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Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

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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.

Joan Lombardi
Director of Early Opportunities LLC

Lombardi explores chapter 8 of Rising to the Challenge. In this chapter, Debi Mathias chronicles the history, trends and innovations that have come to characterize this unique way of thinking about quality. In many ways, QRIS was the heart of the Early Learning Challenge as it was one way to assess a primary goal of a program: to increase the number and percentage of low-income and disadvantaged young children enrolled in high-quality early learning programs.  This made the validity of the standards particularly important.

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.

Sherri Killins, Ed.D
Director of Systems Alignment and Integration, BUILD Initiative

Released this week, Catherine Scott-Little and Kelly Maxwell’s chapter, Improving Systems of Learning Through the Use of Child Standards and Assessments, focuses on the practices of eight Early Learning Challenge states as part of BUILD’s E-Book, Rising to the Challenge: Building Effective Systems for Young Children and Families.

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.

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. 

Gerry Cobb
BUILD Initiative State Services Director

Through the Early Learning Challenge and subsequently through an Enhanced Assessment Grant (EAG) opportunity, federal leaders created incentives for states to develop and implement kindergarten entry assessments. The attractiveness of the EAG approach was that it encouraged states to band together and think collectively. In their Early Learning Challenge application, North Carolina leaders have taken a visionary approach to meeting the Kindergarten Entry Assessment component.

Gerrit Westervelt
BUILD Initiative Executive Director

As system builders, we have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to examine the role that structural and historical racial, cultural and linguistic bias plays in differential outcomes for young children. We have to take a hard look at the systems we are busy building and ask ourselves how well each step we’re taking serves all children or each and every child, not just those fortunate enough to have easy access to high quality services.

Susan Hibbard
BUILD Initiative Deputy Director

On the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, it is fitting that the federal government released the final guidelines for the third round of the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC). Only when every state has the financial capacity, commitment, and sound plan to support each and every child to develop his/her potential will our dream of closing the achievement gap come true.

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.