by Kyle Snow, Ph.D. and Lauren Hogan
Recent findings from an evaluation of Tennessee’s voluntary pre-k programs have prompted waves of commentary from a host of national and state media. The headlines include words like “shocking,” “bucks conventional wisdom,” “calls into question,” and “Spinach vs. Easter grass” (thanks, NPR). Why all the hubbub?
What the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-k Found
Researchers at Vanderbilt University have been studying the short and longer- term effects of a state funded, voluntary pre-k program for children the year before they enroll in kindergarten. The full report is worth a read, but here is what they have found, very briefly:
1. Upon kindergarten entry, children attending the pre-K programs scored higher on assessments of math and literacy, and were rated by their kindergarten teachers as more social and behaviorally ready for school than where children who had not attended the public pre-k program. Not a surprise – this effect is pretty consistently reported.
2. Children who were dual language learners seemed to benefit more from the pre-k program. Not a big surprise- other pre-K studies have found similar effects (e.g., Oklahoma public pre-k found immediate effects, and larger effects for Hispanic children).
3. By the end of the kindergarten year, these differences had vanished – children who were not in the pre-k program had “caught-up” with children who had been in the pre-k programs. This continued to be the case at the end of first grade. Not a big surprise – there is evidence of this catch-up effect elsewhere, especially in the Head Start Impact Study.
4. By second grade, children who had not been in the pre-k program were scoring higher than program children on the academic assessments and were rated more positively by their teachers. This was the big surprise.
What might the Tennessee Voluntary Pre-K Study Mean for Early Education
Let’s start with a critical message from the research team: “Our findings on the follow‐up effects of TN‐VPK participation were unexpected. We interpret them cautiously recognizing, as distinguished evaluation researchers have noted, that no single study, no matter how carefully done, produces definitive results. But we would also note that, just because the results of an evaluation do not support a currently popular view, it does not mean that they are wrong” (p. 38). So, let’s consider these findings in the context of other research while also considering how these surprising findings may make sense.
The quality of the program matters.
The authors note that the policies governing the public pre-K program in Tennessee compare favorably against the NIEER benchmarks (See the TN state profile for 2009-2012, the year study children were in pk, here. However, the authors noted that children’s actual experiences varied in quality and certainly, as the program’s enrollment was dramatically increased, the overall quality may have dropped. It is possible that the quality of the public pre-K is high enough to create short-term change, but not sustained impact. Economists Greg Duncan and Katherine Magnuson have published research on the effects of 84 preschool studies that address questions of scale and quality. They find that the effects for “model programs” that are comprehensive and have high per-child funding allocations – Abecedarian and the Perry Preschool/High Scope preschool program for example – were substantially higher than larger-scale programs. All pre- k programs are not created equal.
All of the years from birth through eight matter.
The finding of a substantial but not sustained effect due to pre-k compels us to move away from thinking of high quality pre-K as a “once and done” model for closing early disparities. In considering a similar phenomena among programs designed to help struggling readers, in a 1995 paper, Tim Shanahan and Rebecca Barr introduced this medical analogy:
“early interventions are supposed to operate like a vaccination, preventing all future learning problems, no matter what their source or severity. It appears, however, that early interventions, no matter how successful, are more similar to insulin therapy. That is, substantial treatment effects are apparent right away, but these gains can be maintained only through additional intervention and support” (p. 982)
We need to move away from the inoculation model of early childhood and recognize that while single programs can have immediate effects, the only way to have prolonged impact is to maintain support. As noted in NAEYC’s mission, we must “promote high quality early learning for all children, birth through age 8…” This means a focus on comprehensive services for children before they enter school through 3rd grade, including the critical alignment between pre-K to 3rd grade that the study authors note.
What can we learn from these findings?
A critical lever in the bipartisan –fueled expansion of public pre-k is the knowledge that doing so is a sound economic investment, which is one reason why we see policymakers and parents across the country calling for expanded and increased investments in early childhood education. Studies like this one can help us make these investments count.
As the study authors noted, policymakers should remember that classrooms observed in the study were diverse in their approaches — and that much can still be learned from the classrooms that did see positive impacts on students in later grades. This means that there were classrooms in Tennessee that saw and continue to see positive impacts on students that are both immediate and long-lasting. These findings can add to research in states like Georgia and Oklahoma that have experience in taking public pre-k programs to scale to guide future efforts to move towards larger programs. They will also help us move from broad effectiveness studies to more “realist” evaluations that ask, “what works, for whom, under what circumstances?” The study authors will be conducting further evaluation of 160 VPK classrooms to ascertain what qualities most helped children in kindergarten, first, second and third grades. This data will be deeply valuable to policymakers and program leaders as investment in early childhood continues to expand – and we can’t wait to see what they find.
Kyle Snow, Ph.D. is the Director Center for Applied Research at NAEYC. Lauren Hogan is the Senior Director for Public Policy and Advocacy at NAEYC.
It's with great sadness that we share that early childhood education advocate and icon Gwen Morgan passed away on September 4, 2015. She was such an incredibly important person to NAEYC and the field. We are happy to share this reflection on Gwen's life written by Barbara Willer, Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives at NAEYC.
Gwen Morgan did so many things and so many things well. She was an amazing, visionary woman whose life’s work transformed the field of early care and education.
From her earliest days as a program director, Gwen worked to build effective systems for early care and education. Gwen was a founding “mother” of the child care resource and referral movement services. She co-founded Work/Family Directions, a company that encouraged and supported corporations to address work/family issues, including child care. Involving corporate leaders helped build broader recognition of the importance of early care and education and assisted thousands of families access higher quality services. As a faculty member at Wheelock College, she served as a mentor not only to her students but also to many others in the field.
Gwen’s conceptual leadership was legendary. She was uncanny in her ability to take complex issues and distill them into clear images that fostered greater understanding. Two that immediately come to mind are the 3-legged stool to describe the interrelationship of quality of child care, the compensation received by child care staff, and affordability for parents and the leaky funnel that described the inadequacies of increasing professional development without addressing compensation—many people enter the field, but when they leave because of inadequate compensation, investments in their professional development are also lost along the way.
Gwen was elected to the NAEYC Governing Board in 1982, serving until 1986. Talk about a pivotal time for the association: the NAEYC Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation was launched; the first position statements on nomenclature, licensing, and developmentally appropriate practice were adopted; and the first staff hired specifically dedicated to public policy and advocacy (I was that lucky staff person!). One of my responsibilities was to support the Public Policy Committee, and so I worked closely with her as a key member of that committee. Gwen gave me a crash course in child care licensing as the committee consolidated earlier statements on licensing of family child care and centers into a comprehensive statement on licensing and regulation.
In the early 1990s, Gwen established the Center for Career Development at Wheelock College that worked to build state professional development systems, once again a trailblazer for a burgeoning area of interest. The Center worked collaboratively with NAEYC on efforts to develop and implement an effective, coordinated delivery system of early childhood professional preparation. I
Ironically, Gwen’s death comes at a time of renewed focus on building consensus on national definitions for the profession. In many ways, her life’s work provided the foundation for these efforts—it’s about addressing the 3-legged stool and the leaky funnel effectively and comprehensively so that all children have access to high-quality early learning through systems that are sufficiently funded to attract, prepare, support, and retain a diverse, highly skilled workforce. Nothing would honor Gwen more than accomplishing this goal.
To honor Gwen and her extensive career as an advocate and early childhood leader, NAEYC invites you to make a memorial donation to the Lasting Legacy Leadership fund.
Every fall, many children reach a milestone - they start kindergarten. While the first day of school may bring images of a common experience, not only does kindergarten differ for children today from what we may recall as adults, it differs for children based upon where they happen to live. Here are ten facts about kindergarten as we start the 2015-2016 school year:
1. Number of children expected to enroll in kindergarten in the US in fall 2015: 3.7 million. (Source)
2. Number of children to be enrolled in prekindergarten programs: 1.3 million. In 1990, 25 years ago, 303,000 children were enrolled in public prekindergarten programs. (Source)
3. Number of states requiring school districts to offer ½ day kindergarten: 34.
4. Number of states requiring full day kindergarten: 11 plus D.C.
5. Number of states not requiring districts to offer kindergarten: 5 (Alaska, Idaho, New York, Pennsylvania; in New Jersey, only the Abbott districts must offer kindergarten). (Source)
6. Number of states requiring children to attend kindergarten: 15 states plus DC (35 do not). (Source)
7. September 1 – the most common birthdate by which children must turn 5 to be eligible to enroll in kindergarten (19 states). (Source)
8. The birth date cut-off ranges from as early as July 31 (Hawaii, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota) to as late as January 1 (Connecticut). (Source)
9. As of May 2014, the average salary for a kindergarten teacher was $53,480. (Source)
10. 15% of children entering kindergarten for the first time in fall 2010 spoke a language other than English as the primary language in their home (Source)
Kyle Snow, Ph.D is the Director of the NAEYC Center for Applied Research
How do we prevent bullying? Despite decades of study and numerous programs claiming to be the solution to bullying, few programs have actually been shown to be effective. One of the main issues is that “bullying prevention” is often a misnomer; instead of trying to stop the behavior before it begins, the focus of many programs is on reducing already high rates of bullying. By the time students enter sixth grade, the earliest grade for which nationally representative data is collected, nearly 28 percent report having been targeted in the past year. For younger children, data are far more limited, but suggestive. The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence found that 20.4 percent of children ages 2-5 had experienced physical bullying in their lifetime and 14.6 percent had been teased (verbally bullied).
To actually prevent bullying before it starts, we need to focus on how bullying behaviors develop—for those engaging in bullying behaviors and those being targeted—starting in early childhood. Child Trends recently conducted a literature review and convened an expert roundtable, which NAEYC took part in, to document current understandings of the roots of bullying in early childhood. We identified key contextual factors linked to bullying behaviors, promising and evidence-based programs that help address emerging behavior, and the need for further research.
Research on bullying and early childhood development is limited. When we talk about bullying, the early childhood audience is often forgotten. There remains immense debate in the field about how to distinguish between typical, sometimes aggressive behavior that young children show and the more strategic and deliberate behaviors that define bullying. In preparing their uniform definition of bullying, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defined bullying as being between “school-aged youth,” recognizing that the behaviors observed in young children are often not what we traditionally think of as bullying, but are developmental in nature, as children first begin to navigate interactions with peers. Many young children who are aggressive with their peers will not engage in bullying behaviors in later childhood and adolescence. Likewise, being the target of an aggressive behavior does not mean that child will be victimized for life. Still, these early aggressions (and conversely, the early skills of sharing, listening, and empathy) are precursors to later behavior, and it is important to intervene early. More research is needed to understand the trajectory of early aggression into bullying behaviors.
Despite the limited literature, four key factors consistently seemed to be related to bullying behaviors in young children:
1) Parents’ treatment of each other, their children, and others influences how young children treat their peers. Specifically, parents’ use of harsh discipline and children’s exposure to domestic violence are related to increases in bullying behavior, while parents’ positive engagement in their children’s lives, such as through interactive play, reading, and meals together, seems to be protective against bullying behavior. Parents serve as role models for their children, and modeling empathy, concern, and care for others may help deter later bullying. Resources such as those provided by the Making Caring Common Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education can help parents expand their own “circle of concern” and help their children do so, too. (It should be noted here that the majority of current research looks at the behaviors and characteristics of mothers; studies looking at the role of fathers are more limited, primarily because mothers are more likely to be the primary caregiver for young children and more likely to respond to the research. Some effort is being made, however, to address the role of fathers in bullying prevention.)
2) Young children exposed to maltreatment are more likely to be involved in bullying, both as the target and the aggressor. Not only can maltreatment change children’s behaviors, it has been shown to fundamentally alter the development of young children’s brain structures, which can lead to developmental deficits including in the social and emotional domains. Early intervention is critical to help stem these delays. Adults and Children Together (ACT) Against Violence Raising Safe Kids, an evidence-based program specifically aimed at helping reduce child maltreatment and promote positive parenting strategies, is one approach that shows promise.
3) Television and other media can contribute to the development of both aggression and pro-social skills. Screen time for your children is one of the most debated subjects among early childhood advocates. Research shows that increased television watching is related to increases in aggressive behavior even if the content is not inherently violent. Conversely, when shows are specifically designed to promote skills such as sharing, empathy, and other pro-social skills—shows like Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, or in past generations, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood—children are more likely to engage in these behaviors after viewing.
4) Building young children’s social and emotional skills and promoting welcoming classrooms can significantly reduce aggression. Evaluations of several evidence-based social and emotional learning programs for young children, such as PATHS for Preschool, Second Step, and Al’s Pals, show that helping children understand and control their own emotions, and understand those of others, can significantly reduce conflict and aggression. Even without these formalized interventions, teachers of young children (and parents for that matter) can work to reduce bullying behaviors. The Guidance Matters column in the professional journal Young Children provides a number of resources that can support these efforts.
Overall, it is clear that more attention needs to be paid to identifying, researching, and preventing the roots of bullying behavior in young children. It is only when we recognize that bullying behaviors do not simply appear in elementary or middle school, but may be part of a developmental trajectory, that will we be able to stop bullying.
This blog entry is also posted on the Child Trends web site.
It is with a heavy heart that I share that Gail Perry, Editor of NAEYC’s Voices of Practitioners, passed away on July 22, 2015. Gail, who received her doctorate from Harvard, joined NAEYC in 2006. She brought with her a highly impressive and incredibly well respected 50-year career in early childhood education. She was a passionate early childhood advocate and researcher who participated in discussions that led to the creation of Head Start.
In addition, Gail taught at the graduate and undergraduate level, consulted, and researched a range of topics, including classroom discourse, the Reggio Emilia approach, and teacher research. Gail authored numerous books, book chapters, and articles, including writing “Alternate Modes of Teacher Preparation,” which appeared in Continuing Issues in Early Childhood Education; editing Our Inquiry, Our Practice: Undertaking, Supporting, and Learning From Early Childhood Teacher Research(ers), with Barbara Henderson and Daniel R. Meier; and contributing to Early Childhood Education: The countries, by Moncrieff Cochran. The most recent issue of Voices of Practitioners, volume 10, edition 2, was issued just last week.
Gail Perry was also revered and deeply appreciated for her dedication as a colleague and for her mentorship of others. In fact, Debra Murphy dedicated her dissertation to Gail in 2013. Anna Golden, recently wrote about Gail’s mentorship in a blog post, Thoughts about a Mentor: Gail Perry which we are sharing below. The world of early childhood education will forever be changed as a result of her contributions, and she will be deeply missed by her friends and colleagues.
- Rhian Evans Allvin
To donate to NAEYC in Gail's name visit: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/GailPerryMemorialNAEYC
Thoughts About a Mentor: Gail Perry of NAEYC
If we're lucky, we all have a few people in our lives who help us go further than we could on our own.
Gail Perry is the long time New Book Editor at NAEYC, but I know her as the Editor of 'Voices of the Practitioners'. I am so grateful to Gail, not only for publishing such wonderful work, but also for her nurturing care and attention while editing my own work. I can't imagine a better editor for a first piece of published writing. Gail applied her skill as a researcher, book editor combined with a wealth of knowledge about young children. She really shepherded me and other authors through the whole process.
Gail told me a few stories about her most loved and admired Mother, Alice Coe Mendham Powell, a fascinating woman who was a classmate of Margaret Mead, worked for the rights of domestic workers and became the wife of a diplomat who served in the Roosevelt administration. After studying anthropology and child development, and meeting John Dewey and traveling with him in Russia in the 1928s, Alice came to believe that education was the engine of social change. She founded the Green Acres School outside of Washington In 1934. This school was ground-breaking because it was open to all children, used a sliding scale for tuition, and because it brought John Dewey's progressive ideas to to the nation's capitol. Gail grew up at this school, which was located on a farm where the family also lived. Green Acres school continues today (www.greenacres.org/history.pdf).
This blog post was originally published on Anna Golden's blog.
by: Kyle Snow, Ph.D.
In 2015, the Apple App Store included more than 80,000 apps classified as education or learning-based. These apps are finding a ready audience. A 2013 survey by Common Sense Media found that 58% of parents of young children had downloaded apps, a number that is certainly higher today. A 2014 report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center found that just over half of parents thought their children learned “a lot” from educational technologies, but they also said they were looking for guidance on how to choose educational apps from trusted sources.
How do we know whether an app is educational?
Most online sources for apps include customer reviews. Web sites like Common Sense Media and Children’s Technology Review provide reviews as well. But to date there has not been a clear view about what makes an app educational, creating what some have called “the digital wild west.”
Applying the Science of Learning to defining education apps
A recently published paper by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and her colleagues provides a frame for evaluating the learning potential within apps. They describe four “pillars” of learning from the emerging research field called Science of Learning. These pillars describe the best circumstances for children’s learning. They are:
1. Active Learning - This is not just physical activity, but mental activity. Simply tapping or swiping to make something happen on the screen is not as “minds on” as moving images around to complete a puzzle or word, for example. Many apps get children touching the screen physically without much active learning.
2. Engagement in the learning process – Engaging in the learning process means not just getting the child’s attention, but also holding it on those elements of the app that support learning, and avoid distractions. As the authors write, in many apps, “animations, sound effects, and tangential games might be appealing to a child when activated but not add to the child’s understanding of the primary content because they disrupt the coherence of the learning experience and the child’s engagement.”
3. Meaningful learning – Learning occurs when it connects directly to the child. It could be meaningful because it is directly relevant to the child, because it relates to things the child already knows, or because it provides information the child was looking for.
4. Social interaction – Apps can allow for social interaction in several ways: (1) children can interact in-person with the app as a focus of their interaction; (2) multiple users can engage in the app at one time, interacting through the app but not in-person; and, (3) children can interact with characters in the app itself.
Not all apps are educational
While many apps can be active, engaging, meaningful, and interactive, the apps that produce deep learning are those with a designed educational goal that guides the child’s learning. Apps that hold children’s attention and engage them can lead to deep learning if they are built around an educational goal that is appropriate for the child. Some apps can be effective at engaging children, but without an educational goal built into the experience do not lead to deep learning. What is appealing about the model described by Hirsh-Pasek and her colleagues is that is recognizes that apps can be used by children for many purposes – to engage in an educational process and learn, or to be engaged in technology in ways that are playful.
How to use this research
While there continues to be debate around young children’s exposure to technology, it is clear that technology, and apps marketed as educational, are here to stay. The framework provided by Hirsh-Pasek and her colleagues can be a valuable guide to parents and teachers making choices between apps should they choose to use them. It also provides a framework for developers to consider in designing apps that are highly appealing for young children and can support deep learning.
Parents and teachers can use this framework to evaluate apps that children are using. Applying the four pillars to other information from review sites can guide intentional choices about what apps to allow children to use and which ones to avoid.
Developers can use these pillars to guide the design and implementation of apps that can maximize the potential for learning while clearly providing an educational goal.
Guidance on how to use technology with young children
- Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 - A joint position statement issued by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College
- Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight—Research-based Guidelines for Screen Use for Children Under 3 Years Old - A White Paper from Zero to Three
- A framework for quality digital media for young children - Fred Rogers Center
- Linn, S., Wolfsheimer Almon, J., & Levin, D. (2012). Facing the screen dilemma. Young children, technology and early education. Boston, MA: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. New York, NY: Alliance for Childhood.
- Guernsey, L. (2012). Screen time: How electronic media—from baby videos to educational software―affects your young child. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Kyle Snow, Ph.D is the Director of the NAEYC Center for Applied Research
by: Kyle Snow, Ph.D
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) released its annual State Preschool Yearbook. The NIEER Yearbook has chronicled the number of state programs providing early education to 3- and 4-years-olds since 2003 and has become a key source of data on early care and education generally. Here are 12 numbers of interest from the 2014 Yearbook:
1. 40 states plus the District of Columbia offer public preschool programs.
2. 53 state-funded programs operating in 40 states plus DC fund preschool programs serving 3- or 4-year-old children.
3. 1.3 million children attended state-funded pre-K in 2014; 1.1 million were 4-year olds and 200,000 were 3-year-olds.
4. 41.5% of all 4-year-olds were enrolled in state-funded or Head Start programs.
5. 6 state programs meet all 10 NIEER benchmarks for quality.
6. 17 state programs meet 8 or more of the NIEER benchmarks for quality.
7. $5,556,840,884 – total amount of state preschool spending in 2014 for 3- and 4-year-olds (increase of approximately $120,000,0000 from 2013).
8. 75 – number of years it would take to enroll 50% of 4-year-olds in state pre-k programs at the current rate of growth.
9. 53 (out of 53) state programs include comprehensive early learning standards.
10. 30 (out of 53) state programs require teachers to have BA degrees (in ECE or related field)
11. 18 (out of 53) state programs require teaching assistants to hold a CDA or equivalent.
12. $2.2 billion – the difference between total funding for programs serving 4-year-olds in 2014 and what economist Tim Bartik estimates it would cost to provide those same children with consistently high quality programs today ($7.4 billion vs. $5.2 billion estimated for 4-year-olds only)
Kyle Snow, Ph.D is the Director of the NAEYC Center for Applied Research
By: Rhian Evans Allvin
Is early childhood education a profession? Is it a field? Are early childhood educators custodial caretakers, or are they supporting children’s development of cognitive and social and emotional skills based on significant hard science? Is there a name for the profession we can all agree to? When we define the profession, are we leaving people behind? By defining the profession and pushing for an increase in compensation and wages, are we pricing families out of high-quality early learning or demanding greater public investments? What thresholds of licensing, certification, and education will federal initiatives and state systems agree to? Are institutions of higher education preparing early childhood educators to be effective teachers of young children birth through third grade?
In the March 2015 issue of Young Children I announced the launch of NAEYC ’s Strategic Direction and outlined the first of five strategic priorities, High-Quality Early Learning. The second, and equally important, strategic priority is The Profession.
The goal is simple: “The early childhood education profession exemplifies excellence and is recognized as vital and performing a critical role in society.“
- Professional preparation and development for birth through age 8 educators is aligned and grounded in NAEYC’s standards and delivered in innovative ways.
- Skills, knowledge, competencies, and qualifications are agreed upon and used to define the early care and education profession.
- Early childhood professionals are diverse, effective educators and leaders working within a compensation and recognition system that supports their excellence.
- Professional development and preparation systems support seamless progression for early care and education professionals to advance their education, professional learning, and careers.
Despite the goal’s simplicity and straightforwardness, I believe it will take every bit of courage, open-mindedness, innovation, and political savvy we NAEYC members can muster to attain it. The conflicts run deep—agreeing on the threshold of basic skills and competencies required to be an early childhood educator, determining whether certain roles constitute a professional position, and deciding what certifications are necessary and whether they should vary by state. Finally, we have made little or no progress in ensuring that early childhood educators work in a system of compensation and recognition that supports their excellence.
“So,” skeptics may say, “why now? It’s not as if this goal hasn’t been proposed before.”
They are right. Our field has been addressing this goal for decades. In fact, within NAEYC there are reams of documentation and a rich history of discussions and similar initiatives. At the risk of seeming to see the world through rose-colored glasses, I argue that today is different. Today, as never before,
- Social scientists in early learning and developmentally appropriate practice are strongly supported by hard science—neuroscience—confirming that learning begins at birth
- Economists state clearly that there is a strong return on investment to society, families, and individuals when young children have access to high-quality early learning
- Significant federal, state, and local public funds have been invested in a system of early care and education
- Stakes are high for all young children—regardless of race, ethnicity, ability, or socioeconomic status—to start kindergarten ready to succeed in school and in life
- Seven in 10 Americans say they favor using federal money to make sure high-quality education programs are available for every child in the United States
This all bodes well for recognition of the important role of early childhood educators.
In the new Strategic Direction NAEYC confirms its eagerness to be an innovative, risk-taking organization. Engaging with politicians, influencing policy, building consensus, developing resources—all will be essential in reaching this goal for the profession. Many of NAEYC’s partnering organizations also recognize that our collective time has come. And while we set out on this journey toward professional excellence and recognition, here is a glimpse of several new resources that will guide us in the next months:
- NAEYC’s National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development, June 7–10, in New Orleans. The theme is The Early Childhood Profession We All Want: What Will It Take to Get Us There? You will want to be there to join in this conversation!
- Professionalizing Early Childhood Education As a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era, by Stacie Goffin. NAEYC is copublishing this title with Redleaf Press, for release in June (a comprehensive member benefit). Known for her clarity, purpose, and tireless advocacy, Stacie offers our field a roadmap for initiating a conversation from the inside out. Her premise is that we have to own this agenda rather than having a definition created for us.
- #InvestInUs. NAEYC will be using #InvestInUs during a six-week campaign to highlight teacher testimonials.
- NAEYC’s national marketing and behavioral research, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Richard W. Goldman Family Foundation. What motivates early childhood educators to make decisions about their careers? What messages about early childhood educators influence the perceptions and decisions of likely voters? And who are the messengers? Look for the release of these research results in fall 2015.
- Fall 2015 projects funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. A series of new resources are slated for release in the fall, including a national higher education directory, an online community for higher education faculty, and a pilot designed to test the expansion of NAEYC’s Early Childhood Associate Degree Accreditation (ECADA).
- The collection of articles in this issue of Young Children, which focuses on the theme Leadership: Supporting a New Generation of Early Childhood Professionals. This cluster offers diverse views of what it means to be a leader at this time of national emphasis on early childhood education, and provides specific strategies that emerging leaders can use to hone their leadership skills.
How the questions that open this column are answered is up to us—in our action (or inaction) to professionalize the field of early care and education. The resources listed above are just the beginning. I assure you NAEYC is totally committed. But it will take the entire field and our key stakeholders at the local, state, and national levels to move this agenda forward. So I leave you with a request: If this is a top priority for you, if you have waited way too long and have not seen nearly enough progress, what are you going to do in your role—tomorrow, next week, this year—to move the needle on behalf of yourself and your colleagues? Are you ready to join this movement?
Want more on quality early learning? Sign up to get the latest from NAEYC.
Rhian Evans Allvin is the Executive Director at NAEYC.
by Deanna Ramey
How do you demonstrate leadership in the field of early childhood education?
But wait,” you say, “how can I lead? I don’t know if I am really leadership material.” Have no fear. It is very likely that you are a stealth leader already.
The May 2015 issue of Young Children explores leadership issues and highlights the importance of encouraging a new generation of early childhood professionals to step into leadership roles. Whether you are new to the field or a seasoned veteran, now is the time to reveal your inner leader—and it may be easier than you think.
10 Ways to Tap Your Leadership Potential
1. Volunteer to create handouts about early education issues for families, the community, and other stakeholders.
2. Ask your director, manager, or principal for leadership opportunities.
3. Share your expertise by registering as a professional development provider.
4. Seek out opportunities to mentor preservice and induction-year teachers.
5. Present your expertise at state, regional, and national early childhood conferences.
6. Pursue leadership development programs offered through your school, district, or professional organization.
8. Join an NAEYC interest forum and volunteer to serve on a committee.
9. Contact your local NAEYC Affiliate about available leadership opportunities.
10. Engage in teacher research and submit your findings to Voices of Practitioners, NAEYC’s online teacher research journal.
Have you tried any of the items on this list? Share your experiences or tell us other ways you serve as a leader in early childhood education!
Deanna Ramey is the Journal Editor at NAEYC.
By Dr. Martha Cheney
Early childhood educators are poised at an exciting threshold of professionalism. The current focus on care and education for young children, along with the increased emphasis on accountability for PreK–12 educators, is shining a bright spotlight on the qualifications of those of us who work in this vitally important field. By taking the necessary steps to advance their knowledge and skills, early childhood educators can advance professional development, enhance the profile of the entire profession, and improve public perceptions of those who work in the field. As a program director of early childhood programs at Walden University, I work daily with students who want to make a real difference in the lives of young children and families and who are able to advance their own learning and marketability through achievement of a long-dreamed-of degree.
For those who work directly with young children in early childhood classroom settings, taking the next step on the learning ladder can build confidence and reinvigorate practice. Gaining new skills in such important areas as collaboration, leadership, brain research, and language and literacy development can boost teacher effectiveness and lead to improved outcomes for young children and families. Of perhaps equal importance, the pursuit of the next degree level provides excellent modeling of a commitment to lifelong learning for colleagues, parents of children in your setting, and to the children themselves.
Taking the next step
The increased knowledge and specialized skills that are acquired through continued learning and education can lead to opportunities beyond the classroom. When I began my career back in the 1970’s, work in the early childhood field was generally limited to teaching and caregiving. Since that time, the very notion of what it means to be a professional in the early childhood field has changed dramatically. The field continues to expand with new roles evolving across the multiple interconnected systems that serve young children and families. In addition to their critical roles as caregivers and teachers, early childhood professionals work in hospital and mental health services, in government and nonprofit agencies, and as parent educators in a variety of settings.
However, many early childhood educators may be reluctant to take that next step because of real or perceived barriers. In addition to typically long working hours, there are likely other personal responsibilities and commitments that make great demands on their time. It can seem daunting to add a program of study to an already exhaustive “to do” list. However, emerging models for degree programs provide a variety of options to meet the preferences and needs of adult learners. Public and private institutions offer traditional course-based programs, but these are not fully accessible to students who have limited transportation options, live in rural areas, have varying work schedules, or are caring for young children or elders in their own families.
A new way to learn
To help address these challenges, online programs offered by a variety of institutions provide greater access and flexibility for adult learners. In addition, new competency-based education (CBE) programs provide an exciting alternative to the course-based model. These programs allow early childhood educators to apply prior knowledge and skills gained through classroom practice as they progress through certificate and degree programs. Because they have traditionally been able to practice without formal degrees or certifications, many early childhood educators and caregivers have amassed years of valuable experience, but with little or no college credit. For these educators, competency-based programs may provide a more rapid and affordable pathway to degree completion. Walden University currently offers a CBE program for early childhood educators—the MS in Early Childhood Studies with a specialization in Administration, Management, and Leadership. Students in CBE programs demonstrate competency through authentic assessments instead of taking courses. This model enables them to leverage their prior knowledge and experience so that they can move through a program in less time. Students in CBE programs can focus on what they don’t know rather than what they do and progress through the program on their own schedule without deadlines. For students looking to find a CBE program, I’d recommend they look for accredited institutions that are approved to offer CBE and have previous experience in delivering high quality education programs as well as a history in delivering new and innovative learning models Equipped with the new knowledge, skills, and confidence that come with the pursuit of higher education and earning an advanced degree, early childhood educators can rightfully claim their role as professionals and promote a brighter future for children, families, and their beloved field.
Dr. Martha Cheney is the program director for the BS in Child Development, MAT in Early Childhood Education, MS in Early Childhood Studies, and Reading Endorsement K-12 programs in The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University. She’s previously taught at the university level both at Walden and at the University of Montana, Missoula’s school of education. Formerly a teacher, she began her career as a writer in educational publishing. She serves as a program reviewer for NAEYC and as a CAEP site visitor as part of the CAEP accreditation process.
To learn more about Tempo Learning and the competency-based M.S. in Early Childhood Studies program, visit www.waldenu.edu/programs/tempo-learning.