BUILD Initiative Blog | Early Care And Education
Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

BUILDing Strong Foundations

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As early childhood systems builders, we are well aware that infants and young children undergo rapid developmental changes that are highly influenced by relationships and environment. Supporting families to provide safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments should be a key element of early care and education programs and services, particularly those that serve populations at high-risk, such as children at risk of entering foster care. (National data show that children birth to age five are at higher risk of placement and enter foster care at higher rates than older children and youth.) Programs and services also should be provided to help prevent child abuse and neglect and to aid pregnant women and families with young children. Through recently approved federal legislation, protecting children at high-risk has become more actionable.

Suspension and expulsion of children from early learning settings has been a subject of intense focus recently. It is indeed a topic worthy of discussion – and in need of sensible solutions. As Walter Gilliam’s seminal research on the topic notes, the rate of preschool children being expelled nationally is triple that of children in K-12. In addition, stark racial and gender disparities persist in expulsion rates.

By Anne Mitchell

President of Early Childhood Research and Co-Founder of the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance

The BUILD Initiative paper, Quality Rating and Improvement Systems: Stakeholder Theories of Change and Models of Practice, by Diane Schilder and Iheoma Iruka with Harriet Dichter and Debi Mathias captures the changing context and the factors influencing QRIS. The recommendations it offers are beyond reproach, with each one providing a concept worthy of its own focus.

By Harriet Dichter
In this blog post, Dichter writes about the latest addition to BUILD’s e-book on the Early Learning Challenge, Rising to the Challenge: Building Effective Systems for Young Children and Families. The prologue, entitled Coming of Age: A Review of Federal Early Childhood Policy 2000-2015, is written by Joan Lombardi, an energizing and intrepid force in our country’s early childhood movement, with co-authors and newly-minted policy researchers Jessica F. Harding, Maia C. Connors and Allison H. Friedman-Krauss.

By Stacie G. Goffin, Rhian Evans Allvin, Deb Fils, and Albert Wat

During a plenary session of the 2015 QRIS National Learning Network’s national meeting, panelists explored questions critical to advancing early childhood education (ECE), in particular the fragmentation of the field and the variability in the quality of children’s formal early learning experiences. Moving beyond attempts to only solve existing problems, in this guest blog post Stacie G. Goffin, Rhian Evans Allvin, Deb Flis, and Albert Wat answer and pose challenging questions on how to develop the future of the ECE as a professional field of practice.

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

It seems like just a few years ago that information about young children, families and the people who care for them was confined to writing on index cards or sporadic surveys and always had missing data elements. This hit or miss data collection, while changing, often still leaves policymakers and practitioners without adequate information to make informed decisions.

Debi Mathias
Director, QRIS National Learning Network, BUILD Initiative

You probably have visited an early childhood classroom that has “it” – that energy you feel when you walk in the door, a tangible feeling of excitement. Children are playing, laughing, testing out new ideas, problem solving, all engrossed in an inquiry approach to learning.

Ruth Trombka
Editor and Writer, BUILD Initiative

Reflections on Father’s Day

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

Science tells us that the adults in children lives, and the relationships the adults form with children, are the cornerstone of healthy and successful child development. While everyone talks about this science, reality does not fit the rhetoric: teachers are underpaid, parents can’t afford child care, and quality suffers.

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

Last week we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Head Start Program. Leading up to that launch in 1965, a panel of experts, chaired by Dr. Robert Cooke of Johns Hopkins University, set forth recommendations for the establishment of the program. Reading through those recommendations five decades later, the wisdom of those early pioneers continues to shine – the founders called for comprehensive services that address the health, education, and family support needs of young children in poverty. 

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

Heading into the 2008 election, I remember a small group meeting of advocates talking about what really needed to happen next in early childhood policy. While there were a lot of different strategies mentioned, one goal stood out and seemed to bring everyone together: 

To assure that more young children from low income families have access to higher quality services. 

Susan Hibbard
BUILD Deputy Director

Ruth Trombka
Program Manager

More than a handful of times in the last few weeks, BUILD has received emails or calls that begin with “Maybe I’m missing something, but why are you talking about state-level systems when the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (EHS-CCP) initiative is a federal to local funding opportunity?” We have rarely had a response more readily available: Because states have an obligation to our youngest children.

Marsha Basloe

Senior Advisor for Early Childhood, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development
ACF, HHS

Living in Massachusetts and New York, I am no stranger to cold weather in the winter. I fortunately ... did not weather the frigid cold unprepared! I wish that were true for everyone, especially families with young children. Recent temperatures in the Washington, D.C./Virginia area dipped to single digit numbers, and shelters were full to capacity.

Miriam Calderon
BUILD Initiative Special Projects Consultant

As advocates for young children, we must view immigration reform for what it is – an enormous opportunity to pass social policy that’s good for kids. Fully one-quarter of all young children in the United States have an immigrant parent. Many have at least one parent that is unauthorized. These children will become America’s future leaders in a world economy that demands that they fully develop their skills and talents.

Debi Mathias
Director, QRIS National Learning Network

There has been a great deal of discussion about the Science magazine article “Can Policy-Relevant Ratings of Pre-K Programs Predict Children's Learning?” This article provides a great opportunity to use our best thinking and create an informed debate around understanding research and the implications for improving protocols and interventions within the QRIS framework. My initial concern was that the article might be mistaken as a call to dismantle systems building efforts in the states, rather than a piece about how to focus interventions within a system to achieve stated goals and outcomes. I also think it is important for us to understand the limitations of the research and regard the conclusions in a context of “building a case,” rather than a final affirmation of how to proceed.

Theresa Hawley
Executive Director
Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development

Ever wonder what it takes to move a program from good to great? I wonder about this all the time, as do my colleagues in Illinois. We are convinced that the reason we are not seeing larger, more sustained benefits from the majority of early learning programs for at-risk children is that programs are not implementing the level of instructional excellence that a great program provides.

Sherri Killins, Ed.D.
BUILD Initiative Consultant

To what extent should program standards, known as QRIS, seek to define program quality by including health, safety and business practices of early childhood programs? Should program standards include hand-washing, CPR, first aide, safe sleeping and medication administration etc.? Should program standards include business practices like annual audits, calculation of depreciation, business plans, record keeping, budgeting etc.?