PreK-3rd strategies: Building on success

One of our goals with "Little Citizens, Big Issues" is to showcase diverse voices and viewpoints from the community on issues affecting young children in the District. This post is by Lauren Hogan, director of public policy at the National Black Child Development Institute.  

 

When the D.C. Council passed the PreK Enhancement and Expansion Act in July 2008, it provided a strong legislative framework to ensure that all three- and four-year-olds in the District would have access to high-quality early care and education by 2014.  

This was a milestone worth celebrating--investments in pre-kindergarten are critical to closing achievement gaps, providing strong economic returns and preparing a new generation for civic and academic success.  But focusing on PreK is not enough. 

Research shows that when we invest in PreK programs without bolstering those investments with enhancements to sustain learning and development throughout elementary school, the benefits to children tend to fade away by 3rd grade – with the losses most deeply felt by children of color and dual language learners.  

To meet the needs of our students, teachers, families and schools, and to protect and sustain our investments in PreK, we must both prepare children to enter PreK and support them in a continuous, aligned system throughout the early grades.  

The District’s early childhood and K-12 systems have already achieved a number of fundamental successes related to PreK-3rd strategies, so we’re building on strengths here.  The system includes not only full-day kindergarten and universal PreK, but also early learning standards that are aligned with K-12 standards; supportive programs for teachers and providers pursuing higher education; and a number of efforts dedicated to embedded professional development, comprehensive data systems and meaningful family engagement.  

Yet we have a lot more work to do in terms of consistency, continuity and quality. As PreK-3rd movements gain momentum across the nation, the District’s leaders must come together to promote strategies proven to help teachers and students succeed. 

In my mind, four areas stand out as being critical to reform: (1) professional development for providers, teachers, principals and administrators around child development; (2) managing seamless transitions for children; (3) developing and implementing appropriate assessments for young children; and (4) gathering, using and sharing longitudinal data to ensure that we are on the right track.  

From your perspective, are these the right areas?  What would you add?