Early Childhood Subtopics

Quality Improvement, including Quality Rating and Improvement Systems

States are investing in strategies to improve the quality of children’s early care and education experiences. Child Trends’ researchers work with the federal government and states across the nation to support evaluation and continuous improvement of Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) and other early care and education quality improvement efforts. Our research examines QRIS implementation, development of quality indicators and rating processescoaching to support quality improvementQRIS data systemsparents’ awareness of QRIS ratings, and validation of QRIS through analysis of ratings and children’s development. Looking across states, we have catalogued state QRIS details in a Compendium and a 2014 online tool that provides access to QRIS state profiles and analysis of trends and new features in QRIS.

Early Childhood Professional Development

The heart of delivering quality early care and education is through a well-prepared workforce. As part of a cross-site evaluation of the Early Childhood Professional Development Program for the U.S. Department of Education, Child Trends conducted a literature review to identify key features of effective professional development for the early childhood workforce.  In addition, as part of the National Center on Child Care Professional Development Systems and Workforce Initiatives (PDW Center), Child Trends’ researchers have created tools and resources that have been used for both basic and targeted technical assistance to States and Territories through national presentations and consultation. Child Trends’ researchers have also presented research on early care and education core competencies and the professional development and early childhood practitioner characteristics aligned with those core competencies as part of a webinar on Developing Cross-Sector Competencies for the Infant-Toddler Workforce.

Early Childhood Assessment

The accountability of both government programs and private investments in early childhood often hinges on whether improvements in child outcomes can be shown through direct assessments of children’s developmental skills and abilities. In addition, early childhood teachers are increasingly using formative assessments of young children to guide planning and teaching. The appropriate use of these assessments depends on the purpose for which the assessment was created and on the characteristics of the children being assessed (e.g., children with disabilities or children whose home language is not English). Child Trends has created resources that help researchers, programs, and practitioners select and use early childhood assessments. Examples of this work include the report of the Committee on Developmental Outcomes and Assessments for Young Children entitled Early Childhood Assessment: Why, What, and How, to which Child Trends’ Senior Scholar Dr. Martha Zaslow contributed; Early childhood developmental screening: A compendium of measures for children ages birth to five; and A review of school readiness practices in the states: Early learning guidelines and assessments.

Development of All Children

Not only does Child Trends take a “whole child” approach, but we also are concerned about the optimal development of all children, starting from birth and moving through the transition to adulthood. In our early childhood program area, we have compiled the research base for a birth through age eight state policy framework for the Alliance for Early Success and contributed to the development of a new quality measure of caregiver-child interactions for infants and toddlers (Q-CCIIT). Our researchers participate in the convening of the Network of Infant-Toddler Researchers (NITR), including developing content for meetings and research briefs. We also study and share information about the development of important subgroups of children, including young dual language learners and children of military families.

Early Childhood Integrated Data Systems

Early childhood data can be used to understand the developmental needs of young children; inform instruction, programs, and policies; and identify areas where children and families may need additional supports. The Child Trends team brings a wealth of knowledge and experience assessing state early childhood data systems through the Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC), developing resources to support strong research practices in early childhood through the Child Care and Early Education Policy and Research Analysis (CCEEPRA) project, identifying tools to support the use of child care and early childhood administrative data to address policy-relevant research questions, developing tools to support the use and linkages of administrative data, and providing technical assistance to states related to developing early childhood integrated data systems.

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