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Aligning Early Childhood Learning with Elementary Education

We told you not long ago about a buzz of activity in states and districts aimed at making sure the youngest students are getting all the monitoring and support they need as they learn to read. Now a new report explores key policies needed to align early-childhood learning experiences with elementary school.

The study argues that advances in 10 key policy arenas would decrease the high school dropout rate by building a strong base: an aligned education system for students in preschool through 3rd grade. (Since the study was issued by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, its focus is K-5. The NAESP is working on Capitol Hill, as well, to weave into law policies that build elementary school principals' knowledge of early childhood development, since their jobs often include overseeing preschool programs.)

The study emphasizes better integration and coordination of policy, regulations, and funding at the federal, state and local levels to enable the building of "coherent" systems of early learning. That goal of coherence is echoed in President Barack Obama's recently announced new round of Race to the Top funding, which focuses on early childhood learning.

No surprise: the NAESP study advocates better training for early-childhood educators, expanded funding for pre-K-3, and steps to ensure that funding goes to high-quality programs. Good, age-appropriate standards (including goals for the development of social, emotional, physical, and creative skills, not just cognitive ones) are part of the package, along with good, age-appropriate formative and summative assessments.

The standards-and-assessment part is hot stuff now, in part because of the advent of common standards, which describe skills kindergartners should have, sparking renewed focus on kindergarten readiness. The newest generation of the Race to the Top contest, also, has raised concerns about early childhood testing. (See this blog post from the New America Foundation, and from EdWeek's Politics K-12.)

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