Casey Introduces Bill to Strengthen Early Learning

WASHINGTON, DCU.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today introduced the Continuum of Learning Act of 2011, legislation to strengthen coordination between early education programs so young children have a strong foundation for success in school.

“Improving educational opportunities for our youngest children, from the time they are born through their early years in elementary school, is proven to be one of the best ways to make a lasting impact on children’s success in school and in life,” said Senator Casey. “This bill encourages educators from early childhood education programs and elementary schools to work together to create a strong foundation for young children’s success in the K-12 system and beyond. I look forward to ensuring that improving educational opportunities for our youngest learners is a core priority as we work to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).”

The Continuum of Learning Act of 2011 updates ESEA to strengthen connections between existing early learning programs and the elementary grades. This bill helps educators from Head Start, child care, other early childhood education programs and elementary schools work together so young children have a successful continuity of learning and development that sets a strong foundation throughout the K-12 school years and beyond.

Specifically, the Continuum of Learning Act:

  • Asks states to review and revise their early learning guidelines for birth-to-kindergarten and their K-3 standards to ensure that standards address not only the academic content areas but also the areas of social and emotional development, physical and health development, and approaches to learning that make academic achievement more likely (based on a recommendation of the National Research Council 2008 report);
  • Further encourages professional development of teachers in community early childhood education settings and in school settings, including joint professional development, and provides professional development to elementary school principals and other administrators in child development and appropriate teaching practices (currently an allowable but under-utilized use of ESEA funds); and,
  • Helps elementary schools work with early childhood programs such as Head Start to create stronger collaborations and better transition policies and practices. Under the act, states plan the creation or revision of teacher certification or licensure in the early elementary grades and younger to reflect the specialized knowledge and skills to teach children in the birth-to-8 age span.

Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced a version of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives in August.

The bill has been endorsed by several education and children’s groups, including the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children and Public Citizens for Children and Youth.

Other organizations endorsing the bill include:

  • The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
  • The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)
  • The National Head Start Association (NHSA)
  • Pre-K Now
  • First Five Years Fund (FFYF)
  • National Women’s Law Center
  • Zero to Three
  • First Focus Campaign for Children
  • Center for Law and Social policy (CLASP)
  • Early Care and Education (ECE) Consortium
  • The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN)
  • Easter Seals
  • Mission: Readiness
  • Fight Crime: Invest in Kids
  • Pew Home Visiting Campaign