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5 Elements of a High-Quality Preschool

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Professional administrators, managers and advocates in the field of early childhood education can enhance their human capital by earning a Master of Science in Education (MSEd) with a Concentration in Leadership in Early Childhood Education online from Southern Oregon University (SOU). A national case study featured by NPR maintains that children “who get no preschool start kindergarten already a year or more behind developmentally.”

An innovative element of SOU’s MSEd in Leadership in Early Childhood education program is its Holistic Early Childhood Education for Change course. One of the most progressive course objectives includes the nurturing of the “spiritual dimensions of the teacher, developing child, family and community.”

High-quality preschools tend to prioritize the following considerations.

1. Teacher-to-Child Interactions

Effective preschools know how to redirect challenging behavior. A teacher must “respond to children’s needs with respect, warmth, and empathy,” according to the Center for American Progress. The tone that is set between student and teacher is likely to affect the remainder of a child’s academic career and can be damaging or nurturing.

When teachers can create supportive environments, their young charges thrive. It falls to professional policymakers to ensure that teachers are equipped with the needed structural supports, ranging from school supplies to additional counseling staff.       

2. Trusting Relationships With Families

Teachers and administrators in a school community have a responsibility to work with their students’ families. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the following could all be considered top priorities for preschools seeking to engage families: listening to goals, encouraging participation in the program and trying to communicate in a family’s home language. SOU’s program is geared toward providing leadership with the skills necessary to design such support systems. 

3. Adapting Curriculum

The Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO), funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, emphasizes that administrative leadership in early childhood education is very involved with the adaptation of curriculum. However, developing curricula is a different challenge than delivering it efficaciously. Therefore, school leadership must be involved in the curriculum-building process.   

CEELO found that “most states’ principal preparation systems could be improved to better equip elementary [and in most cases, preschool] principals to … support improvements in teaching and learning … and guide teachers in using curricula and assessments in the earliest grades.” Included in this expectation are the incentives to include preschool content in school administrator licensure and professional development.

4. Continuous Professional Development

Continuing the focus on professional development, in 2016, the Reading Rockets project received the top honor in the Library of Congress Literacy Awards program. Findings from this organization support the premise that state policies in education should strive to match early childhood education initiatives, especially with regard to professional development.

Continuous training enables preschool leadership to keep up with the latest best practices. Administrators must encourage and support the policy changes needed to provide continuous and adaptive training to early childhood educators. Such initiatives include raising both academic requirements and salaries of the teacher workforce. When there “is active supervision, mentoring and feedback for all staff,” then there is “a climate of trust, respect and cooperation among all the employees.”

5. Learning Through Play

Play is one of the best ways for young students to learn. The NPR article featured one of the most successful public preschool programs in the country in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This program enforces the idea that the “play is open-ended … with objects that aren’t task-oriented. That way [students] aren’t limited to what they can do with [the objects]. It builds problem-solving, imagination … creativity.”

Play in early childhood education is more than a break or recess for students; it allows teachers to listen to collaborative conversations between children to better understand their thoughts and interests. Play can also help teachers connect children’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder with learning.

High-quality preschools and their programs are crucial to a child’s successful social, emotional and academic progress. Whether seeking advancement in a current position or hoping to change leadership roles, graduates of SOU’s MSEd with a Concentration in Leadership in Early Childhood Education online program are well prepared to manage the development of young children and make policy, all while supporting the community at large.

Learn more about Southern Oregon University’s online Master of Science in Education with a Concentration in Leadership in Early Childhood Education program.

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