"The positive effects of high-quality early childhood programs on specific, short- and long-term outcomes for children, families, and communities, have been quantified by numerous research studies."
From an early age, parents want their children to have quality education that can be a solid foundation for their future learning. Positive experiences and stable environments significantly influence young children in the first three years of life, as this is a critical time for a child’s rapid brain development, learning capacity, and social progress.
The need for high-quality early childhood programs has never been greater. The Center for American Progress recently published a report to better understand what elements are needed to build and support a high-quality early childhood program.
How do you recognize quality programs?
While there are standards and regulations that early childhood programs must follow, this is only a baseline focused on protecting children from harm rather than on advancing child development and early learning. Here are some of the key components for quality programs highlighted in the report:
1. Classroom interaction
A nurturing environment encourages confident learning and positive interaction to help a young child discover a love of learning. Well-trained teachers implement activities that encourage independence and social engagement, while redirecting negative behavior in a respectful manner. By promoting a healthy learning environment, teachers can help a child establish a positive attitude towards education.
2. Positive environment
Creating positive opportunities can help children feel motivated to explore and learn. The physical environment provides safe and enriching experiences. Age-appropriate materials are available to build confidence and encourage independence. Along with a positive classroom environment, an outdoor learning environment is just as important to help children build imagination and develop a love for playing outside.
Early childhood programs need effective leadership to provide economic stability, organizational strength, and program success. While resources may be available in the learning environment, it takes great teachers to incorporate the materials to offer a supportive learning environment.
How do you maintain high-quality standards?
The report offered several suggestions for how early childhood programs can achieve the keys to high quality:
1. Stable workforce
Teachers should be trained to work with various ages for early childhood education. To encourage stability, compensation should be commensurate with training, experience, and include benefits. A low teacher-child ratio allows for teachers to support individual needs. Substitutes should be on staff and available for monitoring and teaching support.
2. Administrator support
Program administrators should be experienced and educated in early childhood development. They can provide additional support to teachers by offering suitable lesson planning and teaching strategies. Qualified administrators must be able to implement appropriate business policies and work within a budget. They must also demonstrate communication that encourages relationship building and a positive experience for staff, parents, and children.
3. Appropriate curriculum for age group
Classroom activities should be age-appropriate to allow for relevant learning experiences. Teachers benefit from administrative support that helps them implement quality curriculum for children of all ages.
4. Family interaction
Quality communication between teacher and parent can encourage parental involvement and offer a clearer understanding of home influences that may affect a child’s classroom behavior and learning style.
5. Quality improvement
Along with monitoring a child’s progress and development, procedures should be routinely evaluated to determine where improvement is needed. Additional training may offer more support for teachers and staff, while programs may require modifications or complete restructuring to create more effective outcomes.
6. Access to funding
Early childhood programs rely on funding for payroll and operating costs. A consistent cash flow is needed to create business stability, assist families with tuition, and guarantee program quality.
With more parents relying on early childhood programs for their young children, the need for high-quality education will continue to grow. While most high-quality education programs are currently unreachable for many American families, the hope is that every young child could have access to a better early childhood learning opportunity.
The Center for American Progress calls on policymakers to address the concerns by offering the roadmap outlined in their report. Reviewing the high-quality indicators that are discussed can help more families receive access to better education programs for their young children.