Give me hope and give me strength

Earlier I said that I thought states with vision could use Early Learning Challenge to drive real improvements in early childhood outcomes, but that I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion. So what do I think those smart states should do?

First, seize on comprehensive assessment systems as a way to drive improvements in the quality of instruction in early childhood programs. The criteria ask states to support comprehensive early childhood assessment systems, which are defined as including screening measures, formative assessments (of children’s learning), measures of environmental quality, and measures of the quality of adult-child interactions. So states should work with providers to implement formative assessments that are linked to solid curricula and to provide really strong supports to teachers to use those assessments to improve the instruction they’re providing to children. The most effective pre-k and early childhood education programs are constantly using informal and formative assessments constantly to monitor children’s learning, choose learning activities, scaffold instruction, group children for small group and individual activities, and enable teachers to reflect on and improve their teaching. States should align assessments and PD provided under Early Learning Challenge to bring more programs to that standard.

Second, and related, states should not design Quality Rating and Improvement Systems to look only at early care and education programs’ input and environmental quality–as most existing QRIS do. In order to receive the highest tier fo QRIS ratings, programs should also be required to demonstrate a high level of instructional quality, as indicated through research-based curriculum and content that predicts school readiness, teachers’ use of specific instructional strategies that support young children’s learning, monitoring of children’s learning progress, and high-quality of interactions between teachers and children.

I’ve got some more ideas rattling around in my head here, but those are the ones I’ll give away for free.

–Sara Mead

4 Replies to “Give me hope and give me strength”

  1. Sara,

    It is refreshing to read that you believe that states actually have a “vision” and that others states are “smart” about improving the quality of instruction.

    The unions are digging in their heels, as demonstrated at the NEA conference where they vilified the Administration’s “competitive grants” and their support of charter schools. The irony is that the NEA directed most of its anger towards Arne Duncan (13 things they hate about Arne Duncan), while failing to address any animosity directly at Obama. A measure of the NEA’s own dysfunctional inner dialogue was their support of candidate Obama in 2012 with over 70% of their members vote.

    The NEA, AFT, and their state chapters, are exercising their disdain for Duncan by keeping states and districts from implementing a “vision” and acting “smart” when it comes to implementing practical measures to improve early childhood instruction.

    The world needs more people like you!

    Your an optimist with passion, and you given me hope.

  2. I am a strong believer in Early Childhood Education. Unfortunatley we have to wait every year to see if we will be funded by the state and if so by how much. Why cant Early CHildhood education be a priority to get our kids statred o theright path.

  3. I think it’s great that you mention on-going assessment. As an early childhood educator, I am aware of the importance of continually assessing your students. Especially when working with young children, it is important because they are learning so much and growing so fast. This data should then be used to make adjustments to teaching styles groupings etc. I have had to move students several times due to reading groups no longer meeting their needs becuse they were advancing so quickly. When students are not tested regularly, we run the risk of holding them back. Unfortunately, I have to bring up the time it takes to continually assess each student individually, which is the only way to truely get an accurate reading level etc. All the time spent on assessment is taken away from instruction, which only negativly effects those kids who are already not passing the assessment. I would love to see the day when the state provides support for actually testing the students.

  4. I love your post. I am an early childhood educator and I am also a strong believer of early childhood education. This year our county pre-k program start date has been delayed due to funding and our school year for k-12 has been cut by ten days due to funding. I also agree with Pamela that early childhood should be more of a priority. Pre-k and Kindergarten are vital to get kids going in the right direction and to establish a love of learning so that children become life long learners.

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