Technology is growing exponentially in educational environments. Every day children and educators have access to volumes of resources that are provided in digital interfaces— computers, tablets and smartboards are all commonplace in classrooms across the nation. As opportunities to engage technology become more and more available in early childhood it is important on consider if the value added is worth the investment.
Linking early education services to elementary education has become a strong focus of program development and evaluation in many communities. You may hear it as “Age 3 to Grade 3” or “alignment to the academic and social demands of elementary school” or the importance of helping children be “ready for school.” Regardless of the term, the idea is the same: Children develop across a trajectory, and services that promote development in preschool can and should support development after those children enroll in elementary school.
In the first years of life, developmental trajectories change rapidly, creating dramatic opportunities for children to learn new things and grow. This window of growth is an important time because research indicates parents, educators and other adults are the primary influencers in child level success. Within these first five years, language development is included in this window, as children are listening and learning new vocabulary within every interaction with their caregivers.
Using technology in preschool classrooms to improve assessment and promote data-based decision making
When the topics of early childhood education and technology come together there are often intense opinions about when and if children should be exposed to technology at young ages, how such interactions impact child level outcomes and behaviors and the intended or unintended impact such use of technology in preschool may have on family, teacher, classroom or system level practices. Current research is developing on both sides of this debate and at present we have few empirical studies to support how to make decisions about child level interactions with technology during the early childhood years.
“I think teachers need to talk to me and share information about how my child is learning in school. I want to know where my child is possibly struggling, and what we can do at home to help.”
I looked at the check in my hand and read the amount: $1300 to purchase IGDIs assessment materials as part of our MTSS/RtI initiative! This was great news! I had submitted a proposal to purchase materials to a local foundation that supported early language and literacy initiatives and I was awarded the full amount I had requested. This would go a long way to helping us know our students’ current performance levels on a universal screener (IGDIs) that had met rigorous criteria as being a valid and reliable measure of current early language and literacy skills and a strong indicator of later reading fluency proficiency or difficulty.
Using Data-Based Decision Making to Drive Program Quality in PreK: The Story of One Head Start Program
with special contribution from Rachel Roberts, Assistant Principal of Kalamazoo RESA Head Start (MI)
Over the last three years, the state of Michigan has more than doubled its investment in State funded PreK. At the same time, Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency in Kalamazoo, Michigan was awarded the Head Start grant to serve 626 children across the county. These two PreK programs set the stage for the Intermediate School District to ramp up its early childhood programming and implement Multi-Tiered Systems of Support in their PreK early childhood programming.
There are many myths that you might encounter in the field about bilingual development (Espinosa, 2008). The truth is that most Americans know very little about bilingualism and unfortunately as a society we do not place much value in or have much experience with speaking more than one language. Outside the U.S. over half of the world’s population is bilingual (Grosjean, 2010). As diversity increases in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008) it is important that we get our facts right about bilingualism so that we can better serve one of the fastest and largest populations in the U.S. The following section will address three important “fictions” that influence how teachers might approach the education of young dual language learners (DLLs).
with special contribution from Mary Mischke, Early Childhood Specialist Pre-K of Bloomington Public Schools (MN)
When we hear the term “data-based decision making” or “data-driven instruction” early childhood teachers often wonder, “What constitutes data?” and “How do I use it to make decisions?” Data are the information we collect at the student and classroom level to evaluate student success or instructional practices, and when we use those data to drive how we modify our instruction we engage a data-driven process. Conceptually, it sounds easy enough, but in practice, it takes careful attention to a host of factors. This story features one school district’s experience with data-based decision making and how this model has promoted best practices in their preschool classrooms.
Volumes of research illustrate how the first five years are a window especially ripe for creating healthy, happy and successful children. Over the past two decades a substantial collection of seminal work on the magic that occurs in these precious years have been disseminated across the nation in reports, website, editorials, books and research study findings (e.g. Neurons to Neighborhoods, Harvard’s Developing Child Center, National Early Literacy Panel, Thirty Million Words, etc.). Findings stretching from neuron formations and brain development, to the value of talking to children in meaningful conversation to build vocabulary, to supporting healthy eating habits that promote sustained healthy lifestyles have all contributed to the importance of these first five years. As a result, it is now well accepted that across the research, findings all point to the core notion that if we want to create circumstances for the most success in life, we must start in early childhood.