What are the hallmarks of a high-quality early childhood education (or ECE) program? You want the best for your child—and that begins with a good developmental and educational foundation. If you're not sure why ECE is important or how to select the right program, take a look at the top early childhood education questions parents have answered.
Why Is ECE Important for Your Child?
According to a review of ECE research from 1960 through 2016, published in the journal Educational Researcher, these types of programs can decrease the likelihood of grade retention (repeating a grade) and increase the chances of graduating from high school. While these aren't benefits that your child will get right now, the long-term effects of an early educational experience can help them to build the foundation they'll need for later school success.
Even though the grade retention and graduation rate impact of an ECE are benefits that you want for your child eventually, you may also see immediate changes from days spent in a quality program. Preschool can help your child to develop basic academic skills (such as early literacy and math), improve physical abilities (fine and gross motor), and grow both socially and emotionally.
Are All ECE Programs High-Quality?
No, not every early education center offers quality programs for young children. This makes it important for parents to know what to look for. If you don't know the hallmarks of a quality program, you may not choose the best option for your child. Not only should you learn more about the differences between high and low-quality ECE centers, but you also need to see the programs in action. An on-site visit or tour can help you to assess whether the program meets your child's needs and will help them to succeed.
What Does A Quality Program Look Like?
A high-quality ECE environment won't always look the same from school to school. But the program you select should:
Meet state and other licensing or accreditation guidelines. These requirements help to ensure a safe, healthy environment. Accreditation from a national early childhood organization or association indicates that the program meets specific curricular and instructional benchmarks.
Hire educators who have experience and knowledge. The teachers should understand child development concepts, know how to create developmentally appropriate lesson/activity plans, and have the ability to effectively teach young children on a level that meets their needs and gently pushes them to excel.
Emphasize active learning. A high-quality program puts the child at the center of the learning experience. You shouldn't see teachers lecturing students as they passively sit and watch.
You may need to visit a few early childhood education programs to find one that meets your child's needs. As you tour each center, ask questions, ask your child if they have questions, and take the time to watch how the students interact with each other, the educator, and the educational environment.