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Leading Early Educators for Success

A series of briefs aims to offer focus, strategy, and support to policymakers and practitioners on educating America’s youngest students

September 4, 2014
a young girl writes on a piece of paper

As more states and municipalities turn their focus toward increasing early education opportunities, Harvard Graduate School of Education faculty Nonie Lesaux and Stephanie Jones have produced a series of 10 one-page briefs to help policymakers and educators build sustainable and effective programs.

The briefs were designed to provide clear and concise information in an easily digestible format. They outline the challenges that early educators face, emphasize the importance of a rigorous and regulated (R2) learning environment, propose strategies for impact and implementation, and detail the influence of quality professional development coaching as well as the effective use of data.

According to Lesaux, the briefs will help to fill an existing void in effectively translating the science-based early education literature in the service of improvement and expansion, an area with a renewed governmental focus in the wake of a prominent mention in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech.

“This is a new era in early education,” says Lesaux, “and just as everyone is throwing their hat in the ring, we wanted to respond — to promote better, high-quality programming within a system that still needs great improvement at a time when we're focused on scaling.”

To that end, Lesaux says the briefs disseminate frameworks to be utilized in this time of expansion to ensure not only more opportunities, but also high-quality, sustainable programming that will help promote healthy development and optimal learning.

The benefits of early education have never been clearer. Yet the success of these initiatives rests on their quality, and quality itself rests on the educators on the ground.

Since their release in June, Lesaux says feedback has been significant from across the sectors, including several requests for speaking engagements at the state and local level. Within higher education, Lesaux says her team is hearing from institutions eager to change existing coursework to better prepare future preschool teachers and leaders.

With fewer than 50 percent of U.S. children currently attending preschool programs, Lesaux says that policymakers are eager for information on how to maximize their early education funding. It is her hope that the Lead Early Educators for Success series will follow the same path as her prior set of briefs, Lead for Literacy, currently being used across the nation for literacy planning, including underpinning a statewide plan to improve third-grade reading outcomes in Arizona.

“The benefits of early education have never been clearer,” says Lesaux. “Yet the success of these initiatives rests on their quality, and quality itself rests on the educators on the ground.  They are playing a transformational role in raising and educating the next generation and are a linchpin for our most vulnerable young children — and we need to support them to do that.”

HGSE’s Programs in Professional Education is hosting a one-day seminar, The Leading Edge of Early Childhood Education: Linking Science to Policy for a New Generation of Pre-K, on Friday, December 12, led by Nonie Lesaux and Stephanie Jones. This convening is designed to allow participants to engage with the latest thinking, research, and practice in building and sustaining high quality Pre-K systems, schools, and classrooms.

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