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Learning begins the moment we’re born. We learn from parents, caregivers, and teachers. But not every child receives the attention or opportunities they need to keep pace with all they should be learning. It’s an issue that can create lifelong learning problems, which is why all teachers—from preschool teachers and kindergarten teachers to those teaching in high school and college—should understand how vital early childhood education is to the overall education system and how we need to do more to ensure all children have the opportunity to learn in their critical early years.
A good primer on early learning is shared with Walden MSEd students in the form of this required reading assignment from the Birth to Five Policy Alliance’s (BFPA) Advocacy Toolkit: Promoting Quality Early Childhood Education. In the toolkit, the BFPA—now called the Alliance for Early Success—provides five key numbers that highlight both the importance of early learning and the lack of learning opportunities for certain populations. As Walden MSEd students read, the five numbers are:1
Differences in the size of children’s vocabulary first appear at 18 months of age, based on whether they were born into a family with high education and income or low education and income. By age 3, children with college-educated parents or primary caregivers have, on average, vocabularies two to three times larger than those whose parents have not completed high school. Intervening early—with quality early learning starting at birth—can prevent that achievement gap before it starts.
Nobel laureate economist James Heckman has shown that every dollar invested in quality early childhood education for at-risk children delivers economic gains of 10% per year. When at-risk children experience high-quality early learning, they attain better school, employment, and life outcomes. Those outcomes fuel a healthier, more vibrant economy—for all of us.
The quality of a child’s future depends on the quality of caregiving in the first five years. Factors like teacher-to-child ratios, which should be 1:10 for preschoolers and 1:3 for infants, are indicators of quality. Benefits that accrue from first-rate early learning experiences come only if the setting is safe, healthy, stimulating, thoughtful, organized, and—most important—led by well-trained, attentive teachers. Investing in quality is essential to achieving the educational and life outcomes we seek.
Examples of quality early education programs with proven track records can be found across the country. One example is Educare, a network of schools offering center-based care for at-risk children birth to 5, where children score five points above the national average on school readiness tests. Effectiveness isn’t hypothetical; it can be seen all across the country, in programs ranging from Head Start to home visiting, and from center-based care to pre-K classrooms inside elementary schools.
A handful of existing federal programs, including Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant, provide essential support for early childhood education across the country. Unfortunately, these programs don’t have the funding necessary to reach the at-risk children who need them most. For example, only 3% of infants and toddlers eligible for Early Head Start currently receive services. Additional federal investment is critical to help families work and children learn.
Advocacy Toolkit: Promoting Quality Early Childhood Education is just one of the many educational materials you’ll have the opportunity to explore when you enroll in Walden University’s Master of Science in Education (MSEd) degree program. An MSEd degree is an excellent advanced education degree to earn if you’re looking to perfect your teaching strategies, take your teaching career further, and put yourself in position for a higher teacher’s salary.
Walden’s master’s in education program is a solid choice thanks to Walden’s online learning format. The flexible learning platform for the master’s degree in education—and other online teaching degrees—gives you the opportunity to earn your degree while continuing to teach full time.
If you want to learn more about early childhood education, along with a wide variety of other educational and teaching subjects, consider enrolling in the MS in Education program at Walden University. It could be the best choice you’ll make for your education career.
Walden University is an accredited institution serving the educational needs of working professionals. The Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership at Walden University offers an online MS in Education (MSEd) degree program using a convenient, flexible learning platform that is designed to fit your busy lifestyle.
1Walden MSEd Curriculum Source: http://earlysuccess.org/sites/default/files/website_files/files/July-2011-B25-toolkit-FINAL.pdf
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.