THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
James A. Kadamus
Rebecca H. Cort
Draft Regents Policy Statement on Early Education for
Student Achievement in a Global Community
July 7, 2005
Goals 1 and 2
Issue for Discussion
Should the Board of Regents direct staff to solicit public comment on the draft Regents early childhood policy statement?
Review of policy.
This question will be before the full Board on July 21, 2005.
In March 2005, the Board of Regents discussed and approved a framework for developing a revised early childhood policy. The attached draft policy statement incorporates the concepts of the framework, which was also informed by extensive discussion with statewide partners.
The current Regents early childhood policy was adopted in 1992. Since that time, research and major federal and State initiatives have focused on the early years of education. A revised policy that is based on recent research, consistent with new program initiatives, and fully aligned with the Regents strategic goals is needed.
It is recommended that the Board of Regents direct staff to disseminate the draft early childhood policy statement for public comment.
Timetable for Implementation
The next steps to be undertaken upon the Board’s direction to solicit public comment on the draft early childhood policy statement are:
Solicit public comment during August through October.
Discuss the draft policy statement at statewide technical assistance sessions for prekindergarten programs.
Submit in November to the Board a summary of the public comment received and a revised draft policy statement that reflects public comment.
Submit in December to the Board the final early childhood policy statement for approval.
As the draft policy statement is disseminated for public comment, Department staff will continue to monitor the emergence of key issues arising from research, including the education of males in early education and expulsion policies in prekindergarten and kindergarten. These two issues are currently receiving national attention as research is released. The continued use of research to direct the development of the policy statement is critical for a strong initiative.
Upon adoption of the revised policy, Department staff will begin implementation of a four-year plan to accomplish the major components of this policy. Full implementation of the plan is dependent upon statutory amendments and changes to the State Aid formulas.
Draft Regents Policy Statement on
Early Education for Student Achievement in a Global Community
· Environments that were safe, socially enhancing, emotionally nurturing and intellectually stimulating.
· Group sizes and adult ratios that maintained small groups.
· Teacher qualifications that ensured knowledge of early childhood development.
· Curriculum and assessments that were based on teacher observations and developmentally appropriate practices.
· Continuity between programs as children move from preschool to prekindergarten.
· Comprehensive services, including health, social services, transportation and nutrition, as program components.
· Parent participation as being critical to the growth and development of children.
· Leadership from knowledgeable and experienced persons in the early childhood areas.
Much has changed since the Regents adopted this policy. New research in early education and large scale federal and State initiatives compel us to review and update our early childhood education policy. Through a revised policy, the Regents reassert their commitment to provide strong leadership to create a system of high quality early childhood education for all of New York’s children from birth to grade 3. It is the Regents belief that New York’s early childhood system must close the achievement gap earlier and ensure that all children are prepared to function productively in a global community. It is therefore the policy of the Board of Regents that:
Each statement in this policy is founded upon research and/or data on our youngest citizens. The statements, which are examined below, collectively provide a strong framework for a rigorous early childhood initiative.
We must recognize that our education system begins at birth:
· The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines early childhood as birth to age eight.
· Defining early education as concluding at the end of grade 3 is consistent with federal initiatives such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Reading First. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children with disabilities are eligible to receive early intervention services from ages birth through two and special education programs and services from ages three – 21.
· “All” must mean “all,” with specific strategies to address the needs of children in the achievement gap (children with disabilities, children in poverty, children in homeless shelters, children with health and housing needs and children with limited English proficiency).
ü Programs must be designed to ensure a healthy start and support young children to attain the skills and concepts needed to ensure successful academic experiences.
· We must recognize that the core purpose of early childhood education is preparing students for academic success. Research conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied prekindergarten programs in five states (New York, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio). Their study found that children do not receive adequate instruction linked to pre-academic skills. Instruction must be direct, intensive and appropriate for each child. If our children are to be participants in a global community, early education is critical to ensure academic success.
ü Early childhood programs must be standards-based and start early.
· We must recognize the reality of how young children live their lives in the 21st Century. Currently, 80% of four-year-olds are in care outside the home and spend over 65% of their time with adults other than their parents (U. S. Department of Education). We can no longer afford to act as if a child’s first educational experience begins in kindergarten or first grade. Starting earlier is critical to closing the gap for many of our young children.
· Comprehensive research provided by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine states unequivocally that children in their early years (0-5) experience more rapid and robust cognitive growth than any other period of development. Instruction must be dense and direct to activate the areas of the brain responsible for reading, language and social/emotional skills.
ü Instruction must be provided by highly qualified persons.
· We must recognize that high quality programs require highly qualified staff whose skills are constantly upgraded through rigorous professional development. A longitudinal study conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill provided evidence that children in prekindergarten programs spend far too much time in teacher-directed activities and routines (almost 58% of their day). High quality early childhood programs need to become more learner-centered with emphasis on early literacy and numeracy. Instruction that better utilizes the full day and provides direct instruction is more likely to be attained when teachers receive high quality training.
· New York’s current early childhood (birth–grade 2) and childhood education (grades 1-6) certification, as well as comparable certification for teachers of students with disabilities, provides a starting place, but much work needs to be accomplished to ensure that pre-service coursework and professional development lead to highly qualified staff.
· We must ensure that the early childhood teaching force includes an increased number of highly qualified males. Early education systems must recruit and retain a higher percentage of males to provide balanced role models for our young children.
· We must build upon families as partners in education and build upon their capacity to support their children’s learning. Research by Anne Henderson and Nancy Berla of the Center for Law and Education confirms that, when parents are involved with their children’s education, their children earn higher grades, become involved in higher-level programs, attend school regularly, earn passing grades, have better social skills and graduate and/or go on to postsecondary education. Early education settings establish the tone for the two-way communication needed to ensure meaningful and sustained parent involvement.
ü Early childhood environments must provide comprehensive services to meet the needs of children and their families.
· We must harness the capacity of the University of the State of New York (USNY) and its care-giving partners and focus on the array of services needed to support young children and their families. A comprehensive assessment protocol that includes screenings for health and nutrition needs to be established and used consistently. School districts and community-based organizations need to work collaboratively to ensure that children and families receive the support and services necessary for academic success. Activities initiated by libraries should compliment, in a planful way, the supports needed by families.
The Regents policy for creating a birth to grade 3 continuum of early childhood education can be accomplished through implementation of the following twelve component strategies:
Many school districts have strong outreach programs to families of children birth through age 2. The degree and type of outreach provided is currently at the school district’s discretion. For other families, those with children with disabilities, a service delivery system is federally required and is administered by the Department of Health in New York State. To ensure that those children who have the greatest needs are not left behind before formal schooling begins, expanded and consistent outreach and services must be offered to children from birth to age two and to their families.
A statewide prekindergarten program, for three- and four-year-olds, must be available in all school districts. New York State has effective prekindergarten programs; however, programs are not available in all school districts and for all students within some districts. Implementation of the Universal Prekindergarten program over the past six years has demonstrated the importance of school district and community-based collaborations. The New York State Universal Prekindergarten initiative has been successful because it improved coordination of services and required high standards in all settings. Increased attention to program quality, focused instruction and stable funding must occur to expand upon initial implementation successes.
The majority of young children now attend educational programs in formal settings well before they reach age five. However, in some communities public school programs for children are not available for five-year-olds and parents may have limited options for high quality programs. This is particularly true in rural and low-income communities. The current standards-based environment requires students to receive more explicit instruction, beginning in the early years. Attendance is equally important. Research is clear that attendance is critical for skill acquisition. Lowering the compulsory age to five would both obligate districts to provide instruction and parents to ensure that children regularly attend.
Research findings indicate that children in full-day kindergarten programs, on average, make greater gains in reading and math achievement scores than their peers who attend half-day programs or who are not enrolled in kindergarten. Full-day kindergarten provides more one-to-one instruction, less large group learning and greater time on learning activities than half-day programs. Kindergarten remains a non-mandated program in New York State, although the majority of public school districts and most nonpublic schools provide half-day or full-day programs. In conjunction with lowering the compulsory school age to five, New York State needs to ensure that children are enrolled in full-day kindergarten programs in all school districts to strengthen educational beginnings.
Component 5 - Strengthened Prekindergarten–Grade 3 Programs
Research suggests that significant social, emotional, physical, and cognitive benefits occur to children who have mild, moderate or severe disabilities and are integrated in instructional setting with their non-disabled peers. Between 1997 and 2003, the number of children, birth to age five, who received early intervention and preschool special education services in New York State increased 40 percent. Preliminary results of VESID’s Preschool Longitudinal Study strongly suggest that the academic and social achievement of young children with disabilities in elementary school is more consistent with expectations for their non-disabled peers when their special education programs and related services are provided in less restrictive, integrated settings. Data further suggest that the placement decisions made for young children with disabilities is highly correlated with the opportunities these children later have to receive high quality instruction in integrated elementary school programs. Young children who receive preschool special education in more restrictive settings tend to be placed in more segregated elementary programs and require greater support to achieve the State’s early education and elementary level learning standards in early literacy and mathematics.
Local educational agencies (LEAs), in strong collaboration with their USNY partners, businesses, health providers, and community-based organizations, must ensure that information to parents and caregivers is provided in their native language and that prekindergarten–grade 3 programs maintain high levels of parent/family participation. Library programs and informational materials must continue to provide support to families as educational partners.
A curriculum-based training for parents and caregivers of children in prekindergarten–grade 3 must be developed and implemented. School districts must provide more productive opportunities for parents and caregivers to be involved in supporting young students’ learning. Family literacy programs must be expanded to ensure that parents and caregivers can become academic support for their children. In order to close the achievement gap earlier, parents and caregivers must be able to become active coaches in their child’s education.
Component 8 – Interagency Collaboration
Many agencies and organizations at the State and local levels impact the lives of children from birth to age 8. In order to close the achievement gap, the goals and resources of each partner must be focused on critical strategies. Much work over the past five years has been accomplished in establishing statewide blueprints for early childhood education and care. Expanded collaborative efforts are needed to strengthen programs to include pre-academic skills, higher quality settings and expanded services such as health, nutrition and housing.
Few states currently have an early childhood system that aligns research-based learning standards, curriculum and assessments. While New York has developed State standards and performance indicators for each content area for prekindergarten–grade 12, there is a need to better align this work with early childhood curriculum and assessment.
A reexamination of State standards in the early childhood grade levels is needed to ensure consistency with current research. In addition, the early childhood community has articulated the need for a separate document on prekindergarten standards, performance indicators and assessments. Such a document will serve two purposes: first to provide a stand-alone document appropriate for programs in a variety of settings (day care, nursery schools, preschool special education and Head Start) and second to facilitate continuity with programs serving children birth-age 3. A recent statewide blueprint entitled New York Action Plan for Young Families and Children, developed under the guidance of the Schuyler Center for Advocacy and Analysis and Child Care Inc. and work undertaken by the Department of Health, clearly articulates the need to develop common performance indicators.
The State Education Department should develop a tool to assist school districts in designing and evaluating curriculum for prekindergarten–grade 3 students. The limited availability of standards-based commercial products has prompted districts to develop their own curricula. There are many excellent district level materials; however, consistency, availability, and comprehensiveness need to be ensured statewide.
In developing discrete standards and performance indicators for the education and achievement of young children, the Department must ensure that the performance indicators for kindergarten participation developed for children with disabilities are embedded within the performance indicators recently revised by the Office of State Assessment for all prekindergarten-grade 12 students.
An assessment protocol must be developed to inform instruction at the classroom level and to report to parents on their child’s progress. A revised assessment protocol would include a more comprehensive screening for new entrants, ongoing progress monitoring in reading and numeracy and grade level outcome assessments. The assessment protocol developed must be aligned with standards and curriculum so that better and more integrated instruction can be provided to students with limited English proficiency and students with disabilities.
The need to strengthen the screening process for all new entrants into school has reached a critical stage. Part 117 of the Regulations of the Commissioner needs to be expanded to incorporate health-related areas such as asthma, diabetes, and immunizations. It also must include components that more accurately assess literacy, language and numeracy skills. In addition, the process should include more specificity and uniformity in terms of its implementation statewide.
The Department’s individual student tracking system must be expanded to include children at age three and four. Currently, statewide data on four-years-olds is minimal and when available is provided by individual LEAs or programs. In special education, data is collected on the placement of young children with disabilities. However, specific data regarding community-based programs needs to be collected. In public schools alone, building level configurations include prekindergarten–grade 1, prekindergarten–grade 3, kindergarten only, kindergarten–grade 2, and kindergarten-grade 4. In addition, students may attend Head Start, daycare, nonpublic nursery, kindergarten or Universal Prekindergarten programs. A more comprehensive and refined data system is needed to inform program quality review and policy development.
Teachers must be knowledgeable about the most recent research in early childhood reading and math, how the research pertains to developmental stages and how it translates into instructional practice. The revised teacher certification regulations that became effective in February 2004 offer two major routes for individuals who are interested in teaching young children, including those with disabilities. Early childhood (birth–grade 2) and childhood education (grades 1-6) certificates, which may be combined with certification for teaching students with disabilities, provide prospective teachers with the pedagogy, methods, and practicum needed to deliver high quality instruction.
Beyond having a solid knowledge of child development and early education and a supervised experience working with young children, prekindergarten–grade 3 staff need varied and ongoing opportunities to extend their own professional growth and learning. Continuing collaborative work with institutions of higher education is needed to examine pre-service education. Pre-service education programs must be aligned with current research and available statewide to principals, directors and other educational leaders. Increased access to the New York State Virtual Learning System, as well as USNY partners, will help to ensure that scientifically-based reading research strategies are used to provide instruction.
USNY is a resource available to support the actualization of the revised early childhood education policy. The Board of Regents USNY Summit in November 2005 offers an ideal arena to focus on the capacity of USNY members to become actively engaged in closing the achievement gap. A few examples of USNY programs and services that lay the foundation for learning are:
· Public television provides the pre-literacy experiences young children need in home-based as well as center-based child care programs;
· Libraries have collections of literature and other forms of media that are used to introduce and reinforce conceptual learning that stimulates emergent reading behaviors;
· Museums offer hands-on materials and experiences to enrich children’s literacy and numeracy skills while building vocabulary, socialization, listening, problem-solving and manipulative skills; and
· USNY resources are available to enrich the learning of those who are challenged by disability, language and other barriers to learning and development.
A financial mechanism that supports stable funding for prekindergarten and full-day kindergarten is essential. Early childhood programs can no longer be an issue for debate at State and local budget times. Because early childhood programs are not currently a mandated component of the public education system, such programs become the most vulnerable during times of fiscal constraint.
A stable approach to funding would ensure that prekindergarten and full-day kindergarten is included in State Aid funding formulas, through such methods as a categorical apportionment linked to the Regents foundational formula. This approach allows every district to receive funds, continue and expand collaborations with community-based organizations, and ensure that funding is targeted specifically for prekindergarten programs.
Dissemination of the draft policy statement will occur from August through October 2005. It will be posted on the Department’s web site with the opportunity for structured feedback. Additional dissemination will include strategic partners (USNY, statewide associations, advisory groups, parent organizations, etc.) with a structured feedback process. Seven regional and two New York City technical assistance sessions will be held in October and November 2005 to discuss the draft policy statement. A summary of comments from the field will be submitted to the Regents in November.
Should the Regents approve the revised policy in December 2005, we anticipate that it will require a four-year implementation timeframe. Within that timeframe, statutory amendments will be needed for full-day kindergarten and compulsory age initiatives. State Aid proposals and allocations must be in place to achieve full statewide access to prekindergarten programs. Developmental work on assessments, curriculum and performance indicators, using national experts, will also take place. Also, developmental work on the student identification system will be needed to incorporate three- and four-year-olds.
The revised Regents Policy Statement on Early Education for Student Achievement in a Global Community provides clear direction for strengthening early childhood education. It is based upon current scientifically-based research. Implementation of the components will provide earlier starts, comprehensive information about each child to be shared with his/her family, and high quality programs. A stronger early education system will enable our youngest citizens to attain the skills needed to be fully engaged learners for an ever-changing global community.
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Forbes, Beth. Full Day Kindergarten May Ease Stress on Students, Purdue Press, November 1997.
Henderson, A. and Berla, N. A New Generation of Evidence: The Family is Critical to Student Achievement, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2002.
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Preschool Matters. Pew Charitable Trust, March/April 2005, Volume 3, Number 2.
Research on Early Childhood Education, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, December 2002.
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