In recent years, many early learning programs were implemented quickly to meet community needs, and assurances of excellence may be absent.
Following the COVID-19 quarantine, parents returning to work will be searching for valuable early learning opportunities. As young learners enter or re-enter our schools, it is critical to address any learning gaps that occurred during this unprecedented time. Therefore, we need to assess our early learning programs with fidelity to ensure quality.
While as a nation we recognize the need for early learning services, historically, the goal of early childhood education was to foster children’s development through projects and play therapy (Spodek & Saracho, 2003).
Little instruction was required or encouraged. However, with the “cognitive revolution” (Spodek & Saracho, 2003, p. 5) underway in the 1960’s, the focus of preschool education changed from nurturing the child’s “social, emotional, physical, and intellectual” well-being to developing cognitive skills and academic success (Spodek & Saracho, 2003, p. 6).
We have also seen numerous studies on the benefits of students who receive early learning services. The positive results of these studies could be due to an increase in academically inspiring settings that are lacking in the homes of the disadvantaged. Therefore, we need to ensure that our early learning services are not only readily available to all populations, but are providing early learners with a rich experience that nurtures cognitive development.
Edward Mauszak, superintendent of Dundee Schools in Dundee, Michigan and AASA Early Learning Co-Chair, has created a research-based evaluation tool for early learning programs to be housed and hosted in the Standard For Success software. The Early Learning Program Assessment Tool (ELPAT©) serves as a rubric based upon extensive research into best practices of early learning. These include:
• Instructional practice
• Engaged play
• Literacy & language
• Language development
• Math, science, & social studies
• Family & community engagement/outreach
• Professional development
• Social/emotional development
• Curriculum & resources
• Learning environment
• Developmental assessments
• Health & wellness
These are observed in the program setting to provide feedback and drive programming improvement. Based upon ratings, the early learning program will have the potential to be recognized via Standard For Success’ Early Learning Program of Success Designation. This encourages professional growth and provides quality assurance to parents searching for model instruction for their children.
For more information on ELPAT, contact firstname.lastname@example.org .