BUILDing Strong Foundations

From Programs to Pathways: Assuring Continuity throughout the Early Years

7/6/2015 12:00:00 AM
Posted by: Meghan

Joan Lombardi, Ph.D.
Director, Early Opportunities LLC

The importance of assuring linkages between early childhood programs and the early grades of school is a concept that has grown over the years. In 1974 a demonstration effort called Project Developmental Continuity was launched to offer continuous educational and other related Head Start services to children throughout the first three years of primary school. In 1988, the NASBE Task Force on Early Childhood Education issued a report, Right from the Start, calling for a restructured approach to the education of 4-8 year olds and partnerships among schools, parents and other early childhood programs. Some years later, The Foundation for Child Development broke new ground in the critical area of continuity and alignment through the development and promotion of a new concept referred to as PreK-3rd Education.

With the release of the fifth chapter of the E-Book, Rising to the Challenge: Building Effective Systems for Young Children and Families, we see the growing momentum behind the emerging P-3 movement which builds and extends earlier pioneering efforts to promote continuity across the early years (0-8). In her important chapter P-3 Reform in Vision and in Practice, Dr. Kate Tarrant documents some of the groundbreaking state innovations launched with Early Learning Challenge grants to build connections between early childhood and early elementary school.

Dr. Tarrant shares not only why states have engaged in this work, but what common strategies they are pursuing and how they are reaching their goals. The examples presented – from cross sector professional development – to the localized approaches to P-3 – to innovative partnerships and beyond can provide important insight to other states and communities interested in scaling these models and policies.

Despite this important progress, there is still so much more to think about and to do. We have to move beyond isolated programs and towards the development of a pathway of support for young children and their families throughout the early years. For example:

  • How do we assure that we are building our early childhood services with a developmental perspective from the bottom up, starting in the prenatal period and moving up through early elementary?
  • Since families provide the real continuity in a child’s life, how can we assure parent support and family engagement is a core element of all quality early childhood programs throughout the early years?
  • While social-emotional development is a central element of good programs for young children, how can we assure that these concepts are built into teacher training and continue into the primary grades?
  • Given the importance of community services for an increasing number of families in public schools across the country, how can we step up the expansion of community schools that partner with a range of important community organizations working to enrich the lives of children and families?

The next wave of this work will take creative thinking and new ways of putting together services. It will go beyond traditional “transitions” as children move from Pre-K to kindergarten and will view the early years more and more as a whole period of life that deserves special attention as the foundation for learning and healthy development.


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