A New Title for ESEA That Focuses on Early Childhood Education and Care

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1 A New Title for ESEA That Focuses on Early Childhood Education and Care The new millennium demands a highly educated workforce and citizenry. Our world is changing, and it is critical that we prepare children early in life to be engaged citizens, critical thinkers, knowledge workers, supporters of our culture of democracy and respectful of others. This does not begin the day children first come through the door of their kindergarten classroom. Setting a strong foundation prior to that day is absolutely essential. The importance of developing school readiness during the early years cannot be overstated; studies show that the factors which cause gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged children are in place long before children start school. By age 3, children from middle- and upper-income homes have heard 30 million more words than children from low-income families: This disparity in vocabulary growth can negatively affect a child s future academic experiences in school. Research demonstrates that high-quality early childhood education ensures school readiness, significantly helps bridge the academic achievement gap, reduces dropout rates and antisocial behavior, and increases economic productivity and social stability. We must make a national commitment to make voluntary high-quality early childhood education and care beginning at birth universally available with first priority given to disadvantaged children. The reauthorization of ESEA presents us with a perfect opportunity to place new emphasis on education programs serving children from birth to preschool age. Although ESEA has been instrumental in targeting resources and programs to our nation s neediest schools, its primary focus has been on elementary and secondary education. High-quality early childhood programs are crucial to preparing students to meet high academic standards. This can only happen if additional investments are made in programs serving preschoolers, infants and toddlers. However, early childhood education and care programs must not be funded at the expense of the K-12 system. We shouldn t rob Peter to pay Paul. To make sure that this doesn t happen, ESEA needs to include an additional dedicated source of continual funding for early childhood education and care programs. These programs are an integral part of a child s education continuum and must be given the attention, resources and funds they need. Linking early childhood education and care to the public school system through ESEA will help ensure that early childhood programs benefit from the public education infrastructure of state-certified teachers, professional development, professional salaries, facilities and other resources. ESEA should not supplant Head Start and other programs; but instead should have a role in providing early childhood services to children not covered by any other program. High-quality programs result in better outcomes for all children, but are particularly important for the most disadvantaged children in our society. Well-developed programs lead to: Better higher-order thinking and attention skills; Better reading, writing, and mathematical abilities; Better social skills; Better executive functions (e.g., self-control, decision-making skills);

2 Fewer children being retained in grade; Higher graduation rates; Fewer special education placements; Fewer behavior problems; Less societal disengagement later in life; More economic productivity later in life; Less dependency on government assistance programs later in life; and Higher sense of social stability later in life. The AFT supports high-quality early childhood education and care as a means of ensuring that children are better prepared to handle the demands of formal schooling. A new title within ESEA focused on high-quality, accessible early childhood education and care programs should address access, funding, school readiness, provision of comprehensive services, a highly qualified workforce, standards for program quality and accreditation, and implementation of transitioning services. Access Although universal access to high-quality early childhood education and care is widespread throughout the industrialized world, the United States is among the worst providers of quality services. The positive impact of early childhood education and care on children s school success is well-documented, and the body of evidence from numerous studies continues to grow 1. At the same time, the number of families who cannot 1 Lowe Vandell, D., Belsky, J., Burchinal, M., Steinberg, L., Vandergrift, N. (2010). Do Effects of Early Child Care Extend to Age 15 Years? Results From the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. NICHD: Early Child Care Research Network. Barnett, W.S., & Nores, M. (2009). Benefits of early childhood interventions across the world: (Under) Investing in the very young. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Snyder, T. (2008). Child care quality and early academic skill acquisition among preschoolers., Paper presented at the Head Start National Research Conference, June 23-25, 2008, Washington, DC. Martin, A., Gardner, M., et al. (2008). Early Head Start Impacts Over Time and by Level of Participation.: Mathematica Policy Research, MPR Reference No Chernoff, J.J., Flanagan, K.D., et al. (2007). Preschool: First findings from the third follow-up of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B). (NCES ). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. William T. Gormley, Jr. (2007). The Effects of Oklahoma s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program On School Readiness. Washington, DC: Center for Research on Children in the U.S, Georgetown University. Hart, B., & Risley, T. (2003). The early catastrophe: The 30 million word gap by 3. American Educator, 27(1), 4-9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. (2002). Making a difference in the lives of infants and toddlers and their families: The impacts of Early Head Start. Volume 1: Technical Report: Retrieved electronically on December 24, 2008 from the Mathematica website: Lee, V., & Burkham, D. (2002). Inequality at the starting gate: Social background differences in achievement as children begin school. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute. Barnett, W.S. and Boocock, S.S. (Eds.). (2001). Early Care and Education for Children in Poverty, Promises, Programs, and Long-Term Results. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. National Research Council. (2000a). Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers. Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy, B. Bowman, S. Donovan, and M.S. Burns, eds. Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2000b). From Neurons to Neighborhoods. The Science of Early Childhood Development. Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development, J. P. Shonkoff, and D.A. Phillips, eds. Board on Children, Youth, and Families. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. National Research Council. (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, C.E. Snow, M.S. Burns, and P. Griffin, (Eds.). Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

3 afford or access such programs is on the rise. The time has come to make early childhood programs a priority. An inclusive, high-quality system of early childhood education and care that: Ensures universal access from birth to age 4; Is publicly funded; and Is delivered through multiple providers, including public schools, child care centers, communitybased organizations, and family child care providers. Enrollment priority for children from low-income families, children with disabilities and English language learners. Funding Adequate funding is the cornerstone of good programs. Linking early childhood education and care programs to ESEA can ensure that early childhood programs have a steady and predictable source of funding that can provide coverage for children who are eligible (and whose parents want to enroll them) but who are not currently served by any other federal or state program. We must make the necessary investments for a highquality system that meets the needs of infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Coordination with other federal and state early childhood education and care agencies to serve children not currently served by any other program (e.g., Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Head Start, Early Head Start, state prekindergarten, etc.) if their parents want to enroll them; A separate, dedicated source of funding for early childhood education and care programs that is not part of Title I funding; A formula that drives funds directly to districts based on concentrations of disadvantaged students from birth through preschool programs; Requirements that a system supported with federal dollars be universal and voluntary and available to every state and community; and A study on mixed delivery systems to identify international, state and local models that are successfully blending various funding streams to build a coherent early childhood education and care system that does not duplicate services. School Readiness Children who are best prepared for the challenges of elementary school have been exposed to extensive language and pre-literacy experiences, preliminary math and science, and a variety of classroom activities that are age-appropriate and that develop and enhance reasoning, communication and problem-solving skills. If children fail to develop early learning skills, particularly by the time they are 3 and 4 years old, the risk for later school difficulties increases. Standards and curriculum that are aligned with and linked to the state s K-12 standards and that specifically address: Early language and pre-literacy; Early math and pre-numeracy; Barnett, W.S. (1995). Long-term effects of early childhood programs on cognitive and school outcomes. The Future of Children: Longterm Outcomes of Early Childhood Programs, 5(3): Los Altos, CA: Center for the Future of Children, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

4 Social and emotional development, including executive functions; and Motor readiness skills and physical abilities. Assessments that are aligned to early learning standards, curriculum and professional development; Ongoing, developmentally and age-appropriate, multiple formative assessments to inform instruction throughout year; Developmentally and age-appropriate summative assessments to determine level of academic progress and social-emotional readiness prior to kindergarten for diagnostic and targeted instruction purposes only (assessment results would never be used to prevent children from entering school); and At least one head or lead teacher per classroom. Comprehensive Services To ensure that children are ready for school, programs must address their health, nutrition and any special needs, as well as seek to increase parents level of engagement with their children s education and care. We know that children from disadvantaged backgrounds, in particular, benefit from these wraparound services and activities. Children with disabilities or limited proficiency in English who are provided with extra supports early on also fare better once they begin school. Without such supports to address these problems, risk for future school failure and social disengagement multiplies. Ongoing social services that include: Physical, dental and mental health screenings and referrals; Nutrition services; Adult basic education/adult ESL classes; and Family and child counseling. Plans to create community schools that bring together comprehensive services and activities under one roof for young children and their families; Parent education services/parent involvement programs that are integrated into the early childhood education and care program as well as in the elementary schools; Development of parent education program standards that focus on increasing parents knowledge of developmental milestones, highlight parent interactions to strengthen their children s education, and promote nurturing and bonding environments; A focus on the recruitment and retention of support specialists such as audiologists, speech and language pathologists, physical therapists, psychologists, reading specialists, school nurses and other professionals to meet the gap in special needs services for children from birth until kindergarten; Collaboration with community-based organizations for wraparound services/program delivery as well as enriching after-school activities, summer school programs, programs that address the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse student populations, etc.; Instructional and environmental accommodations for children with disabilities; Instructional accommodations for children who are English language learners; and Translation services for parents who do not speak English. A Highly Qualified Workforce Specialized staff training and working conditions including postsecondary education, and decent salaries and low staff turnover are key predictors of program quality and positive outcomes for children. Current U.S. programs, however, generally fall short on precisely these measures. Early childhood teachers and staff are

5 among the lowest paid, least prepared, and have the highest turnover rates of any occupation serving the needs of children. Preschool staff must have the knowledge, skills and ongoing professional development they need to be effective educators. The implementation of career ladders and incentives (such as assistance with general education coursework, income support, child care, counseling and continuing education subsidies) to bolster the qualifications, skills, graduation potential and compensation of the current workforce; The same salary scale and collective bargaining provisions/coverage for early childhood educators and care providers that apply to their public school counterparts at the elementary and secondary levels; Support for the development of industry-appropriate models of collective bargaining for the early childhood workforce; Programs with head or lead teachers who have a bachelor s degree and special preparation or certification to work with the appropriate age group; Programs with paraprofessionals who have a Child Development Associate Degree (CDA), an AA degree, or the equivalent; Ongoing job-embedded professional development aligned to standards and curriculum for teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators and other staff; Joint professional development opportunities between the early childhood workforce and teachers and staff in the K-12 system; Alignment between pre-service and in-service programs, as well as continuing education and professional development, ensuring the dissemination of research-based best practices; Better linkages between early childhood preparatory coursework at community colleges and fouryear institutions; Establishment of a workforce commission similar to the one established in Title V of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; and Consistent data collection by states on the early childhood workforce that is a coordinated effort with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop uniform and reliable data. Program Quality/Program Accreditation/Facilities To ensure high quality, program monitoring should extend beyond simple compliance with health and safety standards. Programs should have transparent, clearly delineated standards that provide guidance in areas such as appropriate teacher qualifications, wide availability of various curricular resources and provision of social services for families. This will help to ensure continuous compliance and improvement as well as accountability for how public funds are spent. Standards should include a common definition for levels of quality, safe and age-appropriate facilities, coherence among programs, and widespread best practices. Plans developed at both the state and district levels that describe accreditation or licensure of early childhood education and care programs, program quality standards, and health and safety standards; Implementation of clear and specific program standards for infants, toddlers and preschoolers; and School construction funds both to states and districts to ensure that public elementary schools have sufficient and adequate facilities in which to house early childhood education and care programs.

6 Transitioning Services Currently, there is little or no coordination and connection among various early childhood education and care programs, their funding and policies, and their targeted communities. Such a nonsystem results in programs and policies that often are redundant and/or contradictory, and largely divorced from one another and from the K-12 system. Common program standards and alignment to the early grades of elementary school would ensure better program delivery; decrease duplication of services; communicate shared goals for what infants, toddlers and preschoolers need to thrive and succeed; and make their transition to elementary school easier. An integrated birth-to-grade 3 system that focuses on: Common articulation of goals (i.e., common language, agreed-upon universal systems and processes) on academic standards, curriculum, program standards, professional development, comprehensive social services, etc.; Frequent communication across the various stages/grade levels among teachers, program staff and parents about the academic, cognitive, and social-emotional abilities, progress and needs of all children in the program. A systematic and coordinated data collection system for children s assessment and progress results that is readily available to teachers for data-driven instruction and interventions; and Systematic and coordinated record keeping that ensures the easy transfer, sharing, and access of a child s information throughout every stage of early childhood education and care.

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