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
  • Child poverty rates remain high (21% across the nation), and more families live in neighborhoods with a high concentration of poverty.
  • Far too many children are below grade level in reading and math.

“Even where we see improvements, deep racial and ethnic disparities remain,” the report states. “Although trends in child well-being are shaped by many forces, it’s indisputable that good public policy makes a tremendous difference. We know that a failure to invest wisely — or to not invest at all — negatively affects children’s opportunities to reach their full potential.”

The purpose of the report is to highlight to policymakers areas of need and to encourage them to continue to support targeted investments that help the nation’s children. Decades of research has shown that children who are given access to early childhood education and other social support services are more likely to be healthier, to graduate from high school, and to become gainfully employed.

“By not prioritizing poverty reduction and by failing to adequately ameliorate its effects when children are young and intervention has the biggest payoff, we waste an unconscionable amount of individual human potential,” the report stated. “A decade ago, researchers found child and youth poverty cost the country an estimated $500 billion a year in reduced economic output and increased health and criminal justice expenditures. These costs are undoubtedly higher today. But far beyond wasted dollars, failing to provide children with opportunities to reach their potential jeopardizes our nation’s prosperity and economic position in the world.”

In this year’s report, New Hampshire ranked first among states for overall child well-being, moving up one from 2016. Massachusetts and Vermont filled out the top three. Louisiana, New Mexico and Mississippi were the three lowest-ranked states. Data are available for all states.

Want to know more about ACS’ work with children? Our success with clients such as PRE4CLE, Franklin County Department of Jobs and Family Services, and First Things First Arizona highlight ACS’ work with systems that support children and youth a priority in communities across the nation.