According to a national survey, 76% of teachers of grades K-3 think the early-childhood education programs should be more in line with K-3 grades. They find a disconnect between the philosophies and goals of preschool and those in elementary school.
K-3 teachers must have at least a bachelor's degree and be certified in education, but most states do not require preschool teachers to have a bachelor’s degree. Although both may have similar competencies, the difference in education can mean they’re not on the same page. Also, differences like compensation and professional preparation can hinder these educators from learning from each other.
A unified system in which educators who work with children across the birth-to-8 age span share a common understanding about practices, but can implement strategies that they know work best for the children in their programs would make for a smoother transition from preschool to elementary school, said one official with the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which conducted the survey.
Preschool and elementary school classes don't have to be in the same building or even part of the same district to be in greater alignment. Professional development opportunities that include both early-childhood and elementary school teachers is one way to reach more consensus about the skills and knowledge that children need before they enter kindergarten. An article in the "Elementary School Journal" noted that smooth transitions must incorporate family and community as well as school. The study authors suggested an eight-element framework which includes families as partners, shared leadership, comprehensive and responsive services, culture and home language, communication, knowledge and skill development, appropriate care and education, and evaluation of partnership success.
California is one state that could benefit from a more unified approach to early-childhood education. In the state, different state agencies oversee and set guidelines for child care, preschool, Head Start, and other programs. This means that it's usually up to local school principals and early-childhood leaders to work on creating smoother transitions for children and families. Having a teacher or counselor work as a transition liaison is another practice that can strengthen connections between systems.