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Report Highlights Why Improving the Quality of Early Education is Crucial

A newly released report from The Bridgespan Group titled “Achieving Kindergarten Readiness for All Our Children: A Funder's Guide to Early Childhood Development from Birth to Five” has found that as a result of underinvestment,

one in four American children come from low income families and are not ready to learn when entering kindergarten.

The report takes a look at what early education in American needs to provide at-risk children with what they need to be successful and suggests public investment opportunities for private donors and government to consider in order to remedy what they say is a huge problem with the country’s early education system.

Diversifying Early Education for Specific Needs

Part of the reason why the report determines that low-income children are under prepared for kindergarten is because early education opportunities are not diverse enough to meet individual needs.

The report offers four different recommendations to help personalize early education to decrease the number of low-income children at risk for not being prepared to start school and learning by kindergarten. It says that in order for communities to address the needs of at-risk youth, they should look into:

1. Providing parents and caregivers information about the child’s developmental strengths and needs.

2. Creating effective interventions that should be able to address specific needs versus a one-size-fits-all approach.

3. Ensuring a right mix of solutions be available for every community; solutions should be scaled for need.

4. Equipping communities with tools and data management systems that “enable communities to assess and act on data about child outcomes and needs in real time.”

Providing Extra Support for Low-Income Parents

The report discusses the fact that “[p]arenting explains 40 percent of the income-related cognitive differences between children at age four.”

In order to help at-risk children, the report urges early education systems to provide extra support for parents.

“In sum, many parents—and especially those living in poverty—could benefit from extra support to ensure their children are achieving desired developmental milestones. Unfortunately, effective voluntary parenting programs are not reaching all those who need them.”

t argues in favor of federally approved home visitation programs- something it says needs more support moving forward.

“The strongest parenting programs—including 16 federally approved home visitation programs—can help parents form a secure attachment with their children and foster linguistic, cognitive, and social and emotional development. But despite $1.5 billion in federal funding over five years, these evidence-based home visitation programs reached only 115,000 children in 2014,51 an estimated 2.5 percent of the need.”

In general, it recommends investing in improving “the quality of adult-child interactions across all settings.”

Increasing Quality Control for Federal or State Funded Centers

Also in dire need of improvement, the report says, is a way to control quality for the variety of early child care programs available to low-income families.

The need for early education recently came under fire when a study of Tennessee’s state-funded pre-K program revealed that by third grade, students who attended did not achieve more than those who did not. The most important take-away from this study, however, was not that early education is unnecessary- but that quality control is pertinent.

“Barriers to higher quality include: the lack of incentives and resources for improving quality; the challenges to hiring, training, and developing quality staff; and some of the lowest levels of compensation in the US economy.”

A few big recommendations the report makes for improving the quality of early education centers are to provide higher incentives for quality control, increase accountability for providing quality care, improve the standard for hiring and training qualified staff, and compensate teachers better for their time.

Read the full report here to also read about the report’s suggestions for investment opportunities for private donors and government.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

10/21/2015

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