BUILD Initiative Blog | What We're Reading - February 20
Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

BUILDing Strong Foundations

BUILD Initiative Blog




At the time they enter kindergarten, many young children face gaps that exist - by income, race/ethnicity, language, and culture - in child outcomes and opportunities, as well as in system capacity and response. Closing these gaps is fundamental to the success of each child and of the United States as a nation. BUILD supports state leaders through tailored technical assistance, capacity building, and peer learning opportunities to support them in doing so. These resources can help build and expand your state's focus on equity in systems.

Mental Health

From birth to age five, children require significant preventive and developmental health services. For healthy development, children need access to comprehensive, preventive primary health care. Children also require early identification and response to health-threatening conditions. Just as important is attention to social, emotional, behavioral, and physical development, and practices that fuel healthy development. A strong health system for young children must address children’s biological, medical and physical concerns. It must also serve as a first responder to the many social factors and determinants contributing to a child’s healthy development. This includes linking young children and their families to the rest of the early childhood system. BUILD has delved more deeply into four areas of early childhood healthy development which serve as drivers for strengthening the health system’s response to young children: primary health care/medical home; social determinants of health, health equity, and community health; early childhood health and mental health development; and healthy lifestyles, nutrition, and exercise.

Suspension and Expulsion

Many factors contribute to the high rate of expulsion and suspension in early learning settings and to the disproportionate representation of children of color, particularly African American boys, in the group of children who are expelled or suspended. These factors include: high teacher/child ratios, inadequate professional development related to addressing challenging behaviors, inadequate knowledge of child development about what is or is not developmentally appropriate, implicit racial biases, and the impact of stress and adverse experiences on young children. Reducing and eliminating young child expulsion and suspension from early learning settings requires multiple, coordinated approaches that address its root causes – approaches that BUILD is working with states to implement.

  • Children’s Institute: What We Talk About When We Talk About Preschool Expulsion   In Malcolm Gladwell’s 2005 book Blink, he reviews implicit bias test results from Harvard University, finding that “our attitudes toward things like race or gender operate on two levels,” one conscious and one unconscious. He also writes, “The disturbing thing about the test is that it shows that our unconscious attitudes may be utterly incompatible with our stated conscious values.” This means that bias is built in to our thinking, attitudes, and associations, influencing our behaviors and actions in ways we don’t fully understand.
  • New America: Ban Suspension and Expulsion in ECE, Then Provide Additional Behavior Supports   Once suspension and expulsion are banned, states and districts should create well-funded policies to give administrators, educators, and families better access to behavioral health professionals, community resources, quality professional development, training, intervention tools, and other positive behavior supports to help young children with persistent challenging behaviors thrive in their early learning environments. These positive behavior supports can be delivered through wraparound services that provide children and families with access to high-quality early education programs, health and social services. Connecticut is one example of a state that banned suspension and expulsion and has been supporting teachers and children by providing early childhood mental health screenings.  

Early Learning

Children must reach critical health and well-being benchmarks in order to thrive, be ready for kindergarten, and read at grade level by third grade. BUILD knows that families and communities are the primary source of this foundational support for children. We help state leaders create safe, healthy, nurturing early learning experiences for all children – to better support families and communities. This “whole-systems” approach includes an emphasis on: primary and preventive health care, early intervention, and quality early care and education. That is why BUILD Initiative assists states in focusing on standards and assessment, including kindergarten entry assessmentearly care and education, with a focus on infant/toddler and pre-K services, programs and policies; and family, friend and neighbor care

  • New America: New America has produced an important tool to support the early childhood workforce in a multimedia guidebook inspired by and drawn from Transforming the Workforce for Children From Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation (National Academies Press, 2015). This guidebook adds to that volume with key takeaways, videos, interactive tools, a glossary, and more. It has three doorways for three different but overlapping audiences: educators who work directly with children, educators in higher education who prepare those educators, and policymakers interested in improving early learning settings for children from B–8.
  • The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education   This new report concludes that transforming the financing structure for early care and education to meet the needs of all children and families will require greater coordination among financing mechanisms, as well as significant mobilization of financing and other resources across the public and private sectors. The report offers specific recommendations for making early childhood education and care more affordable for families, linking funding to high quality-standards, and financing the transformation of the education and care workforce. 


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