Three Lessons: How States Can Support P-3 Efforts

This post is a cross-posting from Preschool Matters Today, the blog of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Thanks to Michelle Ruess at NIEER for her support. 

In western Oregon, a regional early learning hub supports 30 partnerships of elementary schools, neighboring family childcare providers and community-based preschools focused on professional learning and family engagement.

In Lowell, MA, elementary schools, preschool centers, and family childcare providers working in the same neighborhoods participate in “communities of practice” to improve teaching and family engagement. In addition, the city’s P-3 Leadership Alignment Team developed a school readiness definition and strategy that is informing city health, social services, and education programs.

A  Community Innovation Zone in Harrisburg, PA recognized that a paucity of pre-kindergarten opportunities resulted in too many children entering kindergarten with no preschool experience. It responded by providing a summer bridge program offering not only activities and starter libraries for children, but also workshops for parents.

Such partnerships are not accidental. Each resulted from deliberate efforts by state education agencies (SEAs) to support quality improvement and alignment throughout the prenatal through third grade (P-3) continuum. This support includes grant programs funding local P-3 efforts and state policy work to align standards, develop formative assessments, and organize leadership and workforce development opportunities.

My recently published report, Building State P-3 Systems: Learning from Leading States, examines the P-3 work underway in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, states that are part of a broader movement focused on improving quality and continuity across the P-3 continuum. Three overarching lessons for future state P-3 initiatives stand out.

Continue reading “Three Lessons: How States Can Support P-3 Efforts”

Why K-12 should be thinking ‘Birth-3rd’

Massachusetts’ early childhood childhood advocacy organization, Strategies for Children, has posted a thoughtful article on how states should incorporate Birth-3rd strategies into their plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Other states may find the recommendations to be of interest as well. As the article states,

“It’s … crucial for our state ESSA plan to include early education throughout — and not treat the early years as an afterthought. We have to look at how much Title I funding is being used locally to support preschools. How many children enter kindergarten each year with no prior preschool experience? Let’s figure these things out as a state and provide guidance to districts that want to build out their early learning strategies.

The state could also provide guidance for schools and districts on how to collaborate with the early childhood “mixed delivery” system of preschool programs that includes schools, centers, and family-owned settings.”

Building State P-3 Systems: Learning from Leading States

The Center for Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO) recently released a report I wrote comparing P-3 System-Building in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. The three case studies address a central question: How can states support P-3 system building at both state and local levels?

See the Executive Summary at the beginning of the report for nine themes and patterns and nine recommendations for state education agencies. There are also examples of local P-3 efforts, both urban and rural, throughout the report.

On Monday we are doing a webinar on the report for people interested in the state role in P-3 efforts. Panelists from all three states are participating.

My thanks to all the interviewees and panelists for their thoughtful insights on the work they are leading. And to my CEELO colleagues for all the helpful feedback throughout the project.

Jim Lesko on “Why a Birth–3rd Approach?”

In Washington, DC for a meeting with Preschool Development Grant and Early Learning Challenge grantees. Jim Lesko of AEM discusses the rationale for Birth–3rd approaches:

  • Eliminates artificial distinction between early childhood and early elementary education.
  • Supports continuity, coherence, and support for children
  • Promotes intentional and collaborative professional development
  • Promotes cross-pollination of knowledge about development leading to sustaining efforts to support children’s learning gains

He adds that a coherent and aligned Birth–3rd system:

  • Focuses on the whole child
  • Provides seamless transition across components
  • Includes aligned and comprehensive standards and curriculum
  • Uses comparable instructional practices
  • Enables communication and data-sharing across the entire assessment
  • Establishes durable and long-lasting family, community, and school partnerships
  • Supports PreK–3rd teachers participating in joint professional development opportunities
  • Reduces the achievement gap among children in families at risk