Major early childhood education initiatives are focused on improving the quality of—and providing increased access to—preschool education and daycare programs in the U.S. Young students who don’t have the advantage of a preschool education may start kindergarten unprepared and struggle to keep pace with their better-prepared classmates over the years. They may have to endure the stigma of repeating a grade, or even drop out before they earn their high school diploma.
In order to combat some of the systemic weaknesses of early childhood education, new initiatives are being proposed and implemented. The following five early childhood education trends are addressing these issues with innovative solutions:
- Universal preK is an ongoing initiative that would make high-quality preschool programs available to all families—regardless of income. Leading economists have found that quality early childhood education is especially beneficial for children from low-income families, as it helps them stay on track alongside their peers throughout grade school. Such programs help improve students’ vocabularies, as well as their social and emotional development. President Obama addressed the early childhood education issue during his 2014 State of the Union address:*
“Education has to start at the earliest possible age. Studies say the earlier a child starts learning, the better he or she does down the road, but we are not doing enough to give all of our kids that chance. Fewer than three in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program.“
- Closing the achievement gap requires focus on the significant difference in school test scores between the various ethnic and economic groups. There are various initiatives—such as the universal preschool movement and the Every Student Succeeds Act—that specifically target the achievement gap to further prevent children from falling behind in school.
Early literacy involves helping 1- to 3-year-old children understand concepts such as letter knowledge, word sounds, vocabulary development, and awareness of storytelling. The earlier children experience reading, writing, and storytelling, the more improved their vocabulary and reading comprehension will be. Early literacy programs are being integrated into public libraries, schools, and other educational settings across the U.S. to help parents better prepare their children for literacy excellence.
The Reggio Emilia approach helps parents and children during the transition from home to school. The Reggio Emilia concepts developed in the 1940s are also found in Montessori and Waldorf schools around the world. This style of early childhood education urges more parent and student involvement in the program, and the learning environment is tailored to meet the child’s specific needs and is characterized by an emphasis on independence.
Technology in the classroom involves the intentional and proper use of technology for learning. Not only is this movement cutting costs for textbooks and other classroom materials, it also allows for greater access to a wider range of online educational tools for students. By allowing more access to early childhood education through technology, we’re also preparing our children for our technologically advanced society. Additionally, certain programs and applications can help teachers and administrators track which resources are working best for their students.
Educators interested in continuing to improve the quality of early childhood education programs will find that online childhood development degrees can get them started in the right direction. For example, at the bachelor’s degree level, a BS in Early Childhood Studies is a non-licensure program that is great for those looking to start or advance their career in a daycare or early childhood center type setting. Universities like Walden even offer this program in the popular competency-based learning format. EdS in Early Childhood Education degree can prepare you to make a significant impact on how students learn by managing and creating educational programs, policies, and practices. Likewise, at the leadership level, a PhD in Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy program can prepare you to engage in effective practices to advocate for positive outcomes for young children and families.
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*WhiteHouse.gov, Briefing Room, President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address (January 28, 2014), on the Internet at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/28/president-barack-obamas-state-union-address.