• Education & Talent Development

    EARLY LEARNING

     

    DESTINATION

    All of the region's children are prepared to start school.

     

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

 

High-quality early childhood education has been shown to significantly contribute to long-term educational achievement, social skills, and lifetime earnings. With a child’s brain developing more rapidly during its first five years than during any other period, early investments help establish the cognitive, social, emotional, and language foundations required for future success. Ensuring that children enter kindergarten ready to learn is increasingly being recognized by policymakers and business leaders as important to building a prepared workforce and a thriving regional economy. Well-designed early childhood programs in disadvantaged communities have been found to generate future cost savings of up to $17 for each dollar spent on early learning.

HOW DO WE CURRENTLY FARE?

 

Early Learning
School Readiness
Pre-K Access
Early Literacy
K-12 Education
On-time Graduation
Disconnected Youth
College & Career Readiness
Postsecondary Credentials
Degrees & Certificates Awarded
Educational Attainment
Workforce Readiness
Poverty Rate
Labor Force Participation
Median Income
School Readiness
With New Jersey's adoption of an implementation plan in 2016, all three states in our region are on the path to using standardized kindergarten readiness assessments to improve early learning and help close achievement gaps.
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PROGRESS TOWARD IMPLEMENTING STANDARDIZED KINDERGARTEN READINESS ASSESSMENTS (2016)

WORLD CLASS STRATEGIES

 

 

INCREASE THE NUMBER OF AND ACCESSIBILITY OF HIGH-QUALITY EARLY LEARNING SLOTS

In spite of the significant recent progress made across the region increasing the supply of early childhood education slots, there are still too few quality early childhood education slots accessible to those most in need. As we work to increase the number of slots, it will also be critical to make sure we measure quality based on outcomes rather than inputs and pay continued attention to how to fund it. A well-trained workforce, proven curricula, and a healthy and appropriate childcare center environment are hallmarks of high-quality early learning instruction. While individual programs/centers may focus on achieving these, an accreditation system is important to ensuring standard definitions and assessments of these attributes.

 

Promising Pathways

 

INCREASING COORDINATED TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE TO EARLY LEARNING CENTERS

 

The relative low pay of early childhood providers presents serious challenges to recruiting and retaining the type of well-trained workforce that has been shown to contribute to better outcomes for children. Coordinated technical assistance that can provide regular support and feedback to frontline providers, as well as center managers, can go a long way toward improving the overall quality of early childhood instruction.

 

INCREASING PUBLIC FUNDING FOR HIGH-QUALITY LEARNING CENTERS

 

While high-quality early childhood education has been shown to improve school readiness for children from all backgrounds, it is most important for children in poverty who are at greater risk of falling behind if not exposed to the skills and socialization provided by good programs. Additional public resources make ECE services (whether in Head Start or other programs) more accessible and affordable for families in high-poverty communities.

 

ATTRACTING PRIVATE FUNDING THROUGH CHARITABLE CAPITAL OR PROGRAM-RELATED INVESTMENTS (PRI) FOR EXPANSION OF SUCCESSFUL EARLY LEARNING CENTERS

 

Given that public dollars will likely never fund the number of program slots needed to serve all children living in poverty, it is important to explore alternative funding options to ensure this vulnerable group has access to these much needed services.

 

INCREASE DEMAND FOR HIGH-QUALITY EARLY LEARNING

Over the past several years there has been an increasing awareness of the importance of quality early childhood education and a willingness on the part of public and private leaders to support efforts aimed at increasing access and improving quality. It will be critical to continue to engage leaders in business, higher education, philanthropy, and government by highlighting progress that’s been made and the continued need for focus on this issue as it represents the first, crucial input into the talent pipeline needed to ensure a skilled workforce and robust economy. Further, work must continue with parents and caregivers to increase their awareness of the impact early childhood education can have on their children’s success, what high-quality early learning looks like, and how to fulfill their role as their child’s “first teacher.”

 

Promising Pathways
 

INCREASING PARENTAL AWARENESS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND WHAT HIGH-QUALITY OPTIONS LOOK LIKE

 

Educating parents can boost demand for high-quality early learning options and prepare them to use kindergarten readiness assessments or other quality ratings to “vote with their feet” and enroll their children in high-quality centers, setting in motion market forces to encourage competition and improvements similar to how charter schools have empowered parents and driven change around K-12 education. 

 

INCREASING PUBLIC AWARENESS ABOUT THE SIGNIFICANCE OF QUALITY EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION FOR THE REGION

 

Increasing awareness of the importance of quality early childhood education among regional stakeholders is critical to galvanizing public and private support for efforts aimed at increasing access and improving quality.

 

BUILDING CONSUMER DEMAND FOR HIGH-QUALITY EARLY LEARNING SLOTS VIA INCENTIVES BASED ON PROGRAM QUALITY

Public funding that provides targeted subsidies and tax credits to high-quality programs that locate in underserved neighborhoods can help ensure quality is rewarded. 

IMPLEMENT COORDINATED ASSESSMENTS OF EARLY LEARNING QUALITY AND KINDERGARTEN READINESS

 

Adopting uniform kindergarten readiness assessments will have a far-reaching impact on early childhood and K-12 education across the region and state. It would lead to a shared definition of kindergarten readiness and establish a common measure of whether children have the necessary skills at a key developmental juncture. Standardized assessments can be used to evaluate and report on early learning center performance, leading to improvements in instruction and quality while drawing attention to high-performing centers. They also will enable greater alignment of curriculum, instruction, and accountability across early learning centers and kindergarten classes. This combination of early learning quality improvements and greater instruction alignment can contribute to fewer students requiring remediation in kindergarten, benefitting both current school budgets and future student performance outcomes.

 

Promising Pathways

 

ESTABLISHING SHARED STANDARDS OF SUCCESS AND COMPETENCIES THAT A CHILD NEEDS TO BE KINDERGARTEN-READY

 

While a number of national organizations and states have established specific quality standards, definitions of “readiness”, and ways of assessing the effectiveness of centers and programs, these are not systematically applied in child care centers and elementary schools across the region. This patchwork assessment structure across the region prevents us from getting an accurate picture of the overall preparedness of children in our region at this crucial first transition point. Fostering buy-in among early childhood education providers as well as school district leadership and teachers for the adoption of such a tool will be crucial to its success and effectiveness.   

 

STRENGTHENING CONNECTIONS AND ALIGNING INSTRUCTION BETWEEN EARLY LEARNING CENTERS AND KINDERGARTEN

 

Ideally, the results of kindergarten readiness assessments would be used to help determine which programs and curricula are most-effective in preparing children for school. This would require agreed-upon standards between ECE and K-12 educators and assessment systems that measure specific cognitive skills as well as emotional/behavioral factors.