Thursday, April 7, 2016

Report Highlights Early Years as Foundation for Education

The Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation (OPRE) (part of the Office of the Administration for Children & Families) recently released a report on Development Foundations of School Readiness for Infants and Toddlers.  The focus of this report is on the first three years of a child’s life and highlights the foundational development that is needed for school readiness and future success.  Some of the foundational principles that this report was based on include:

·         Children are active participants in shaping their own development.
·         Children learn primarily through doing a task and interaction with people in their life.
·         Each child affects their environment and the environment affects the child in on-going and cyclical ways.
·         Development and learning occur in multiple systems  and settings including immediate family, extended family, early care and learning programs, and their community.
·         All areas of development are interrelated. 
·         Each child develops at their own rate.  Hence, development charts consist of “normal” ranges rather specific standards.
·         Research has identified the period between birth and age three to be a distinct phase of development; vital to all future development.

This report reviewed research that studied the impact of development in five school readiness areas, including:

·         Physical development, motor and perceptual
·         Social and emotional development
·         Approaches to learning
·         Language and communication
·         Cognition

The research reviewed for this report, identifies the following conclusions:

·         Birth to the age of three is a unique time in a child’s life when foundational skills and development, vital to school readiness and future success, occur.  The adults in every child’s life need to understand that the environment and interactions either positively or negatively impact the child.
·         All areas of development need attention to fully prepare a child for school.  This also includes age-appropriate and developmentally-appropriate strategies.
·         Family, community and cultural influences are embedded in a child’s development.  These influences need to be supported and respected in any early care or learning program in which the child participates.
·         Early care and learning programs need to be built on solid research and theory in early childhood development.  Hence, all people working with children need to have a foundational understanding of early childhood development supplemented with on-going continuing education and professional training and courses. 
·         Collaboration between child care & learning programs and families is vital to help each child reach their full potential. 
·         The general public, families and policy makers need to understand the importance of early childhood development.  The research clearly supports a strong argument for early developmental programs, initiatives and early developmental support and intervention funding.

The current body of research supports the conclusion that school readiness begins at birth and is supported through a range of high-quality programs and services to children from birth to age three and their families.  However, further research is needed to identify what components of programs and intervention services make the biggest impact.  

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