Two years ago, MCH hosted an Early Childhood Marketing Leadership Meeting. Shortly after the bipartisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2013 was introduced.The intent of the bill was to triple the number of very young children with access to Early Head Start to 15% of the eligible population. This echoed a theme that ran through our conference: the growing acknowledgement in the political sphere of the importance of addressing the ages 0-3 and even pregnant women.
With a focus this month on early childhood education, we thought this would be a good time to revisit the findings from the council meeting and give you a chance to preview the highlights for your own discovery.
Watch Council Meeting Highlights
- Roger S. Billings, D. Ed., President, Care Connectors, Inc.
- Michael Jay, President, Educational Systemics, Inc., Moderator
- Karen Raugust, Education Group, Simba Information
- Suzanne Thouvenelle, Ed.D., Content Liaison, Head Start Information & Communications Center
- Mike Wilson, Former Early Childhood Market Specialist at MCH Strategic Data
Below is some commentary from the meeting:
“0 to 4 is where the greatest amount of growth happens physically and cognitively.
And some of these benchmarks that I showed are what they’re trying to weave into
the Child Care and Development Block Grant. I think there is a move to pay more
attention to the early childhood development, 0 to 5, than ever before. And they’re
addressing the quality of the programming for early childhood, 0 to 4.”
– Dr. Roger S. Billings
“So the market seems like it’s shifting downward.”
– Karen Raugust
“Well, I think it’ll be here [Head Start], but they’re going to push it down to pregnant mothers
and birth maybe until age 2. And then the 3-year-olds and the 4-year-olds will all be
wrapped into the state (programs instead of Head Start). And part of the problem
with the state in administering Pre-K, if they’re administering it under their Health
and Human Services element, it’s very different from if it’s under the SEA, their state
-Dr. Suzanne Thouvenelle
The emerging recognition by states of the need to align education at all levels and from all
sources towards established state standards and the need for vendors to provide materials that
are in alignment:
“Just from my perspective, I think a lot of the trends that we’re seeing are tying in with
each other where you see more alignment within the states among all the different
types of programs: family, Head Start, state, local. They’re kind of starting to come
together with the same types of standards and with more integration in the sort of
continuum from (age) 0 to (grade) 12 getting stronger.
And from the point of view of vendors, it just seems like more of a need to provide
stuff for every level along the Pre-K continuum—different types and different ways
of learning. It’s not just creating something that works for a younger kid, but it has to
be age appropriate. That seems to be kind of the direction it’s going.”
– Karen Raugust
“I want to ask about one of the issues that seems to come up, although not always
mentioned this way, was this issue of articulation around the curriculum and this
sort of discontinuity that occurs between our Pre-K or even younger experiences and
when children enter schools. Do you see that being something that’s going to shift or
change? Will there be better articulation?”
– Michael Jay
Head Start as a national leader in establishing the methodology of aligning standards from age
“Well, for Head Start, it’s already a requirement with PFCE.
Parent, Family and Community Engagement, it’s part of your goals and what every
program has to do is exactly that—reach out, connect with not only the state’s standards,
but your local school district’s standards if the LEA has them differentiated
and then up to Kindergarten and the third grade. We’re talking about that continuum,
birth through grade 3.”
-Dr. Suzanne Thouvenelle
The importance of studies that show the highest return happens when money is spent at the
younger ages on shifting the focus of politicians to the importance of preschool and then to
ages 0-3; and the need for vendors to provide the appropriate materials for these ages:
“And then, finally, the return on investment issue. It has been part of the political
equation and discussion where there are more and more studies that are sort of controversial.
They’re not all completely 100% accepted. But they mostly show that the
investment in Pre-K comes back in terms of cost savings or, basically, financial gain
in the future. And most of the studies have measured that financial gain as between
$2 and $17 for every $1 spent. So that’s sort of a driving force, even though the specifics
of some of the studies are not necessarily widely accepted.
Even though we (Simba Communications) looked at the 4-year-old market, the infant
and toddler side of things is also growing. And they’re looking for some academic
rigor even at that level. And one thing that we discovered is a lot of the providers
want vendors to be able to provide them with materials going throughout the
whole gamut of preschool, not just 4-year-olds. They want to be able to have sort of
one-stop shopping. So a lot of vendors are looking into the lower age brackets.
The school-home connection, that’s kind of related to the diverse market that a lot of vendors
are trying to bring in families and sort of go toward a more 24-7 learning at home as
well as at school and just get the parents more involved in the Pre-K education.
One thing that people seem to be agreeing on is the growth in the state-funded portion
of the market is sort of honing in on the 4-year-olds, whereas the Head Start will
probably move more toward the Early Head Start part of the market as more 4-yearolds
are served by state-funded Pre-K.”
How Head Start might figure in this evolution:
“The Early Head Start, the National Center for Early Head Start, is run by ZERO TO
THREE, which is an organization based in Washington, D.C. They’ve had the Early
Head Start program support for a number of years.
I’ve been working with Head Start for, oh, maybe 30 years. They (the Office of Head
Start) actually put in writing some priorities, which is like, wow. So these are priorities.
So what would that help? Maybe inform our marketing strategies because any
of the money that we have that we can spend for materials or training should be
targeted to ensuring all programs have school readiness goals in the five essential
domains, which are
- Language and literacy development,
- Cognition and general knowledge,
- Approaches to learning,
- Physical health and well-being and motor development
- Social and emotional development
And with Head Start school readiness begins at birth because we’re focusing on providing
quality relationships for children at birth. And Head Start programs are being
asked to do that. The Early Head Start programs have to establish and achieve and
show how they’re making progress toward school readiness and achievement in
school and in life.
So I see that they’re trying to push the 4’s up to the public schools and the state-funded
Pre-K, and they’re going to make Head Start more a birth-through-3 program instead.
And that’s only 4% (of that population served) right now of the market in
Early Head Start.”
-Dr. Suzanne Thouvenelle
The importance of the benchmarks and standards for all early childhood providers including
the loosely regulated family child care segment in the proposed reauthorization of the Child
Care and Development Block Grant and the funding it provides:
“Well the 0 to 4 year-old age group is where all the critical periods are for physical
development, language development, and even social development to an extent—
that’s the market where big bucks should be spent.
I think if the benchmarks being pushed by Child Care Aware get approved and are
worked into the proposed reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block
Grant and the money’s funded, then we will have caregivers who are licensed and
they have some type of education to focus on those critical development periods.
And the real readiness, in my mind as a psychologist, is from 0 to 4 when you learn to
walk and talk and think and use symbols to get your language structure down pat.
So I think as the quality improves in family daycare, the articulation is going to be
there, and it’s going to be at a much greater pace or magnitude.”
-Dr. Roger S. Billings