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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
High-quality early education
Balancing the successes and challenges of early education
By Lindsay Lewis | January | February 2023
With operations back in swing five days a week for our 3- and 4-year-olds, we are dedicated to the growth, exploration and learning of all kiddos. Although these children are just getting their start in a formalized school setting, we believe it is critical now more than ever to infuse social and emotional learning strategies into their everyday activities.
Social-emotional learning
With the added stress of uncertainty during the pandemic, we have learned that it is even more critical to use social-emotional strategies. We believe that learning takes place when children have the opportunity and freedom to interact with objects and people in their environment. They will have the opportunity for expression of ideas and use of their whole bodies in imitation and self-created dramatic acting and dance. Children will also gain experience in developing their social skills with their peers and adults through a variety of interactive activities including running, jumping, climbing and balancing in structured and unstructured outdoor activities throughout the day.
Cognitive and physical skills being developed
In addition to social-emotional learning strategies, focusing on cognitive and physical skills are equally as critical. Learning in content areas such as reading, math, social studies and science are integrated into the program through meaningful, active exploration with blocks, sand, food, music and art as well as observations of seasons, animals and other natural phenomena. Children are given the freedom to explore the various learning activities and interest centers that correlate to the monthly themes and weekly topics.
Pasadena Unified School District has partnered with local museums, art galleries and parks to bring the learning outside of the school building. Finding ways for children to integrate their knowledge into their community buildings has brought understanding to an even deeper level. Another way that this cognitive learning has been further developed is through parent/guardian involvement. Families have played an integral role in bringing their cultures and family traditions into the classrooms so that students can build a greater understanding of their peers and community members.
What to do about the wage gaps?
The imbalance of wages between early educators, preschool teachers and elementary teachers continues to grow. Many permit teachers are making wages lower than elementary instructional aides, yet have far more daily responsibilities. Part of this is due to the credentialing differences between early educators with Early Childhood Education (ECE) permits and multiple subject credentials for elementary teachers. The time is now, and PUSD has made a commitment to not only value the work of the early childhood educators, but also to realign the payment scales to compensate equitably.
Balancing the guidelines of state preschools while also growing our transitional kindergarten programs
Guidelines, implementation tools, new regulations … oh my! From new acronyms to new guidelines, transitional kindergarten (TK) comes with its challenges, too. There are the building and environmental standards both inside and outside the classroom walls to data collection of standards-based measures — all creating quite a buzz in the early education sector. PUSD loves that we are providing a way for all 4-year-old students to have access to a full day of learning and structure, and we want to make sure that we are “getting it right” in these initial years of universal prekindergarten. As the date ranges extend to house all 4-year-old students starting September 2 through the next school year, the ratio of students to adults also decreases. California has committed to providing intensive, high-quality education to children who do not meet the cut-off for kindergarten.
In addition to social emotional learning strategies, focusing on cognitive and physical skills are equally as critical.
Does this sound too good to be true? It is good, but many preschool programs also offered to 4-year-old students are being impacted. State preschool programs in PUSD are offered to both 3- and 4-year-old students and this year, we have noticed about 35 percent of our students have chosen to move into TK rather than completing their second year of preschool. Will this percentage continue to grow? We anticipate yes and are working closely with the teachers to intentionally integrate their practices of developmentally appropriate teaching strategies and to become a united early childhood department of support for all families and children 3 to 4 years of age.
PUSD continues to rely on the state and California Department of Education to provide updates on regulations, common practices that are working and allowances as we continue to grow our ECE supports over the next three years. Our dream is that every family has resources at their fingertips and wants to utilize the support of our district to support and enhance their kiddos’ early education opportunities. Early learning has proven to launch students ahead in data for learning trajectories. Whether you start in preschool or TK, early education is the way to go!
Lindsay Lewis is the director of early education at Pasadena Unified School District.
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