Transforming Early Learning in Grades Pre-K -3
We must reinvent childhood—again. The pendulum has swung wide from a play-based model to a targeted academic model where kindergarten now features rigorous curriculum, standards and assessments. What elementary and middle level principals know from decades of experience and from their day to day work with children is that we need to re-think, re-orient and re-work our approach to early childhood education and now focus on the child’s perspective and address their many developmental needs.
We know that quality pre-K is an essential building block for young children. The U.S. Department of Education asserts that “empirical studies have proven that investments in high-quality early learning are among the most cost-effective of any investment along the educational pipeline, returning as high as 15-17 percent on the investment each year.”
Now how we approach early childhood education—and align it to a pre-K-3 continuum—will form the foundation for each child’s success. And now, in the face of relentless accountability pressures, principals are yearning to adjust the approach to be firmly child-centered.
We imagine a quality early childhood education that is filled with play, creativity, early literacy and numeracy, music and art, physical activity and time to nurture, support and stretch each child’s social and emotional growth. We know this time is critical to lay the foundation that fosters intellectual curiosity, personal responsibility and critical life skills.
As principals increasingly welcome four-year olds (and sometimes three-year-olds) into their buildings, they need an expanded vision, support, professional development and methodologies to assess quality in early childhood classrooms. In 2005, NAESP published the publication, Leading Early Childhood Learning Communities, stating that principals must “see the need to be strongly involved in learning before kindergarten and first grade. Principals help create the opportunity for high-quality full-day kindergarten and high-quality early childhood education for all students —within public schools or through other early care and education providers in communities.”
NAESP now has a unique opportunity to play a leadership role in reframing early childhood education, advocating for early childhood programs, linking school and community programs and resources, recognizing exemplary early childhood leaders, and ensuring quality experiences for children in schools and classrooms.
What the NAESP Early Childhood Task Force Seeks To Do
The Task Force brings myriad perspectives together to advise principals on high-leverage strategies to improve and align early childhood education and help position principals in the Administration’s push for an evidence-based system of professional development to prepare an effective and well-qualified workforce of early educators, including appropriate levels of training, education, and credentials.
Members of the Task Force include:
Celia Ayala, Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles Universal Preschool
Barbara Bowman (Co-Chair), Co-Founder and Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development for the Erikson Institute and Chief Early Childhood Education Officer for Chicago Public Schools
Jerlean Daniel, Executive Director, National Association for the Education of Young Children
Harriet Dichter, Acting Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare
Steven Dow, Executive Director, Community Action Project, OK
Ellen Frede, Co-Director, National Institute for Early Education Research
Lisa Guernsey, Director, Early Education Initiative New America Foundation
Deborah Leong, Professor of Psychology, Metropolitan State College of Denver
Lillian Lowery, DOE Secretary of Education
Sharon Lynn Kagan, Co-Director, National Center for Children and Families at Teachers College
Sharon Ritchie, Senior Scientist, FPG Child Development Institute, National Center for Early Development & Learning
Nina Sazer O’Donnell, Vice President, Education at United Way Worldwide
Tom Schultz, Director of Early Childhood, Council of Chief State School Officers
Fred Storti, Executive Director, Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association
Ruby Takanishi, President & CEO, Foundation for Child Development
Greg Taylor, Vice President of Programs, W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Pilar Torres, Executive Director, Centro Familia
Beth Welke (Co-Chair), Pre K-3 Principal, Deerfield Primary School
John Welsh, Principal, Naval Avenue Early Learning Center
Marci Young, Project Director, Pre-K Now
The Task Force will meet three times over an 8-month period to outline recommendations and strategies for principals that would form the foundation of a white paper and related practitioner resources. Click here to read the Task Force Report and learn more about our Advocacy work.