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    The Importance of Early Learning

    Early childhood begins at birth and ends at age eight; however, the Orange Township Public Schools will focus primarily on the period between preschool and third grade. The rationale is that by providing a systematic and comprehensive program that span multiple years, and target key transition points would promote greater success by third grade, which is a primary indicator for later school success.

    The period between preschool and third grade is a tipping point in a child’s journey toward lifelong learning as they transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” If children do not have, proficient reading skills by third grade, their ability to progress through school and meet grade-level expectations diminishes significantly. The early years in a child’s educational journey set the foundation for which future learning builds. Strengthening these years is critical and creates lasting opportunities for all children. Additionally, equity in these early years is essential. Teachers must provide instruction in a developmentally appropriate environment, with resources, and services sufficient to meet the needs of each learner.

    Researchers found that high-quality preschool programs relate to other positive developmental outcomes for children, including improved language development, cognitive functioning, social competence, and emotional adjustment (Bogard & Takanishi, 2005; Heckman, 2010). However, what happens after preschool will determine if these initial positive gains persist or not.

    The Department of Early Learning endeavors to capitalize on the effect of preschool and the investment in early education by ensuring alignment in the early grades. Alignment emphasizes coordination among standards, curricula, instructional practices, student assessment, and teacher professional development between the preschool years and the early elementary school years. If the experiences in the early grades are not aligned, the initial benefits of preschool may not persist (Claessens, Engel, & Curran, 2013; Lipsey, Farran, & Hofer, 2015). Therefore, in order for children to maintain their growth rate from preschool, they must transition into elementary schools that emphasize skill building from one grade to the next and meeting the diverse needs and skills of all children to maximize their learning experiences (Tomlinson, 2001).

     

    Bogard, K., & Takanishi, R. (2005). P–3: An aligned and coordinated approach to education for children 3 to 8 years old. Social Policy Report, 19(3), 1–23.

    Claessens, A., Engel, M., & Curran, F. C. (2013). Academic content, student learning, and the persistence of preschool effects. American Educational Research Journal, 0002831213513634.

    Heckman, J. J. (2010). The rate of return to the High Scope Perry Preschool Program. Journal of Public Economics, 94(1), 114–128.

    Lipsey, M. W., Farran, D. C., Hofer, K. G. (2015). A randomized control trial of a statewide voluntary prekindergarten program on children’s skills and behaviors through third grade. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University, Peabody Research Institute.

    Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.