The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) – www.naeyc.org – defines “early childhood” as occurring before the age of eight, and it is during this period that a child goes through the most rapid phase of growth and development. Their brains develop faster than at any other point in their lives, so these years are critical. The foundations for their social skills, self-esteem, perception of the world and moral outlook are established during these years, as well as the development of cognitive skills.
Early childhood education is encouraged for the healthy development and nurturing of all these important foundations, and trends show that parents are increasingly recognizing this. In fact, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), enrollment in prekindergarten-level education has risen from 96,000 to over 1 million in the last 30 years.
Early childhood education is not mandated by the United States Department of Education. Elementary and secondary education is all that is legally required for students, though early childhood education is doubtlessly an important and fundamental stage of learning.
The Importance of High Quality Teacher Preparedness
When researcher followed up with preschool subjects as they reached the second, grade and found that:
High-quality child care continued to positively predict children’s performance well into their K-12 careers.
Childcare quality was related to both basic cognitive skills (e.g., language and math) and children’s behavioral skills in the classroom (e.g., thinking/attention skills, socialization, and peer relations).
Children who have been traditionally at risk of not doing well in school are affected more by the quality of childcare experiences than other children.
In general, researchers have found that children in poor-quality child care are delayed in language and reading skills and display more aggression toward other children and adults.
In contrast, strong evidence exists that high-quality early learning and care significantly improves the scholastic success and educational attainment of low-income children, even into adulthood. Rates of grade retention, special education rates, and rates of public assistance dependence drop, while high school graduation rates, higher education rates, and lifetime earnings potential all increase.
Information on the Philanthropic Landscape can be found in this report:
The Center for Strategic Philanthropy & Civic Engagement worked with Mrs. M.J. Steele, Dr. Nancy Brown and a dedicated group of agencies, institutions, and organizations in Palm Beach County, Florida to review the research, trends, resource usage, and data to provide a comprehensive gap analysis on this issue. The gap analysis was reported to the community, and a recommendation was made to initiate an affordable, comprehensive, articulated degree and career pathway in early childhood education for Palm Beach County.
This articulation process begins in the Palm Beach County School District high school career academies, progresses to either the newly formed Bachelor of Early Childhood Education (BECE) degree at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) or the Associates Degree program at Palm Beach State College (PBSC), then progresses to the Master’s and Doctoral Degree levels at FAU as well.
Until this initiative, the local state university for south Florida did not offer a Bachelor’s Degree in early childhood, and the Associates Degree at the state college was a terminal one.
Currently, if a student wishes to, they can also articulate from the Associate’s Degree program directly into the BECE without credit penalty. This also allows nontraditional teachers to go back and increase their knowledge and degree attainment without the necessity of taking double the number of classes.
The lead institution for this effort is Florida Atlantic University.