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Organizations Emphasize Alignment of P-3 Education, Report Recommends Best Practices for Improving Early Learning

December 15, 2011

Several of the nation’s leading education organizations joined together on December 7, 2011 to support alignment of preschool through third grade (P-3) education. The Pre-K Coalition — comprised of the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association (NSBA) — released a brief titled The Importance of Aligning Pre-K through 3rd Grade, which details best practices and recommendations for improving early learning. 

According to the brief, a comprehensive P-3 approach is critical to ensure that children develop a solid foundation in literacy, math, and social-emotional skills. Gains made in high-quality Pre-K programs must be sustained and built upon throughout the K–3 years. The need to focus attention on children’s early learning years is now more important than ever since a third of the nation’s fourth graders are reading at below basic levels. Without a basic level of competency by third grade, students are more likely to struggle academically, have behavioral and social problems, be retained in grade, and drop out of school.

“Superintendents, principals, teachers, and state and local school board leaders agree that we need to think more systemically about the strategies and practices used in the early grades and their impact on reading achievement,” said Chrisanne Gayl, Director of the Pre-K Coalition.  “This requires a fundamental shift in perspective to paying greater attention to children’s earliest learning experiences—including those that occur before they ever enter formal schooling.”

The brief highlights effective P-3 strategies and best practices in states and districts throughout the country, and makes recommendations for how the federal government can help to support these efforts. In particular, it suggests federal policymakers: encourage the development of P-3 teaching credentials, support joint planning and professional development between early childhood providers and P-3 teachers, reduce parallel sets of regulations and reporting requirements across federal funding streams, and allow blending of federal and state early childhood education and care funding to strengthen systems building efforts. The report contends that federal leadership in these areas would help encourage states and local school districts to pursue P-3 strategies.

“There must be a culture of shared responsibility among all partners (local, state, and federal) as well as parents to support a comprehensive continuum of learning from pre-K to grade 3,” noted Anne L. Bryant, Executive Director of NSBA, which is spearheading the coalition. “We are asking the federal government to become a true partner with states and local communities to ensure that students receive a high quality start to learning.”

The release is the third brief in a series of policy reports by the Pre-K Coalition. Earlier documents include Framing the Future: Addressing Pre-K in ESEA, and Ensuring America’s Future.

Source:  The Pre-K Coalition