If you are in the business of improving outcomes for young children, Beyond Subprime Learning: Accelerating Progress in Early Education is a must-read.
Written by the New America Foundation, the report goes well beyond making the case for a seamless system for children birth through eight. It takes the refreshing approach that this is a given and outlines a vision of what such a system would look like and a path to bring it to fruition.
What Would the System Look Like?
The authors paint a picture that begins with a child’s birth, recommending that all families have opportunities to participate in home visiting.
The described system includes a role for everyone interacting with young children. For example:
- Teachers and caregivers would have a deep understanding of the science of adult-child interactions to promote learning; would be fairly compensated; and would be well-prepared to use technology and to support dual- language learners.
- States would have clearly aligned, sequenced and developmentally appropriate standards that set high expectations and cover the common subject areas as well as “approaches to learning” and social-emotional domains, from birth through third grade.
- Families would be engaged and welcomed into each classroom along the way and would establish positive home learning experiences early in their child’s education.
See page three of the report for the complete description.
How Do We Get There?
Beyond Subprime Learning does more than show us what a seamless continuum would look like; it recommends eight actions to achieve it and identifies what needs to happen and who needs to act to make each happen. These are more than your “run-of-the-mill” policy approaches.
- Bridge the Continuum: Streamline Systems Across the Birth-through-Third-Grade Years
Example: Strive for a new model of primary school. Primary school should start at age three by offering age-appropriate and research-based learning experiences for children, and should continue those activities up through third grade.
- Upgrade Educators: Professionalize and Improve the Early Education Workforce
Example: Ready principals to be strong PreK–3rd- grade instructional leaders. States should require principal preparation programs to include early childhood development.
- Emphasize Families: Develop Dual-Generation Strategies for Children’s Success
Example: Create common eligibility floors across federal programs. All child-focused programs that receive federal dollars should have a common floor with the option for states to lift the limit.
- Intentionally Support Dual-Language Learners: Embrace Children’s Languages as Assets
Example: Policies should embrace bilingualism—supporting dual-language learners in acquiring English while continuing their growth in their home languages.
- Rethink Standards and Assessment: Coordinate Teaching and Learning for Young Children
Example: Generate comprehensive standards to guide teaching for kindergarten first, second and third grade.
- Strengthen and Improve Accountability Systems: Promote Children’s Learning and Development
Example: When designing or upgrading quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS), states should put more weight on indicators that measure teacher-child interactions. QRIS should be aligned with other monitoring systems for programs including state pre-k, Head Start, early intervention, home visitation and teacher evaluation.
- Collect and Use Data Responsibly: Inform Educators and Policymakers
Example: Create an additional round of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing at the end of first grade.
- Bring Research Closer to Policy and Practice: Use Implementation Science and Openness
Example: Open publicly funded research to the public. Resources financed through public funding—including articles in academic journals and other final research reports—should be open and freely available to the public as soon as possible.
North Carolina Singled Out
The report references North Carolina as a state that is creating a common kindergarten entry assessment and accompanying K-3 formative assessments – a policy recommendation in the Standards and Assessment section. North Carolina is leading a nine-state consortium in developing aligned assessments that will allow the states to share resources. (See page 13 of the report.)
Subprime Learning opens with a powerful vision, “We want America’s children to become life-long learners who are able to think critically and inventively, regulate their emotions and impulses, and make smart decisions by drawing upon a rich knowledge base about how the world works.”
Do their recommendations get us there? Share your thoughts and ideas below in the comment section.