Program leaders’ understanding of what it means to provide quality teaching has changed quite a bit over the past twenty-five years. A focus on quality used to mean providing a safe place for children to play with plenty of stimulating materials and books to read. Now that most programs provide these basics in their early childhood classrooms, our focus has shifted from the what to the how of quality.
Since I joined Teachstone over three years ago, I have eagerly listened to the State of the Union Address—always with a hopeful mind and heart—waiting to hear the mission of high quality early childhood education woven into the framework of the annual speech. As a teacher, a faculty member, a researcher, a mother, and now a leader in an education company, I know the difference that high quality education focused on the early childhood years can make, and I am committed to doing everything in my power to move this mission forward. I now use the Address as a barometer for measuring the priority level early childhood education has within the national platform for the year that follows.
I have sat down to write a Happy New Year blog post from Teachstone on numerous occasions during the past three weeks, but it seems that every time I begin to write I am pulled away for another exciting conversation with a research partner, a higher education partner, a community partner, or a state partner. If the last three weeks are any indication of what 2015 will bring for the birth to five community, it is going to be one exciting and productive year. It will also be a wild ride! So I am going to take a deep breath as I relax on my fourth flight in 36 hours and share a bit of what I have been thinking about but unable to put down on paper (well actually on my laptop) for the past 20 days.
Summer is in full swing in Charlottesville. The kids are in camp and the grant writing season has officially arrived. Like many of you, I have been searching the Internet, talking to colleagues, and using any fortune telling powers I have at my fingertips to determine when the Preschool Development Grants will—as we say in grant land—"drop."
With mixed emotions, I just put my children on the bus for the last time for this school year. Part of me is happy to have a brief reprieve from the 7 a.m. walk to the bus stop and to begin the extended evenings of swimming, bike riding, and neighborhood walks. The other side of me is sad to see another year ending and to realize I know have a third grader and a seventh grader(!). I think to myself—like every mother does this time of year—where has the time gone?
I spent last week at the World Forum on Early Care and Education conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was my first opportunity to connect with the international education community. The World Forum Foundation promotes the on-going exchange of ideas on the delivery of quality services for young children in diverse settings around the globe.
The morning after the President's 2013 State of the Union address, I sent an email to Teachstone staff with the subject line "Inspiring Words to Begin Your Day." As an early childhood advocate, I was elated to finally hear words so many of us in education had been waiting a lifetime to hear and couldn't wait to share them with my colleagues:
As we have seen with the hiccups, bumps in the road, and major potholes that have been part of the Affordable Care Act rollout, the key to any successful policy is not the policy itself but the implementation that surrounds it. It seems that every time I open a newspaper (I do prefer paper to online), watch a newscast, or listen to a conference presentation, I am reminded of the difficulties associated with bringing policy from the statehouse to the schoolhouse.