Catalyzing Change in Early Childhood Education in the 21st Century: Expanding Current Conceptualizations of Children’s Success

Dana McCoy, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Terri Sabol, Northwestern University

Although public investments in early childhood education (ECE) have exploded over the past several decades, the scientific community has expressed growing concerns about the academicization of preschool classrooms and its implications for young learners’ acquisition of the wide range of skills needed to be successful in modern society. Central to this issue is the fact that ECE program effectiveness is predominantly judged using a narrow set of measures targeting children’s basic math and reading knowledge. In the midst of this major crossroads, we seek to convene a broad range of academic and non-academic experts to collectively re-imagine what “success” means for ECE in the United States. Specifically, we aim to clearly define the broad range of skills, competencies, and behaviors that children need early in life in ways that reflect the strengths, values, and priorities of diverse communities and stakeholders. Our workshop will be designed around two guiding questions: (1) What are the core skills, competencies, and behaviors that ECE systems should be targeting during the early childhood period? and (2) What are the next steps for catalyzing change and creating a more inclusive, just, and effective ECE system in the United States? From this workshop, our goal is to produce a consensus paper and develop a plan for broader dissemination of our findings to meet our broader goal of catalyzing long-lasting changes in public ECE systems in the United States.