Reps. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), and Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced the Continuum of Learning Act on Friday to help integrate early learning into states’ existing K-12 education plans.
The bill would amend ESEA and strengthen the connections between preschool and K-12 by:
• Setting a three-year deadline for states to review and revise their early learning guidelines for children ages 0-5 and revise standards for grades K-3 as needed to align with early learning and incorporate both core academic areas and social and emotional development like appropriate classroom behavior.
• Creating or revising state teacher certification to develop an early educator credential spanning birth through age 8. (New America Foundation recently released a report recommending this step.)
• Providing joint training for early educators and elementary school teachers in child development and best teaching practices. The plan also calls for elementary school principals and administrators to participate in professional development geared toward better developing elementary school curricula for young learners. Many states currently are under-utilizing available education funds for this purpose, Hirono says.
• Promoting coordination between early childhood and Head Start programs and elementary school teachers so children have a supportive transition from preschool to elementary school. For example, a child who receives help on language skills or visits by a social worker in preschool can continue receiving that help, if needed, when he or she gets to kindergarten.
• Assisting elementary schools in being “ready schools” so all children have the quality teaching, supportive services, and family engagement needed for their success. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) introduced the Ready Schools Act, which is included as part of this legislation.
• Encouraging schools in need of improvement to use early childhood education as a strategy for improving student achievement. (Pre-K Now, one of the early childhood organizations involved in the creation of the bill, recently released a report on this strategy.)
According to Hirono’s office, more groups offering input included the First Five Years Fund, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Head Start Association, among others.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.