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Re-imagining Early Childhood Education and School Readiness for Children and Families of Color in the Time of COVID-19 and Beyond [Editorial]

Kerker, Bonnie D; Rojas, Natalia M; Dawson-McClure, Spring; Gonzalez, Cristina
High quality and culturally responsive early childhood education and care (ECEC) for young children before kindergarten is seen as a way to ensure that all children enter school ready to learn. ECEC is even more crucial in the context of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the disproportionate burden of trauma and stress borne by families of color in disinvested neighborhoods. Remote learning and repeated disruptions to in-person instruction as protocols shifted during waves of the pandemic placed an extra strain on families, and may have increased educational disparities in the U.S. Taken together, these challenges have implications for children's school readiness due to their impact on opportunities for learning at home and in the classroom. This paper explores how ECEC programs can be strengthened to better meet children's needs, and ways in which future research can shed light on these important issues.
PMID: 36646660
ISSN: 2168-6602
CID: 5410632

Associations between a Universal Free Breakfast Policy and School Breakfast Program Participation, School Attendance, and Weight Status: A District-Wide Analysis

Bullock, Sally Lawrence; Dawson-McClure, Spring; Truesdale, Kimberly Parker; Ward, Dianne Stanton; Aiello, Allison E; Ammerman, Alice S
Breakfast consumption among youth is associated with improved diet quality, weight, cognition, and behavior. However, not all youth in the United States consume breakfast. Participation in the School Breakfast Program (SBP) is also low relative to the lunch program. Universal free breakfast (UFB) policies have been implemented to increase breakfast participation by reducing cost and stigma associated with the SBP. This study examined whether a UFB policy implemented in a school district in the Southeast US was associated with changes in breakfast participation, school attendance, and student weight. A longitudinal study of secondary data was conducted, and a mixed modeling approach was used to assess patterns of change in SBP participation. General linear models were used to assess attendance and student weight change. On average, across schools in the district, there was an increase in breakfast participation of 4.1 percentage points following the implementation of the policy. The change in breakfast participation in schools differed by the percent of students in the school who received school meals for free or at a reduced price, the percent of students of color, and the grade level of the school. Increases in SBP participation were not associated with significant changes in attendance or weight. UFB policies may be effective in increasing participation in the SBP.
PMID: 35409433
ISSN: 1660-4601
CID: 5201832

A quasi-experimental study of parent and child well-being in families of color in the context of COVID-19 related school closure

Ursache, Alexandra; Barajas-Gonzalez, R Gabriela; Adhikari, Samrachana; Kamboukos, Dimitra; Brotman, Laurie M; Dawson-McClure, Spring
Families of color living in historically disinvested neighborhoods face a multitude of health disparities which have been exacerbated by COVID-19 and the resulting strategies to mitigate its transmission. School closure, which occurred with little warning and few, if any, resources for preparation, disrupted multiple aspects of families' lives; these disruptions are anticipated to adversely impact mental health and well-being. The current study aims to advance understanding of the experiences of families of young children of color during the pandemic by utilizing a natural experiment design to test impact on child and parent mental health and sleep in the context of COVID-19 related school closure among families in historically disinvested neighborhoods. Data from this study come from an ongoing study of 281 families of color enrolled in 41 pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs in neighborhoods across New York City (NYC). In NYC, school closure occurred on March 16, 2020, during a data collection period involving phone surveys with parents; the quasi-experimental design allows for comparison of the 198 families who had completed the survey prior to March 16, and the 83 families who completed the survey after March 16, using identical protocols and procedures. Results demonstrate poorer mental health among parents surveyed after school closure as compared to before school closure. No differences were found for parent sleep, child mental health, or child sleep. Implications of this work highlight the need for structural and systemic supports for families faced with compounding stressors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related school closure.
PMID: 35284616
ISSN: 2352-8273
CID: 5190912

Measuring Children's Emotion Knowledge: Steps Toward an Anti-Racist Approach to Early Childhood Assessments [Case Report]

Kamboukos, Dimitra; Ursache, Alexandra; Cheng, Sabrina; Rodriguez, Vanessa; Gelb, Gena; Barajas-Gonzalez, R Gabriela; Dawson-McClure, Spring; Brotman, Laurie M
Emotion knowledge (EK) is a malleable set of skills that is central to social interactions and school success during early childhood. The current study describes an anti-racist approach to adapting an EK measure that assesses knowledge of facial expressions to be ecologically valid for young children of color attending pre-Kindergarten (pre-K) programs in a large urban school district. This approach involved (1) attending to race/ethnicity in selection of visual stimuli, (2) ensuring appropriate translation and language for administration, and (3) exploring the functioning of the measure within a racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse group of children. A total of 235 children (67.4% Latinx, 14.1% non-Latinx Black, 7.1% non-Latinx White, 7.8% Asian, 3.6% another racial/ethnicity) were assessed in English (74%) or Spanish (26%) during the fall of pre-K (mean age = 4.4). Both English and Spanish versions appear to have similar reliability, although accuracy levels were lower when administered in Spanish. No differences in mean accuracy scores were found across racial/ethnic groups or for boys versus girls. This study contributes to the growing literature necessary to advance anti-racist research in affective science.
PMID: 36046093
ISSN: 2662-205x
CID: 5337712

Parental perceived immigration threat and children's mental health, self-regulation and executive functioning in pre-Kindergarten

Barajas-Gonzalez, R Gabriela; Ursache, Alexandra; Kamboukos, Dimitra; Huang, Keng-Yen; Dawson-McClure, Spring; Urcuyo, Anya; Huang, Tiffany June Jay; Brotman, Laurie Miller
Many children in immigrant households endure unique stressors shaped by national, state, and local immigration policies and enforcement activity in the United States. Qualitative studies find that during times of heightened immigration enforcement, children as young as 3 years of age show signs of behavioral distress related to national anti-immigrant sentiment and the possibility of losing a parent. Using multiple sources of data from 168 racially and ethnically diverse families of children in pre-Kindergarten, the present study examined variability in perceived levels of immigration enforcement threat by parental immigrant status and ethnicity. This study examined associations between immigration enforcement threat and child mental health, self-regulation, and executive functioning and whether parent immigrant status or child gender moderates these associations. We found substantial variability in perceived immigration threat, with immigrant parents and Latinx parents reporting significantly greater levels of immigration threat compared to nonimmigrant parents and non-Latinx parents. Immigration enforcement threat was associated with greater child separation anxiety and overanxious behaviors, and lower self-regulation among boys and girls and among children of immigrant and U.S.-born parents. In contrast to our hypothesis, immigration enforcement threat was associated with higher self-regulation according to independent assessor ratings. Educators and healthcare providers working with young children from immigrant and Latinx households should be aware of the disproportionate stress experienced by immigrant and Latinx families due to a xenophobic sociopolitical climate marked by heightened immigration enforcement threat and racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
PMID: 34968118
ISSN: 1939-0025
CID: 5097842

Neighborhood influences on the development of self-regulation among children of color living in historically disinvested neighborhoods: Moderators and mediating mechanisms

Ursache, Alexandra; Barajas-Gonzalez, Rita Gabriela; Dawson-McClure, Spring
We present a conceptual model of the ways in which built and social environments shape the development of self-regulation in early childhood. Importantly, in centering children of color growing up in historically disinvested neighborhoods, we first describe how systemic structures of racism and social stratification have shaped neighborhood built and social environment features. We then present evidence linking these neighborhood features to children's development of self-regulation. Furthermore, we take a multilevel approach to examining three potential pathways linking neighborhood contexts to self-regulation: school environment and resources, home environment and resources, and child health behaviors. Finally, we consider how racial-ethnic-cultural strengths and multilevel interventions have the potential to buffer children's development of self-regulation in disinvested neighborhood contexts. Advancing multilevel approaches to understand the development of self-regulation among children of color living in historically disinvested neighborhoods is an important step in efforts to promote equity in health and education.
PMID: 36389468
ISSN: 1664-1078
CID: 5381392

Understanding ParentCorps' essential elements for building adult capacity to support young children's health and development

Chapter by: Dawson-McClure, Spring; Rhule, Dana; Hamer, Kai-ama; Calzada, Esther; Kolawole, Bukky; Mondesir, Michelle; Rosenblatt, Katherine; Brotman, Laurie
in: Family-school partnerships during the early school years: Advancing science to influence practice by Bierman, Karen L [Ed]; Sheridan, Susan M [Ed]
Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature Switzerland AG; Switzerland, 2022
pp. 53-72
ISBN: 978-3-030-74616-2
CID: 5381102

Behavioral Economics and Parent Participation in an Evidence-Based Parenting Program at Scale

Hill, Zoelene; Spiegel, Michelle; Gennetian, Lisa; Hamer, Kai-Ama; Brotman, Laurie; Dawson-McClure, Spring
Evidence-based and culturally relevant parenting programs strengthen adults' capacity to support children's health and development. Optimizing parent participation in programs implemented at scale is a prevailing challenge. Our collaborative team of program developers, implementers, and researchers applied insights from the field of behavioral economics (BE) to support parent participation in ParentCorps-a family-centered program delivered as an enhancement to pre-kindergarten-as it scaled in a large urban school district. We designed a bundle of BE-infused parent outreach materials and successfully showed their feasibility in site-level randomized pilot implementation. The site-level study did not show a statistically significant impact on family attendance. A sub-study with a family-level randomization design showed that varying the delivery time of BE-infused digital outreach significantly increased the likelihood of families attending the parenting program. Lessons on the potential value of a BE-infused approach to support outreach and engagement in parenting programs are discussed in the context of scaling up efforts.
PMID: 34014490
ISSN: 1573-6695
CID: 5062962

Sleep, Classroom Behavior, and Achievement Among Children of Color in Historically Disinvested Neighborhoods

Ursache, Alexandra; Robbins, Rebecca; Chung, Alicia; Dawson-McClure, Spring; Kamboukos, Dimitra; Calzada, Esther J; Jean-Louis, Girardin; Brotman, Laurie Miller
Children of color are more likely to have poor sleep health than White children, placing them at risk for behavioral problems in the classroom and lower academic performance. Few studies, however, have utilized standardized measures of both classroom behavior and achievement. This study examined whether children's sleep (parent and teacher report) in first grade concurrently related to independent observations of classroom behavior and longitudinally predicted achievement test scores in second grade in a sample of primarily Black (86%) children (n = 572; age = 6.8) living in historically disinvested neighborhoods. Higher teacher-reported child sleepiness was associated with lower adaptive behaviors and higher problem behaviors in the classroom, and predicted lower achievement. Parent-reported bedtime resistance and disordered breathing also predicted lower achievement.
PMID: 34041742
ISSN: 1467-8624
CID: 4940582

State-wide School Breakfast Promotion Initiatives and Trends in School Breakfast Participation

Bullock, Sally Lawrence; Dawson-McClure, Spring; Truesdale, Kimberly Parker; Ward, Dianne Stanton; Aiello, Allison E.; Ammerman, Alice S.
A variety of policies and practices have been implemented to increase participation in the National School Breakfast Program (SBP) and the impact of these initiatives on SBP participation is not known. The purpose of this study was to determine whether new SBP policies and practices implemented in North Carolina were associated with an improvement in SBP participation. A mixed modeling approach was used to assess longitudinal patterns of change in district-level and school-level SBP participation rates between 2007 and 2015. Most of the policy initiatives implemented in NC were associated with an increase in participation either at the school or district level.
ISSN: 1932-0248
CID: 5144092