Raising America

A new PBS documentary series, The Raising of America will make the case for universal preschool and tax-funded day care for infants and toddlers, reports EdSource Today, which interviews co-producers Larry Adelman and Rachel Poulain.

Arts grads are in demand — as nannies

Affluent parents are hiring college graduates as nannies, writes Katy Waldman on Slate.

Fine arts diplomas are especially in-demand, because of the “level of creativity” they bring to childcare. (Whilst other nannies are gluing noodles onto construction paper, presumably, MFA grads can teach your kids how to make the latest Frank Gehry building out of play dough.) Parents also swoon for guardians who can scold their children in several languages, especially Mandarin Chinese.

The ultimate nanny has a master’s degree.

Four-day school week raises achievement

When rural schools move to a four-day week, test scores go up, along with student and teacher attendance, reports a study by Georgia State and Montana State researchers. And schools save money on transportation and utility bills, notes Ed Week‘s Inside School Research.

The study looked at fourth-grade scores in Colorado, where more than a third of districts — typically small, poor and rural — have moved to a longer day and a shorter week.

Overall, districts with a four-day week started out with lower average scores than schools on traditional schedules, but saw a significant increase in the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced on both reading and math tests after they switched to the four-day week. Specifically, the researchers found that the shortened week was associated with a 7 percentage point gain in math scores and a 3 percentage point gain in reading. In reading, the improvement took place the year after the schedule was switched; in math, the improvement took place during the year the schedule was switched. In both cases, the improvements seem to have stuck for multiple years after the shift.

The report suggests a number of potential explanations, including improved attendance, increased teacher job satisfaction, and better teaching methods. (The longer school day might allow for longer lessons, for instance.)

A four-day week creates child-care problems for parents, the researchers warned. It could give unsupervised children more time to get into trouble. Or it could make it easier for teens to hold part-time jobs, possibly decreasing the dropout rate.

Of course, what’s true in rural areas with long bus rides to school may not apply to urban and suburban schools.

Unemployed teachers find work as nannies

Parents are paying $15 to $20 an hour for nannies with teaching degrees, reports the Chicago Tribune.  Some of the new nannies were laid off after years in the classroom. Others are new graduates who’ve discovered schools aren’t hiring.

After more than 30 years as a special-education teacher in the Chicago area, Olivia Romine was laid off in June.

After unsuccessfully applying for teaching positions at school districts in the fall, Romine, 55, recently posted a profile on child-care job sites, including care.com and sittercity.com. She holds a master’s degree in administrative education.

“I’m not going to get a public school job because I’m too old and I’m too expensive,” she said. “I went into teaching to help kids, so either way — if I’m a nanny, tutor, baby sitter, au pair, whatever — I still feel like I’m helping the kids.”

Only one third to one quarter of  Illinois State University education graduates finds a teaching job these days. The rest are encouraged to apply for related jobs, such as day-care provider, and hope for better times.

Sarah Simanskey opened a home day-care center while finishing her master’s degree in education at DePaul University.

Pregnant as she searched for jobs after graduation, Simanskey quickly realized that if she went back to work, she would pay more for her child’s day care than she would earn as a teacher, she said.

She charges $320 to $350 a week for children who attend full time; $85 to $90 a day for part time.

. . . “I’m just teaching in a different way,” she said.

Even in hard times, two-paycheck parents are willing to spend a great deal of money for child care. After all, even mediocre care is expensive.

Preschoolers average 4 hours of TV daily

Preschoolers watch TV for four hours a day, on average, reports a new study, “Preschoolers’ Total Daily Screen Time at Home and by Type of Child Care,” published in Pediatrics.

Children in home-based child care average 5.6 hours a day; the average for parent-only care is 4.4 hours.  Children in day-care centers spend less time watching TV.  The study reported a significant decline in TV hours for low-income children in Head Start.

Overall, black children watch considerably more TV; educated parents’ children watch considerably less.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents allow “no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day” for preschoolers.


England bans babysitting by friends

You thought No joy in Middleville was crazy:  A Michigan woman was told not to watch neighbors’ kids waiting for the bus without a license. Nobody can match the English for meddling bureaucrats:   Two job-sharing policewomen have been threatened with prosecution as illegal childminders because they trade babysitting for their two-year-old daughters, who are best friends.

But the mothers, both 32, have now been told by Ofsted that surveillance teams will spy on their homes to make sure they are not continuing to care for each other’s daughter.

For the past two-and-a-half years, one looked after both of the girls while the other worked a ten-hour shift. Both worked two days a week.

A neighbor’s complaint triggered the inspection.

The nanny state exempts only family members from the ban on babysitting for more than two hours a day. Both mothers have placed their daughters in child-care centers.  One mother, separated from her husband, has applied for government benefits to pay the cost.

Quality child care boosts math, reading

Poor children in higher-quality child care programs do better in math and reading through fourth grade compared to similar children in lower-quality programs or in maternal care, concludes a new study published in the September/October 2009 issue of Child Development. Quality care didn’t erase the effects of family poverty, but it helped, reports Early Ed Watch.

According to Boston College researcher Eric Dearing, “the more time these children spent in above-average child care providers, the further the association between familial income and school performance weakened.”

Trained observers evaluated how “child-care settings were organized, how teachers interacted with children, class sizes, and other indicators of quality care.”

It’s clear that intensive, expensive, very high-quality programs produce significant long-term benefits. The question has been: Can these model programs be replicated? Finding long-term gains from good-but-not-great programs is a hopeful sign.

No joy in Middleville

For watching three kids while they wait for the school bus, Lisa Snyder faces charges of operating an unlicensed child care home. The Middleville, Michigan woman agreed to help her neighbors who have to leave for work before the bus comes. The stop happens to be in front of Snyder’s house.

Someone complained to the Michigan Department of Human Services, which told Snyder to get a license or face charges.

Jonathan Turley gets sarcastic in The Menace in Middleville.

Mother Mindy Rose insisted that she is a “friend.” Really Mindy? Or are you just one more enabling parent who is encouraging these types of opportunistic, predatorial acts of kindness. Do you think that block parties and other scourges of society just happen, Mindy? No, it starts with parents like you and Snyder, the child watcher.

Are all babysitters licensed in Michigan? What about licenses for moms who host play dates?

In my day, elementary students walked or biked to school with their friends or alone. In junior high and high school, the bus stop was a kids-only zone. I’m not sure it was any safer then, but parents were more trusting.

Head Start seeks bail-out

Don’t bail-out Head Start, advises Checker Finn on Flypaper.

The National Head Start Association wants to get $4.3 billion for Head Start in the economic stimulus package.

Forty years of evaluations have demonstrated that Head Start does next to nothing to prepare its young charges — needy three- and four-year-olds — to succeed in kindergarten and beyond, and that whatever gains it yields quickly dissipate once the kids enroll in school.

The major reason it’s ineffective as a pre-school program is because it has no curriculum and little cognitive content, because most of its staffers are “child care workers,” not teachers, and because the National Head Start Association itself has defied every effort by policymakers to transform it into the pre-literacy program that it ought to be and that these kids truly need.

If funding were tied to a cognitive curriculum, would Head Start leaders buy into it?