Washington, D.C. — A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress examines state and local efforts to bridge gaps in education policy and practice between preschool and K-12 education. The brief focuses on alignment from pre-K to third grade, also known as P-3.
“We know that the experiences children have in early childhood are incredibly influential, but this critical period of development is not limited to the years before children enter kindergarten,” said Rebecca Ullrich, a Policy Analyst at CAP. “Maximizing the cognitive and social-emotional gains made by children in preschool settings requires consistent access to high-quality classrooms and schools as they enter the K-12 system.”
As the issue brief notes, administrative oversight for early learning initiatives at the state level is often scattered and typically not housed in the same agency as elementary and secondary schools. Consequently, preschool and elementary administrators and educators are subject to vastly different policies and standards for practice. These systematic differences, coupled with divergent and sometimes competing philosophies around education and development, pose significant challenges for implementers looking to align early learning and K-12 systems. Successful alignment from preschool to third grade requires implementers at all levels—from agency directors to superintendents to classroom teachers—to embrace policies and practices that support a consistent approach to children’s education beginning in pre-K.
To obtain an overview of some of the key components and challenges of P-3 alignment initiatives, the authors of the issue brief interviewed state and local leaders and experts in five states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Pennsylvania; as well as three localities: Chicago, Illinois, Lansing, Michigan, and Marin County, California. In these interviews, implementers described a number of strategies and initiatives that have been and continue to be critical to their alignment efforts, which are highlighted in detail in the issue brief. Those strategies and initiatives include:
- Creating a unified vision or goal for all children and identifying how P-3 alignment helps achieve that goal
- Establishing a coherent, collaborative system for the programs and services that benefit children and families
- Building and supporting leadership at all levels to influence policy and practice and to foster buy-in around the need for alignment
- Streamlining approaches to instruction through aligned professional development and standards for children’s learning and socio-emotional development
- Engaging families and the broader community to meet the diverse needs of all children
- Using data to inform policy and practice and to build evaluation activities into alignment initiatives
The issue brief is the first in a series of three from CAP on P-3 alignment. Subsequent briefs will examine aligning access to teacher quality and aligning access to quality programs.
Click here to read “A Different Way of Doing Business: Examples of Pre-K to Third Grade Alignment in Practice” by Rebecca Ullrich and Maryam Adamu.
For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Allison Preiss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.478.6331.