Last week the Pre-K Coalition, a coalition of leading education advocacy groups, called on the U.S. Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) with a robust focus on early education policy.

Jon Millerhagen, who is an NAESP member and is  principal of Washburn Elementary School in Bloomington, Minnesota, participated in the congressional briefing panel that marked the unveiling of the Pre-K Coalition report of recommendations for early education policies entitled Ensuring America’s Future, Policy Recommendations and Statements from National Education Organizations. This report elevates the profile of early learning as a school improvement strategy by providing examples of best practices and information about technical assistance to support pre-K-3 alignment efforts at the state and local levels. Congress now has a place to turn to understand why supporting early education is so important.  

Millerhagen is well-qualified to discuss the principal’s role in developing an early learning strategy. The school he leads embodies a national model of “policy to practice” in pre-K-3  integration by successfully aligning pre-kindergarten with the primary grades.

“I came to realize if I wanted to increase the performance of my kindergarten through third grade students, I needed to develop a preschool program in my building,” said Millerhagen.

By dedicating federal resources to early learning strategies, states and districts can develop coordinated services that focus on areas of access, workforce, and program quality without compromising existing resources and services.

NAESP has long been an advocate of building a continuum of learning from pre-K to grade 3 and will continue to work to strengthen federal policies that support professional development for principals in early childhood education. The NAESP Foundation’s new report, Building and Supporting an Aligned System: A Vision for Transforming Education Across the Pre-K-Grade Three Years, recommends 10 steps that address funding, federal and state policy integration, workforce development, and standards and assessments for young children to guide the process of aligning early childhood and elementary education.

The Pre-K Coalition is a collaboration of the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association to develop consensus on pre-kindergarten policy goals.

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