By Catherine Main
One of the few bipartisan things going on in Washington right now is that the federal government is really talking about early childhood education. Fortunately here in Illinois, there is going to be some money across the board to match the talk because where you look academically, economically and socially, early childhood matters and quality matters.
My understanding is that this three percent funding increase is related to Race to the Top funding and the successful awarding of an early learning challenge grant. When we talk about how the money needs to be spent, a push for quality is the right direction to go in. There is a lot of discussion right now about what kind of early childhood educators are “quality.” Right now the focus of that discussion is on inputs, and we aren’t really looking at quality measures and outcomes for the young kids.
As I have written in my RUEPI policy brief, it is critical that we look to strengthen the early childhood profession and have more of a leadership role in terms of what we as early childhood educators can contribute to K-12 education. The focus on social emotional learning, child development and really laying the cornerstones for education can make such a huge difference in K-12.
Much of that need, then, revolves around the creation of “quality” curriculum. One of the good ideas we like is that of emerging curriculum, where a teacher can be flexible and spontaneous and build off of immediate needs and ideas of children. Young children don’t have a capacity to make themselves care about something, so we want teachers to be intentional and let kids take the lead in making their learning meaningful to them.