My Vision For the Future of Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education is the foundation of our society. If we do not set children up to succeed, they will ultimately fail. The failure of future generations would be the downfall of our social and economic structure. This is a concept which is now widely accepted. And, many countries have implemented programs to encourage and support early learners. Consequently, the American ECE system needs to make significant strides to keep up.
In my vision for the future of early childhood education, American students will be enriched and supported. They will have the tools necessary to compete in the global market. If you’re unfamiliar with recent advances in ECE, you may wonder what we’re lacking. The hard truth is, a lot needs to be done to fix the ECE system in the United States.
The Achievement Gap
Reducing and eliminating the achievement gap in American schools is an important goal. This work begins with Early Childhood Education. The gap is a measurable disparity between white and minority students, rich and poor students, and male and female students. This inequality of achievement is measured by test scores, college attendance, and future career earnings.
Research has shown that the best way to combat these inequities is a better ECE standard. The implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, this year, could be the catalyst for change in U.S. schools. The mandate, signed into law in 2015, returns state controls which had been superseded by the No Child Left Behind policy in 2002. Ideally, this new legislation will require greater accountability, closer standards measurement, and identify the problem areas for improvement. Additionally, the act focuses on the use of evidence-based science to improve learning.
What changes can we expect in Early Childhood Education from the implementation of the ESSA? And, what changes need to happen for Early Childhood Education to support continued learning and achievement? There are several approaches, backed by scientific research, which will benefit early learners and encourage compliance with the ESSA mandates.
Funding for ECE Programs in Libraries and Museums
A 2013 report by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, called upon these institutions to recognize their role in improving ECE. The report has stemmed a greater interest in these programs over the past four years. However, state or community funding could bring these programs to more children who are considered at risk.
Providing daycare and preschool opportunities in a learning rich environment can enhance children’s performance at Kindergarten entrance. The innovative programs that already exist combine hands-on learning with access to art, music, books, and history in surprising ways.
However, expanding these programs and the ability of at-risk children to attend them, is imperative to close the gap.
Use of Edtech with Early Learners
Another brain-based approach to ECE is the use of technology in the classroom. Even young children can benefit from screen time. However, the key is to make technology engaging and limit daily use to avoid learning delays with small children.
The benefits of including technology in early education programs can be incredible if properly implemented. Even young students gain confidence from the use of technology in the classroom. Interactive games and applications allow students to engage with their learning environment. Additionally, even low-income children are often familiar with technology before entering an ECE environment.
Outside the Desk Learning
There is an increased focus on the value of alternative teaching methods with early learners. Most international programs emphasize child-led learning, emotional maturity, and hands-on programs.
ECE programs within the U.S. have an opportunity to take advantage of these shifting perspectives. Allowing children to explore freely in an educationally inspired environment or conducting classes outside can better engage young minds. Additionally, employing the philosophy of Emotional, Cognitive, Social Early Learning can help ready young children for the world.
Sending children into first grade mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared should be the goal of Early Childhood Education. However, the top performers come equipped with an understanding of science, mathematics, art, and nature. Additionally, they often speak two or three languages upon admission to first grade. The disparity between children with the most advantages and those without, needs to become less palpable. And, it is my firm belief that transforming the future of ECE will accomplish that.
What ideas have you employed with early learners to bridge the gap? How does technology help your pre-K classroom? We’d love to hear your experiences.