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Meeting the Needs of Vulnerable Young Children

November 13, 2013 10:00 AM

By Orelaru Yetunde Mary, University of Bradford

 

On Friday, November 8, Deborah Reed, Mathematica Policy Research, chaired the panel Meeting the Need of Vulnerable Young Children. The panel consisted of Heather Dahien, State Health Access Data Assistance Center; Christina Weiland, University of Michigan; Anna Johnson and Deborah Phillips, Georgetown University; and Dylan Conger, George Washington University.

Dahien presented The Impact of Maternal Depression on Child Academic and Socioemotional Outcomes. The paper shows that mater (mother) depression leads to lower test scores for kindergarten and third graders, but after correcting for endogeneity, it was observed that the results were controlled by changes in unobserved variables. However, even after controlling for endogeneity, there were negative impacts on classroom behavior, learning ability, and child’s self-control, particularly in third graders. These suggested that the spillover effect of maternal depression extend beyond academic performance. Thus, the result encourages the role of health and education policy makers by identifying and providing assistance to mothers suffering from depression in order to promote children educational success.

Weiland presented a paper she co-authored with Monica Yudron, Harvard University, and Jason Sachs, Boston Public Schools, entitled Can It Work Outside the Public Schools? Expanding the Boston Public Schools’ Prekindergarten Model to Community-Based Preschools. The paper stated that Boston Public Schools faces some capacity limitations for expanding its prekindergarten program. Data also suggested that children who do not attend Boston prekindergarten are more disadvantage that those who do attend; for instance, a higher percentage of pre-K children from lower income families are less ready for school. To reach disadvantaged children, the paper asserted that partnering with community based preschool programs is one of the most effective strategy to be adopted.

The authors’ findings shows that:

  • There is room for additional support to increase instructional quality of community based preschools
  • Work may inform efforts to improve instructional quality of community based preschools and school based preschools.

Johnson and Philips discussed their paper, Center-Based Early Care and Education and the School Readiness of Special Needs Children. The paper disaggregated special needs children into three groups: IESP, Mother-reported diagonised disability, and Very Low Birth Weight. The results showed that when the childrens’ status are disaggregated, their needs tend to vary.  For instance, IESP children tend to have worse prosocial behavior, while children that their mother-reported diagnosed disability children have better proactive behavior. However, Johnson and Philips stated that one of the limitations is that there are no benchmarks around defining who is at risk for special needs. In conclusion, the authors stated that if results are replicated alongside results from the Head Start Impact Study (2010), there will be emerging evidences that head start might play a very important role. As such, greater incentives to enroll IDEA-funded children into the Head Start prekindergarten programs at the state and federal levels should be encouraged.

In conclusion, Conger highlighted the policy relevance of the papers presented, leaving the session with several questions for future studies to consider:

  • Do politics/conditions have causal impacts?     
  • On what outcomes?
  • For what population?
  • For how long?
  • What are the costs of implementing the policies?
  • Are they politically feasible?
 

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