By the time a child starts elementary school, their bodies and brains have already gone through a vital period of growth and development that lays the groundwork for health and success in their adult years. In light of this, having access to high-quality early learning before elementary school is essential – however, the field continues to struggle with how to define “high quality.” The Alliance for Early Success and New America Education, along with more than thirty partners, have streamlined information about what makes a pre-K program high-quality and released their findings this week.
Bringing together a diverse cadre of early childhood groups, New America has generated 3 practices and 3 policies that they believe are indispensable to increasing quality in Pre-K programs. These practices and policies are meant to apply to all types of high quality early learning programs.
New America’s practices and policies are based on five evidence-based statements they had previously developed from commonalities among existing Pre-K frameworks, respected standards, and benchmarks.
Practices by educators in high-quality Pre-K settings must include these three abilities:
- Ability to establish positive relationships with children and families and engage in interactions with children that are nurturing and use positive language.
- Ability to use learning trajectories, which includes having a deep understanding of the content; knowledge of the way children think and learn about the content; and the ability to design and employ instructional tasks, curricula, and activities that effectively promote learning and development within and across domains and subject-matter areas.
- Ability to promote positive social development and self-regulation while mitigating challenging behaviors in ways that reflect an understanding of the multiple biological and environmental factors that affect behavior.
To ensure high-quality teaching and learning in Pre-K, policies should be written to include these three elements:
- Allocate increased, predictable, and sustainable funding to establish the conditions necessary for high-quality teaching and learning in Pre-K
- Provide educators with professional learning (preservice and in-service) that is based at a minimum on these core practices and in-service opportunities that are aligned with the definition of professional development in the Every Student Succeeds Act.
- Use high-quality data to build feedback loops at all levels for better continuity from 0-3 to Pre-K and Pre-K to K-3.
Ensuring that children have access to high-quality Pre-K program can foster development during a critical time in a child’s brain development. Having clear and actionable practices and policies is an essential step to ensuring more children have access to high-quality early learning.
You can read the full report, here.