A recently published issue brief by the Learning Policy Institute examines exactly what it would take to create cooperative early childhood education (ECE) policy change in California. The issue brief presents recommendations to California policymakers on how to improve early childhood education for all children. These recommendations are based on a previous report: Understanding California’s Early Care and Education System.
The premise is that for California to provide all children with access to high quality ECE, the state needs to turn their “current uncoordinated set of underfunded programs into a true system of supports for children, families, and providers.” For this to happen, four proposed action goals need to be met:
While all four goals are critical to the long-term success of positive ECE policy change, we were especially excited that quality improvement was identified as a leading factor. We are even more thrilled that the brief specifically recommended that California expand CLASS® use in their QRIS system. Additionally, the issue brief specifically highlights the importance of supporting high quality adult-child interactions through CLASS implementation. Although CLASS use in California’s QRIS is mandatory, participation in the QRIS itself is voluntary (currently only about 14% of Californian providers participate).
To improve the quality of all ECE programs, the brief recommends that California grow their QRIS by increasing provider access to state quality improvement funds, centralizing training for QRIS assessors, and investing in research to continuously improve the effectiveness of the QRIS. Long-term these changes would raise the quality requirements for lower-achieving programs, ensure all state-supported programs participate in quality-improvement, and promote access to professional development for all ECE providers.
We are honored that the CLASS continues to be recognized by leading ECE researchers as both an effective measure, and a critical pathway to positive change in ECE policy. Although this brief was developed specifically for California, it draws upon previously successful interventions and policy change from states across the nation. It offers the opportunity for states to learn from one another and explore solutions to nationwide problems together. We look forward to seeing the hard work of our state partners and CLASS providers come to fruition!
For those interested in learning more, the full report can be found online.
Building an Early Learning System that Works: Next Steps for California (policy brief) by Hanna Melnick, Beth Meloy, Madelyn Gardner, Marjorie Wechsler, and Anna Maier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
Emma Granowsky is a research and public policy intern at Teachstone this summer. She is a rising senior at Davidson College and is majoring in public health. She is interested in social disparities and the use of education policy as a form of primary health prevention. Last summer she taught reading to 3rd-5th graders through the Freedom School program sponsored by the Children’s Defence Fund.
On a hot summer day in July 2016, I had the good fortune of being the one not on vacation on our small policy and research team. Instead, I went to DC to serve as Teachstone’s representative for a convening of policymakers, researchers, and ECE practitioners. They were gathering to discuss if and how exemplary Head Start grantees might be identified for Leading by Exemplar, an initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and led by Bellwether Education Partners.
Decades of evidence indicate that high-quality early childhood education positively affects children. Yet studies reveal that too few programs implement high-quality programming. To date, improvement efforts have primarily focused on what occurs within the classroom. The Ounce of Prevention Fund (Ounce), in partnership with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (UChicago Consortium), strives to broaden the focus of improvement efforts beyond the classroom to organizational conditions that support teachers and the relationships among staff, children, and families.
If you’ve been following the news lately, a lot is going on in North Carolina for young children and families! Leaders across the state—from businesses to state government to county municipalities—are leveraging partnerships that use research-based assessment and professional development models (like CLASS) to guarantee more of the state’s youngest residents have access to the high quality care they need and deserve.