The National Education Association's 2011-2012 resolutions are online, and the one on "early childhood education" is a beaut. I especially love the parts about recruiting more male teachers and having "diversity-based curricula." In any case, enacting all this stuff sure will require a lot of salaried (and unionized?) grown-ups!
The National Education Association supports early childhood education programs in the public schools for children from birth through age eight. The Association also supports a high-quality program of transition from home and/or preschool to the public kindergarten or first grade. This transition should include communication and cooperation among parents/guardians, the preschool staff, and the public school staff. The Association believes that such programs should be held in facilities that are appropriate to the developmental needs of these children. The Association also believes that early childhood education programs should include a full continuum of services for parents/guardians and children, including child-care, child development, developmentally appropriate and diversity-based curricula, special education, and appropriate bias-free screening devices. Early childhood education programs also must be sensitive to and meet the physical, social, mental, and emotional health and nutritional needs of children.
The Association further believes that early childhood education programs should maintain small group size with appropriate staff/child ratios for each age level. These programs must be staffed by the appropriate ratio of teachers, administrators, and support staff who are prepared in early childhood education and child development. When two half-day sessions are taught by one teacher, the total class load for both sessions should not exceed the number of students in a first-grade class. Males should be encouraged and recruited to enter and be actively involved in early childhood education. Preparation programs for staff should lead to credentials consistent with the educational standards in each state.
The Association recognizes the value of quality early childhood education programs in preparing young children to enter school ready to learn. High quality early childhood programs should be staffed by teachers, administrators, and education support professionals who possess a deep understanding of child development and specialized training in early childhood education. To provide the quality of early education and care necessary to prepare children for success in school, we recommend that—
a. All teachers working in publicly funded preschool programs hold a bachelor’s degree in child development and/or early childhood education
b. All instructional assistants working in publicly funded preschool programs hold an Associate’s degree in child development or early childhood education
c. Lead teachers in private child care centers hold a minimum of an Associate’s degree in child development or early childhood education
d. All teaching assistants in private child care centers hold a minimum of a Child Development Associate (CDA) or a state-issued certificate that meets or exceeds CDA requirements.
States should develop incentives and supports to enable teachers and education support professionals currently working in early childhood programs to obtain the recommended credentials without compromising the quality of education and care that children receive and without substantially increasing the cost of care to parents.
The Association also recognizes the importance of parental involvement in a child’s development.
The Association further supports the provision of training programs that prepare parents/guardians to take an active role in the child’s education. These programs should provide an awareness of the expectations that will be placed on the child as well as familiarization with new policies and procedures that the child will experience in the new environment.
The Association believes that federal legislation should be enacted to assist in organizing the implementation of fully funded early childhood education programs offered through the public schools. These programs must be available to all children on an equal basis and should include mandatory kindergarten with compulsory attendance.
The Association supports regulations requiring children starting kindergarten to have reached age five at the beginning of a kindergarten program.
The Association advocates the establishment of fully funded early childhood special education programs. These programs and necessary services should be readily accessible for children with disabilities and staffed by certified/licensed teachers, qualified support staff, and therapists.