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Communications Strategies for Advocates of
Early Childhood Education

Focus Group Results Report

Prepared by Full Circle Associates for the Human Services Policy Center at the University of Washington
And The Benton Foundation

March 30, 1998

Nancy White
Pat Chappell

Table of Contents:

Overview

Framing

Parental Roles and Responsibility

Quality and Importance of Early Childhood Education

Quality Assurance and Financing

Teachers and Parents as Partners

Learning from Birth

Natural Learning vs. Study

Moral and Social Foundation of the Child/Society

Science

Early Investment

ECE as a Solution to Education Problems

ECE as First Step in Education Process

Labels and Language

Educare

First Learning

First Education

Early Education

Early Teacher

Development

Foundation Learning

Second Family

Family 2

Conclusions

Appendix A - Not inlcuded in web report;

Appendix B –ECE FOCUS GROUP TESTING MATERIALS

Overview

Full Circle Associates conducted two focus groups for the "Communications Strategies for Advocates of Early Childhood Education" project as directed by Richard Brandon from the University of Washington Human Services Policy Center in collaboration with Susan Bales of the Benton Foundation. The groups were run on March 16, 1998 (Seattle-African American) and March 19, 1998 (S. King County/Kent-Caucasian). The African American group was mixed age and socio-economic background and self identified predominantly as Democrats. The South King County group was middle income, more conservative and older as a group with one younger couple expressing significantly more liberal views. Complete demographic information on the groups can be found in Appendix A.

The goal of the two focus groups was to test participants’ reactions to a series of metaphors, frameworks and labels for early childhood education (0-6). The objective was to identify those labels that could be helpful in convincing people to support public policies for improved affordability and quality of early childhood care and education. Materials used for the focus group tests can be found in Appendix B.

Full Circle project staff focused on close observation of the following:

  • Language that "not merely registers approval, but which excites audiences emotionally and could motivate them to act", or language that would "turn them inward, what will make them say, just leave it to families," and,
  • The FRAMING of the issue and the potential to bridge between the dual needs of a parent’s need to work and a child’s need for good early education.

Framing

Overall the strongest thread throughout both groups and in every topic of inquiry was that of parental responsibility. There was strong support for the role of early education for education’s sake, but not for moral development, which belonged firmly in the hands of parents. There was no consensus on how quality and cost would be addressed.

Parental Roles and Responsibility

The strongest response and agreement from both groups was the importance of parental responsibility for their child’s early education. This thread was woven through all the conversations of both groups. It was clearly the bottom line for many of the participants.

The participants endorsed the need for parent education on how to help their child’s education and development. Both groups seemed to agree that even if a parent has to work, they have an obligation to stay involved with their child’s care and education. The Caucasian group suggested that parents ought to form councils to help set standards and neighbors and communities should get together and talk about these issues. Both groups suggested that if a parent is at home, they also need to know how to help their child learn and grow.

There was also support for the concept of parents and teachers as partners, but with ultimate responsibility with the parents. They did not want teachers infringing on parental rights or roles. They suggested parents need to take a proactive role in working with the teachers and to hold teachers accountable for quality care, with the caveat that not all parents know how to do this, or know how to recognize quality care. Both groups acknowledged the need to pay and train teachers better.

Within the Caucasian group there was a segment that showed a lack of willingness to make allowances for parents who didn’t stay involved – in plain terms they weren’t taking excuses. For parents who work, there was a level of expectation in that group about what would be an acceptable level of involvement There were some similar comments in the African-American group, but with a larger margin of allowance.

There was not strong support in either group for the concept of "the moral and social foundation of the child is the moral and social foundation for society." They expressed the idea that the moral and social foundations of the FAMILY are the moral and social foundations of society" – again reinforcing the importance of the parental role.

Quality and Importance of Early Childhood Education

Both groups understood and valued quality early childhood education. This was indicated by their appreciation for "good teachers," activities beyond custodial care ("I don’t want my child in front of a TV"), their understanding of a child’s cognitive and social development needs, and the need for parents to shop around for quality care. They showed understanding of the importance of the availability of quality care in a community, even if their personal preference might be that a parent stays home with their child.

Both groups felt that early investment (in the broadest sense beyond just financial) in education, whether by parents or an early childhood education system, was important, and that it could influence or improve the longer-range school outcomes and contribute to a stronger community, including benefiting business.

Both groups believe that the full continuum of education is important for their children, K through post-secondary,and did not fear "too much" education. They liked the science approach for validating the importance of early childhood education if done lightly – not too much technical information, especially the African American group. Some members of the Caucasian group expressed distrust of some "science" and "research," yet also said they did not want to pay for any new program that was not "proven effective."

Quality Assurance and Financing

There was no strong consensus between the groups on a positive framework for addressing quality assurance and financing issues for early childhood education. While both groups felt that early development and learning were important, there was no single view on how and where a child should be afforded these opportunities – or who should be responsible for the quality assurance or financing. The African American group expressed a stronger desire for more community accountability than the Caucasian group.

There was a great deal of concern about how to finance early childhood care, and a skepticism that communities would agree to additional financial commitments. All felt childcare is an expensive proposition no matter who pays for it, and many expressed a degree of willingness to help share those costs. The older members of the Caucasian group were more likely to support individual financial responsibility –the "if there’s a will, there’s a way" approach to parents financing quality care.

The Caucasian group supported business investment in early childhood education and they were somewhat less supportive of public funds being used to fund early childhood education for everyone – even while acknowledging the importance of the services. The African American group did not get into as much discussion of funding, but expressed desire for better accountability for both an ECE system and the current K-12 system.

The Caucasian group addressed standards and regulation. They want quality care but want parents to specify what constitutes quality care (one suggestion was through parent councils and community conversations), not the government. Or have recommended guidelines and actual checklists for parents to use to that they so can determine what is best for their children. Both groups stressed the importance of the need for parents to really scrutinize care they select and parent education on how to find quality care.

Participants who have younger children or who have experience in the education system, had more realistic views about the current state of early childhood education and responded accordingly. Those without children or with grown children had a less current or realistic view of the early childhood system’s strengths and weaknesses. They appeared to be drawing their conclusions on observations of society (some potentially driven by the media) and their personal political views.

Here are the specific responses to each approach tested:

Teachers and Parents as Partners

Following are examples of responses from each of the focus groups with regard to the specific concept of parents and teachers as partners.

Caucasian Focus Group

    • Parents are responsible for making sure that daycare providers or other care givers are doing what they want done in terms of providing education to their children.
    • Need conferences, telephone calls…can’t be just on the teacher. The parent has to take responsibility…a cooperative effort
    • Parents have to make time in their schedule

African American Focus Group

    • You have to know what your kid is doing…you have to be involved with the curriculum.
    • Partnerships mean give and take on both sides. We need to know what the roles are on both sides. If you don’t get involved, we let them do everything--- we need to be partners.
    • I think the biggest concern is that not enough parents ARE concerned.
    • You need to keep the teachers in check
    • You have to give parents the key (role modeling)
    • There is this propaganda that you need preschool and kindergarten to thrive in school.
    • The parents have to be sure they are an advocate for their kids
    • It all goes back to education. Educating the parents. Have the school system teaching all so they can learn - -then you are not going to have troubled kids down the line. Right now you can go one place and get a good education, and not at another – starting early. Educate the parents. That’s the bottom line. We’re gonna have our child. We’re going to be that motivating force. We are going to "I Love You" regardless. That’s what our job is. The more that parents can learn -- nobody is going to help our children like us.

Learning from Birth

Following are examples of responses from each of the focus groups with regard to the specific concept of learning from birth.

Caucasian Focus Group

    • Learning from birth is inevitable
    • Let a child be and they will learn
    • What and how they learn is something else…

African American Focus Group

    • I learned a lot from my mother…but my teachers… I want them to make learning fun for me.
    • Even before birth I learned from her (referring to his mother)
    • No, it is not natural…you can’t just put a kid in a bouncer seat and think that is enough. Parents need more resources to know this and know how to do these things to stimulate your child.
    • Our son has heard choir music since birth—in utero—and he will always stop to listen to music…
    • My mother said she read out loud to me and I was reading out loud by the time I was four. It is like nutrition. It is important.
    • Parents need to talk to babies. You can tell when babies have parents that talk to them – their eyes are bouncing up and down – you know they are going to make it…

Natural Learning vs. Study

Following are examples of responses from each of the focus groups with on the specific concept of "natural learning vs. study.".

Caucasian Focus Group

    • It’s the role of the parent and the teacher
    • Parents have no clue what a "rich environment" is (said by teacher)…they don’t know to give their kids markers and books…
    • Back in the old days I could stay home with my kids – I could let them do things -- parents today don’t have that luxury – they have to rely on daycare providers
    • We have to work at being parents
    • It depends on values systems…some parents don’t read to their children
    • Not paying attention to the natural ability to learn – that makes a difference between daycare facilities and whether it is a facility or an in-home daycare—sometimes kids just get parked in front of a TV.
    • It depends on the motivation of the provider…it is necessary for the parent to be involved and to define what their children need
    • Parents assume that providers know what they are doing
    • Some parents don’t care
    • There could be better guidelines for parents so they know what to look for – a checklist
    • It’s all expensive

African American Focus Group

    • Lots of head nodding
    • Everyone has a God-given gift to do something. Parents have to be observant to find these gifts and help them develop…
    • Study is harder than natural learning…
    • I kind of take natural different – when my son sees other kids doing things and he mimics it, then it is natural.
    • If you see your parents succeeding at things, you will have confidence to succeed at things. It has to be the parents motivating force, example. And relatives.
    • Its learning to learn

Moral and Social Foundation of the Child/Society

Following are example responses from each group on the specific concept of moral and social foundation of the child/society.

Caucasian Focus Group

    • establishment of moral foundations starts with parents – we need to teach our children morals at home
    • Depends on how much TV they watch…
    • When parents aren’t teaching it, they need to get it somewhere
    • If parents don’t have morals, there isn’t much you can do…
    • Need to teach young people to be better parents, but they don’t care

African American Focus Group

    • You are not trying to raise your child about what is going on in society – there is a lot of bad stuff going on.
    • If everyone is telling you, you are not going to do it…family has to do this, because society does not provide the foundation.
    • If we started at home, we wouldn’t have all these problems.
    • It starts at home?
    • Is that true for all children? Not all children have parents who care. That’s why early childhood education is important, if their parent’s aren’t doing that.
    • You gotta help the parent do this. ECE works with the parent. Go out and work with the parent…
    • If parents are given enough training, all parents will be proud of their kids.
    • I don’t believe that – there are some parents that are useless from the get go. Kids can get beyond their parents’ problems.

Science

Following are examples of responses from each group with regard to the concept of the role of science research.

.

Caucasian Focus Group-

    • It is important to know about research…it is a motivator
    • There are parents who will care about this and those who don’t
    • Parent is a big part of early education
    • Parents rely on schools to teach their kids what they need to know (K-12)

African American Focus Group

    • The group nodded no in response to the idea that children don’t learn before the age of six.
    • Did Tolstoy’s mama know all about this? Einstein’s?
    • Science is too involved in this. Whole language it the most God-awful horrible thing. What happened to phonics? It’s silly.
    • Don’t get too technical with neurons and connections.
    • There is an appreciation of how brains fire and don’t fire, but if we get too deep into brain function, we’ll get lost
    • Need to know this on a very broad level – but not the details
    • Don’t change things that shouldn’t be changed – like Dr. Spock did.
    • We need to teach kids at an early age when they are hungry to learn – feed and feed and feed them as much as they want. At six it is too late.
    • Get parents to understand how the brain works -- having people realize the impact they can have on kids at an early age, will really affect parents. Show them they have an influence.
    • There is value to the concepts – but not the jargon
    • Need to you if your child has a need/problem before they go to school. The parent can then help the teacher.

Early Investment

Following are examples of focus group responses on the specific concept of the value of early investment in education.

Caucasian Focus Group

    • We need to study this stuff before all the money is spent – test it and see if it works.
    • Early education is more important that later education (the young man)
    • Early education is important because you are setting a love of learning
    • Some kids need social interaction. That is a kind of learning…you have to learn to get along
    • It is stupid to play Mozart to the unborn.
    • Early education is not the responsibility of the schools, it is the parents’
    • It is the parent’s responsibility to see that the daycare provides what the children need.
    • We need investment and morals. Today’s kids will be running the country when I’m retired – we need to invest in early childhood of all kids, but also need to invest in morals – how can you really affect it?
    • It doesn’t take a village to raise a child – it takes two parents.
    • There wont’ be fund to really do anything and the more services you provide, the more likely people will have more children
    • We need a complete investment – resources to education systems across the board. As a society, not as parents. We need to show parents how to raise their kids right if we want them to do it a certain way. If parents aren’t doing a good job, we need to take it over.

African American Focus Group

    • Lots of head nodding and "Amen’s"
    • If you lose them then (early) it is hard to get them back. Its is hard to catch up. I’m sure we can all identify the kid who is lost…
    • I think you should stress prenatal (care) – if we have X amount of dollars, focus on zero to 2.

ECE as a Solution to Education Problems

Following are examples of focus group responses on the specific concept of early childhood education as a solution to education problems.

Caucasian Focus Group

    • You need to watch out that you don’t label kids – they get labeled enough in schools.

African American Focus Group

    • I think it goes both ways. It is a great benefit, but there are kids who have great ECE then get lost in the Seattle Public School system – it does not fix ALL problems.
    • I think that ECE is part of a continuum – focus on that, but up the chain too where the child goes. It is enormous value, but not unto itself if it is not supported the rest of the way along…
    • You have to hold accountability to the public school system too. You have to demand that they perform what they do. 0-6 as well. But it does not help if you label kids early – work to solve the problems, not label with no one working to change it.
    • Parents need to do whatever they can. It all starts at home.

ECE as First Step in Education Process

Following are examples of responses from the focus groups ton the specific concept of early childhood education as the first step in the education process.

Caucasian Focus Group

    • It is more important to think about ECE than higher education. The difference between WSU and Harvard is not the same as the difference between a really bad daycare and a good daycare. At the college level you have young adults who can have some control over their own learning experience. A 7 month old baby can’t control anything.
    • Parents don’t know enough about daycare to make good decisions. (teacher)

African American Focus Group

    • Parents should scrutinize ECE the same as college – give the kid whatever advantages they can. I don’t think we are concerned our kids will learn too much and become learning robots.
    • We have to teach the kids to love learning, to do what they want to do, not necessarily go to college. Get them to support themselves.
    • Even with day care, preschool – you need standards, scrutiny.

Labels and Language

There was no single phrase that inspired either group. Both groups expressed a certain amount of cynicism toward any label as being " just another label." The one word that drew the most positive responses was learning, and people accepted it paired with early to some degree. Learning was interpreted broadly as going beyond formal or structured learning. There was one comment as to how meaningful the word "early" really was, comparing it to "pre-history" as another term that really means nothing.

Education prompted a range of responses. It was believed by these focus group participants to include everything from something that is structured and institutionally based, to something that can "happen anywhere." There was little shared definition of the word in either group.

Educare, Foundation Learning (Teacher, etc), and Second Family all prompted mixed responses from both groups. Terms with the word family caused members of both groups to be concerned about how much they wanted a teacher to influence their child – they worried that calling them family may be going over that line. At the same time they valued when a caregiver formed bonds with their child. Some were unsure what relationship Second Family had to learning of any sort. "Foundation" as a label brought out negative connotations from both groups.

The main message from these two focus groups was keep the language simple – don’t try to create a new label. Tell people what you want them to know then ask them what you want them to do in a very straightforward manner. People are wary of slick slogans in both of these groups.

Following are examples of responses from each of the focus groups with on the specific terminology tested.

Educare

Caucasian Focus Group

    • A gimmick
    • Just re-labeling to make it more glamorous
    • There are lots of names out there

African American Focus Group

    • I like it – it has reference to daycare, and concerned with how they are being care for in terms of their education…
    • Sounds like gobble-de-gook – means nothing…
    • I like the Educare concept in the pursuit of something better.
    • I like Early Childhood Education – it is simple, sums everything a parent wants.

First Learning

Caucasian Focus Group

    • How can you define that in terms of a child? I as ad adult learn things for the first time on a daily basis.
    • Sounds like a brand name

African American Focus Group

    • It’s different and speaks to what parents do with kids.
    • (some negative head nodding)
    • What I like about it, if it’s in reference to daycare, if it’s parents who are working, then a daycare facility concerned beyond how they may care for as far as their education…
    • I think the most exciting term is first learning – something magical, something new.
    • "My only concern is the concern over what we call it – if it is first learning or Timbuktu – what we call it doesn’t matter. My own pet peeve is we spend more time and energy paying Ph.D. people and people with their masters to find new ways of learning. We have the three Rs and they haven’t changed in a bazillion years. Too much attention is being paid to doing it better or a new way. Just do it."

First Education

Caucasian Focus Group

    • Education sounds more school oriented…
    • Learning is everything, not just he structured stuff…

African American Focus Group

    • First Education --- going to kindergarten, hopefully they make it there and beyond… personally I prefer at home – start at home, you can read to your kids just as good as a teacher can…we can better than teachers can…

Early Education

Caucasian Focus Group

    • Its positive…think more of a parent reading to a child
    • Nursery school
    • A structured environment, planned thing for children
    • Education starts at birth – this is sort of like saying "prehistory"…
    • Education at home rather than school
    • Structured and non structured activities you can expose your kid to

African American Focus Group

    • starting out…just the start… simple, cut and dry…that’s what it is
    • I liked early education.
    • My parents had 13 kids and she started out early with each, rather than wait till they get old…
    • We were looking for a preschool (for their child) because we did not want daycare. We wanted our son to learn things. Most of the daycares we were investigating were just watching kids…I want to have control of my son’s learning. They have to learn to learn at this age. Structured. He doesn’t need to practice playing, he already knows that…
    • I had a daycare and we sent them (the children) off to school knowing more than other kids in school. It was a schooling, but it wasn’t what you say preschool. We gave them the same lessons—2 and 3 year olds were doing their ABCs.

Early Teacher

African American Focus Group

    • You are a teacher or you’re not.
    • Put a "sad face" by that one (shaking head in disapproval)
    • When both parents are working, we want something good about where they (the children) are at. Not something half way there.
    • Parents are the Early Teachers
    • Does that mean you arrive at school early…the first one there?
    • I don’t like the term early teacher
    • It threw me for a loop

Development

African American Focus Group

    • I like that
    • Development and growing…that’s where they are at that early age
    • Some of these words have a slightly negative connotation
    • Just splitting hairs (all the terms)…are closely related…

Foundation Learning

Caucasian Focus Group

    • Something you should learn at home…

African American Focus Group

    • Sounds like you are raising money
    • Don’t like "foundation"…

Second Family

Caucasian Focus Group

    • The teachers
    • It depends on the children…some children have someone at school they look up to
    • Not sure about the term – the concept of daycare providers being the second family is good…but it could be friends or other people you are close to…
    • A second family could be a family outside of the regular family (like divorced parents in two households)…

African American Focus Group

    • I like that…passing your children on if you are not with them. In the south, a teacher could get on your case anywhere (not just in school) because they were family.
    • I don’t like it (3 respondents)

Family 2

African American Focus Group

    • What?
    • I don’t get a learning feeling…any relationship to early education.
    • I don’t want the providers to be that comfortable enough with me that I can’t snap if something is not going right with my kid. Don’t want them too lax.
    • I want respect from the provider to my child and my family.
    • I don’t want the child so attached to the provider that they won’t move on to school

Conclusions

The two focus groups give some preliminary indications useful in mobilizing advocates for early childhood issues, but it must be taken into consideration that they represent a very limited sample. With this in mind, the one consistent message across both groups was the importance of parental responsibility in the education process. The buck stops with the parent, so we need to educate and support parents on how to help their child’s early development.

Focusing on the parental role in early childhood education appears to offer the strongest frame for building support, both in home and in provider situations. From there one can build on ancillary aspects such as the teacher and parent as partner, especially when the importance of both roles is respected and the parent is placed as the one ultimately responsible.

Both groups appreciated and understood the role of early learning in a child’s development and the contribution towards later formal schooling and overall success in the community. Neither group expressed concern about "too much" learning. Quality was acknowledged by all. Both groups expressed concern that not all parents understood this, suggesting the need for more general awareness of the issue (complementary to parent education).

Developing consensus on quality assurance and financial support is less clear and may require targeting of messages to specific subgroups. The group differed on the degree that the community was responsible for or willing to contribute to that educational success, with a number of the Caucasian group putting the larger burden on parents. While some were clearly willing to share the costs, most were skeptical that society would take on this responsibility, and pessimistic that taxpayers would support new initiatives when current K-12 needs are not being met and bond issues repeatedly fail. The African American group was concerned about cost to individuals and the kids who might really need to be served.

Terminology was not a motivating factor for either group with somewhat negative feelings about the use of slogans such as "foundation learning" or "educare." Early learning had the broadest acceptance, while the other terms had enthusiasts and detractors. There was sufficient distrust about "fancy labels" that the project should consider NOT trying to coin a new phrase that diverges too far from the original "early childhood education" or "early learning." Stick to the basic information you want to provide and action you wish to stimulate.

It was interesting that after both sessions, members of the groups approached the facilitator and expressed that they had "learned a lot tonight," and suggest that it might be good if people had the chance to come together and discuss issues as a community or neighborhood. This might be an opportunity for future community mobilization efforts.

Appendix B –ECE FOCUS GROUP TESTING MATERIALS

Goal:

Test people's reactions to a series of metaphors and labels on ECE (0-6) to find out what will be helpful in convincing people to support public policies for improved affordability and quality of early childhood care and education. Key issues to observe are FRAMING of issue and bridging between the twin needs of parent’s need to work and kid need good early education. Looking for language that "not just registers approval, but which excites audiences emotionally and could motivate them to act"... or what would "turn them inward, what will make them say, just leave it to families."

General Points to Explore:

  • Look for Early Education labels which focus on bridging between needs of kids and parents, rather than on the needs of kids to learn vs. meeting needs of parent to work. Is there is more interest in one than in the other? Early Ed (early education), first learning, educare…
  • What messages move people to see that children's futures depend upon the quality of care they receive, and that quality care means trained teachers
  • What language from the list will get them excited (or turn them off) about proposals to help families provide their kids quality early ed.; help can be from govt., employers, community -- we don’t have to be specific at this point, all are options. What helps people see it as a community responsibility, larger than just the family's?

    (Note: previous surveys and focus groups have shown people are willing to provide public support to folks whose income is up to moderate-median levels, 20-35K, so we do not have to retrace that ground.)
  • Does the whole frame of early ed., or first step in an education process which runs through higher ed., motivate people to help children learn, or does it give them an image of kids turned into productive automatons at youngest ages? What the language conveys exploration, learning, development, rather than kids sitting in rows in the oppressive schools most of their parents experienced. Watch for variations in response to term’s education, learning and development.
  • Look for language that appeals to middle ground, established common ground between liberal/nurturing parent advocates and conservative/strict father folks. Do phrases like "parent choice," "parents and teachers as partners," "supporting parents who stay home to teach their kids," work for this?
  • Look for perceptions about government financial support vs. government standardization or control.
  • Probe for acceptance/rejection of science and research approaches/basis to understanding the value of ECE.
  • Look for reactions to comparisons between the quality of college and the quality of ECE
  • Look for issues of quality (and watch where the line crosses into criticizing current ECE providers, guilt by parents, need for improvement – we don’t want to tick off our "friends")

Setting the Scene

  1. A child’s intellectual, emotional, social and moral development is massively shaped by experiences and education between birth and six.
  2. For economic reasons a very large number of parents have to work and require affordable, high quality childcare.
  3. Early childhood education is currently a diverse, fragmented system, with lots of choices to reflect different parental values and children’s learning styles. With this diversity comes highly variable quality, from excellent to awful.

Specific Messages/Metaphors to Test

Early Education, Educare, First Learning

    • What language excites or causes people to withdraw from issue. Which of these terms work best.
    • Check reaction to words learning vs. education vs. development.

When we talk about early childhood education, we need some words to describe it.

What do you think of the term "Educare?"

What does it make you think of? What do you like about it? What don’t you like about it?

(Ask for Early Education and First Learning. Talk about learning vs. education vs. development)

Parents and Early Education Teachers as partners

    • ECE cannot and does not try to replace parents
    • ECE is a valuable partner/resource for parents, working toward the common goal of raising children in the best possible ways.
    • Good ECE keeps parents involved and informed and gives them extra skills and resources.

When we talk about parents and early childhood educators as partners, what does this make you think of? Who do you think is responsible for a child’s early education?

How can we best serve young children in this area?

Learning from birth

    • Learning starts at birth
    • Most learning per day takes place between birth and six

When we talk about "Learning from birth" what does this mean to you?

Do you think it is important?

Do you think it happens naturally, or can we assist as parents and educators?

Natural Learning vs. Study

    • Before six, most learning is "natural," in that it comes through natural interaction and exposure to a rich environment. This requires parents and teachers as partners.
    • Learning to learn; early shaping of attitudes and interest in learning lead to better outcomes later in life.

What does "Natural Learning" mean to you?

What image does it paint for you?

How is it different from "Study" or formal schooling that children experience starting in Kindergarten?

The moral and social foundations of the child are the moral and social foundations of society.

    • These foundations are largely established in the first six years.

What does the following sentence mean to you: The moral and social foundations of the child are the moral and social foundations of society."

Do you believe this? How important is this to you? How important is it to the well being of a community? Whose responsibility is it to ensure this happens?

If a child’s moral and social development is formed early in life, what does this mean for early childhood education?
Do you perceive ECE as an important part of a vital community, just like good schools, thriving business, safe, clean and green?

Science Frame

    • Is there respect for "science" vs. respect for "research" which documents importance of early learning?
    • Does "establishing neural connections," mean anything to average folks?
    • "Cognitive revolution:" moving beyond 100-year old notions that children do not learn until age six.

What is your reaction to scientific information that shows that the human brain develops at a very rapid rate between birth and age six? Do you think it is important for parents and communities to know and understand how the brain functions and the importance of learning during this time? Does it help you support early childhood education if you know about research that demonstrates its importance?

Time and resources invested in kids/early education, pays off in many ways

    • Better educated, more productive workforce
    • More people able to take care of themselves
    • Less crime
    • Less expenditures on prison, law enforcement
    • Less fear
    • Better society to live in
    • Getting in on the ground floor; just as money invested early in an enterprise yields a higher return, so investment in a child’s earliest learning pays the most dividends later.

NOTE: some polls suggest people are responding better to moral and emotional factors than to economic/investment; but the investment metaphor is in common usage. Need to test and compare reactions to moral/emotional aspects and rational investment arguments.

Do you think of education as an investment for a community? For example, a better-educated population provides a more productive workforce, people are better able to take care of themselves, less crime?

Do you think that early education can also contribute to this investment?

Does early investment pay bigger dividends to society? Is this important?

ECE as a solution to the education problem

    • ECE is the first step in learning process,
    • Do not give up first 1/3 of the game;
    • Good early ed can avoid some of the deficiencies of student achievement later on.

We currently experience many problems in our education system.

Do you think these would be easier to solve if every child had the benefit of early education?

Are we forgetting 1/3 of the game when we ignore early childhood?

ECE as part of the first step in the education process

    • ECE is the first step in the continuum that goes through college
    • Does this frame encourage people to help young children learn?
    • Does it give them an image of a kid turned into a learning automoton?
    • Parents look very carefully at a college before letting their children attend… should the same scrutiny and standards be applied to ECE? Quality controls or assurance?

College is often seen as the final educational accomplishment. Parents approach it with care and research, wanting their child to get the best education possible. Do you think people ought to pay as much attention to early learning? Should they expect standards and a high degree of quality learning, and not just child care?

Moderate – to be tested as time allows:

Children’s experiences from birth to six shapes them for life.

    • "As the twig is bent, so grows the tree."

What do you think about the idea that a child’s experiences from birth to six shapes their life?

Do you believe the saying "As the twig is bent, so grows the tree."

Foundations for Learning requires "Foundation Teachers"

    • Trained in child development to get kids off to the right start.

What kind of providers should provide early learning?

What kind of training, accreditation or certification do you think they should have?

Educated children are a resource for the entire community;

    • Families at all but the highest income levels have trouble affording care.
    • Natural extension of current K-12 system which is a local responsibility.

If educated children are a resource for the entire community, whose responsibility is it to ensure that all children can have quality early learning opportunities?

What is the role of business? What is the role of employers? Who should decide on curriculum?

What role do you think government (national and local) should play?

Sharing the cost of ECE is sensible and fair.

    • Early education is the only cost we ask parents to bear alone, at a time when they can least afford it.
    • Health, retirement, public school costs are all spread over time, over the whole community.

Terms to Be Tested

Except for important discussion of overall bridging label "umbrella," get quick reactions.

    • Early Learning
    • Pre-school
    • First Ed.
    • Foundations Program
    • Foundation Learning
    • Foundations Teachers
    • Early Teachers
    • 2nd Family
    • Family 2


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