The United States is grappling with three major emergencies that are compounded by systemic racism: COVID-19, the bleak economic outlook, and police violence. The poor outcomes for people of color, particularly African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans (CDC, June 2020, retrieved 6/1/2020), infected with COVID-19 reflect racism against individuals, disinvestment in communities, and discriminatory policies and laws.
Related to COVID-19 are the necessary shut-downs aimed at reducing infection rates, which have in turn, negatively impacted employment. Police violence against people of color, and African Americans in particular, has a history rooted in the creation and preservation of slavery (Time, May 2017, retrieved 7/30/2020). A focus on educational equity, especially as it relates to the early years, is one way to begin a more fair and non-racist path of opportunity for educators, education leaders, and the young children they care for and teach.
Organizations working on behalf of educational equity, especially as it pertains to communities of color, have been working for decades and even centuries. However, now is a particularly opportune moment to move toward tangible and sustainable solutions. Our new report — Ideal Pathways: How Ideal Learning Approaches Prepare and Support Early Childhood Educators (Ideal Pathways) — provides thoughtful insight and recommendations about how formal and informal post-secondary education systems can more equitably support educators, and by extension, young children, families, and their communities. Building on the expertise of our Ideal Learning Roundtable colleagues, Elizabeth Beaven and Brenda Fyfe, Trust for Learning is focused on how we can foster momentum around a stronger movement for equity in early childhood educator pathways — whether supporting parents, home-based providers, or pre-service and in-service educators.
The eleven ideal learning educator pathways reviewed in this report include:
These educator development pathways are situated in various settings: home-based with a focus on parents and family child care providers; pre- and in-service training for teachers in centers, schools, and districts; and certification and degree programs from accredited universities.
These approaches place an emphasis on supporting each child’s individual intellectual, social, physical, and emotional development and they are informed by and aligned with science and best practices. The educator, who may be a parent, caregiver, or teacher, is a nurturing presence and co-constructor of knowledge where meaningful relationships serve as the basis for interactions between and among children and adults. In these programs, the emphasis is placed on ongoing child observation and low-stakes assessment used to inform teaching and learning.
What We Learned: Existing Data, Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations
The current report makes a unique contribution to the knowledge of early childhood educator training pathways, particularly in the context of equity. The report provides practical recommendations to the early childhood education field, policymakers, researchers, and funders. We learned a great deal in compiling information about and studying these 11 educator approaches — a few of our high-level takeaways are listed here.
Our findings show that early childhood educators naturally enter these pathways at various points in their careers, which makes clear that multiple entry points to high-quality training are necessary to expand access. We also found interesting similarities between the various approaches. For example, educator presence and self-regulation are key features across the approaches because of how they shape the instructional climate.
Results also show one area that is particularly problematic for missing data: Participant demographics. Generally, we know how many educators pursue a specific approach, but most approaches do not systematically collect data on age, income, race/ethnicity, and language(s) spoken. We recommend collecting these data because they have the potential to allow measurable progress monitoring to ensure the representation of educators from diverse backgrounds who reflect the children and families served. Our study also reveals that, although these are research-informed approaches, few of the pathways examined count toward formal degree requirements or state licensure. This presents an opportunity for states to build workforce capacity. Specifically, we suggest that states recognize and count the extensive coursework and hours of training that individuals complete toward state certification and licensure.
These challenges and others discussed in the full report are met with clear, actionable recommendations and an eye toward continuous quality improvement at multiple levels. With so much seemingly going wrong in our society – from the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, to systemic racism and police violence against people of color – this report lays out a way for our society to “get it right” for today’s educators and the children who will be tomorrow’s leaders. The report recommendations are aimed at supporting all teachers, and those who have been historically marginalized, such as educators of color, will benefit the most – and we believe that this is emblematic of what educational equity is all about.
Taniesha A. Woods Myles, is the Equity and Ideal Learning Fellow at Trust for Learning. To hear more about Ideal Learning and the Trust for Learning, watch the on-webinar, What does it take to create “Ideal Learning” for all children today?
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? Everyone in my sample group spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly, but in my random group, the jelly always comes second.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make me think about Behavior Guidance, a dimension in the CLASS® toddler observation tool. Especially the first two indicators of behavior guidance: proactive and supporting positive behavior. Proactive is the peanut butter! It goes first. That layer of peanut butter is the base for the jelly, which promotes positive behavior.
“What I think I’m most proud of as a professional in the field is our ability to show up, our ability to still do it, to still roll with the changes… We have to adjust. That is what educators did the entire year. We show up. We have a strong why. We love what we do.” This is a quote from Colleen Schmit from our recent webinar, Celebrating Great Teaching. She’s talking about how hard the last couple of school years have been for teachers. Teachers faced a similar difficulty 20 years ago when the United States faced a national tragedy.
When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But after more than 18 months, it’s clear that the pandemic is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about COVID related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.
Whether you’re going back to school virtually or in person, making the most of each learning moment is always the goal. Engaging children requires you to make many plans and decisions based on your teaching knowledge. Ideally, you help children meet individual needs while still reaching goals. With strong relationships as a foundation, clear expectations and consistency will help children listen, participate, and learn. That said, building that foundation and keeping students engaged in virtual or hybrid settings can feel more challenging.
Here are some takeaways that we've heard from the last year that can help you adjust to the needs of each child in online settings, just as you would in person.