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15 Essential Terms in Early Childhood Educational Equity

Achieving equity in education is a crucial goal for all organizations. 

Sprig Learning is one among many. Our ultimate mission and purpose is to provide every child with a fair shot at success, by uncovering and supporting their unique learning strengths, needs and interests. 

However, navigating the field of early childhood education can be challenging, with a constantly evolving lexicon of terms and concepts.

Words have power. 

Researchers, professors, administrators, and practitioners in early childhood education use hundreds of terms that shape the discourse on equity in education, and ultimately lead to policies that drive change. 

New words and concepts are constantly emerging, but it can be difficult to understand their meaning and relevance.

It’s important to understand the relevant terms and concepts used in the field of equity in education. 

By having a clear understanding of these terms, it becomes easier to find the right tools, resources and solutions.

Want to know more about the relevant terms and concepts? This article goes over 15 essential terms in early childhood educational equity. Let’s dive in.

 

The Essential Terms To Advance Equity in Early Childhood Education

These terms will focus on early education, and not early childcare. While they are often grouped together, there are distinct differences between the two.

Words like “child-care access” and “community-based child care” focus on the practical aspect of finding caregivers, rather than on learning.

Ensuring equal access to opportunities is important, but it is the delivery of the program to each child that ensures equity. 

Quality programs are those that provide proper differentiated instruction and leave no child behind.

These terms focus on achieving equity in early learning by increasing the quality of programs.

 

1. Accommodation.

Refers to the adjustments made in standards and assessment tools to allow certain students to learn and demonstrate their learning in their own way. 

However, the content of learning is not changed for them, it follows a curriculum. Rather, the process of learning is adapted to suit the student’s needs, such as difficulty with the English language.

When deciding on a tool to improve early learning quality, it’s best to see how it differentiates instruction from the teacher’s point of view, and personalizes learning from the child’s point of view. Both are equally important. 

 

2. Adult-child ratio.

Refers to the appropriate number of early education educators for a certain class size.

 The Administration For Children & Families in the US recommends 1 trained adult for 6-10 preschoolers (aged 3-5) and 1 trained adult for 10-12 school age children (aged 5 and above). 

It also recommends a maximum class size of 12 and 24 students for the two categories above, meaning each class should be managed by two educators. 

The Canadian Child Care Federation recommends a 1:8 ratio of adults to preschoolers.

The preferred scenario is smaller class sizes, where each educator can devote their full attention to the students.

As the adult-to-child ratio is so crucial, it’s beneficial to have a tool that will lessen some of the administrative duties for teachers working in large classrooms.  

It’s also important to understand how any technology or resource will be used by the lead teacher and the co-teacher. 

Ask yourself, how is a tool suited to any of these 6 styles of co-teaching?

 

3. After School Program.

Refers to programs serving school children outside of school hours, also known as out-of-school time programs. 

Childhood is a valuable time. 

It can be said that too many organized after school programs such as recreational activities, mentoring or social clubs can unnecessarily tax the development of young children. 

Afterall, the school is supposed to be a place to work on other developmental domains besides just cognition and language. Physical and socio-emotional development cannot be relegated to other programs. 

But, depending on the strategy of each school district, certain support systems may be created outside of school hours that make it easier for the parents to manage their child’s schedules and ensure they are developing holistically. 

When choosing a resource or platform to increase the quality of early learning, it’s best to understand how its usage transitions from the school to the home. 

 

4. At Risk.

Refers to those students who may need additional support for their child development and learning. 

It’s important to identify children “at risk” early on, so necessary interventions, supports and measures can be taken. 

Most brain development happens between birth and age 8, so it’s crucial to provide support at this stage early on.

Risk factors include lower soci-economic status, community conditions and experiences, and lack of access to high-quality education. 

By choosing to improve the quality of early learning, the at-risk factors can be mitigated to some degree. 

 More holistic and comprehensive screening and assessment tools can also support young at-risk learners.   Such tools can help  apply a 360 degree account of the students needs, interests and challenges that reflect multiple learning environments. 

 

5. Attachment.

Refers to the deep emotional connection between a parent or caregiver, and a child. 

Human connections contribute to the child’s overall sense of wellbeing. It is an indicator of healthy child development and learning. 

Technology is a poor substitute for the emotional bonding that can happen between an adult and a child in their formative years. That being said, the context matters in which a particular tool or resource is being used. There are 4 attachment styles, of which secured attachment is the best. 

Technology can also be used to encourage parental involvement or promote activities that work on establishing secure attachment between the child and the people who care for, and  educate them. 

 

6. Continuity of Care.

This is a term that is more commonly associated with child care and it refers to the transitions from one person or setting to another person or setting. 

However, it can also be applied to early education. Preschool programs are a type of setting where the young student spends a considerable amount of time. 

Maintaining constancy in the kind of individuals and environments with which the child interacts during his or her early years enhances brain growth and learning.

When deciding tools and resources that  improve quality in early childhood education, see if they focus on maintaining this continuity where educators, parents and any other caregivers are able to collaborate on the best outcome for the child. 

 

7. Cultural Competence.

Refers to the incorporation of cultural knowledge, customs and language of a particular group of people into the educational standards, policies and practices. 

Classes are more diverse than ever before. 

Thus the need for cultural competence is at an all time high. Understanding the community of learners and their contexts can support the development of appropriate culturally responsive materials. 

In order to advance quality in early learning programs, it’s best to confirm if culturally appropriate learning materials are available that are reflective of the student body.

 

8. Curriculum.

Refers to an outline of what children will be learning, and the learning materials and processes available to them to achieve those learning outcomes. 

Having a set outline, course content and process for learning seems straightforward, but often, only general guidelines are released. This leaves a lot of room for flexibility when it comes to implementing the curriculum. 

The learning outcomes are perhaps the most rigid aspect of the curriculum, because they are developed and agreed upon by the local, regional or national governing bodies on education. However, such curriculum guides can be general in nature. There is much room for input from the school board, directors of curriculum, and building-level teachers and administrators.

Solution providers can step in to make this “top-down but flexible” process easier on the schools. 

It’s good to understand if the solution has actually made their own version of the curriculum, or if it promises to align to the local, state or provincial curriculum. 

 

9. Developmental Domains.

The wide range of research defines somewhere between four to seven developmental domains, which refer to the specific aspects of growth and change in young children. 

Attached to these developmental domains are developmental milestones. 

They allow educators, parents and caregivers to keep track of appropriate development or intervene when there is a cause for concern. 

A lot of research has been conducted that connects reaching the developmental milestones to success in later life in what is known as developmental outcomes. 

There are other determinants as well such as family income and health, but developmentally appropriate early education is certainly a leading indicator of success. 

It’s best to find a tool that has mechanisms in place to understand the unique personality of every child, their learning style and their family background. Activities, practices, settings and behaviors can be modified to match the learning needs of the student. 

While language, cognitive, physical and socio-emotional development are standard domains, adaptive/self-help and spiritual/moral domains are more rare. A holistic learning approach considers all of the above. 

 

10. Executive Function.

Refers to cognitive skills that help children regulate their behavior such as their ability to focus, remember instruction and control certain inhibitions to complete a task.

Executive function is extremely important in early childhood education as there is a strong connection to both academic and social success. 

Before choosing a learning solution or resources, it’s a good idea to ask what activities or exercises are offered to promote executive function. 

 

11. Bias.

Bias in early childhood education can be both implicit and explicit

Implicit bias is an automatic or unconscious reaction someone has toward other people. With explicit bias, individuals are aware of their prejudices and attitudes toward certain groups.

While it’s not possible to get rid of bias completely, there are measures that can be taken to mitigate it. Using more culturally responsive assessments and having an assessment process that considers more viewpoints are great tactics in the battle against bias in early learning.

When picking a tool or platform, it helps to know how inclusive and culturally responsive the assessment process is. 

Perhaps it’s not an out-of-the-box solution due to the level of customization that is needed, but it is definitely reassuring to know if such arrangements can be made. 

 

12. Motor Skills.

Refers to fine motor skills and gross motor skills. 

Fine motor skills involve control of the small muscles in the body to complete activities like drawing or writing. Gross motor skills involve control of the large muscles in the body for activities such as running and jumping.

Motor skills are absolutely crucial for early education because physical development is a big part of growth. Cognitive and socio-emotional skills enable early learners to conceptualize and solve problems or acquire early literacy and numeracy, but in order to perform certain activities that show those skills, motor skills are needed.

Also, young students have a lot of energy, which is why play-based learning has emerged as one of the most popular learning styles in preschools and kindergartens. 

To boost quality in early learning programs, it cannot be all desk-based or stationary activities. There has to be a healthy mix of mobile activities, both inside and outside the classroom. 

 

13. Observational Tools.

Refers to instruments that are used to assess and communicate the level of quality in early education programs. 

Classroom assessment scoring systems and environment rating scales are used in the US to improve the quality of teacher effectiveness and learning environment respectively. The Federal Secretariat on Early Learning in Canada also recommends these two scales to measure quality.

If you plan to use observational methods at your school, it’s helpful to know the degree of quality and the sort of quality that will be measured. For example, 30 years of research papers on the subject were reviewed to reveal that good staff-to-child interactions and development-focused curricula were the best drivers of process quality.

14. Parent Involvement.

Refers to the active participation of the parents in the child’s education. 

It requires communication between the parents and the child’s educators. When this communication extends to a relationship with regular interactions, it is known as family engagement. 

It’s ideal if a quality improvement platform is able to measure parental involvement. 

 

15. Protective Factors.

Refers to the characteristics that counteract the effects of risk factors in early learning. One in six children face developmental problems at school entry. 

To minimize this risk, protective factors include community and social support and knowledge of parenting and child development.

Examine whether your solution uses a strengths-based approach, which aims to emphasize all of the positive aspects of healthy development rather than focusing on the downsides.

Of course, at-risk factors will exist for some children. However, it is the reaction to those risk variables that will determine the final outcome.

 

The Short of It — Internalizing All The Terms

There were plenty of terms that were left out in this document because of their overly technical nature. These include: terms relating to funds, or terms related to the various types of child care that do not specifically speak to any educational quality component. 

At the end of the day, achieving equity is a long-term oriented goal.

To begin the arduous task of closing opportunity gaps, it’s helpful to understand the relevant terms that determine the quality of education in an early childhood setting. 

Only when these concepts are properly understood, they can be fine-tuned in an existing program or included in a new program. The end result is quality enhancement.  

When the quality of early childhood education is raised, there is a higher chance of any existing accessibility and equality translating into equity.

Sprig Learning builds culturally relevant resources and assessments to provide a holistic learning experience to all students. To learn more about how your program can address inequity in early learning, give us a shout.

Importance of Cybersecurity in Schools. What you Need to Know.

Cybersecurity for schools is a growing area of interest due to 1) the increased adoption of instructional technology tools, and 2) increases in cyber attacks against both the software vendor and users of these platforms. 

Data privacy and data security are especially important anytime students are using technology due the potential data at risk. Sprig Learning has written on this topic, offering tips on protecting children’s data online on computers and mobile devices

This article is dedicated to teacher’s use of technology. 

The majority of early learners may not use computers, tablets and phones in schools, but their teachers use these devices to manage planning, instructional and assessment data. 

Thus it’s very important to understand the importance of cybersecurity in schools. 

 

What Is the Importance of Cybersecurity in Schools?

What is the importance of cybersecurity in schools

 

As the number of students enrolled in schools continues to grow and online learning expands, the safety and protection of student data is crucial.

 

Increased Threat

Last year, the number of cyberattacks on schools jumped by 75% with over a 1000 schools experiencing ransomware attacks.

According to data from Check Point Research, the education/research sector suffers the greatest number of weekly cybersecurity threats. 

With the threat of such attacks looming in the K12 education sector, it is important to take necessary measures.

With the growing prominence of cybersecurity, it’s not just the CIO who should be in roundtable discussions on how to best mitigate such risks, but other school district leaders and educators at all levels must have a base understanding of the threats and the right course of action.

 

K12 Cybersecurity Act

The K-12 Cybersecurity Act was signed into law in 2021, which aims to strengthen the cybersecurity of the United States’ K-12 educational institutions by conducting a study in cybersecurity risks, presenting the findings, and developing an online training kit for officials.

The cybersecurity toolkits published thus far offer some general guidelines, but a lot is still left up to the schools regarding how they want to set their cybersecurity strategy. 

 

Cybersecurity Budget for Schools

District Administration reports that 20% of schools out there spend less than 1% of their IT budget on security, the rest spending 8% of their IT budget on average on cybersecurity. 

For schools who have not prioritized cybersecurity yet, what are some best uses of the IT budget which will minimize risks, threats, and create a robust infrastructure for the future?

  1. Awareness training to the risks and how they are mitigated;
  2. Anti-malware software to detect the potential presence of malware;
  3. Anti-phishing software on email services to detect attempts to capture information, or even suspicious emails;
  4. Performing threat and risk assessments (TRA) against all new software or technologies being used. This should include a privacy impact assessment (PIA) for any platforms holding PII data of students or staff;
  5. SLA’s with providers that account for data breaches and course of action including notifications during and after an incident;
  6. Create a governance model that will allocate resources to ensure security and privacy are ongoing tasks across the organization’s operations.

 

Cybersecurity for School Districts

Cybersecurity for Schools

What are some things instructional technology should possess which will keep student’s data safe and secure?

Cybersecurity for school districts consists of keeping student data private and secure. Sprig has previously written on data privacy and data safety before. Please refer to those articles for a more in-depth explanation of what it takes to keep student data private and secure.

Information from those articles are presented here in a questionnaire format. To develop a top-notch cybersecurity strategy and successfully implement it, the following questions have to be asked.

 

Has your Instructional Technology Provider Completed Assessments on Threats, Risks and Privacy?

A governance model or framework makes it easy to perform both a Threat and Risk Assessment and a Privacy Impact Assessment – two critical components in developing and maintaining a safe platform.

A Threat and Risk Assessment allows us to discover any potential flaws in our digital assets and address each one to reduce risk.

The Privacy Impact Assessment assists in the identification and recording of any components of our system related to personal or student data that may be at risk, and then developing a plan to manage and mitigate those risks.

 

Does your Instructional Technology Provider have Failsafes? Does it train itself to get better?

Assessment and documentation cycles help to develop a Secure Development Lifecycle (SDLC) that decreases our platform’s overall attack surface. Maintaining a secure platform is an ongoing activity that does not end after development is completed. 

Servers must be monitored constantly for any indication of risk. Multi-layered system should assure that even if the web server is compromised, the student data is safe.

Penetration testing should be conducted to ensure that no internal errors are made on the code or on the server.

 

Is there sufficient understanding of the data policy and culture of the instructional technology provider?

First and foremost, schools should partner with EdTech companies that care about students. From pedagogy to platform and privacy, your tech partners need to put students first. 

Ask for a copy of the company’s privacy policy and make sure it looks something like this. If an EdTech company values the best interests of students, they will not sell data to advertisers or any other external 3rd party providers.

 

Is there enough information about cybersecurity and collaboration amongst different stakeholders to keep student data safe and secure?

The fact is, there is only one way to fight the sale of information: with information itself. Staying informed is the only way to protect student data and the onus is on caregivers and educators to learn with students in mind.

Caregivers and educators need to work together to protect student data inside and outside of the classroom and educate themselves so that they can understand the technology their children use. It takes two to keep student data safe, make sure your education partners are in it for the right reasons.

 

The Sprig Difference

All Sprig software and platform services have affirmative answers to the questions posed in the prior section. They are held to high specifications using regulatory regulations and ISO cybersecurity standards to ensure student data is safe and that privacy is assured. 

Sprig values student privacy, and as such, we do not sell or advertise any student data to third parties.  Nor will we ever, as it it is not part of our business model.

 For our product development, we use a governance model that includes a Secure Development Lifecycle (SDLC) to keep track of every component, identify potential risks, and carefully resolve each one.

Sprig has partnered with TwelveDot Security as its development partner to further emphasize the need for privacy. TwelveDot creates all of Sprig’s platforms using the most recent digital security safeguards and criteria. TwelveDot has been a global leader in cybersecurity for the last twelve years, assessing and defending enterprises against data breaches and cyber threats.

Do you have questions related to data privacy or cybersecurity? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us. 

How to Create High-Quality Head Start Preschools for Early Learning

Do high-quality preschools exist? Yes, but mostly for higher-income families. 

According to Emily Griffey, Policy Director of Voices for Virginia’s Children, there is a 19-point disparity between the percentages of high-income and low-income families that can afford preschool for their children.

There are many initiatives to expand accessibility to public Head Start preschools, but such accessibility has to be matched with quality, or there is a risk of perpetuating the cycle of inequity.

In this blog, Sprig argues the case for high-quality preschools, addresses the issue of accessibility, and then gives the indications and characteristics that would be required to create a high-quality public or private early learning program.

 

The Case for High-Quality Preschools

In her essay for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, Taryn Morrissey narrows down the major reasons that warrant greater policy attention to early education.

To summarize, high-quality education:

  • promotes child development and learning, and reduces inequities for those in disadvantaged communities. 
  • helps parental employment by providing a safe and quality environment for learning for their kids. 
  • forms the necessary backbone of the economic infrastructure.

 

Thus, high-quality preschools have both a short-term and long-term impact on school children and their communities. 

The community is able to thrive knowing that the child is growing in a safe and excellent setting that is favourable to learning. 

As the child grows older, there is a net spillover effect, where they contribute to the larger economy.

A study of 22 longitudinal studies, conducted between 1960 and 2016, showed that the attendees of early childhood education programs were:

  • less likely to be placed in special education
  • less likely to be held back a grade
  • more likely to graduate from high school 

 

These positive outcomes demonstrate that, when available, high-quality preschools make a huge difference in early learning.

 

Are There Enough High-Quality Preschools?

It’s tough to say if there is a shortage of preschools. Invariably, every preschool classroom does not fill the capacity of the maximum of 20 children per two trained adults, as recommended by the Office of Child Care in the US. However, even when this happens, quality can be impacted as more children require increased teacher attention. 

In the US, state-funded preschool and Head Start programs serve less than 1 in 3 eligible early learners. 

The National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) says that the quality standards remain “far too low” for these programs, and were only exacerbated by the pandemic. As low-income families weigh their options, homeschooling or daycare may seem like better alternatives if the quality of preschools garners a bad reputation. 

Which prompts the question….

 

What Does High-Quality Early Childhood Education Look Like?

High-quality preschools are both academic and play-based. A high-quality curriculum is specifically designed to present skills and concepts to schoolchildren in an order that matches their level of development.

In the process, formative assessments are used to address achievement gaps in underperforming students. It increases student engagement and leads to greater teacher satisfaction.

Hence, high-quality preschools do not merely focus on providing the best early childhood education experience, but also have innate differentiated instruction to cater to the needs of every child in the classroom. 

 

High-Quality Indicators

There are scales available to measure the quality of preschools such as the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS).

The ECERS contains 35 items organized into 6 categories of Space and Furnishings, Personal Care Routines, Language and Literacy, Learning Activities, Interaction and Program Structure.

The focus is on building oral language as foundational literacy concepts and moving to reading when appropriate. 

The Language and Literacy category includes “helping children expand vocabulary”, “encouraging children to use language”, “encouraging children’s use of books” and  “becoming familiar with print”. 

Also, under Learning Activities, the promotion of diversity and the appropriate use of technology are suggested. Tools like Sprig Library combine these recommendations into one effective and culturally responsive learning experience.  The app offers interactive story books that support oral language development, while introducing Indigenous themes, illuminating diversity.

An equal mix of self-learning and group learning is ideal for high-quality preschool programs. 

As seen in the ECERS scale: to address self-learning, “space for privacy” appears under the Space and Furnishings category, and “individualized teaching and learning” appears under Interaction. 

To address group-learning, peer learning is recommended under Interaction, and “whole-group activities” is listed under Program Structure.

 

The High-Quality Checklist

The NIEER recommends the following considerations when building a high-quality preschool program. A high-quality preschool Head Start program must:

  • cultivate positive relationships between teachers and children.
  • adequately equip the classroom with sufficient materials and toys. 
  • ensure regular communication that involves mutual listening, responding and encouragement to use reasoning and problem solving.
  • offer opportunities for multiple kinds of play.
  • provide materials and activities to promote understanding of diversity.
  • nurture parental involvement in the program.

 

Additionally, The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends a staff to child ratio of 1:10 for preschools, with a maximum class size of 20 students. 

Furthermore, the fair compensation and professional development for all teachers and staff are very important components of administering and maintaining a high-quality preschool program. 

Wherever they are not compensated adequately and on equal terms with K-12 educators, there is a higher risk of turnover

 

Need for Consistency and Assurance

 

Consistency of Early Educational Experience

Literacy assessment data from the US show that almost half of kindergartners were falling below grade-level benchmarks partway through the 2020-2021 year. The setbacks were more pronounced in marginalized communities. 

This is a case where the quality of preschools fell short of expectations. The data shows that preschoolers need consistent in-person interaction with educators.

Whenever this consistent learning environment is uprooted (due to any natural calamities or a global pandemic), it’s important to have a contingency plan in place that uses hybrid or remote learning, depending on how soon it’s safe to go back to school. 

 

Assurance of High-Quality

The rate of return on human capital investment is at its highest from birth to age 5. When children attend any sort of structural school system for the first time, it’s important that they receive the best education and are assured of continuing in the program.

There can be a trade-off sometimes between targeting skills and the whole child. While it’s true that targeting specific skills such as literacy and numeracy increases achievement in those areas, a whole child curriculum is often better at ensuring quality of classroom processes.

It doesn’t have to be either-or. With holistic learning, you tend to the whole child by involving their teachers, parents and the community to support their needs and safety. But you also focus on particular academic skills by offering leveled activities that are fun to do. 

 

Looking Ahead

There is help available to build high-quality Head Start preschools or transform existing preschools into a high-quality Head Start program. However, while there is more funding to increase accessibility, it must be matched with increased quality. 

Sprig believes that the indications, checklist, and considerations described in this article can be used to establish both new and upgraded high-quality preschools and head start programs.

30 Amazing Early Learning Statistics From 0 to 100!

In early learning, there are so many statistics that often get used and recycled to emphasize certain points. 

It’s a good exercise to pause, step back and reflect on the messages conveyed by each statistic. This allows you to identify trends and  general early learning patterns.

Early learning, also known as early childhood education, refers to the education a child receives from birth to age 8. Age 8 roughly corresponds to the grade 3 in most school systems. 

 

Early Learning Statistics and Commentary

These  early learning statistics, starting from zero, all the way to a hundred, are divided into 10 sections. As statistics can be spun in many different ways, Sprig Learning provides commentary on each number.

 

0 and Up

Early learning begins at birth! There are developmental milestones listed as early as 2 months. Early Head Start Programs serve infants and toddlers under the age of 3. It shows why there is a need for systematic education for that age group. 

 

This additional $1 billion brings the total Head Start (ages 3-5) and Early Head Start (ages 0-3) funding to above $10 billion for 2021. 

 

The pandemic affected all facets of life, including early childhood education. In the crucial early years of development, the 2 missed months of learning can have a compounded effect later on, if not addressed. 

 

  • Only 10 % of 3-5 year olds remained in the same program on the same pre-pandemic schedule during the pandemic.

Only 1 out of 10 schoolchildren had any sense of continuity during the course of COVID-19. Again, the threat of discontinuity and inconsistency of education in the early years is something that should be examined more closely.

 

  • Children’s academic success at ages 9 and 10 are determined by the amount of conversation they heard from birth to age 3

There are multiple variations of this one statistic, but it demonstrates the necessity of parental involvement in the early years to instill oral communication in their children. Development of oral language is an important indicator of success in the later years. 

 

The 10s

This is extremely important to take into account, not because of the lack of importance of special education (which is very much needed), but the costs of special education placements and the fact that such placements are preventable via early enrollment.

 

  • Students from minority communities attended school districts that received nearly 13% less state and local funding compared to those school districts that had fewer students of colour. 

Education inequity cannot be swept under the rug. With the expansion of high-quality and affordable early learning programs, there is hope that such inequity will dissipate over time. Proper early childhood assistance is an amazing equalizer in terms of school readiness.

 

Supporting the last point, this is again a reminder that attending and progressing from preschool to Grade 3 is linked to academic success later on. Thus, it’s very important to extend whatever support that is necessary during this time period. 

 

Before one can even graduate highschool, it is important that they progress through each grade. This further establishes the link between enrolling early into a school system and successful graduation years later. 

 

The benefits of preschool attendance do not stop at academic success. When considering everything the child eventually contributes to the economy and the society, the ROI is thoroughly justified.

 

The 20s

Education resources, both inside and outside the classroom, are so important to early childhood development. Books are one of the best sources for learning, which can be read to kids, and which kids can learn to read themselves. 

 

  • Pre-k enrollment during the pandemic in the US declined by 22%.

Given everything that is discussed thus far on the importance of pre-k, it is discouraging to see that a major catastrophe such as a pandemic or natural disaster can discourage enrollment in pre-k. Even if remote learning can be arranged at such times, situational stress and safety concerns seem to have a discouraging effect on enrollment.

 

The 30s

 There are other forms of learning, besides just cognitive, which have a tremendous impact on both academic and non-academic success for a child. 

 

In the very famous study conducted by Hart and Risely, where children from wealthier families were exposed to more words in an hour compared to children from less wealthier families, the difference added up to a gap by the time both groups turned 4. 

Admittedly, the statistic is worded to provide maximum shock, but the point still stands. Expanding vocabulary in the early years is paramount. 

 

After all aforementioned benefits of preschool, the fact remains that a sizable chunk of children are not enrolled in preschool.  The reasons for this are wide-ranging. Understanding them would address the causes of education inequity. 

 

The 40s

There are positive and negative externalities of early childhood education. Most of the positives have been mentioned such as graduating high school and becoming a productive member of society. 

It also helps to look at what can be avoided, such as crime. This happens when young students are beneficiaries of an education program that goes beyond just academics and teaches them values.

 

No early learning program is successful without effective teachers. When teachers have the right resources and infrastructure, they are able to do their work well and make a huge difference in early learning. 

 

Almost half of the 3 year old children in the US were not enrolled in preschool in 2020. This is in contrast 34% of 4 year olds who were not enrolled in preschool. It makes sense that the older children get, the greater the likelihood they will be admitted to school. 

But on the heels of everything mentioned in this article about the importance of starting early, there is a lot more work to be done in providing access to high-quality education to 3 year olds.

 

The 50s

Pound for pound, books are one of the best resources for learning. Not worksheets, or tablets, but traditional paper books. They are designed to fast-track learning and provide a type of learning experience that is more permanent. It’s why here at Spig Learning, levelled readers and storybooks are such an essential part of our early learning programs.

 

The 60s

Remote learning may be great as a contingency plan, but it is not the preferred method for teaching. Transitioning out of the pandemic, both students and teachers would favour in-person classrooms for high-quality learning. 

 

This speaks to the intergenerational nature of the inequity in education. It’s been found that when two successive generations of people are educated by the Head Start Program, the latter generation fares better because of improved parenting from previous Head Start attendees.

 

The 70s

  • 70% of elementary school principals say that they could not meet their students’ mental health needs with the staff they had.

This is why educating the whole child is so important, rather than focusing on academics only. Holistic learning is a great approach that focuses on the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual side of growth which can mitigate any emergent conditions later on.

 

  • In NYC, the lowest annual fee for a private school is $1280, while the highest is $72,725.

Based on all these statistics, it’s clear that there is a need for preschool. Sprig Learning has written on the qualities that make a high-quality preschool program. This statistic however looks at the private sector, and it demonstrates just how much value can be added on to a program in terms of quality.

 

Inequity emerges again as a major issue, as kids from families who make less income are less prepared for kindergarten. Assistance is required. There is a window of opportunity to address this discrepancy in the early years of learning.

 

Beyond education, providing a high-quality learning environment helps families as well who can trust that their children are being well looked after. It strengthens families by allowing them to better manage their time, and giving them confidence knowing they are being supported by teachers and the greater community. Learn how community plays a key role in holistic learning

 

The 80s

Previously, we saw that children from higher income families are better prepared when entering school. This statistic is an extension of that, which shows exactly how those who enter kindergarten “ready to learn”, can then benefit from the schooling that is provided.

 

  • By age 3, approximately 85% of the brain’s core structure is formed. 

This is a throwback to the beginning of the article that zoomed in on early development. Indeed, most of the brain develops by age 3, the age when most kids enroll into preschool. Learning truly begins in the home. It is best when early learning programs include a learn-at-home component through which parents are supported to help their child’s learning at home.  

 

The 90s

  • There is a 90% likelihood that, in the absence of additional instructional support,  a poor reader in 1st grade will remain a poor reader.

This is a chilling statistic that shows how important preschool and kindergarten are for taking corrective measures to optimize the learning capacity of a child. It’s good to have multiple formative assessments during that period of learning, to identify all learning opportunities before it’s too late.

 

A teachers’ role in the early learning process simply cannot be understated. There is curriculum, content and methods of assessment, but it’s the teacher who varies instruction in all these areas to best educate a young student according to their unique abilities. 

 

  • Over 100 activities were conducted across Canada by Indigenous organizations and the government of Canada to inform a better understanding of existing Indigenous early learning and child care systems.

While most of the earlier statistics mention the need for high-quality early learning programs, it is not possible to achieve quality with the considerations of all stakeholders.

When designing early learning programs, respecting the various diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds of communities is extremely important. 

 

Main Takeaways

That brings the article to a close. Hard hitting early learning numbers, from zero to hundred. Going through all of the statistics offers a lot of takeaways. In summary:

 

  • There is so much research that points to the benefits of prioritizing high-quality education in the earlier years.  Starting early is crucial when it comes to educating young learners. It sets the foundation and tone for the rest of their student journey.

 

  • Inequity is linked to accessibility. Even if the benefits of early learning are thoroughly understood, expanding such programs to all remains a challenge. Certain high-quality aspects of the program might have to be scaled quickly. Sprig Learning can help with that. 

2022 Review. Sprig’s Mission to Increase Equity in Early Learning. Innovations. Conversations. New Beginnings.

For many reasons, 2022 was a fantastic year for Sprig Learning. 

Sprig is better equipped than ever to address the early learning issues facing schools and districts, particularly those involving literacy disparities in both language and math. 

Between every collaborating teacher, team member, and partner organizations, a lot has happened this year. Attempting to summarize it all in one article would not do it justice. 

Instead, to give you a sense of what has been going on, we pick a few key moments from the year.  

 

Augmented Reality— Innovation

Sprig takes pleasure in consistently delivering innovative early learning solutions that will improve student engagement and provide the greatest teaching impact to educators.

So to begin 2022, our team developed augmented reality capability that could be added to our animated storybooks to make them three dimensional. 

This feature continues to be under development and has not been deployed yet.  We are working with our existing schools, teachers and technology leads to finalize these features and boost student engagement in early literacy and language development.

 

Ontario Association for Mathematics Education (OAME) Event— Conversation

OAME Event

Sprig Learning presented its work at the Ontario Association for Mathematics Education golden jubilee event in early May. It was an amazing and interactive discussion with math educators on the need for early assessments, and teaching underlying math concepts which are predictors of subsequent math achievement. The event consisted of both a Sprig Math presentation and virtual booth. 

Sprig gave away a Sprig Math Classroom Kit in a live in-session draw to an attendee, containing manipulatives which have been shown to improve understanding of foundational math concepts in the early years. 

On the subject of numeracy, Sprig Math continues to experiment with play-based technology which leverages game-based learning to help both teach and assess math concepts. 

 

Partnership with Joyful Literacy Interventions and  Launch of Sprig Reading— New Beginnings.

 

Perhaps the biggest news of the year, Sprig officially announced its partnership with Joyful Literacy Interventions in June. The partnership was in the works for sometime, and it was an amazing moment in time to partner with an organization who was equally as committed to the improvement of literacy equity in North America. 

On the trails of that partnership, Sprig Reading was unveiled to the world in August. Sprig Reading is an evidence-based interactive tool for Pre-K to 3 teachers to teach the foundational reading skill sets. It was an amazing launch party, featuring presentations from leading early literacy experts such as Dr. Janet N. Mort and discussing effective reading strategies from experienced teachers that have consistently raised at-grade reading levels in their classroom.

 

Sprig Reading Professional Development Workshops

With many changes in curriculum and teaching practices, the need for relevant and timely professional development is greater than ever before. Recognizing this need, Sprig Reading launched its multi-part series of workshops that aims to help educators understand and implement best practices using Sprig Reading.

The inaugural workshop was free to attend for the public. Let us know if you are interested in the Early Reading Assessment, Instruction and Planning workshop, and we will send you an unlisted link. 

We have reviewed the components of professional development for excelling in reading instruction, and all Sprig Reading workshops are deliberately constructed to meet those benchmarks, so educators feel adequately supported to meet their school’s vision and improve literacy for their students. 

 

Giving Tuesday Teaching Awareness Drive

Giving Tuesday Teaching Awareness Drive

Following Sprig’s tradition, we wanted to give back towards the end of the year in November! One of the key themes in our Sprig Blog posts is emphasizing the relevance of all the many teaching and teaching staff positions that contribute to the success of a student. 

Recognizing all of their efforts, we organized a giveaway contest in which we encouraged teachers to raise awareness of the complexities of teaching and entered them into a prize draw when they did so. We held the giveaway draw  on the Tuesday following American Thanksgiving, and picked a winner to  receive our entire puppet and storybook set, as well as a set of language cards.

 

What 2023 Holds for Us

2023

A lot has happened in 2022, but the thought of what’s coming up next is what further motivates us to continue working to provide every child a fair shot at success.

Sprig Reading has reached over 100 teachers and classrooms in North America in just six months. We look forward to collaborating with other school districts and education professionals around the world that want to improve early reading instruction and increase student achievement.

We are eager to continue providing professional development to our schools and educators who are using Sprig Language and Sprig Math. In the latter half of the 2022-23 school year, the emphasis for training will be on analyzing student data from holistic assessments and using that data to drive instruction and assist early interventions.

Based on the fantastic and ongoing feedback we get from our Sprig educators, we look forward to releasing additional functionality and features for our core early years platform.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a prosperous new year from the Sprig Team! Tomorrow, our staff will leave for a break and return on January 3rd, 2023. We’ll see you again, at the start of the new year!

15 Incredible Stories of Revitalizing Indigenous Education

Sprig Learning writes the Root to Fruit newsletter twice a month, covering all the latest news from early learning pertaining to projects, practices, announcements and educational equity. 

The 30th edition was sent out to readers yesterday. The last edition of the year will go out to subscribers on December 21. Subscribe now to be in the loop on all things early learning. 

In every Root to Fruit, educational equity has a separate section devoted to it, as so much of what Sprig is trying to do centers around raising equity in education. 

The educational equity section features stories on the gaps between different groups of students due to their own unique circumstances. It highlights stories that speak of this gap, and the efforts that are conceived and actions that are taken to reduce this gap. 

In particular, Sprig Learning centers its work around the persistent gaps for Indigenous learners. It is not only additional resources that are often needed to provide high-quality early learning, but support for the autonomy for Indigenous communities to preserve local customs, languages and cultures. 

This article presents 15 stories of revitalizing Indigenous education first featured on Root to Fruit, since the beginning of the last school year. 

 

Stories of Indigenous Education Revitalization

Stories of Indigenous Education Revitalization

1. The Anishinabek Nation: Introduction of Teaching Tools for Topics Such as Treaty Education

Nov. 1-7 was Treaties Recognition Week in Canada. School boards across the country took this opportunity to continue their education on Indigenous subject matters, with relevant sessions about what a Treaty is and what reconciliation looks like. The Anishinabek Nation unveiled some new online teaching tools. The recommendation is that lessons about Treaties should begin in elementary school. Sprig has helped support the development of such lesson plans. 

 

2. Vancouver Island First Nation: Ability to Certify Own Teachers

Vancouver Island First Nation has accepted the education jurisdiction agreement and law-making protocol with the Government of Canada. This allows Cowichan Tribes to certify its own teachers, determine graduation certification and create its own curriculum. Marlene Tommy, a kindergarten and grade one teacher, says that students can “expect a more robust cultural education.” 

 

3. Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation: Expansion of Space to Promote Holistic Approach to Learning

The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation are expanding Lloyd S. King elementary school. New classrooms will be added and local early learning centres will be brought under the same facility to establish the First Nation holistic approach to lifelong learning. The school principal and Chief say that this will provide a healthy and safe learning environment and promote the further development of a culturally-relevant curriculum.

 

4.The Rapid City Area Schools: Introduce of Immersion Programs to Rapidly Learn an Indigenous Language

Lakota Immersion pilot program is finding great success in Rapid City in South Dakota, a year after its launch.The Rapid City Area Schools are getting familiar with the program and are noticing instances of children learning much more quickly, whether it be in math, reading or the Lakota culture. Teachers say they learned a lot about language acquisition in kindergarten and the goal is for the program to expand by one grade level every year. Next year’s kindergarten program is at capacity at 20 students. 

 

5. Leo Ussak School: Creating the Right Learning Environment

Appolina Makkigak is one of the three recipients of the 2022 Inuit Language Award. A Grade 1 Inuktitut teacher at Leo Ussak School in Rankin Inlet, Appolina has been teaching for the past 5 years, and has innovated every year to keep the learning materials relevant. She has an Inuktitut word wall and speaks to her students about Inuit traditions. 

 

6. Great Falls Public Schools: Incorporating Hands-on Activities To Preserve Culture

Great Falls Public Schools (GFPS) in Montana are looking to teach students about Indigenous culture through innovative programs. Using donation funds from the non-profit organization Sisters United, GFPS aims to offer cultural opportunities such as planting sweetgrass, going bison hunting, and hearing stories from elders. GFPS Director of Indigenous Education Dugan Coburn says that this will be a great way to represent the 51 different tribes in the Great Falls community. 

 

7. Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation: Building Schools in Close Proximity to Relevant Cultural Centres

A new elementary school was approved in Sagamok that will accommodate 201 students and be equipped with a gym, cafeteria, sciency room and library. The school site is located next to an Elder’s Lodge, so there will be more exposure to the Ojibwe language. 

Chief Alan Ozawanimiki says that the community’s future depends on “promoting an environment conducive to learning in a way that reflects both modern curriculum and Anishnawbe Aadziwin”. This is great news for the Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation in Ontario, as there will be more opportunities to strengthen relationships and build language.

 

8. The Mohegan Tribe: Creating a Stockpile of Resources to Teach Lesson Plans in New Curriculums

The Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut is set to launch the Educators Project, which is an Indigenous curriculum produced by the Mohegan Council of Elders and the tribe’s Cultural & Community Programs and Communications departments. Connecticut has mandated that starting with the 2023-2024 school year, each local and regional school board should focus on including Indigenous studies in the curriculum. Teacher resources, video assets and student tools are being developed to teach the different lesson plans in the curriculum. 

 

9. The Kainai Board of Education: Providing Opportunities for Teacher Collaboration

The Kainai Board of Education is building a new elementary school. Students will be learning the Alberta curriculum as well as the Blackfoot language and Indigenous history and culture. The new Aahsaopi Elementary School will be completed in January 2024. KBE Superintendent Cam Shade, is excited at the prospect of multiple grade levels being housed together and teachers collaborating to provide the best educational experience to students.

 

10. Kehkimin: Creating a School Dedicated to Language Immersion

The Kehkimin Wolastoqey language immersion school is opening this fall at Killarney Park in Fredericton, New-Brunswick. The city has granted a one year lease to the school so it has access to the surrounding grounds for a land-based education. Ron Tremblay, Wolastoq Grand Council Chief, has worked in language education for 36 years. He has collaborated with Lisa Perley-Dutcher, Chair of the Board of Directors of the new school, to develop the curriculum. 

 

11. Lil’wat Nation, Cowichan Tribes, ʔaq’am, and Seabird Island Band: Acquiring Greater Autonomy for Curriculum Decision-making

The Canadian federal government and First Nations Education Steering Committee announced that the Lil’wat Nation, Cowichan Tribes, ʔaq’am, and Seabird Island Band were granted total autonomy over over its Kindergarten to Grade 12 education systems. This new autonomy means that the nations have complete law-making authority on the curriculum and certification of teachers

 

12. Saddle Lake Cree Nation: Including Land-based Learning Opportunities

The new Saddle Lake Cree Nation elementary school has an update. The construction project which began in March of this year, is expected to be completed in July 2023. Debra Cardinal, superintendent of the school, says “The design of the new school incorporates a connection to the Cree way of life and includes land-based learning opportunities”. The school will be developing its own curriculum with a strong focus on the Cree language and history. 

 

13. Red Deer Public School District: Using Books from Indigenous Authors

Red Deer Public School District in Alberta acknowledged Truth and Reconciliation Day by organizing various hands-on activities for their students, and incorporating themes into their lessons that taught about the impact of the residential schools system on Indigenous youth. For Kindergarten to Grade 2 students, age appropriate texts from Indigenous authors were used to teach the value of first teachings from family members. 

 

14. Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools: Creating Bilingual Programming for the Early Grades

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) works with the Saskatoon Tribal Council to provide Cree- and Michif-language options in schools. St. Michael Community School currently offers bilingual programming for Kindergarten and Grade 1. It plans to extend the program to Grade 2 next year. Cornelia Laliberte oversees GSCS’s Indigenous programming and hopes to add more resources for the Michif language, which is not as common as Cree.

 

15. The Elsie Fabian School: Employing Indigenous Educators and Staff

The Elsie Fabian School opened its doors in Fort McKay, Alberta, to approximately 140 students from the Fort McKay First and Métis Nations. The K-9 school will teach a modified version of the Alberta curriculum that includes the revitalization of Cree and Dene languages, and offer a land-based education. 70% of the school faculty is Indigenous, and includes positions such as library technician and literacy specialist. 

 

Promoting and Revitalizing Indigenous Education

Promoting and Revitalizing Indigenous Education

Sprig will continue to feature such stories of Indigenous Education that demonstrate how education equity is being addressed in different Indigenous communities across North America. 

Understanding what other Nations, Tribes, and School Districts are doing allows us to draw inspiration and develop new projects to further the revitalization of Indigenous languages. Sprig is involved in many  such projects, working collaboratively with Indigenous educators, leaders and Elders. If you are interested in learning more, please get in touch.