Quality Early Education
In order for American businesses to compete successfully in a global economy, employees must have the knowledge, skills and abilities needed in an increasingly competitive global market, including the ability to be communicators, collaborators and critical thinkers. Research confirms that the foundation for social and fundamental education skills is developed during a child’s earliest years – between birth and the age of five.
Research on a few high-quality early education programs that followed their at-risk participants into adulthood show impressive results:
- Increased pre-math skills by as much as 21%;[i]
- Increased pre-reading skills by as much as 52% for all children and as much as 74% for low-income children;[ii]
- Cuts in special education placements by up to 43%;[iii]
- Increased graduation rates by as much as 44%;[iv] and
- Increased median earnings by as much as 36%.[v]
Early education programs across the United States include Early Head Start, Head Start and pre-kindergarten programs, both publicly and privately operated. A world-class workforce will be created through these programs because participants in them can make strong progress if the programs they attend are high-quality.
Ensuring that these early education programs achieve these outcomes requires that high quality standards be implemented in the programs as follows:
Highly-Skilled Teachers with Appropriate Compensation[vi]
Research shows that having skilled, capable early childhood teachers is essential to early childhood program quality. Stimulating and sensitive teachers provide higher-quality learning environments, which lead to improved cognitive and social outcomes for young children.
Comprehensive and Age-Appropriate Curricula[vii]
Classrooms should utilize an age-appropriate curricula that prepares children for their elementary school experience. Additionally, programs should be accredited by an independent, national accrediting body to ensure quality and effectiveness.
Strong Family Involvement and parent coaching[viii]
Family members must be included as partners in all aspects of the educational program, and efforts must be undertaken to ensure parental involvement and the coaching of parents to help them become better life-long teachers for their own children.
Small Class Size and Staff-to-Child Ratios to Ensure Each Child Gets Sufficient Attention[ix]
For preschool classrooms, the staff-to-child ratio should not be more than 10 children per teacher. In early learning settings for infants, the child-staff the ratio should not be more than three children per teacher, and for toddlers, not more than four children per teacher.
Screening and Referral Services for Developmental, Health, or Behavior Problems[x]
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, high quality evidence-based developmental screening tools can help identify children in need of services so that they can receive the treatment they need. High quality developmental screening tools are those that have been rigorously peer-reviewed to ensure that they are standardized, reliable, valid, and accurate.
[i] Gormley, W., Gayer, T., Phillips, D., & Dawson, B. (2004). The effects of Oklahoma’s Universal Pre-K Program on school readiness: An executive summary. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University, Center for Research on Children in the US. Retrieved on April 21, 2010 from http://www.crocus.georgetown.edu/reports/executive_summary_11_04.pdf
[ii] Gormley, W., Gayer, T., Phillips, D., & Dawson, B. (2004). The effects of Oklahoma’s Universal Pre-K Program on school readiness: An executive summary. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University, Center for Research on Children in the US. Retrieved on April 21, 2010 from http://www.crocus.georgetown.edu/reports/executive_summary_11_04.pdf
[iii] Barnett, W.S. (1985). Benefit-cost analysis of the Perry pre-school program and its policy implications. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 7, 333-342.
[iv] Schweinhart, L.J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., Barnett, W.S., Belfield, C.R., & Nores, M. (2005). Lifetime effects: The High Scope/Perry Preschool Study through age 40. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.
[v] Schweinhart, L.J., Montie, J., Xiang, Z., Barnett, W.S., Belfield, C.R., & Nores, M. (2005). Lifetime effects: The High Scope/Perry Preschool Study through age 40. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.
[vi] National National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, Jack P. Shonkoff & Deborah A. Phillips, eds. (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington, DC: Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development, Board on Children, Youth, and Families, Commision on Behavioral Sciences, National Academy Press.
[vii] Katz, L. (1999). Curriculum disputes in early childhood education. Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative; University of Illinois. Archive of ERIC/EECE Digest. Retrieved on April 21, 2010 http://www.ericdigests.org/2000-3/disputes.htm; Goffin, S. G., & Wilson, C. (2001). Curriculum models and early childhood education: Appraising the relationship (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.
[viii] Some examples of a strong parent-involvement component include the home visits in the High/Scope Perry Pre-kindergarten and Syracuse University Family Development programs, the intensive parent coaching in Chicago Child-Parent Centers, and the parent volunteers in Head Start. For Perry Pre-kindergarten see: Schweinhart, L. J., Barnes, H. V., & Weikart, D. P. (1993). Significant benefits: The High/Scope Perry Pre-kindergarten study through age 27. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press. See also D. R. Powell (Ed.). (1988). Parent education as early childhood intervention: Emerging directions in theory, research, and practice (pp. 79-104). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.
[ix] Barnett, W. S., Hustedt, J.T., Friedman, A.H., Boyd, J.S., & Ainsworth, P. (2008). The state of preschool 2008: State preschool yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute of Early Education Research.
[x] Dunkle, M., & Vismara, L. (2004). Developmental checkups: They’re good, they’re cheap and they’re almost never done. What’s wrong with this picture? Bethesda, MD: Education Week.