Born to Learn: Innovations in Early Childhood Studies

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Born to Learn: Innovations in Early Childhood Studies
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INNOVATIONS IN EARLY CHILDHOOD STUDIES The stories chronicled in G atorbytes span all colleges and units across the UF campus. They detail the farreaching impact of UFs research, technologies, and innovationsand the UF faculty members dedicated to them. Gatorbytes describe how UF is continuing to build on its strengths and extend the reach of its eorts so that it can help even more people in even more places.The human brains largest and most important developmental phase takes place be tween birth and age ve. These years form the foundation for future physical, emotional, cognitive, and social capabilities, yet they can often be an overlooked time in a childs life. At the University of Floridas Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies, researchers are spearheading initiatives to support childrens health, develop ment, learning, and well-being. Born to Learn gives readers an inside look at the bright minds working in the center and their collaborative pursuits to provide children with the best possible start in life. Together, these researchers are innovating the eld of early childhood studies in the United States and abroad. Find out how researchers in Zambia are striving to deliver quality education to rural children with disabilities. Learn about the challenges parents face when trying to nd quality preschools in low-income areas and how the center is not only mapping barriers to access but also looking for ways to overcome them. Visit the CHILD Center, a model demonstration site in Gainesville, Florida, where children re ceive a high-quality education, and teachers, researchers, and policymakers study and learn best practices. Through the tireless eorts of its sta, the Anita Zucker Center is enriching the lives of children and their families around the world to create a brighter future for all. UFPREEMINENCE.ORG UFL.EDUThe University of Florida has an ambitious goal: to harness the power of its faculty, sta, students, and alumni to solve some of societys most pressing problems and to become a resource for the state of Florida, the nation, and the world. ISBN 978-1-942852-15-5 $5.95EDUCATIONFront : Blocks, Steven Depolo CC BY 2.0; background JeanClaude Baktiste CC BY 2.0. BORN TO LEARN GATORBYTES 7 8 1 9 4 2 8 5 2 1 5 5 9 5 0 5 9 5




The Importance of Early LearningAveraging only three pounds, the brain is the core of self, from which every behavior, emotion, and interaction stems. Without its amazing capabilities, humans would be just another unremarkable notch in the evolutionary chain. The brain undergoes several dramatic changes during our lives, but the most impor tant ones take place when we are just infants. One thing immediately noticeable after a baby is delivered is the size of the infants head. At birth, its the largest part of the infants body and nearly a quarter of the weight of an adult brain. If youve ever wondered why babies have soft spots on their heads, its partly to help the infant pass through the birth canal and, even more important, to give the brain room to grow and will reach 8 percent of its adult volume by the time the child is three years old. Even more amazing, 90 percent of the brains development Before children can communicate with their parents and the world at large, they are absorbing everything around them hearing the conversations their parents have, feeling the toys they play with, and seeing the colorful images in the books being read to them. Far from being a blank slate, the brain of a 1


2 Born to Learnbaby from birth to three years is processing much more infor mation than an adult does in a comparable time. The brain contains billions of nerve cells, neurons, commu nicating with each other through electrochemical signals. Messages are passed between synaptic connections, which are laying down the physical foundation for learning and memory. twice as many synapses as an adult brain. This is far more than a child needs, and these surplus connections are disposed of throughout childhood and adolescence, a process referred to as blooming and pruning. The reason for these excess synapses is environmental; depending on a childs environment and experiences, certain brain regions are activated. The more the synapses in this region are engaged, the stronger they become, and blooming takes place. These strong synapses will contribute to learning, memory, and other cognitive abilities a child will have for the rest of his or her life. When certain synapses are rarely used, they remain weak and are more likely to be pruned, or eliminated. This use it or lose it process means that helping these synapses bloom is one of the most important responsibilities parents and caregivers can provide for children. The early years of a childs development are a critically important time when the foundations for future physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development are created. These are also the years when children are most vulnerable, and conditions such as where they live, what they eat, or how they learn are entirely out of their control. The delicate process of brain development can be compromised most when children are living in poverty. They may be unable to attend preschool, may experience delayed developmental milestones, or be malnourished. In 2003, a two-and-ahalf-year study conducted by Dr. Betty Hart and Dr. Todd R.


The Importance of Early Learning 3Risley followed forty-two familieseach with one childfrom various socioeconomic backgrounds. The study, titled The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3, found massive disparities between low-income children and their higher-income peers. A major factor in determining childrens vocabulary is the words they hear from their parents in the years before preschool. The study showed that, on average, children whose households were below the poverty line heard 62,000 words in a one hundred-hour week, compared to children from professional families who heard 215,000 words during the same time span. By age four, the children in poorer families were exposed to 13 million words while those from professional families accumulated 45 million words. Based on their research, Hart and Risley were able to accurately predict the language skills a three-year-old would have at age nine, showing that higher-income children performed better than their lower-income classmates on language tests. The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3 demonstrates a widespread problem in the American education system: lowerincome children tend to be left behind soon after they are born, older. Numerous studies show that when children are born into poverty, in later life they are more likely to face poorer health outcomes, have less education, earn less money, and be less upwardly mobile than children born into higher income brackets. Odds are that they will continue the cycle of poverty when they become parents. Improving these social outcomes is one critical tenet of early searchers found that for every dollar invested in early learning programs, the rate of return was between four and nine dollars. As research has shown that higher rates of education have


4 Born to Learnpositive impacts on better health and lower crime rates, and potential savings for society of billions years of life are too important to overlook. The Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at the University of Florida was created to support all aspects of early childhood studies. This includes family support, physical and mental health, nutrition, and early intervention (a support system for children at risk for developmental delays or disabilities). In 2007, Dr. Patricia Snyder was tapped to be the centers director as the inaugural holder of the Davis Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair. Three years later she asked Dr. Maureen Conroy to join her as codirector. The center was later renamed the Anita Zucker Center in honor of the global businesswomans gener ous donation toward their research. Beginning in 2013, the Preeminence initiative was created to establish the University of Florida as one of the nations top ten public research schools. The university hired top researchers and boosted funding for twenty-eight areas of focus, one of which is early childhood studies. It was just Pat and me for several years, Dr. Conroy recalls. When that opportunity came about, we said If we can hire four Preeminent faculty members across disciplines, this is a real game changer for the center. Without the Preeminence initiative we would not be able to move forward to the degree we have. This is because the challenges faced by young children and their families are simply too vast to be undertaken by a single academic discipline. Early childhood studies looks not only at early education but also at the health and development of a childs brain and body, the data analysis for evaluating research trials, and the policy decisions that are implemented to make changes happen on a large scale. Transdisciplinary research is -


The Importance of Early Learning 5gram. To address this challenge, the center has created connections and collaborations with researchers from the Colleges of Education, Law, Medicine, Public Health, and others. The center is tucked away in maze-like Norman Hall, the main building of the College of Education. The physical space of the Center is small considering all the areas its members are involved in; it encompasses only a single hallway with a confer small break area. The close quarters certainly help encourage teamwork as the rated only by a door and frosted-glass windows. Were very collaborative, Dr. Snyder says. Things that are developed in one research project are often put to work in another project because were all going to raise the possibility that we will get that translation from research to practice if were working together. And work they do. Teaching, research, and service was the answer Dr. Conroy gave when asked what a typical day at the center was like. There are doctoral and post-doc students whom we mentor. Then we teach undergraduate and graduate classes. We all have research projects we run, and we do an incredible amount of service. We sit on committees, we sit on boards, and we volunteer time. Yet neither woman seems daunted by the work. They keep their eyes on the end goalimproving the lives of young children and their families. Thats the hallmark of the Preeminence position, Dr. Snyder says. Were immersed in building some thing bigger than what our own individual work is. We all have our own individual work, but together all of what were doing is transforming the ways services and supports are provided to young children who are vulnerable and their families.


6 Born to LearnTools for TeachersWhile children are the focus of early childhood studies, close attention is also paid to those who teach them; without teachers to act as guides and cultivate a positive classroom atmosphere, children can miss out on important learning opportunities. In many settings, if a preschooler fails to understand a concept, its not uncommon for teachers to take them aside and task them with repetitive exercises such as Draw these numbers ten times or Write your name ten times. This is neither fun for One of the largest research projects currently under way at the center is Embedded Instruction (EI), which concentrates on teachings into ongoing activities and routines at preschool to make sure children are provided with inclusive learning activities. This is advantageous because it does not remove or isolate the child from the rest of the class, and it facilitates more social interaction; most children are more motivated to talk and inter act with other kids than to repetitively write words and letters on their own. EI is split into two distinct parts: EI California and EI Goal 3. The original EI California studies took place in the Los Ancation in Santa Clara. Now, sites in Napa, Etiwanda, Pleasanton, and Sonoma are entering their fourth year of Embedded Instruction in classrooms. Researchers provide a year of web-training called PracticeBased Coaching to help teachers learn how to use Embedded Instruction in their classrooms. One group of teachers receives the coaching, which involves establishing shared goals and ac-


Tools for Teachers 7and receiving feedback. The second group of teachers does not receive this coaching but still has access to the same online resources. Last there is the control group, who teach classes nor mally, without any additional coaching or resources. The study is entering its sustainability year. During this time, fully teachers perform with the knowledge to use Embedded Instruction. EI Goal 3 is similar in its setup, but the research is centered around teaching for children with disabilities. In preschool settings, these children can be excluded from the variety of rich experiences they can have from learning, interacting, and playing alongside children without disabilities. This early isolation may lead to impaired social development later in life, with an increased possibility of social rejection, isolation, and fewer friends. The added objective for the Goal 3 study is to reduce the segregation and separation of children with delays or disabilities. Instead of receiving online Practice-Based Coaching, teachers in the Goal 3 study have on-site coaching. Child, teacher, and classroom data are collected in four waves throughout the implementation year, and in the sustainability year further teacher and classroom data are collected. The sample for Goal 3 is 108 preschool classrooms across Florida and Tennesseewhere collaborators at Vanderbilt University also collect data. Teachers in seventy-two of these classrooms receive a three-day workshop series and followup online or self-coached sessions focused on EI. The remaining classrooms are run as they usually are, without any sort of coaching or resources. After twenty-four weeks, the data are analyzed to assess the impact Embedded Instruction had on both teachers and students.


8 Born to Learn Dr. Snyder is the principal investigator for Embedded Instruction and works alongside her center colleagues Dr. Mary McLean and Dr. Brian Reichow. Collaborating with them are numerous universities across the United States, including the University of Washington, the University of WisconsinMilwaukee, and Vanderbilt University. At the same time Embedded Instruction is expanded throughout the United States, it is simultaneously being disseminated throughout the rest of the world. From 2012 to 2015, researchers provided training and workshops in New Zealand, Australia, Portugal, and Turkey. The center is making sure that the international versions of EI include practices that are cultur ally sensitive and relevant for the target countries. In 2017, Dr. Snyder attended the World Forum on Early Care and Education conference held in New Zealand, which had over 800 early childhood practitioners from over eighty countries. Alongside her colleagues from Vanderbilt University, Massey University in New Zealand, and Monash University in Australia, Dr. Snyder presented Practice-Based Coaching in a standing-room only session. We have a group from China who want to come here to study with us, Dr. Conroy says. We have a lot of international students working within our research projects. People keep coming to us to learn.BEST in CLASSRoughly 30 percent of children entering school exhibit problem behaviors that, if not corrected, can negatively impact the rest of their academic career and put them at risk for developing future emotional, social, and behavioral disorders. A poll by the American Federation of Teachers, a union representing 1.7 mil-


BEST in CLASS 9lion teachers, found that 17 percent of teachers said they lost four or more hours of teaching time per week due to disruptive behavior of students. That amount of time increased to 21 per cent for teachers working in urban areas. Lost class time strains everyone involved and teachers who are only humancan reach a breaking point. Instead of encouraging the disruptive child when he or she does well, the teacher might have trouble seeing beyond the childs negative behaviors. This response from the teacher can become a lifelong lesson to the child: I cannot depend on educators to give me any positive feedback. Dr. Conroy, codirector of the Anita Zucker Center, believes this type of classroom behavior is easier to prevent than to stop after the fact. After receiving her PhD in special education from before Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) recruited her as a faculty member. During her three years at VCU, she was a professor and the director of the Autism Registry. Dr. Snyder, the director of the Anita Zucker Center, invited her back to UF and the newly established center in 2010, where shes been ever since. Her main research project is called Behavioral, Emotional, and Social Training: Competent Learners Achieving School Success, or BEST in CLASS. It focuses on young children typically seen as troublemakersthe ones who are loud and disruptive or have other challenging behaviors that distract their classat the center, Dr. Conroy brought with her from Virginia the grant for BEST in CLASS so she could continue her research. The main participants in this study are students living in lowincome areas. Many of these children come to school and they dont understand how to behave and the teachers dont know how to


10 Born to Learnteach them. They havent had the training, they dont know what to do, Dr. Conroy says. Using the Practice-Based Coaching Dr. Snyder and her team developed, BEST in CLASS provides instruction on how to cor rect a childs behavior using repeated learning opportunities rather than isolation from classroom peers. In this way, a child learns in a more natural setting and isnt singled out for disruptive behavior. The project has gained serious momentum ever since the study in which researchers worked with 469 children across both Virginia and Florida. Afterward, this study expanded to dition to the preschoolers who were the original subjects of the project. One project site is in Richmond, Virginia, the second most impoverished city in the state. Richmonds public schools also have the states worst graduation rate, though administrators and teachers have improved upon this rate in recent years. Dr. making sure disruptive children can be part of a productive class before they enter higher grades. The families of students play a role in the study, participating through a family involvement component and giving valuable feedback to researchers. While Dr. Conroy and her fellow researchers do not interact directly with the families in BEST in CLASS, the families still found ways to show their gratitude for the impact the program has had on their childrens lives. sessments, Dr. Conroy explains. And we had a number of families who said, Here, we dont want your money. You did more to help my child than anyone has ever done, and have made a huge impact. These are families living in poverty and


The Center Abroad 11theyre so grateful for the changes in their children, they refuse the payment for participation, saying Please take your one hundred dollars. Teachers have also been thankful for what BEST in CLASS has done for their classroom. Dr. Conroy says, At the end of the year, the teachers say, Everybody always just comes in, into my classroom and really stuck it out with me around these kids. A BEST in CLASS web project funded in collaboration with VCU and the Oregon Research Institute was piloted in 2017. The goal of the ongoing project is to make the BEST in CLASS try. It includes seven instruction modules which teachers can complete independently, as well as weekly web-based coaching sessions.The Center AbroadWhile the majority of the centers work is focused on American children, caregivers, and policy, members are also branching out to improve the quality of early childcare abroad. One country the center is focusing on is Zambia, in southwestern Africa. Zambias history of focusing on children with disabilities started in 1982 with the Zambia National Campaign to Reach Disabled Children. The main objectives were to raise the level of public awareness of the needs of children with disabilities, establish registers of disabled children, and lay the foundations of nationwide health and education services for disabled children. The campaign also supplies technical aids and prosthetic devices to as many children as possible while also training their families to use such aids. The program was successful on both a social and epidemio-


12 Born to Learnlogical level and introduced the concept of Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) to the country. CBR was promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a way to help those with disabilities by establishing family and community-based programs that can thrive with limited infrastructure and funds. The campaign also gave researchers a chance to gather infor mation from the 1,200 children initially involved with the campaign about their various disabilities, the causes of these, and possible prevention strategies. After the initial success of the campaign, various roadblocks developed when the government attempted to expand it. The Zambian government worked to target special education for between 1 percent and 3 percent of the primary school population, which equaled 40,000 children. But the economic depresdering for the next two decades. In 1996, Zambia made a national commitment to provide quality education to children with disabilities. Those with mild disabilities would be given special education services in regular schools while those with severe disabilities would attend special units attached to the regular school or a school with specialist teachers. schools due to a lack of services such as teachers and supplies. One important factor contributing to the problem is that early childcare, development, and education are not the responsibility of any one governmental department in the country. This gap in services along with Zambias ongoing commit ment to children with disabilities makes it an optimal training ground for the WHOs Parent Skills Training Programme for


Caregivers of Children with Developmental Disorders. This program was created to provide adults the necessary tools needed to help and understand children with disabilities. Dr. Brian Reichow from the Anita Zucker Center has been collaborating with WHO on this project and many others. He has gone to Zambia to personally oversee the implementation of the project in the village of Kalomo, a small town in the southern part of the country. Before joining the center as an associate professor, Dr. Reichow graduated from Vanderbilt with masters and PhD degrees in early childhood special education. He then accepted a postdoctoral fellowship position at Yales Child Study Center. He is currently working with the WHO to develop guidelines and training to assist with identifying, managing, and treating children with developmental disabilities in lowand middleincome countries. The Parent Skills Training Programme I have been developing with the WHO continues to expand. Recently, we began training across eight provinces in China, says Dr. Reichow. And early next year we are launching pilot trials in other countries across Africa and Asia. Dr. Reichow has been working with stakeholders to make sure that teaching and training in Zambia are culturally relevant. Tentatively, the trainings are designed to involve eight group sessions and three home visits with the families. The programs content is dispersed through the group sessions, with targeted coaching of parent-child interactions taking place dur ing the home visits. If we can show that [the implementation of the WHO Parent Skills Training Programme] has a positive impact on children and families, the WHO will likely publish the training package on their website as an open-source programme, Dr. Reichow The Center Abroad 13


14 Born to Learnsays. This is huge for families with limited means, as the program would be available without charge to anyone with inter net access. Programs such as Dr. Reichows will ensure that children living in low-income areas around the globe can grow and learn in ways similar to those their peers experience in more developed countries. Our goal is to create a sustainable program in areas that dont have access to specialist trainers, he explains. This work is at the core of the Anita Zucker Centers mission: to help young children and their families, especially those with vulner abilitiesno matter where they live.Dr. Knopf and Barriers to AccessEverything changes when you become pregnant. Suddenly you have to worry not just about yourself and potentially a partner, but a child who needs you to survive. If you have a fulltime job, you start wondering how your child will be cared for. While youre at work, will your child be watched by a friend, gram across town? income families. These parents have little choice but to send If they are lucky, the daycare center will be relatively close to their home. If not, they may have to take extra time out of their daypossibly taking one or more buses if they dont have a carto reach the daycare facility. In the end it may be easier, and certainly less expensive, for parents to leave children with a relative or babysitter. While this is more convenient for the parent, it can leave the child without the much-needed socialization and learning skills that are acquired during preschool.


Dr. Knopf and Barriers to Access 15 The cost of preschools was the subject of a 2016 study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which examined the costs of full-time childcare versus in-state public college tuition. The that much! And yet the EPI concluded that in thirty-three states and the District of Columbia, childcare was indeed more expensive than the cost of higher education for a comparable period. In Washington, DC, which topped the list, the cost comes out to a whopping 211.9 percent more than in-state college tuition. To alleviate these expenses, forty-three states plus the District of Columbia now provide some form of publicly funded preschools, but only Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma have made prekindergarten available without charge to all four-year-olds. Public preschools saw an increase in funding under the Obama administration, yet the overall quality of programs remains uneven. Despite the advent of free preschool, many parents still choose to send their children to private daycare centers where fees can be exorbitant. The US Department of Health is trying to reduce additional stressors faced by low-income families by instituting the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF). This is the primary source of federal funding for low-income families and provides access to contracts. In the evaluation of childcare, the term high-quality has two parts: structural quality and process quality. Parents can assess the structural quality for themselves when theyre given a tour of the preschool and ask questions: Are there any places my child can get hurt? Is the building clean and tidy, or messy and disorganized? What is the child-to-teacher ratio? These physical elements of a preschool tend to be regulated by licensing and easy for a parent to see within a few minutes of being on the premises.


16 Born to Learn But a more important component in assessing the facility is process quality, which measures the interactions between children and caregivers. A caregiver who provides positive emo tional, behavioral, and learning supports for a child has high process quality. As its impossible to oversee how much time caregivers are spending with each child, process quality is exIn an ideal world, every preschool would score high in both structural and process quality, yet the majority of children in America are not attending high-quality preschools. The program quality declines even more in low-income areas, meaning that children who need quality programs the most are the least likely to receive them. For the Child Care Development Fund to reach maximum access exist for these low-income families struggling to enroll their children in good preschool programs. This is where Dr. Herman Knopf comes in. A research scientist at the Anita Zucker Center, he has been focusing on solving this very issue. He is a Florida Gator through and through. Raised in Gainesville, he attended high school in the city before completing both his undergraduate and masters degrees at the University of Florida. After he graduated, he began to work at a local preschool and soon returned to UF to earn his doctorate in curriculum and instruction. From there, he went to the University of South Carolina, where he taught for twelve years. During this time, he was director of the Child Development Research Center at USC. In 2016 he accepted an invitation to join the Anita Zucker Center as a faculty member. The research he began with colleagues at USC came with him to Gainesville. This research began with the reauthorization of


the Child Care Development Fund in 2014, which amended the goals of the program and created new ones. These new goals included a provision that states must establish and enforce minimum health and safety standards at childcare centers, conduct criminal background checks on childcare providers, and set limits for child-to-provider ratios. At the time of this reauthorization, Dr. Knopf had been working alongside the state childcare administrator in South Carolina and saw that she had a problem: there werent any tools available to measure what access to preschool programs looked like throughout the state. Without these tools, she wouldnt be able to accurately direct resources to the places that needed them the most. To solve this issue, Dr. Knopf and his colleagues at USC began developing the Child Care Access Index (CCAI) to measure what access to childcare was like throughout the state of South Carolina. With this index, they hope to learn what kinds of barriers low-income families face when choosing a preschool program. The CCAI is an ambitious and very necessary project. In addition to showing which schools parents are choosing, the index also assesses an areas infrastructure to see whether it provides enough options for families. For example, are there adequate bus routes with reasonable hours? Are there preschool centers along those bus routes or would parents have to travel an additional distance? The index also measures voucher access and usability to see whether parents can properly utilize them at nearby preschools as well as how much of the cost the vouchers cover. As vouchers are the largest source of childcare aid for many families, it is important that parents can maximize their use. Dr. Knopf and Barriers to Access 17


18 Born to Learn lems. After these changes are made, the index then evaluates When asked about the biggest challenge of turning research into policy, Dr. Knopf answered that trust and a positive relationship must exist between the researchers and the policymakers for them to move forward. Theres a certain level of vulnerability when an agency or organization turns over their administrative data to an outsider to help them understand it. You have to establish enough trust with the organization that so that [they] can identify solutions or tweak policy. The progress made by Dr. Knopfs research group and his colleagues in South Carolina proves that this kind of close colmost: vulnerable children and their families.Dr. McLean and Children with DisabilitiesThe United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that a person with disabilities includes those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may Before the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed in 1975 (later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities abilities was accommodated by US public schools. Many states had laws excluding these children, and almost 200,000 schoolage children were institutionalized, which kept them isolated and at risk for abuse. IDEA changed this, ensuring that any student with a disability is provided with free appropriate public education.


Dr. McLean and Children with Disabilities 19 While this was a landmark civil rights law, nearly half of the states were not prepared to teach these children. States had preways to provide services, create teacher training programs, and put curriculums in place. Worried about the fate of young children with disabilities going into unprepared schools, the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (DEC) provided guidance in the form of recommended practices. These practices would assist both educators and families by making them abilities. The DEC is a professional organization that promotes policies and advances evidence-based practices that support families and enhance the optimal development of young children (birth through eight years) who have or are at risk for developmental delays and disabilities. Dr. Mary McLean of the Anita Zucker Center is the current chair of the DEC Recommended Practices. People were saying things like, Well, we could bus this three-year-old out to the institution for mentally retarded adults. Some people didnt Recommended Practices was the result of focus groups. People who knew what they were doing nominated practices. The original recommended practices were published in 1991 and contained 416 guidelines for families and instructors to follow. While the intentions behind the practices were good, the number was simply too overwhelming for anyone to remember and implement. The second version reduced by half the number of practices, leaving 240 improved practices with related literature and reThe most recent version was released in 2014 and comes in at a much reduced sixty-six practices.


20 Born to Learn The practices are divided into eight categories for ease of use: leadership, assessment, environment, family, instruction, inter action, team and collaboration, and transition. Each practice is created to be easily understood. For example, one practice listed under Instruction reads Practitioners, with the family, identify each childs strengths, preferences, and interests to engage the child in active learning. This language makes the DEC practices even more accessible and inviting for families and practitioners to implement. The most current version is available free on DECs website ( hVo). Dr. McLean is working alongside Dr. Snyder and Dr. Reichow to systematically review each practice, updating the available. But those involved with the practices are asking a new question: With this online format, should they update all the practices at once to create a new version or should they answer yet, but the new online format allows anyone to view the practices at their convenience, no textbook required. The online format poses another question: How do Dr. McLean and her team make caregivers aware of these practices ersnon-scientists who may not know how to search for infor mation or know what information is even available to them to begin with. It takes boots on the ground, Dr. McLean says. It takes teachers and people who are working in early childhood programs to reach out. But there are also family organizations


some federally fundedin every state that also do the work of making sure parents have access to information like the recommended practices. Yet Dr. McLean cautions educators against simply telling parents what to do. Instead, she believes trust should be built between teachers and families by listening to the concerns and ideas that parents have. The approach used to be, Im the teacher, let me teach you about your child. What we know is that turns people away. Instead, it needs to be a partnership. Technology, if used correctly, can help bridge the gap between parent and teacher. An example is Seesaw, an app that was created for students to show their parents what they are learning in the form of videos, photos, drawings, and links. The app allows teachers to share these moments with par ents as well as highlighting positive learning experiences. As cell phones are ubiquitous, this app and others are a great way for parents to stay tuned into what their children are learning and see what learning strategies teachers are using. In addition to the DEC Recommended Practices, Dr. McLean is involved with several other projects. Working with Dr. Snyder, she is a co-principal investigator on the Embedded Instruction Goal 3 and California research projects mentioned earlier. Her two other projects involve teaching future educators. She is the principal investigator of Project Prepare, which is that its graduates will excel at teaching children with disabilities and with diverse backgrounds. Students in this program, government funding for their masters year, in return for which the federal government requires them to work with children Dr. McLean and Children with Disabilities 21


22 Born to Learnwith disabilities for at least two years. Project Prepare provides in a classroom wont be overwhelming. Dr. McLean is also a co-principal investigator of Prepar ing Leaders in Early Childhood Studies and Implementation Center, Dr. Snyder, Dr. Conroy, and Dr. Reichow. PLECSIS is a doctoral-level personnel training grant funded by the US Department of Education. The focus is on implementation sciencemaking sure research such as the DEC Recommended Practices are actually being implemented by the programs provided for young children. Though the majority of Dr. McLeans projects focus on future educators, she never loses sight of the children theyll be teaching and the families theyll be helping. To parents raising children with disabilities, she says, I think whats most important is to keep alive that spirit of What can my child do? as opposed to What cant my child do? Kids amaze us all the time, thats theres good intervention, there [are] amazing things that can be done.A Vision of the FutureThe Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study was con ducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 1995 and 1997. Over 17,000 patient volunteers were surveyed on childhood traumas they had experienced, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; neglect; extreme poverty; living with a family member addicted to drugs or alcohol; and witnessing domestic violence. periences a person had, the greater was his or her risk of devel-


A Vision of the Future 23oping major health problems later in life such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, addiction, and depression. From the study use to estimate risk for these medical issues. The link between negative childhood experiences and later medical issues stems from stress. Everyone experiences stress, but when young children are in situations where they frequently face adversity or feel endangered, it can disrupt their brain architecture. The stress hormone cortisol is released dur ing these situations and excessive cortisol buildup can lead to something called toxic stress, creating long-term physical and mental health problems. When University of Floridas Dr. Nancy Hardt came across work. I want to prevent what Im seeing on the autopsy table, Hardt says. A lot of times, Im standing there going, I dont think this person had a very nice early childhood. As both an OB-GYN and a pathologist, Dr. Hardt has seen the whole spectrum of birth and death play out in front of her. But she wanted to take a more active part in her community to help prevent people from ending up on her autopsy table before their time. In 2008, she assessed Medicaid records and created a map of where children in poverty were born within Gainesville, Florida. The area that had the most births to parents living under the poverty line was one square mile between Interstate 75 and Tower Road, known as the Mike Zone after the Alachua County police patrol district. Dr. Hardt found one anomaly in Haile Plantation community, complete with a golf course and country club. Dr. Hardt showed her map to the CEO of her hospital, and he


24 Born to Learnreach, quickly countered with a map of her own. Her map pinpointed areas with high concentrations of crime, and these were Much of the Mike Zone is a blend of lush vegetation and Darnell drove around the neighborhood to see how the people there were living, and Hardt created a list of improvements that could be made to better the community. As a doctor, she took sharp interest in one area in particular: the lack of any kind of medical services. By her calculations, the nearest place an uninsured person could receive medical care was on the other side of town, a four-hour roundtrip by bus. In response, Dr. Hardt created the Mobile Outreach Clinic which makes weekly visits to churches, libraries, and housing other services that the community desperately needed. the Southwest Advocacy Group (SWAG). The group was originally composed of nine women who wanted to make a positive impact in their neighborhood but has since expanded to include additional community residents, advocates, and service providers. In the summer of 2010, members of SWAG went door to door in the Mike Zone community to learn which services and resources the residents needed the most. Their answers served as the foundation for the creation of the SWAG Family Resource Center. Opened in 2012 by the Partnership for Strong families, a local youth social services organization, it symbolized a turning point for the community. solutions for many of the problems faced by Mike Zone resi-


dents. For children, there is a preschool room, an elementary room, and a teen room where they can learn and play in safe environments. A food pantry and clothing closet are available for those who need essential items, and all kinds of resources workshops and assistance with building rsums and applying for jobs. Since the resource center opened, Alachua County has seen a dramatic decrease in child abuse rates. A permanent health clinic is now located right across the street rather than across the city; here residents can receive low-cost STD and HIV testing, guidance in obtaining copies of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, and immunizations and dental services. The newest addition to the SWAG family is the Childrens Health, Imagination, Learning, and Development (CHILD) Center opening in 2018. Built in collaboration with O2B Kids (a daycare and enrichment center) and the Anita Zucker Center, the CHILD Center is a site for educating children and their families in southwest Gainesville. art learning experience. The center provides a rigorous early education curriculum along with creative playtime and healthy meals. Dorothy Benson, a SWAG co-chair from nearby Haile Plantation, hopes these training opportunities will help parents beupbringing on what they experienced as children, providing guidance and support helps them learn new ways to interact with their child. Anita Zucker Center member Dr. Herman Knopf brought his expertise with mapping childcare accessibility and parental A Vision of the Future 25


26 Born to Learnselection of childcare to the CHILD Center. His research has shown a need for more high-quality childcare services in the area. According to Dr. Knopf, there are two important goals the quality childcare in an area that severely lacks it. By his estimates, the only childcare center nearby that would have even The second goal is to establish a model demonstration site velopment model the Anita Zucker Center has instilled in its teachers. Visiting providers will be able to learn directly from grams for parents and families in the SWAG community to do their own learning. They will have the opportunity to volunteer in childrens classrooms, attend family support groups to discuss parenting strategies, and engage in parent and child engagement sessions to support healthy brain development in infants and young children. There will also be professional development workshops offered to every Early Care and Education teacher in Alachua County to further disseminate the evidence-based practices honed by the Anita Zucker Center. For those who would like to become Early Care and Education teachers, an apprenticeship further develop the teacher workforce in the county. The CHILD Center is an ambitious site and a vision of the futurea future where low-income families can have highquality care that is both close by and inexpensive, and where households in reaching developmental milestones and receiving quality childcare services.


Notes 27 With the creation of the CHILD Center along with the re search being conducted at the Anita Zucker Center, the Univer sity of Florida is making great strides in enriching the lives of children and their families at home and abroad.NotesEven more amazing, 90 percent of the brains development happens within the years of life: Childrens Brain Development, US Department of Education, 2013, accessed December 4, 2017, at https://sites -Brain-Development.pdf. In the three years of life, a childs brain can have up to twice as many synapses as an adult brain: Michael Nagel, In the Beginning: The Brain, Early Development and Learning (Victoria: ACER Press, 2012), 44. The more the synapses in this region are engaged, the stronger they become, and blooming takes place: Urban Child Institute, Babys Brain Begins Now: Conception to Age 3, accessed November 16, 2017, at The study, titled The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3, found massive disparities between low-income children and their higher-income peers : Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3, American Educator 27, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 4, accessed cals/TheEarlyCatastrophe.pdf. The Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at the University of Florida was created to support all aspects of early childhood studies: Mission, Anita Zucker Center, accessed October 16, 2017, at https:// Were very collaborative, Dr. Snyder says: Author interview with Patricia Snyder, October 23, 2017. The goal for EI is to embed teachings into ongoing activities: Author interview with Patricia Snyder, October 23, 2017. Now, sites in Napa, Etiwanda, Pleasanton, and Sonoma are entering their fourth year of Embedded Instruction in classrooms: Progress Report, Anita Zucker Center, 2017, accessed October 23, 2017, at https://


28 NotesThis early isolation may lead to impaired social development later in life: Milene Ferreira, Cecilia Aguiar, Nadine Correia, Margarida Fialho, and Julia Serpa Pimentel, Social Experiences of Children with Disabilities in Inclusive Portuguese Preschool Settings, Journal of Early Interven tion 39, no. 1 (2017): 33, accessed January 16, 2018, at http://jour One group of teachers receives the coaching, which involves establishing shared goals: National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning, Practice-Based Coaching, 2014, accessed October 12, 2017, at https:// The sample for Goal 3 is 108 preschool classrooms across Florida and Tennesseewhere collaborators at Vanderbilt University also collect data : National Center for Special Education Research, Impact of Professional Development on Preschool Teachers Use of Embedded-InstrucOctober 17, 2017, at .asp?ID=1619. From 2012 to 2015, researchers provided training and workshops in New Zealand, Australia, Portugal, and Turkey: EI International, Embedded Instruction, accessed October 12, 2017, at https://embeddedinstruc We have a group from China who want to come here to study with us, Dr. Conroy says: Author interview with Maureen Conroy, October 23, 2017. Roughly 30 percent of children entering school exhibit problem behaviors: Anita Zucker Center, BEST in CLASS-Elementary Helps Teachers, Students Set a Course for Success, January 20, 2016, accessed Decemtary-helps-teachers-students-set-a-course-for-success/. A poll by the American Federation of Teachers : Hill M. Walker, Elizaior, American Federation of Teachers, 2004, accessed December 13, 2017, at -2003-2004/heading-disruptive-behavior. Richmonds public schools also have the states worst graduation rate: Alix Bryan and Catie Beck, Richmond Public Schools Have Worst Graduation Rate in State, CBS 6, February 27, 2013, accessed December 13, 2017, at -public-schools/. A BEST in CLASS web project funded in collaboration with VCU and the Oregon Research Institute was piloted in 2017: National Center for


Notes 29Special Education Research, BEST in CLASS-Web: A Web-Based In tervention Supporting Early Childhood Teachers Use of EvidenceBased Practices with Young Children at Risk for Emotional/Behavioral Disorders, 2016, accessed December 12, 2017, at funding/grantsearch/details.asp?ID=1884. The main objectives were to raise the level of public awareness of the needs of children with disabilities : Shimelis Tsegaye Tesemma, Educating Children with Disabilities: Zambia, African Child Policy Forum, 2011, accessed November 28, 2017, at CBR was promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a way to help those with disabilities : Robert Serpell and Jacqueline Jere-Folotiya, Basic Education for Children with Special Needs in Zambia: Progress and Challenges in the Translation of Policy into Practice, Psychology & Developing Societies 23 (2011): 217, accessed November 27, 2017, http:// The Zambian government worked to target special education for between 1 percent and 3 percent of the primary school population, which equaled 40,000 children: Serpell and Jere-Folotiva, Basic Education for Children with Special Needs, 223. Today, despite the countrys best only 6 percent of children between the ages of three and are enrolled in preschools: Marcio A. Carvalho and Buleti G. Nsemukila, Update of the Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Zambia, UNICEF (2013), 126, accessed November 28, Those with mild disabilities would be given special education services in regular schools: Tesemma, Educating Children with Disabilities iv. The Parent Skills Training Programme I have been developing with the WHO continues to expand.: Brian Reichow Was Named a Global Fellow by the University of Floridas International Center, Anita Zucker Center, January 31 2016, accessed December 7, 2017, at https://ceecs If we can show that [the implementation of the WHO Parent Skills Training Programme] has a positive impact on children and families : Alexis Brown, Dr. Reichow Travels to Zambia, Anita Zucker Center, November 30, 2016, accessed December 5, 2017, at https://ceecs.educa The cost of preschools was the subject of a 2016 study by the Economic


30 NotesPolicy Institute: The Cost of Child Care in the United States, Eco nomic Policy Institute, 2016, accessed December 14, 2017, at https:// To alleviate these expenses, forty-three states plus the District of Columbia now provide some form of publicly funded preschools: Claudio Sanchez and Elissa Nadworny, Preschool, a State-by-State Update, National Public Radio, May 24, 2017, accessed December 4, 2017, at https:// -by-state-update. yet the majority of children in America are not attending high-quality preschools: Linda M. Espinosa, High-Quality Preschool: Why We Need It and What It Looks Like, Preschool Policy Matters, 1 (November ED480816.pdf. He is a Florida Gator through and through: Author interview with Her man Knopf, November 3, 2017. Theres a certain level of vulnerability when an agency: Author inter view with Herman Knopf, November 3, 2017. Before the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed in 1975: Jane West, Back to School on Civil Rights: Advancing the Federal Commitment to Leave No Child Behind, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, 2000, accessed November 13, 2017, at https:// Many states had laws excluding these children and almost 200,000 schoolage children were institutionalized, which kept them isolated and at risk for abuse. West, Back to School on Civil Rights, 6. People were saying things like, Well, we could bus this three-year-old out: Author interview with Mary McLean, November 3, 2017. The DEC is a professional organization which promotes policies: DEC, Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children, accessed November 4, 2017, at For example, one practice listed under Instruction reads: Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children, DEC Recommended Practices, 2014, 12, accessed December 5, 2017, at https:// The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study was conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Vincent Felitti et al., Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults, American Journal of Preventative Medicine 14, no. 4 (May 1998): 245,


Notes 31accessed February 21, 2018, at S0749-3797(98)00017-8/fulltext. From the 10-question test was made that a physician might use to estimate your risk for these medical issues Laura Starecheski, Take the ACE QuizAnd Learn What It Does and Doesnt Mean, National Public Radio, March 2, 2015, accessed February 19, 2018, at https:// -the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean. The stress hormone cortisol is released during these situations: Toxic Stress, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, accessed February 20, 2017, at key-concepts/toxic-stress/. I want to prevent what Im seeing on the autopsy table, Hardt says.: hood Trauma, National Public Radio, March 10, 2015, accessed on March 1, 2018, at /03/10/377566905/a-sheriff-and-a-doctor-team-up-to-map-childhood-trauma. According to Dr. Knopf, there are two important goals the CHILD Center : Author interview with Herman Knopf, November 3, 2017.


Copyright 2018 by The University of Florida Board of Trustees All rights reserved Produced in the United States of America ISBN 978-1-942852-15-5 (paper) ISBN 978-1-942852-34-6 (electronic edition) Suggested citation: Born to Learn: Innovations in Early Childhood Studies. Gatorbytes. Gainesville: University of Florida, 2018. DOI: University of Florida 235 Tigert Hall PO Box 113175 Gainesville, FL 32611-3175