Districts Play a Key Role in Building Quality Early Childhood Programs
School districts can—and should—take an active role in supporting quality birth-3rd grade programs in their community, both by improving the quality of teaching in the early years, and by forging partnerships with preschools and other providers who work with infants and toddlers, says an article published in the November issue of The Kappan, the education-policy magazine of Phi Delta Kappa International, a professional association for educators.
The article was written by David Jacobson, the directior of the Birth-3 Learning Hub for Cambridge Education, which provides a variety of education services to districts in 38 states. The recommended actions for districts are based on Jacobson's experience working with school districts, he said: Often, districts are happy to see improvements to preschool, but may not spend as much time bolstering the teaching in the early years of elementary school. Or, they may not know how to create partnerships with early-childhood providers who work with children much younger than school-age.
Jacobson offers three suggestions for school leaders:
- Improve early elementary instruction, which can suffer from neglect because those grades are not subject to statewide tests and can, in some cases, end up with lower-performing teachers.
- "Establish a climate of mutual respect when working with preschool providers and emphasize the two-way nature of the learning collaboration," Jacobson writes; one way to jump-start the conversation could be a conversation about aligning preschool learning with common standards.
- Serve as "conveners" of communitywide early-learning programs, bringing together public and private groups, the article states.
Jacobson's piece follows other efforts to help define the role of school districts in early-education programs. The National Association of Elementary School Principals released in October a guide defining the "core competencies" of principals leading pre-K-3 learning communities.