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.