The Importance of Continuity for Children Birth Through Age 8
Adapted from Transforming the Workforce Chapter 5
Children benefit when there are
consistent high-quality learning environments and learning experiences across
settings and sectors from birth through third grade.
Early learning standards or
guidelines, which are designed to represent developmentally appropriate
expectations of what children should know and be able to do at various ages,
will be most beneficial when accompanied by an educator’s understanding of each
child’s developmental pace and trajectory. These expectations should not be
used to punish or hold back children who are not meeting the expectations and
should not be used to predict a child’s future success in learning.
Concepts such as school
“readiness” or other markers of a child’s “readiness” for various levels of
education often leave out the readiness of educators and schools to support the
child. Educators should be ready to recognize where children are along their
individual trajectories and to provide appropriate learning experiences based
on those competencies.
Educators need to develop shared
understandings of the expectations and instructional approaches used across
settings (such pre-K, kindergarten, first grade, etc.). This is particularly
important during transitions between pre-K and kindergarten as well as between
other grade levels, when adjustments for children and risk of inconsistencies
Education leaders should
practice and collaboration to address the gaps and weaknesses in connecting
children and families to services across sectors.
experience a variety of early care and education settings during their first
eight years, starting in the home, then possibly at a child care center or
pre-K program, followed by the start of formal education. As children grow and
develop, a continuity
of learning is essential for ensuring that early academic success and
development are built upon by consistent educational experiences. Vertical
continuity refers to the consistency of care and education up through the programs
that children experience as they grow up. Horizontal continuity refers to
consistency across different services or entities that serve children and
families during a particular period of their lives. Both are essential to
planning, and coordination across settings and programs and between educators
within the care and education sector allow those working with children to be
aware of the learning experiences that have come before and those that will
follow, as well as the support they are currently receiving. Continuity
also helps align expectations for children’s experiences and creates shared
understanding of the interconnected quality of developmental processes.
Here's how school districts in Omaha, Nebraska work to build continuity long before kindergarten:
All adults working
with young children should share the same foundation of knowledge and
competencies to promote learning and development. When states align early
learning guidelines across the continuum and across sectors, they help to
ensure that professionals share an understanding of developmentally appropriate
practices that support child development. In addition, creating standards for
research-based instructional strategies that are linked to a developmental
trajectory provides continuity
in learning experiences across settings.
learning environments are organized, safe, supportive, and culturally relevant
and diverse. In these settings, assessments that are developmentally,
culturally, and linguistically appropriate can help inform the instructional
paths or interventions needed to support a child. Assessments should be aligned
across the continuum to provide accurate data about how a child is progressing.
Child assessments should be used in conjunction with other data sources to
improve instructional practices, the provision of services, school programs and
systems, professional development, and the allocation of monetary resources.
Kindergarten is the
first major transition into formal education for young children. Bridging
activities ease the transition to a new setting from year-to-year or
grade-to-grade and reduce the adverse consequences that result due to changes
in personnel, expectations, and settings. Kindergarten
readiness involves not only the individual child, but also families,
communities, and elementary schools. It is important to establish a dialogue
with families so that parents feel like partners rather than spectators.
activities provide an opportunity to share and maximize resources and
training programs across professional roles, settings, sectors, and policies relating
to early care and education. But, rather than making existing systems change
and increasing the scope of work for current practitioners, programs can
introduce a professional role specifically responsible for coordinating
services among sectors.
“When there is a consistency from one learning environment to the next and communication and collaboration among educators, children are able to establish connections between lessons, between ideas and processes within a topic, between topics, and between learning from one year to the next.” (pg. 216)
Questions for Policymakers, Higher Education, and the Workforce
Does the state have policies that
encourage joint planning time and professional
learning opportunities for educators in pre-K and kindergarten to encourage
Do programs collect and share the
child-level data (such as assessment data and data on prior early learning
settings) that educators at each grade level should review to meet children’s
Do the state’s K–12 standards
align with the state’s early learning standards?
Are educator preparation programs
preparing teachers to use, analyze, and respond to the results of
developmentally appropriate assessments?
Are field experiences for future
teachers designed to introduce them to expectations and developmentally
informed practices starting in the early years and across different grade
What information do educators have
about the children entering their classrooms each year?
How can you identify and build relationships with the
early care and education programs that feed into your elementary school and
vice versa? How might you share information about curriculum, assessment, and
instructional strategies to help better align what and how children are
learning across these settings?
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.