Inside Hillary Clinton’s Latest Push to Improve Early Childhood Education: Home Visits

As presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders continue to suck up oxygen with promises for revolution, strategies to promote high-quality K-12 schools have received little attention on the campaign trail. (Do we sound like a broken record yet?)

But during a campaign stop in Kentucky on Tuesday, leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton announced a big plan to help America’s youngest learners — continuing her commitment to early childhood education and to making sure the neediest children don’t start school far behind their more-advantaged peers.

Ahead of Kentucky’s May 17 Democratic primary, Clinton announced a plan to double down on a home visitation program for low-income families, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Initiative. Under the widely praised program, interested pregnant women and new parents receive regular, planned home visits from nurses and social workers with a goal to improve maternal and child health, prevent child abuse, encourage positive parenting practices, and better prepare at-risk children for school.

Clinton said she hopes to extend the program to more than 2 million parents and children in the next decade.
Implemented in 2010 through a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal home visiting program has bipartisan support and is backed by decades of research showing home visits improve child and family outcomes. It was the first national push to expand home visiting, with the federal government investing $1.5 billion in the program’s first five years.

A report by Mathematica Policy Research, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, showed home visits can reduce the need for remedial education and increase family self-sufficiency.
This is Clinton’s latest effort to tie her education policy positions to those of President Obama. In February, as she worked to harness votes from the African-American community, Clinton proposed a plan to dismantle the “school-to-prison pipeline,” empower black entrepreneurs, and create jobs for black youth — all positions that mirror the sitting president.

Although Clinton has largely been quiet about her plans for America’s K-12 education system, she’s long been an advocate for early childhood education — including promoting universal preschool. During her visit Tuesday to a Kentucky social services center that provides subsidized child care, Clinton went deeper by proposing a pay raise for child-care workers, and tax credits and other subsidies that would free families from having to pay more than 10 percent of their income on child care.

During her time as the first lady of Arkansas, she also championed the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY), a similar home visiting program that has been shown to boost test scores, attendance, and academic self-esteem in young children, and increase parental involvement in education.

Green urges more private sector support for early childhood education

MINISTER of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Floyd Green is encouraging

more private sector entities to become actively involved in early childhood education.

“We want more companies and NGOs to adopt our institutions. Go in and find out what are their fundamental needs and help them to meet them,” he urged.

The state minister was speaking at the launch of the Sagicor Foundation 2016 Adopt-A-School Programme, held Tuesday at the Courtleigh Hotel and Suites, in New Kingston.

The programme aims to assist needy early childhood institutions with financial, infrastructural development, and other types of support.
Green commended Sagicor for its commitment to improving the early childhood education sector.

“I hope that this will help to foster a culture of service and giving back that we need in Jamaica. I am very happy that Sagicor Foundation has chosen to focus on early childhood institutions, because that is where it starts,” he said.

The state minister emphasised the need for infrastructural development of these institutions and appealed to corporate entities to get involved in improving the educational experience of the children.

“No government can completely fund the needs of our educational system and as such, we must depend on strong corporate support and individuals in general to strengthen our systems, to take an interest in education,” he urged.

This year, the programme will focus on 10 early childhood institutions. It is

anticipated that 1,000 students will be impacted by the programme.

The schools are Plantation Heights, Salmon, Kemps Hill, Sandy Park and Clarion Basic; Fyffes Pen and Dunrobin Early Childhood Institutions; Campden Early Childhood Development Centre; and Allman Town and Central Branch Infant Schools.

For his part, president and chief executive officer of Sagicor Group Jamaica, Richard Byles, said that each school participating in this year’s programme will receive a water tank. He added that the Sagicor health van will be visiting each school to conduct visual, hearing and blood sugar screenings of the children.

“This Adopt-A-School Programme is very important to us and we have had a lot of success with it in the past, and we want to make it even more successful in the future,” he said.

The first set of activities is slated to begin on Labour Day, May 23, with the Sagicor team participating in projects across the island.

The programme will also be launched in western Jamaica today at the Hilton Hotel and Spa, in St James.

Early Childhood Collab

Early Childhood Collab - Last week 26 people gathered around three long tables in the second floor library at Oak Park and River Forest High School for the first joint meeting of the three public boards that are funding the Collaboration for Early Childhood Care and Education, the Oak Park based organization that is working to improve early childhood education, especially for at risk children.

The Collaboration is funded primarily by Oak Park Elementary School District 97, OPRF District 200 and the Village of Oak Park. Those three bodies signed an intergovernmental agreement earlier this year to contribute six figure amounts each to the Collaboration for the next five years.

The boards of all three taxing bodies are required to have one annual meeting with the Collaboration's board to review progress and see what they are getting for their money.
"It was a positive meeting and they seem to feel good about the progress that we've made," said Carolyn Newberry Schwartz, the executive director of the Collaboration. "The jurisdictions are engaged, they did meet, they're monitoring our progress and implementing the plan."

Newbery Schwartz is a past board member and president of the District 97 school board.

The Collaboration is about to shift into high gear. In October it inked an agree with the Parenthesis Family Center to have Parenthesis staff members conducts home visits under a Parents as Teachers program to provide support and education to parents of young children.

And this month the Collaboration signed a five year $400,000 data collection and analysis contract with the Chapin Hall Center for Children, a Hyde Park based policy research center that focuses on children.

"I don't think you could find a partner better aligned with the Collaboration," said Debbie McCann the chairperson the of the Collaboration's Measurement and Evaluation Committee.

Newberry Schwartz said that data collection and analysis are vital.

"We'll be collecting data so that we can really monitor how well services are being used, how well they're interacting with each other, the different services and systems and we'll begin to be able to gather up information to determine whether it's making a difference for the children," Newberry Schwartz said.

Good data is currently lacking McCann said.

"We don't even know how many children are in the community," McCann said.

The home visiting program conducted by Parenthesis is scheduled to begin in February.

"February is a big month," Newberry Schwartz said. "That's when the home visiting should be starting as well as other program components such as parent information and support.

"We are not a direct service provider," Newberry Schwartz said. "The only direct service we do is that we go into child care centers for vision and hearing screening. We're about building capacity."

Members of the government boards seemed pleased by the progress that the Collaboration has made towards getting started.

"I feel very good about the investment we've made," said Adam Salzman, an Oak Park village board member. "It seems to me like we're headed in the right direction."

John Phelan, the president of the OPRF District 200 Board of Education also had kind words for the Collaboration.

"The dedication is obvious and palpable and I'm glad the resources are there," Phelan said.

Anan Abu-Taleb, president of the Village of Oak Park, asked a question that was perhaps on everybody's mind.

"I'm curious about what success would look like a year from now," said Abu-Taleb. He also asked whether the Collaboration has approached the River Forest Elementary District 90 about getting that district to participate and contribute funding.

"We are planning to approach District 90," Newberry Schwartz replied. "We have not formally done so yet."

"I think we can establish effective working relationships with them," Newberry Schwartz said.

Preschoolers celebrate

What kind of sound does a “menurkey” make?

“Gobble, gobble — like a regular turkey. But it has a menorah with candles to light up the feathers!” said Lily Taylor, 4, a preschool student in the Early Childhood Education Program at the Shaw Jewish Community Center in Akron.

The novel turkey-shaped menorah is just one example of creations inspired by the convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah this year. Thursday is the first time in 125 years that the first full day of Hanukkah and the holiday that marks the Pilgrims’ 1621 first harvest have overlapped. It will be nearly 78,000 years before it happens again.
On Tuesday, Lily and her classmates gathered to celebrate their “Thanksgivukkah” feast. They sang songs, played with dreidels, created menurkeys and ate foods associated with both holidays: corn bread, potato latkes, green beans, applesauce, pumpkin pudding, caramel corn, sweet potatoes, sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) and fruit.

Most of the children wore their festive, handmade headdresses. They included turkeys with feathers and bands decorated with Native American language symbols.

“This was a great opportunity to help the students understand more about the traditions of both holidays and incorporate a history lesson as well,” said Pat Delagrange, an early childhood education teacher. “We have done a lot of comparisons, explaining both holidays are very festive, about being thankful and about religious freedom. Much like the Jews under [Greek King] Antiochus, the Pilgrims were also a religious minority deprived of the right to worship God as they saw fit.”

Hanukkah, which means dedication, begins at sundown today. It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greek army and the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago. By lighting candles for eight nights, Jews celebrate the rededication of the Holy Temple and the miracle of a small amount of the oil lasting for eight days.

Both holidays are also marked by family time — something many of the children at the feast eagerly await.

For Brodie Singer, Thanksgiving Day will be a time to visit family in Tennessee. Although the road trip will take some time, he said that it will be fun.

“I get to take a nap in the car and we’re going to go to McDonald’s,” said Brodie, 4. “We have to pack toys to play with and we get to see all the family and eat turkey and jelly doughnuts for dessert.”

Carly Morrison, 5, is also expecting to have a lively day with her extended family. Their menu also will include the traditional turkey as the centerpiece.

When asked if her day would include watching a football game on television, she quickly answered, “No! But my dad will. We’ll watch the parade together. It’s cool,” Carly said.

Meredith Lowry and Sue Brady, two of the early childhood education teachers, said they hope the children will remember participating in the feast and, at some point, realize that they took part in a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“They may not fully understand it now, but this will never happen again in our lifetimes,” Brady said. “This Thanksgivukkah has really been a unique opportunity to make connections between American values and Jewish history.”

Hillary Clinton Champions In Early Childhood Education

An Education Week headline reads: "Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton Makes Early-Childhood Education Campaign Centerpiece"

Okay, fine, we don't really have a crystal ball here at Politics K-12. And it's an open question whether the former first-lady-turned-senator-turned-secretary-of-state is even running for president. (Plus, you know, we've still got three years of the Obama administration left.) But it's hard to deny that since leaving the Obama administration, Clinton has turned back to a longheld interest of hers: early-childhood education.
The latest effort? Back in June, the Clinton Foundation (a.k.a. the "Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation") announced it was collaborating with Next Generation, a nonpartisan strategic policy and communications organization, to launch "Too Small to Fail," a new initiative to improve the health and well-being of children ages zero to five. Too Small to Fail is  headed up by Ann O'Leary, a former Clinton White House aide and Clinton legislative director—and the wife of Goodwin Liu, a judge who has some pretty interesting education policy ties of his own.

Hillary Clinton recently wrote an op-ed for Too Small to Fail's website. The letter goes over well-trodden territory, explaining that kids from disadvantaged families begin school already behind their more advantaged peers:

We know that children build their vocabulary by listening to and interacting with their parents and caregivers. But millions of American parents, especially those struggling to make ends meet or without strong support networks, end up talking and reading to their babies much less frequently than in more affluent families. Many parents just don't have time, between multiple jobs and significant economic pressures, or don't realize how important this really is.

Studies have found that by age four, children in middle and upper class families hear 15 million more words than children in working-class families, and 30 million more words than children in families on welfare. This disparity in hearing words from parents and caregivers translates directly into a disparity in learning words. And that puts our children born with the fewest advantages even further behind. Among those born in 2001, only 48 percent of poor children started school ready to learn, compared to 75 percent of children from middle-income families.

The letter doesn't lay out any earth-shattering policy initiatives—instead it focuses on more-targeted, practical solutions. Too Small to Fail will start a public outreach campaign to help parents become more aware of what Clinton calls "the word gap" and push businesses to allow parents to work more flexible schedules.  She doesn't explicitly endorse President Barack Obama's early-childhood expansion plan. Nice analysis of the letter from the Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits.

Early-childhood education isn't a new area of interest for Clinton. Early in her career, she worked at the Children's Defense Fund, which advocates for early-childhood education (among other policies). During her 2008 bid for the White House, Clinton's education platform also put an emphasis on the littlest learners. (She spoke about it when she addressed the National Education Association way back in July of 2007, for instance.)

So what's happening on Obama's early-childhood education plan? Of course, Obama has his own multi-year, multi-billion proposal to expand prekindergarten, as well as programs for younger children (such as expanded home-visiting). But that seems unlikely to go anywhere in a Congress bent on trimming spending.

Still, the plan continues to have its champions: Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate education committee, announced at the Committee for Education Funding's annual gala that expanding preschool is his top priority during his final term in Congress, and that he'll be introducing a bill based on the president's proposal soon. Just a few weeks ago, Harkin told me he was still looking for a GOP lawmaker to co-sponsor the legislation—which could be tough sledding if it truly is similar to the president's plan.