The REL Mid-Atlantic: Strengthening the Early Education Research Alliance

Yes. High-five. Early childhood education is an important
priority for policymakers in the Mid-Atlantic region, just as it is across the country. At REL Mid-Atlantic, we are collaborating
with stakeholders from Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania to address early
education challenges, with the aim of identifying solutions that we can share both in our region and
with others across the nation. Childrens’ learning experiences from birth,
and how well schools support early learning, can set a course throughout the school years
and beyond. Our alliance focuses on improving early education
and outcomes for the youngest students in the region. We are doing this through a variety of support
activities, with the goals of informing policymaker decisions and educator practice through sharing
the best available research, helping improve the quality of early education data, and helping
states collect data that is actionable. States in the region want to know how to retain
qualified early education teachers and how to support their professional growth, recognizing
that highly effective teachers will produce better prepared students. Delaware, like many other states, is dealing
with compensation and qualifications of early learning professionals, it’s a real struggle
because of the funding structures that currently exist. And we are thinking about ways to increase
qualifications, but also looking at how to increase compensation, because we can’t
do one without the other. We’re exploring how to make early care and
education high quality, accessible, and affordable. Quality Rating and Improvement Systems can
offer parents information on the quality of their choices and also help providers identify
areas where they can improve. For these systems to be useful to providers,
the providers need technical support and teacher education and training, and effective educational
materials. For the systems, to be useful to parents,
more providers need to participate in them. And the systems have to be transparent and
easy to use. So, the REL is going to be working with us
to design a workshop to bring in a national perspective on how those systems can work,
what doesn’t work, and then what states have done in that improvement process. Stakeholders in our region also want to make
greater use of kindergarten assessments. We’re partnering with states and districts
to help them understand how to use these data to measure and continuously improve learning
in the early grades. We are also working with stakeholders to identify
actionable solutions to chronic absenteeism in the early years. District leaders have asked for support in
understanding how attendance in pre-kindergarten relates to later outcomes and how evidence-based
strategies might help improve attendance. And the research that the REL provides, can
be taken back to our state, just to help us in our decision-making to make sure that we
are making the best decisions for all children and families and that we’re ensuring that
all those children and families are gaining access to high-quality early-learning environments. Good things happen for kids when you have
people who are willing to do the hard work. And so, the research and processes around
that are going to be really helpful. We are always monitoring evolving needs in
the Mid-Atlantic region. And with that in mind, we’d love to hear
from you about the ways that the REL might be able to help with research and analysis
to improve educational outcomes.

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