Skip to main content

The Changing Landscape of Early Childhood Education: Implications for Policy and Practice

Abstract

Early childhood education is changing rapidly due to the dynamic nature of positive and negative trends affecting the profession. In this article, the changing landscape of early childhood education is discussed and analyzed. Both the positive and negative forces contributing to the changing landscape are examined. The focus of this discussion includes changing demographics, changes in early childhood curriculum and instruction, increased focus on accountability, advances in research that inform early childhood education, influences affecting teacher preparation and professional development, and global trends affecting early education and care. We relate these trends to the need for holistic systems-thinking, integrated curricula, child-centered pedagogical standards, deeper commitment to social justice and a corresponding moral vision capable of inspiring educational policy, practice and research in the midst of a competitive global economy and the commodification of early childhood programs and curricula. By discussing practical examples and research findings to illustrate current positive and negative trends, this paper serves as a meaningful resource for all stakeholders. Taking recent dynamics into account, we provide a vision for evaluating change and analyzing major trends. Both implications and responses to the changes in the early childhood landscape are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. Science, technology, engineering, mathematics.

  2. Science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics.

  3. Connect4Learning: the Pre-K Curriculum™ is an example of a recently released math and science-based Pre-K curriculum integrating literacy and social/emotional learning.

  4. Organized as the Compendium of Preschool Through Elementary School Social-Emotional Learning and Associated Assessment Measures.

  5. One example among many is the Deverux Center for Resilient Children which trains teachers in the use of an individual social/emotional outcome measure (the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment) and corresponding strategies using an online platform (e-DECA 2.0).

  6. Poverty rates in the United States declined in 2015 based on recent economic reports. However, 50% of U.S. children live in homes meeting “low-income” criteria. Investing in early childhood is one of those “equitable economic policies” being more widely advocated by economists (e.g. James Heckman), as they investigate, among other outcomes, the labor market returns of early childhood interventions.

  7. The preamble of the 2030 Agenda begins, “This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.” The full text is available here https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld.

  8. “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes. By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.” Source: United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4.1 & 4.2.

  9. Reported by Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2016/12/19/judge-dismisses-soda-tax-lawsuit-against-city-of-philadelphia/#5ba44e6356e6.

  10. On October 11th, 2016, the World Health Organization urged governments to tax all sugary drinks by at least an additional 20% (preferably an excise tax as used with tobacco products) to reduce obesity, diabetes and tooth decay. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/curtail-sugary-drinks/en/.

  11. See, for example, the recent $35 million gift given to Harvard University to “build a strong evidence base for preK program improvement, policy and advocacy.” http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/16/05/harvard-ed-school-launches-major-early-childhood-education-initiative.

  12. The Promise Neighborhood program of the U.S. Department of Education is an example of funding comprehensive systems creation for improving an entire neighborhood, including schools, early childhood programs, job creation, adult training, and integrated “cradle-to-career” services. https://www2.ed.gov/programs/promiseneighborhoods/index.html.

  13. For an example, see the work of Dr. Cheryl Achterberg, Dean of the College of Education and Human Ecology, Ohio State: http://ehe.osu.edu/.

References

  • Barnett, W. S., Carolan, M. E., Squires, J. H., Clarke Brown, K., & Horowitz, M. (2015). The state of preschool 2014: State preschool yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research.

    Google Scholar 

  • Benard, B. (2004). Resiliency: What we have learned. San Francisco: WestEd.

    Google Scholar 

  • Biggam, S. C., & Hyson, M. C. (2014). The common core state standards and developmentally appropriate practices: Creating a relationship. In C. Copple, S. Bredekamp, D. Koralek & K. Charner (Eds.), Developmentally appropriate practice: Focus on Kindergarteners (pp. 95–112). Washington, DC: NAEYC.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bresler, L. (Ed.), (2013). Knowing bodies, moving minds: Towards embodied teaching and learning (Vol. 3). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Buettner, C. K., Hur, E. H., Jeon, L., & Andrews, D. W. (2016). What are we teaching the teachers? Child Development Curricula in US Higher Education. Child & Youth Care Forum, 45(1), 155–175. doi:10.1007/s10566-015-9323-0.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Catterall, J. S. (2009). Doing well and doing good by doing art: A 12-year national study of education in the visual and performing arts. Los Angeles: I-Group Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Center for Public Education. (2012). The United States of education: The changing demographics of the United States and their schools. Alexandria, VA: Center for Public Education. Retrieved from http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/The-United-State-of-education-The-changing-demographics-of-the -United-States-and-their-schools.html.

  • Child Trends Databank. (2015). Family structure. Retrieved from http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=family-structure.

  • Christina, R., & Nicholson-Goodman, J. (2005). Going to scale with high-quality early education: Choices and consequences in universal pre-kindergarten efforts. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Dean, D. Jr., & Kuhn, D. (2007). Direct instruction vs. discovery: The long view. Science Education, 91(3), 384–397.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Denham, S. A., Ji, P., & Hamre, B. (2010). Compendium of preschool through elementary school social-emotional learning and associated assessment measures. Chicago: University of Illinois. Retrieved from http://www.isbe.net/learningsupports/pdfs/sel-compendium.pdf.

  • Dewey, J. (1928). Body and mind. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 4(1), 3–19.

    Google Scholar 

  • Education Policy and Leadership Center. (2012). Creating Pennsylvania’s future through the arts and education. Harrisburg, PA: Education Policy and Leadership Center. Retrieved from http://www.eplc.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Creating_PAs_Future_NewColor_final.pdf.

  • Empson, J. (2015). Atypical child development in context. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Epstein, A. S. (2009). Me, you, us: Social-emotional learning in preschool. Washington, DC: High/Scope Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eslinger, J. C. (2014). Navigating between a rock and a hard place: Lessons from an urban school teacher. Education and Urban Society, 46(2), 209–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Espinosa, L. M. (2008). Challenging common myths about young English Language Learners. New York, NY: Foundations for Child Development.

    Google Scholar 

  • Evenson, A., McIver, M., Ryan, S., & Schwols, A. (2013). Common core standards for elementary grades K-2 Math & English language arts: A quick-start guide. Alexandria: ASCD.

    Google Scholar 

  • Graue, M. E., Whyte, K. L., & Karabon, A. E. (2015). The power of improvisational teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education, 48, 13–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gullo, D. F. (2005). Understanding assessment and evaluation in early childhood education (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gullo, D.F. (2013) Assessing children’s learning in early childhood settings. In B. Spodek & O. Saracho (Eds.). Handbook of research on the education of young children (3rd ed., pp. 414–425). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jiang, Y.; Elono, M.; & Skinner, C. (2015). Basic facts about low-income children: Children 6 through 11 years, 2014. New York, NY: National Center for Children in Poverty.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jürgens, U. (Ed.), (2013). New product development and production networks: Global industrial experience. New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kermani, H., & Aldemir, J. (2015). Preparing children for success: integrating science, math, and technology in early childhood classroom. Early Child Development and Care, 185(9), 1504–1527.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lewin-Benham, A. (2011). Twelve best practices for early childhood education: Integrating Reggio and other inspired approaches. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Love, J. M. (2006). Uses of data on child outcomes and program processes in early childhood accountability systems: Assumptions, challenges, and consequences. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Luby, J., Belden, A., Botteron, K., Marrus, N., Harms, M. P., Babb, C., ... Barch, D. (2013). The effects of poverty on childhood brain development: the mediating effect of caregiving and stressful life events. JAMA Pediatrics, 167(12), 1135–1142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Manning, W. D. & Lamb, K. A. (2003). Adolescent well-being in cohabiting, married, and single-parent families. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 65(4), 876–893.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meisels, S. J., Atkins-Burnett, S., Xue, Y., Bickel, D. D., & Son, S. H. (2003). Creating a system of accountability: The impact of instructional assessment on elementary children’s achievement test scores. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 11(9). doi:10.14507/epaa.v11n9.2003.

  • Moomaw, S. (2013). Teaching STEM in the early years: Activities for integrating science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. St. Paul: Redleaf Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nadolny, T. (2016). Soda tax passes; Philadelphia is first big city in nation to enact one. The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved from http://www.philly.com/.

  • National Association for Music Education. (2015). Opportunity-to-learn standards. Reston, VA: NAfMA. Retrieved from http://www.nafme.org/wp-content/files/2014/11/Opportunity-to-Learn-Standards_May2015.pdf.

  • National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2015). Developmentally appropriate practice and the common core state standards: Framing the issues. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Center for Educational Statistics. (2015). The condition of education 2015 (NCES 2015–144), preprimary enrollment. Washington, DC: National Center for Educational Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=516.

  • National Education Association. (2016). Backgrounder: Students from poverty. Washington, DC: National Education Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Endowment for the Arts. (2011). Arts education in America: What the declines mean for arts participation. Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Arts.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Science Board. 2012. Science and engineering indicators 2012. Arlington VA: National Science Foundation (NSB 12-01). https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind12/pdf/seind12.pdf.

  • Nicolopoulou, A. (2010). The alarming disappearance of play from early childhood education. Human Development, 53(1), 1–4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Oliff, P., Palacios, V., Johnson, I., & Leachman, M. (2013). Recent deep state higher education cuts may harm students and the economy for years to come. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. http://sbba4he.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/CBPP_Higher_ED_3-19-13sfp.pdf

  • Parsad, B., & Spiegelman, M. (2012). Arts education in public elementary and secondary schools: 1999–2000 and 2009–10 (NCES 2012–014). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

    Google Scholar 

  • Prado, E. L., & Dewey, K. G. (2014). Nutrition and brain development in early life. Nutrition Reviews, 72(4), 267–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Public Policy Forum. (2009). The price of quality: Estimating the cost of a higher quality early childhood care and education system for Southeast Wisconsin. Retrieved from http://publicpolicyforum.org/sites/default/files/PriceOfQualityRevised.pdf.

  • Rabkin, N., & Hedberg, E. C. (2011). Arts Education in America: What the Declines Mean for Arts Participation. Based on the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. Research Report# 52. National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved from https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/2008-SPPA-ArtsLearning.pdf.

  • Rabkin, N., Reynolds, M., Hedberg, E. C., & Selby, J. (2011). Teaching artists and the future of education: A report on the teaching artist research project: Executive summary. National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.

  • Ravitch, D. (2016). The life and death of the great American school system: How testing and choice are undermining education. Revised and expanded. New York, NY: Perseus.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ray, A., Bowman, B., & Robbins, J. (2006). Preparing early childhood teachers to successfully educate ALL children: The contribution of four-year undergraduate teacher preparation programs. Report to the Foundation for Child Development. Chicago, IL: Erikson Institute. Retrieved from http://fcd-us.org/sites/default/files/TeacherPreparationPrograms.pdf.

  • Romar, G., & Matthews, K. (2015). Considerations on US government involvement in STEM education and early childhood interventions. Journal of Science Policy & Governance, 3(1).

  • Rooney, E. (2015). “I’m just going through the motions”: high-stakes accountability and teachers’ access to intrinsic rewards. American Journal of Education, 121, 475–500

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sabol, F.R. (2010). No child left behind: A study of its impact on art education project report. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University. Retrieved January 9, 2017, from http://www.aep-arts.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/AEP-Wire-09-2010-Sabol-NCLB.pdf.

  • Saçkes, M. (2014). Parents who want their PreK children to have science learning experiences are outliers. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29(2), 132–143.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schultz, T., & Kagan, S. L. (2007). Taking stock: Assessing and improving early childhood learning and program quality. The Report of the National Early Childhood Accountability Task Force. Washington, DC: Pew Charitable Trusts.  Retrieved from http://policyforchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Taking-Stock.pdf.

  • Shonkoff, J. P., Garner, A. S., Siegel, B. S., Dobbins, M. I., Earls, M. F., McGuinn, L., ... Wood, D. L. (2012). The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics, 129(1), e232–e246.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, K., Tesar, M., & Myers, C. Y. (2016). Edu-capitalism and the governing of early childhood education and care in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. Global Studies of Childhood, 6(1), 123–135.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tobin, J. (2013). The disappearance of the body in early childhood education. In L. Bresler (Ed.), Knowing bodies, moving minds: Towards embodied teaching and learning (pp. 111–126). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tough, P. (2013). How children succeed. London: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tsangaridou, N., Zachopoulou, E., Liukkonen, J., Gråstén, A., & Kokkonen, M. (2014). Developing preschoolers’ social skills through cross-cultural physical education intervention. Early Child Development and Care, 184(11), 1550–1565.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • UNESCO. (2015). Global monitoring report 2015: Education for All 2000–2015. Achievements and challenges. Paris: United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization.

    Google Scholar 

  • Walker, T. (2014). The testing obsession and the disappearing curriculum. NEA Today. Washington, DC: National Education Association. Retrieved January 9, 2017, from http://neatoday.org/2014/09/02/the-testing-obsession-and-the-disappearing-curriculum-2/.

  • Washington, V., & Andrews, J. D. (2010). Children of 2020: Creating a better tomorrow. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weiss, H. B., Caspe, M., & Lopez, M. E. (2006). Family involvement makes a difference: Family involvement in early childhood education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weissberg, R. P., Durlak, J. A., Domitrovich, C. E., & Gullotta, T. P. (2015). Social and emotional learning: Past, present, and future. In J. A. Durlak, C. E. Domitrovich, R. P. Weissberg, & T. P. Gullotta (Eds.), Handbook for Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice (pp. 3–19). New York, NY: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  • White-Schwoch, T., Carr, K. W., Anderson, S., Strait, D. L., & Kraus, N. (2013). Older adults benefit from music training early in life: Biological evidence for long-term training-driven plasticity. The Journal of Neuroscience, 33(45), 17667–17674.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael J. Haslip.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Haslip, M.J., Gullo, D.F. The Changing Landscape of Early Childhood Education: Implications for Policy and Practice. Early Childhood Educ J 46, 249–264 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-017-0865-7

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-017-0865-7

Keywords

  • Early childhood education
  • Curriculum and instruction
  • Accountability
  • Research
  • Arts education
  • Global trends
  • Teacher preparation