Here are the four strategies:
1. First, align quality and access by addressing the inequities that are a result of historical distinctions between child care and early education.The growth in publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs is enormously important, but these programs will only partially support seamless experiences for children as long as serious gaps in quality and access remain for infants, toddlers, 3-year-olds, and children in before and after school care. Financing mechanisms must simultaneously address family needs for child care and family support and children’s needs for high quality learning experiences.
2. Second, address the different expectations for professional preparation, professional development, and compensation across settings and sectors. Children deserve skilled teachers and caregivers regardless of how their program is funded—whether child care, Head Start, state preK or school funding formula.
We recommend the NAEYC Early Childhood Professional Preparation Standards as a unifying framework. These evidence-based standards specify what all those working with young children birth through age 8 should know and be able to do. They start with a focus on child development, within the context of culture and community, and address family engagement, effective curriculum, intentional teaching, appropriate assessment and professionalism. The same standards apply across associate, baccalaureate and advanced degrees. When NAEYC implements these standards through accreditation, practicum experience is required in two of the three age groups—infant/toddler, preschool, and kindergarten/primary, critical to promoting a seamless continuum.
A common knowledge base is critically important, but children will not experience seamlessness without ensuring compensation parity for those with comparable responsibilities across settings. Until we have seamless opportunities for professional preparation and career advancement across the birth to 8 continuum, we cannot expect seamlessness for children.
3. Third, integrate early care and education practice with Kindergarten through third grade practice. Educational quality and outcomes would improve substantially if elementary teachers incorporated the best of preschool’s practices (for example, attention to the whole child; integrated, meaningful learning; and parent engagement) and if preschool teachers made more use of elementary school practices that are equally valuable, such as robust content and attention to learning progressions in curriculum and teaching.
4. Finally, and perhaps most important, ensure that teachers and administrators across the birth to 8 continuum reflect the diversity of children they serve and have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to help all children achieve their full potential.