High-quality early learning is the building block for student achievement. But for it to support a strong foundation for students, it has to be aligned with primary grades and federal policy.
At an NAESP-sponsored briefing this week, experts discussed these principles and other recommendations put forth by the new report, “Building and Supporting an Aligned System: A Vision for Transforming Education Across the Pre-K-Grade Three Years.”
“Pre-K to grade 3 education requires an approach that puts children’s learning first,” said Gail Connelly, NAESP executive director and one of the briefing’s panelists. “If we as a nation are serious about reducing the appalling—and costly—dropout rate, we must provide the steady support children need when they are 3 and 4—not waiting until they’re 13 and 14 and in deep academic trouble.”
Connelly was joined in the briefing by Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation, John Welsh, principal of Bremerton, Washington’s Naval Avenue Early Learning Center and NAESP immediate past president Barbara Chester, a principal in Portland, Oregon.
The report, developed by the NAESP Foundation’s Task Force on Early Learning with support from the ING Foundation, offers ten steps to strengthen early learning, including streamlining federal policy and regulations, boosting funding for pre-kindergarten through 3rd grade learning and aligning a continuum of research-based standards for young learners’ development.
Welsh stressed that principals are key stakeholders in this alignment, because they serve as a bridge between the early learning and K-12 community.