State-Funded Pre-Kindergarten: What the Evidence Shows. IV. Some states are making advances in building early childhood systems

12/01/2003

With heightened accountability for K-12 student achievement, states have become increasingly interested in developing comprehensive and integrated early childhood systems, with most serving ages birth through five. According to a recent in-depth review of the experiences of three states — Georgia, Massachusetts, and Ohio — in developing a major early childhood initiative, there are several key challenges to overcome in building a coordinated early childhood system. These include: (1) developing a comprehensive vision that includes school readiness, (2) merging funding streams while addressing their regulatory differences, (3) coordinating delivery systems with components that have separate administrators, missions and programs, and (4) tracking progress and measuring the results.(57)

Few supports are available to help states meet the challenges of developing coordinated approaches to early childhood education. However, states are seeking mechanisms that will support their efforts to build more coordinated and effective early childhood systems. Several new approaches have emerged that show states’ dedication to moving forward with a more comprehensive approach to offering early childhood education programs that will ensure that children are safe, healthy and school ready.

As part of the President’s Good Start, Grow Smart initiative, states were asked to report in their Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) 2003 Biennial State Plans on the progress they are making in the implementation of early learning guidelines, professional development of child care providers and coordination across early childhood programs. State plans report that significant progress has been made in building early childhood systems. All 32 states with developed or implemented guidelines included the competencies in the areas of language, literacy and numeracy, and 31 of those also addressed social and emotional development. States that have successfully developed and implemented early learning guidelines found that it took time to develop trust and good communication among partners, e.g., state departments of education, Head Start and pre-kindergarten programs, resource and referral agencies, child care providers, and parents. While Good Start, Grow Smart specifically addresses the development of language, pre-reading, and numeracy skills in three to five-year-olds, some states have developed early learning guidelines that address the range of developmental domains including social, emotional, cognitive, linguistic, and physical. Similarly, to ensure that efforts to improve the school readiness of three to five-year-olds do not have unintended negative consequences for younger children, some States have chosen to develop guidelines that span from birth to age five.

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