What are Your 2020 Teaching Resolutions for Early Learning Impact?

Use the planning tool available on the PK3TeachLeadGrow website to begin 2020 by celebrating “What’s Working for Early Learning” in your classroom as well as concentrating on your next steps in your professional practice. Consider these five early learning ESSENTIAL teaching areas, using the templates that are provided in the planning tool, to determine what in you practice gives off positive feelings (+), presents growth opportunities (Δ), or might even be an area of challenge for you and your kiddos right now ().  Now that you have taken stock of your teaching/learning approach, determine some priorities and action steps for the upcoming months! For each of the key five areas documented here, identify one or two priorities with aligned next steps.  They may be positives into which you want to put more energy, negatives you want to correct, or ambiguities that need more investigation. Then, jot down a concrete plan to address each priority in the action planning template below. Think big, develop specific steps and have fun imagining what these priorities can “look and sound like” for you and your students in 2020 ☺!

The Game That Can Spot Preschoolers at Risk for Reading Deficits

What if a short digital game for young children could help lower the high school drop out rate? That’s a long-range goal of a new effort by a team from Boston Children’s Hospital in collaboration with Florida State University, which has developed a 15 to 20-minute game that tests children’s early literacy skills and generates a red flag for those in need of extra support.  Research shows if a child is not reading by the end of third grade, they are far more likely to drop out of high school, which means early support can be critical. Called the Boston Children’s Hospital Early Literacy Screener, the new game is administered on a touchscreen tablet. Kids as young as 4-years-old do tasks geared at assessing their literacy skills with the help of on-screen cartoon animals. Those include touching the picture that matches the word that is said out loud, identifying rhyming words, and finding the picture that matches a spoken sentence.

Bolstering California’s Increased Focus on Early Childhood, Statewide Commission Releases Final Recommendations

As California lawmakers consider Gov. Gavin Newsom’s early childhood proposals, a new report lays out the goals that parents, advocates and early childhood experts believe are needed to serve the state’s youngest children. The final report of the California Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education, released Monday, sets out a long-term vision for how to overhaul the early childhood education system in California, with short-term and mid-term milestones along the way. For example, it sets a long-term goal of universal access to early education, meaning eventually every child, regardless of income, should be able to enroll in preschool, but focuses on expanding access first to children in low-income families. At least 25 early childhood bills are currently under discussion in the Legislature. Many of them would move toward the goals laid out by the Blue Ribbon Commission.

P-3 and State Policy

In concept, “alignment” sounds promising. It can be difficult to operationalize, however, especially for state policymakers. The National P-3 Center strives to make sense of states’ roles in P-3 work. For example, from 2017-2019, funded by the Nevada Department of Education’s Preschool Development Grant (PDG), we conducted a review of the B-3* alignment of state-level policy plans in Nevada. The analysis and recommendations can be accessed here. We analyzed two key policy documents from the Nevada Department of Education (NDE) that primarily frame K-3/K-12 policy efforts; one policy document from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that primarily frames key services for the 0-5 age range and child care programs; and one document from the state’s inter-agency Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) that works to strengthen state-level coordination and collaboration among and across agencies, sectors, and programs that serve children, birth through age eight.

New State Commission to Examine Early Childhood Education Funding

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday announced a new commission to study the state’s early childhood education system. The 29-member group is made up of several state legislators along with the state superintendent of education and other advocates, providers and school officials. Leading the charge on one of the governor’s campaign promises, the commission is tasked with offering recommendations on how to better use state funds for early childhood services. Pritzker, whose 2020 legislative wish list includes the expansion of those services, said he has an “audacious goal” for the group: “Illinois will become the best state in the nation for families raising young children.” Pritzker said many of the modern standards for early childhood education were developed in Illinois but acknowledged that the state hasn’t quite been able to “reach every child.”

PreK-3rd Grade Alignment in California School Districts 

A new study by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) examined these questions. The authors interviewed representatives from 25 districts that have preschools on one or more of their elementary campuses. They found many of the “common suspects” that plague P-3 alignment across the country: Disparate beliefs among district leaders about the role and purpose of PreK; limited involvement of PreK directors in district administrative structures; limited formal responsibilities for PreK for elementary principals; and different licensing requirements, regulations, and funding streams. The authors make policy recommendations for both the state of California and for school districts. These recommendations include incentivizing districts to engage in alignment work, adding early childhood education training to administrator credentials, streamlining PreK state licensing requirements, offering PreK directors significant roles in district administrative structures, aligning curriculum and assessment across PreK and early elementary grades, and more.

Study: Preschool Expansion Leads to Gains for Massachusetts Children

A federally funded preschool partnership between five Massachusetts school districts and community-based early-childhood programs led to positive impacts on young children’s early academic performance, especially literacy and math skills, according to a study released Wednesday. Gains were strongest among children whose home language was not English and who didn’t have any prior early-learning classroom experience, according to the researchers with Abt Associates, who compared a sample of children who entered the Preschool Expansion Grant program in 2016-17 with a group that just missed the age cutoff date for that year. Effects on vocabulary were smaller, but still significant, while effects on executive function were not significant. Collaboration between the districts and the preschool centers allowed them to “quickly implement multiple quality components,” according to the study. Early educators also had access to professional learning opportunities, coaching and paid release time for planning, which contributed to a “rich learning environment for children,” the researchers wrote.