by Thomas Knapp, South Carolina Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers and Megan Carolan, ICS VP…
The National Research Conference on Early Childhood (NRCEC) from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) was held virtually on June 27-29, 2022. This conference, held every two years, displays the most innovative and timely early childhood research among a dedicated group of professionals. Our staff commented how even the session chat boxes provided a wealth of information! An event of this caliber warrants reflection, and so we gathered these five takeaways from the conference.
1. The field of early childhood is more vast than ever.
Experts across early education, home visiting, healthcare, and policy shared their latest research findings and reflections. Topics included cultural responsivity of teaching practice, educator compensation, child literacy development and learning, infant and early childhood family mental health, child and family nutrition, resilience in children and families, measurement in early childhood classrooms, homes, and clinics, COVID-19, multilingualism, and more. There are not many issues that do not impact the first years of life!
2. Numerous measurement tools transcend assessing hard skills to look at multiple sides of a child’s context, development, and background.
Several presenters showcased new or developing measures for children, caregivers, and educators. Our staff attended sessions that discussed the following measures:
- The Child Opportunity Index (COI) 2.0 launched in 2020 aims to capture children’s opportunities across education, health and environment, and social and economic factors. Indicators range from commute duration to extreme heat exposure, to the number of early childhood education centers in a given area.
- The EMOtion TEaching Rating Scale (EMOTERS) looks at how early educators support children’s emotional learning through an observational measure. The tool is intended for research as well as professional development.
Looking for a measure that works for you? Our free IMPACT Measures Tool allows for searching and filtering over 200 early childhood and parenting measures scored on cost, usability, cultural relevance, and technical merit.
3. States vary widely in their support of young families, but most have not implemented many of the policies that have been shown to work.
The Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center shared the ongoing results of their evidence review of early childhood-related policies and strategies for states, as well as state-specific roadmaps. Their review found scores of policies and strategies to be effective, including comprehensive screening and referral programs, paid family leave, and child care subsidies. However, seven states have implemented zero out of five roadmap policies.
4. Early childhood educators are even more underpaid than you might think.
Poor compensation for experts across early childhood and caregiving professions probably isn’t news to you, but the numbers are still shocking. For example, did you know that 98% of occupations are paid more than child care workers? Dr. Austin from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment shared their report, including one educator’s thoughts on their profession:
“I feel trapped. The job market is in free fall and I have only ever successfully worked early childhood education as a career. I would stay in the field if the pay, benefits, and protections were better. But I can’t get out of it soon enough [with] the direction things have been heading.”
The job of early childhood educators to provide care for our youngest learners may be priceless, but their labor should not be. Early childhood educators deserve fair compensation for their expert and essential work.
5. We really, really need MIECHV.
The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program provides vital, home visiting services to expecting parents and families with young children. MIECHV aims to improve the well-being of young children and their caregivers by focusing on young families facing barriers to accessing maternal and child healthcare.
Multiple NRCEC presenters discussed MIECHV and the programs and evaluations it funds, including the Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program Evaluation (MIHOPE). Speakers also discussed innovations, including efforts to operationalize and improve family engagement during home visiting sessions.
MIECHV requires reauthorization every five years. The current funding expires on September 30, 2022. Now more than ever, the field needs MIECHV to continue these essential services serving young families into the post-pandemic era.
Did you miss the event, or would you like to re-watch a session? Recorded presentations will be available through the event site later this summer. Meanwhile, catch up on content from past conferences, check out presenter and attendee conversations by following @OPRE_ACF on Twitter and monitoring hashtag #NRCEC2022, sign up for the NRCEC email list, and start looking forward to NRCEC 2024! Searching for a measurement tool? Visit our free IMPACT Measures Tool to search for, compare, and access early childhood and parenting measures.
Austin, L. J. E. (2022, June 27). Increasing Early Care and Education Compensation
[PowerPoint Slides]. Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley.