Early Learning is getting a lot of attention lately! Governor Newsom announced a proposal to invest nearly $2.4 billion in Early Learning to improve access and quality of programs for California’s youngest residents. At the same time, new findings about the impact of quality Early Learning programs on school readiness and academic success are reconfirming the importance of investing in Early Learning starting at birth.
At Early Edge California we value our teachers and prioritize their opinions. They know what our kids and their families need to succeed. Sometimes in an effort to develop policies and find champions in Sacramento, we don’t seek enough direct feedback from our teachers and parents.
To fix this, Early Edge convened Advisory Groups in Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Fresno made up of California State Preschool Program teachers, Head Start and Early Head Start teachers, Transitional Kindergarten (TK) teachers, teachers from private centers, and family child care providers.
These gatherings had a transformative effect on our team, and we think that their insights will inspire you as well. Here is what California’s Early Learning teachers want you to know:
1- Higher pay is key to recruitment and retention
We learned that low pay is the number one barrier to hiring and keeping Early Learning teachers. Many leave after a few years or do not join the profession in the first place.
2- Large class sizes are hurting quality
One of the biggest challenges that TK teachers report are the large class sizes and the high teacher-to-student ratios. Many TK teachers are alone with 25 or more kids in one classroom, making it extremely difficult to meet children’s individual needs.
“Imagine having 28 children and trying to meet all their needs – it’s very difficult,”
3- Teachers want better ways to support Dual Language Learners (DLLs)
Early Learning teachers need more training on how to work with and support DLLs. They need classroom resources to help them communicate and engage with their culturally and linguistically diverse kids and their families.
4- The benefits of bilingualism are not well understood
We learned that there is a lack of awareness about the benefits of bilingualism and the importance of supporting a child’s home language development. As a result, many parents try not to speak their native language with their kids.
“Parents have a perception that if their child attends a Dual Language school they will not learn English, and that is not the case. Dual Language programs help children to be academically competent in two languages.”
Former TK teacher
5- Teachers are frustrated by lack of funding
Teachers say that more funding is needed to improve access and quality. There are just not enough spaces for our kids to participate in high-quality, affordable Early Learning.
“We need California’s leaders to ensure that all families have access to high-quality programs and we need them to pay us worthy wages so we can live and work and provide for our families.”
Family Child Care Provider
6- Teachers need financial support to further their education and training
Early Learning teachers want higher education degrees and/or hands-on training. Unfortunately, most teachers lack the resources or paid time off to access professional development opportunities.
7- Current Child Development Permit does not meet teachers’ needs
Teachers shared that the current unit-based structure of the Child Development Permit did not prepare them to do their jobs. Instead, they agreed that California should move to a competency-based system of preparation which would focus on knowledge and skills acquisition.
Early Edge’s mission is to put California’s kids and their families first. We advocate for quality Early Learning by supporting our teachers and ensuring they have the resources to provide the best learning experiences for kids.
We will continue to share our learnings with you so that together we can make change and have a positive impact on California’s youngest kids, their parents and their teachers.
By Patricia Lozano
Early Edge California