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Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs):
stressful or traumatic events related to development that can impact a person’s health in the long
term like trauma, abuse, neglect, or poverty.
Assessment literacy: the ability of care and
education professionals to understand how to select, administer, and interpret
a range of assessment instruments and use the information to make decisions
about instruction and intervention.
Bridging activities: activities employed to
support and sustain the growth of children’s competencies across developmental
domains designed to ease transitions between learning environments and reduce
adverse consequences that may result from stresses encountered in
Ex: deploying mixed-age classrooms
Ex: having an educator move with a
group of students for multiple years
Ex: developing partnerships within
a community among early care providers, community-based organizations,
preschools, and elementary schools
Career advancement pathways: paths for
individuals to follow as they advance within a role, such as novice to expert,
as well as advancement and promotion to higher-level professional roles.
Certification: terminology used to indicate
that a professional has met qualification requirements for teaching or leading
in a particular setting. The general term for documents proving this
certification is “credential.” Some states use the term “license” to denote
credentials in public school settings.
Chronic stressors: prolonged activation of the
physiologic stress response systems that are particularly harmful when
experienced in the absence of the protection afforded by stable, positive relationships.
Coaching and mentoring: types of professional
learning that involve a collaborative partnership in which an early childhood
educator works with an adult educator to improve his or her practice. Mentors
are likely to work one-on-one with educators to reach agreed-upon goals.
Coaches often work with individuals or groups of educators following a planned
Cognitive flexibility: the ability to move
from thinking about one concept to thinking about a different concept, and then
back again; as well as the ability to think about multiple concepts
Continuity: in the context of children from B–8,
the consistency of experience across diverse care and education settings as
they grow up. It also includes the coordination of services from diverse
programs and agencies affecting young children at any given point.
Continuity of care: in settings for very young
children, this is the
practice of keeping children and their caregivers together for an extended
period of time, ideally up to 36 months of age so that a secure caregiver-child
attachment can form.
Core competencies: (1) foundational knowledge,
skills, and abilities needed by all adults with direct responsibilities for
children regardless of setting or sector; (2) the specialized knowledge,
skills, and abilities needed by educators and administrators who directly work
with children from B–8. See pp. 326–327 of Transforming the Workforce for the abilities needed by all adults who have professional responsibilities with young children and pp. 328–329 for the competencies needed by early educators.
Critical and sensitive periods: time windows
in which experience-related developmental transitions must or can most readily
Early childhood (B–5) program accreditation: a
process for assessing program quality against a set of program standards.
Typically developed by national organizations and voluntarily accessed,
accreditation systems are available for center-based programs as well as for
family child care settings.
Epigenetics: processes in which genes are
activated or deactivated by environmental conditions.
Executive function: the term for a collection
of mental processes that enable one to plan, focus attention, remember
instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.
Gene-environment correlation: the influence of
genetic variation on environmental exposures; individuals may select, alter, and
generate experiences that are in keeping with their own genetic proclivities.
Ex: child with more inhibited
temperament inclined toward less intensive social environments
Gene-environment interaction: genetic or
environmental effects that are conditional upon each other.
Ex: hereditary risk for heart
disease (the genotype) can be aggravated by poor diet and lack of exercise
Ex: clinical depression, generally
characterized by low levels of serotonin in the brain (genotype), can be
worsened by high-stress situations, including grief, the physical stress of
disease, or even the presence/absence of sunlight (environment)
Higher education program accreditation: a
process for assessing the quality of an institute of higher education program’s
quality. Accreditation standards promote quality by setting standards around
course content and faculty requirements. In the early care and education space,
organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children
(NAEYC) and the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP)
offer voluntary program accreditation. NAEYC awards accreditation to early
childhood associate, baccalaureate, and master's degree programs that meet the
NAEYC Professional Preparation Standards.
Inhibitory control: the ability to inhibit
unproductive responses or behaviors to enable oneself to think about better
strategies or ideas.
Interprofessional practice: the ability to
collaborate and coordinate across settings within early care and education and with
related sectors, especially, health, mental health, and social services. These
abilities include three competencies:
Common competencies: overlapping competencies
shared across multiple roles
Complementary competencies: specific to one’s
role and enhances the work of other professionals
Collaborative competencies: knowledge and
skills for working together across roles and sectors
Joint media engagement: engagement that occurs
when a child watches media with an adult who engages him or her in the content
or helps connect the ideas on screen to the world.
Kindergarten readiness: a child’s early
knowledge in subject areas and that child’s physical, emotional, social, and
behavioral preparedness to engage in the early elementary learning environment.
Also refers to the preparedness of professionals, schools, and related systems
to facilitate smooth transitions between home or early care settings and
Lead educators: those who bear primary
responsibility for children and who are responsible for planning and
implementing activities and instruction and overseeing the work of assistant
teachers and paraprofessionals. They include the lead educators in classroom
and center-based settings, center directors/administrators, and owners/operators
and lead practitioners in home-based or family child care settings.
Professional learning: any mechanisms that can
contribute to ensuring that the early care and education workforce has what it
needs to gain and reinforce necessary knowledge and competencies for quality
practice. This includes but is not limited to preparation programs for
prospective educators and professional development for those already in the
workforce. Examples of professional learning mechanisms include:
workshops, trainings, or courses
coaching and mentoring
communities of practice
Professional learning communities: a type of
professional learning where groups of educators collaborate using inquiry,
reflective dialogue, and data to determine their learning needs and those of
their students in order to improve educator effectiveness and student outcomes.
Quality assurance efforts: strategies for
enhancing program quality in early childhood settings (B–5) in conjunction with
practitioners’ knowledge, skills, and practices.
Quality rating and improvement systems(QRIS): QRIS for early childhood
programs have been developed and implemented at the state and local level.
While considerable variability exists in their design and implementation, they all
aim to improve child outcomes and make the extent of a program’s quality
transparent to parents and the general public by assessing multiple indicators
and combining them into a single summary rating of quality
Reflective practice: an important professional
learning strategy where educators reflect on and analyze their own work, potentially
making them more open to refining or altering their teaching methods. Key
components of reflective practice include questioning one’s assumptions,
identifying alternatives in one’s practice, and deliberating on how to proceed.
Secure attachment: healthy attachment style
between young children and caregivers that develops when children feel
protected by and know they can depend on caregivers; research has shown that
securely attached children develop greater social skills and have higher levels
of self-esteem than those without this attachment.
“Serve and return”
interactions: interactions that occur when a child vocalizes and a caregiver responds
in a way that furthers the conversation rather than ending it; for example, an
infant may coo and then the caregiver responds.
Social and emotional competence: a set of
skills that contribute to the ability to understand and manage emotions and
behaviors and establish and maintain positive relationships with peers.
Teacher preparation: for educators in public
school systems, this usually entails preservice education that leads to a
degree and then licensure. Teacher preparation programs almost always include
coursework and student teaching. Degree attainment and licensure are usually
followed by induction or mentoring programs for new teachers. Teacher
preparation outside of public school systems is more varied.
Tiered intervention approaches: also known as
response-to-intervention models, a process through which educators identify
which children might benefit from additional instruction and support.
Two-generation interventions: activities designed
to assist children by providing simultaneous support to their parents, such as
providing child care along with training for parents to help them gain jobs and
succeed in the workforce.
This is a multimedia guidebook inspired by and drawn from the Transforming the Workforce for Children From Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation (National Academies Press, 2015). This guidebook adds to that volume with key takeaways, videos, interactive tools, a glossary, and more. We have designed it with three doorways for three different but overlapping audiences: educators who work directly with children, educators in higher education who prepare those educators, and policymakers interested in improving early learning settings for children from B–8.