Pre-K/Elementary School, the start of children’s formal education, is the springboard for future academic engagement and success.
Early experiences, including early relationships and learning environments, serve as the foundation for later educational and life outcomes. Successful Pre-K/elementary school experiences are affected by contextual factors unique to each child and family, as well as the design of the child's learning environment. For that reason, Pre-K/elementary school programming is closely aligned with the core principles of safe, supportive learning environments and serves as a model for other education levels.
Developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) recognizes that decisions made about materials, interactions, curriculum, and instruction affect how children learn and develop. DAP meets children “where they are” with respect to age, ability, and culture and builds their ability to participate and be engaged in the classroom environment. DAP entails planning and delivering educational content and supports that cut across all domains of development, whether cognitive skills, executive function, social-emotional skills, or problem-solving skills. Supports include the use of positive discipline approaches, respecting and responding to cultural and linguistic diversity, and offering appropriate accommodations when necessary.
Working together as partners, families, schools, and communities can create and improve opportunities for children to develop social, emotional, and academic competencies. Partnership entails reciprocal relationships in which schools make efforts to support and strengthen families, families engage in their child’s education, and communities offer resources and supports that will enhance children’s development and learning.
Research has demonstrated the value of protective factors in facilitating children’s well-being. These include resilience, concrete support in times of need, social and emotional competence, and positive school connectedness. Risk factors, such as exposure to violence, parental mental health issues, and negative attitudes toward school, can increase the chances a child will experience social-emotional, behavioral, or academic issues. In addition to promoting children’s learning and development, protective factors can serve as a cushion or buffer against these types of challenges.
Howes, C., Bryant, D., Burchinal, M., Clifford, R., Early, D., Pianta, R., Ritchie, S. (2006). National Center for Early Development and Learning (NCEDL) issued statement. Chapel Hill, NC: NCEDL, FPG Child Development Institute.