Archive for the ‘Digging Deeper’ Category

Digging Deeper: Early Childhood Educators are Woefully Underpaid

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More young Delawareans and their families are accessing high-quality early learning today than ever before, thanks to some key investments, collaboration, and leadership over the past several years. Today, more than 1,200 programs participate in the Star rating system. Eighty-three percent of low-income children—that’s more than 15,000 kids—are participating in highly rated Stars programs, up from five percent in 2011.

And while we know that educators are the most important in-school factors to student achievement, in Delaware and other places, we often don’t extend the same focus on professional support and development to early learning providers that we do to K-12 educators.

Early childhood professionals aren’t well paid—especially compared to K-12 educators.

This is according to a report released by the Delaware Department of Education on Delaware’s Early Childhood Teachers and Administrators. In fact, across the state, 75 percent of early learning professionals are paid an hourly wage. (The remaining 25 percent are paid an annual salary.)

The average early childhood worker makes just over $32,000 per year. However, this average is skewed by higher paid administrators and program directors. Typically, early childhood teachers earn even less than this figure, from hourly pay with no benefits.

In 2014-15, a full-time K-12 teacher made just over $59,000 annually—twice as much, according to the Department of Education—and received benefits, as well as  a shorter work day, planning time, professional development, and vacation, benefits most early childhood workers do not receive.

“I don’t think the average person knows that the person taking care of your child Monday through Friday in an early learning center makes less money than the person who served you your coffee at Starbucks,” says Michelle Shaivitz, executive director of The Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children (DEAEYC). “We need to know who’s in our classrooms teaching our children, and we need to know how we can help them succeed. Because if we’re not supporting them, we’re not supporting early learning at all.”

 

Only four out of 10 early learning professionals across the state have a bachelor’s degree or higher across the state. This is in contrast to K-12 teachers, who are (for the most part) required to hold a bachelor’s in their field, and where the pay schedule serves as incentive to increase their level of educational attainment. In fact, 61 percent have a graduate degree (2014-15).

But does educational attainment and pay affect early learning program quality? According to a report by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, it depends on the training program and of course the teachers themselves. The report recommended that all early childhood teachers (those teaching infants through kindergarten) hold a bachelor’s in early childhood.

Many researchers agree that professionals with a bachelor’s degree and specialized training in early childhood education and development are important to creating a high quality early learning program. However, some also note that not just any type of training will do. Programs that focus on developing supportive teacher-child relationships, direct teaching practicums, or interactions with children are better than programs that don’t.

According to a study by the Pew Center of the State, a well-trained teacher can have a positive effect on a young child’s learning experience and can improve teacher-child interactions, social and emotional growth, and cognitive skills.

Low pay can undermine quality as well. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education, low pay means higher turnover and difficulty in attracting experienced staff with higher levels of education.

It also means that early learning professionals are more likely to be living in poverty. In fact, across all states the median yearly earnings of a worker with a family of three would make them eligible for public benefits, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) benefits.

 

Early childhood professionals with bachelor’s degrees from high-quality programs can contribute mightily to a better learning experience for children. Some of the most important brain development of a child happens in these early years, and investments in early learning yield a very big return. Isn’t time we turn our attention to investing in early childhood professionals too?

Resilience Film Screening: Recap

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Last week, about 100 people gathered in Theatre N for a screening of the film “Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope” and panel discussion among local experts. If you weren’t one of the lucky 100, here’s a summary of the event, themes from the conversation, and ways to get involved.

Why Resilience?
“Resilience” is a documentary by KPJR (the makers of “Paper Tigers”) that chronicles the birth of a new movement among pediatricians, therapists, educators, and communities, to delve into the science behind Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and using cutting-edge brain science to disrupt cycles of violence, addiction, and disease that cause toxic stress.

As we described in a previous blog post, Adverse Childhood Experiences are not an “over there” problem—ACEs are shockingly prevalent, in Delaware and around the country, and with children of all backgrounds. Attendees at the screening voluntarily and confidentially submitted their ACEs score. The tallied results affirmed this. 53% of attendees reported an ACE score of two or more.

A major theme of “Resilience” is just how prevalent trauma is—and that greater public awareness of these issues could lead to a shift in how we address them. If a young person experiencing trauma knew that other classmates experienced something similar—would that make it less scary? Would he feel more empowered to seek help? As better trauma-informed community members, might we start asking the question “what happened to you?” instead of “what’s wrong with you?” when dealing with at-risk youth?

How do you build resilience?
The film identified that healthy, positive relationships are the number one source of resilience. A report by Casey Family Programs, Balancing Adverse Child Experiences (ACEs) With HOPE: New Insights into the Role of Positive Experience on Child and Family Development elaborates on this point and urges a balance of trauma-informed policies and HOPE-informed measures.

The report summarizes research studies showing that the negative impact of adversity on childhood development can be remedied through:

  • Nurturing and supportive relationships
  • Safe, stable, protective, and equitable environments to develop, play, and learn
  • Constructive social engagement and connectedness
  • Social and emotional competencies

The HOPE model (The Health Outcomes of Positive Experiences), pictured below, takes an asset-based approach.

Additionally, attendees were given the Resilience screener which helps identify protective factors and positive experiences that can increase one’s ability to handle adversity.

How can we make this happen in Delaware?
Following the film, three panelists fielded questions and comments from the audience:

  • Aileen Fink, PhD | Director of Trauma-Informed Care, Delaware Children’s Department
  • Meghan M. Lines, PhD | Clinical Director, Nemours A.I. duPont Hospital for Children
  • Teri Lawler | School Psychologist, Stanton Middle School, Red Clay School District

And a few themes emerged from the conversation:

  • Resilience is learned: We are not born with the ability to overcome stress. It must be intentionally modeled and developed. In schools, there needs to be a common language for integrating social and emotional learning alongside academic learning.
  • Positive relationships are key. This includes a primary care doctor, educators, parents, grandparents, and others.
  • Parental involvement is essential: Support positive parenting practices with multi-generational, evidence-based approaches (such as home visiting) to build social, emotional, and executive functioning skills.
  • Meet students (and families) where they are: Listening is a crucial first step, rather than assuming. Children and families need to be engaged in their own social and emotional development, and interventions or services need to be tailored to their unique needs.
  • Recognize where data-driven decision-making is needed: Enable innovative interventions, keep track of what’s working for kids, and adjust or abandon strategies accordingly.
  • Coordinate services: Schools can be a hub for services, but educators can’t be expected to do it alone.
  • Siloes exists: One of the challenges will be coordinating and communicating across health, education, government, community, etc. Additionally, political will and availability of funding are challenges but not excuses.
  • ACES are a public health concern, and awareness building is needed. For instance, ongoing professional development for educators starting in pre-service is needed to first build awareness, and then build skills.

What’s next?

  • Encourage your colleagues to learn their ACEs or Resilience
  • Read more about Adverse Childhood Experiences Among Wilmington City & Delaware’s Children.
  • Share your thoughts! Tweet your responses to the following questions using #SELinDE.
    • What are you doing to build resilience?
    • What resilience initiatives are already underway in Delaware?
    • What else is needed to help overcome the effects of adverse childhood experiences?
    • How can we do to build on what’s working?
  • Visit http://bit.ly/RodelSEL to find additional information on national and state level data and initiatives related to Social and Emotional Learning.
  • Be on the lookout for the Vision Coalition of Delaware’s 10th Annual Conference on October 30th where community members will converge in Newark to explore the intersection of education and healthy communities.

Digging Deeper: The Shocking pervasiveness of ACEs and Trauma among Delaware Students

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Digging Deeper
“Digging Deeper” is a recurring feature at the Rodel blog where we take some data on Delaware public schools—and put it under the microscope. In the spirit of our Public Education at a Glance, we’ll present a straightforward look at the numbers, and search for some deeper meaning.

 

Delaware kids are experiencing trauma at alarming rates.

Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are alarmingly prevalent among Delaware’s children. One out of five kids in Delaware have experienced two or more ACEs.

However, it’s not just low-income kids or kids of color that are afflicted. Trauma and ACEs impact all children, regardless of race, socioeconomic background, or ability.

Trauma doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse doors, either. Educators grapple with the effects of trauma in the classroom, and ACEs can have a negative effect on the cognitive, social and emotional development of children. Trauma can have a significant impact on school performance, including school engagement and academic achievement.

The Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health created this brief on ACEs among Delaware kids. Below is a deeper look at what it says and what it means for Delaware kids.

A Look Across Delaware and the U.S.

The highest rate of ACEs is in Sussex County, with 26 percent of children experiencing two or more ACEs.

 

 

ACE is a term given to describe all types of abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences that happen to individuals under the age of 18 years old. ACEs surveys measure experiences such as living in poverty, divorce and separation, neighborhood violence, parent serving time in jail, racial discrimination, and domestic abuse. ACEs are often reported by adults, who are asked to recall their own childhood experiences. Researchers then cross-examine those results with any existing chronic conditions and economic outcomes of those being surveyed.

 

ACEs have the power to alter the course of childhood development and lifetime outcomes. Trauma and toxic stress can impact healthy brain development, leading to chronic issues, such as social, emotional, and cognitive impairment. Kids with ACEs are more likely to have chronic health problems and to have parents with poor health, according to the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health brief on ACEs.

 

In Wilmington, more than one third (34 percent) of children report experiencing extreme economic hardship. That is nearly eight percentage points above the national average of 26 percent. More than 4,600 children living in the city of Wilmington reported having two or more ACEs.

We can prevent ACEs, and promote resilience.

The social and emotional development of kids sometimes falls by the wayside in schools. However, social and emotional learning (SEL), a focus on the whole child, and approaches to teaching that take into consideration the effect of a student’s environment and social factors are just some of the ways that ACEs can be prevented. As educators, parents, and service providers continue to grapple with children experiencing trauma, a stronger focus on SEL will be necessary.

  • Promote and encourage positive, protective childhood experiences. Protective childhood experiences (PCEs) counter the effects trauma by providing a buffer for toxic stress. This can include support from family and friends, a sense of belonging and acceptance, stability at home, and clear rules and expectations from parents. See more about positive childhood experiences in the report, Balancing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with HOPE.

 

  • Resilience to traumatic experiences matter, and so do preventative measures to trauma. Building resilience and establishing coping mechanisms is important for students living with trauma. However, an exclusive focus on resilience can miss the role vulnerability plays. Some children are more susceptible to chronic, toxic stress and trauma, particularly those that are living in poverty and others living in the margins of society. Alongside the individualized approach that PCEs offer, a focus on changing the social factors that contribute to trauma is essential. By mitigating the factors that place kids at risk of experiencing trauma and toxic stress, such as poverty and discrimination, we can take a more preventative approach to ACEs.

 

  • Bring trauma-informed practices into classrooms. A trauma-informed view shifts an educators thinking from “What is wrong with this student?” to “What happened to this student?”

 

 

  • Learn more about social and emotional learning by checking out the new Social and Emotional Learning Rodel offers an overview of the importance of SEL in schools, as well as brief exploring Delawarean educators’ perspectives on SEL.

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