Early learning: Babysitters are nice, but teachers are better

two young boys at the playgroundEvery parent wants their child to get a strong start in life and learn to his/her full potential – which is why today’s moms and dads want more than a daytime babysitter. They want their child(ren) to develop critical social and personal skills – exactly what an experienced professional early childhood educator is trained to deliver.

Recent research from the Center for American Progress (CAP) backs that up. Not only is early learning incredibly successful at building social, emotional, motor and cognitive skills, it also cuts the risk of dropping out of school, becoming a teenage parent, or being arrested for a violent crime. And it’s more successful at developing critical skills than remedial intervention later in life.

A wide array of programs, standards, and methods have emerged to meet increasing demand for early learning services. In order for these opportunities to reach more children, provide higher-quality programs, and provide greater consistency across programs and states, CAP’s recommendations include:

  • Providing professional development opportunities for existing early childhood educators.
  • Expanding early learning programs at elementary schools to better prepare students for kindergarten and elementary education,
  • Providing services to better meet the needs of dual-language learners (i.e., utilizing dual-language curricula with bilingual teachers),
  • Gathering data to establish and share successful learning methods

Some of those recommendations are already at work in Washington state. The Washington Department of Early Learning combined programs previously housed in three separate agencies in 2006, and Washington’s Early Childhood Education Career and Wage Ladder has proven to be a successful public-private partnership in encouraging teacher training and development, resulting in better teacher retention.

But there are still numerous opportunities to make improvements at the state and national level. Early learning is a vital component of child development. Some form of national support for early learning improvements is critical if we’re going to ensure early learning opportunities are available to all children.

By EOI Policy Intern Travis Crayton

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