Covering Early Learning: Putting the Pieces Together
With federal stimulus funds set to be released to states this summer, how can reporters prepare to cover and track developments in the essential early care and education sector?
As the field seeks to recover from the pandemic, experts offered guidance on what to watch for during a May 5 session at the Education Writers Association’s 2021 National Seminar. They also suggested story ideas for education journalists to explore in the year ahead.
The participants were:
- Katie Hamm, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Caitlin McLean, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment
- Rochelle Wilcox, Wilcox Academy of Early Learning
- Jackie Mader, The Hechinger Report (Moderator)
Reporters Sarah Butrymowicz and Jackie Mader of The Hechinger Report set out to answer a straightforward question: Can Mississippi parents find out how their children fare after being dropped off at child care centers?
Patricia Twymon set her jaw and spoke slowly and firmly.
“The misperception is that I am a babysitter,” Twymon told a room full of education journalists. “I am not a babysitter. I am an educator, I am a professional, and I should be treated as such.”
How Should the Government Support Families?
Experts debate federal policies that support early care and learning
Government agencies give lip service to the importance of high-quality child care and early learning programs, but the patchwork system of tax breaks and government grants has too many gaps, causing many families to struggle with bills. And many communities have too few options for high-quality early learning opportunities. That was the consensus of a panel of experts who spoke at the Education Writers Association’s early childhood conference Nov. 6 and 7.
They debated however, the causes of and potential fixes to the problems – ranging from taxes to grants to privatization.
An ‘Ounce’ of Early Education Pays Off
First Lady of Illinois Says Funding Should Be Made More Sustainable
Diana Rauner advocates for early childhood care and education today because of ex-offenders.
The now-first lady of Illinois was working on Wall Street years ago when she began volunteering at a local settlement house, teaching ex-offenders how to read. She remembers being astonished that somebody her age could not know how to read.
“That really was when I decided to start thinking about educational inequities,” Rauner said at a recent Education Writers Association conference on early learning at the Erikson Institute held in Chicago Nov. 6 and 7, 2017.
What Reporters Should Look for in Early Learning Settings
Lectures don't work well for young children. Look instead for child-directed fun.
In some classrooms she visited, children counted numbers as they did jumping jacks, author Suzanne Bouffard said. In others, teachers lectured as children sat quietly, nearly whispering answers to questions as if scared to say the wrong thing — something you never want to see a 4-year-old do.
The stark differences among these preschool classrooms illustrate what years of research have documented, Bouffard said.
Tight Budgets Force Hard Choices Among Child Care Providers
Funding constraints, high cost of quality leave early learning programs feeling squeezed
“An impossible equation.” That’s how Phil Acord describes the challenge of keeping afloat a high-quality early learning program that serves children from low-income families.
As the president of the Chambliss Center for Children, a nonprofit organization that provides around-the-clock care and education to young children in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Acord knows well how difficult it can be for child care providers to simply keep their doors open each month.
About 45 education reporters gathered in Chicago this week for EWA’s two-day seminar on covering early learning. They got a primer on early education research and the complex web of funding sources for zero-to-five education and care. Reporters visited highly recognized early learning centers in the Windy City and got tips on what to look for during visits.
Monday, November 6, 2017
Erikson Institute, Polk Bros. Lecture Hall, Room 201
Registration and Lunch
12:00 – 12:30 p.m.
Welcome & Ice Breaker
12:30 – 1:00 p.m.
- Caroline Hendrie, Education Writers Association
Framing Remarks: Understanding the Puzzle of Early Learning
1:00 – 1:30 p.m.