The WHY of Early Childhood Education and K-12 Education Collaborations
A child’s brain develops very quickly in the first five years of life. Having quality early learning is vital for their future success. Studies show the importance that educational programs have on a child’s social and academic growth. Many supporters understand this, but there are key differences between early learning programs. For example, preschool, Readiness Kindergarten, and pre-kindergarten are common names of programs. Yet, these programs may focus on different elements of learning. While many people interchange their names, these programs are not the same thing.
First, Readiness Kindergarten is for children ages 4 or 5 years old. They have specific academic programs designed around student needs. Often basic pre-reading and number sense are the focus. It will involve testing children prior to beginning the program. Headstart is often considered this type of program.
Next, Pre-kindergarten students are typically 4 or 5 years old for a curriculum-based setting. These students may be students that have missed the age requirements to officially begin kindergarten. The curriculum is very similar to the kindergarten’s, so for these students, it may just be an extra year of kindergarten learning.
Lastly, Preschool is for children that are much younger, typically from ages 2 to 4. Many programs can be cost-prohibited in states that do not offer publicly funded early learning programs. Parents then look for other options within daycare centers to help their child and may consider it a luxury and opt-out. Preschool programs offer a more play-based environment with some structured learning. This may also include children with disabilities or interventions required by the Students with disabilities act. Please note that sometimes a daycare may have a preschool within its setting; however, most of those are private providers, and it is up to those owners to determine their focus and the number of hours focused on learning.
Why this matters?
Studies show that those enrolled in early education programs have increased reading and math scores, and show enhanced social and emotional development. Having a highly qualified teacher is invaluable in these settings. Each of the programs requires teachers to have specialized training or an endorsement in early childhood education for their teaching license. Typically teachers with an elementary education degree will be certified to teach K-6 or K-8, but not licensed to teach readiness or pre-kindergarten. For a special education preschool setting, those teachers are endorsed to teach special education as well as early childhood education Please be aware that private preschools may not require any specialized training depending on the state requirements.
What stakeholders can do?
- Parents and educators need to understand and communicate the importance of early learning programs.
- Advocate for state and federal funding for early childhood education that provides the foundation for future learning.
- Be Informed and stay current on the key differences of programs so you can target your marketing information to help our youngest learners.
- Understand policies within your assigned state.
- Use common language to identify their needs.
- Design marketing materials with early learners in mind.
- Offer support at early literacy events to reach parents and other supporters.
- Collaborate with school districts that offer early learning opportunities.
Understanding various programs and how to best collaborate to promote these opportunities for our youngest learners will ensure the continued growth of these early learning programs.
Agile Education Marketing is here to help organizations partner with school districts and administrators to craft a better plan with our education data resources. Are you ready to learn more? Reach out to our team today to get started!
Written by: Teresa Marchant
School Librarian at LOCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT 26
Teresa has been an educator for over 25 years. She holds a Masters in Educational Technology with an emphasis in Online Instruction from Montana State University as well as a certificate in School Library Media from the University of Washington. Over the years she has served in many capacities at the state and local level. Highlights include being the Vice Chair of the Certification Standards and Practices Advisory Council to the Montana Board of Public Education, a member of the School Leadership Team and Chair of the Professional Development Committee for her school district, and a member of Montana Library Association board. She loves learning and enjoys helping others!