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Early Bird

Heading into fall, conditions for thriving

'Full conditions for teachers to thrive, for children to thrive'

Early Bird readers, hello again. Newcomers, welcome! If you were forwarded this email, you can sign up here to receive it every two weeks, and join our conversation on issues facing North Carolina’s young children and those who support them. If you’re already a subscriber, please help us reach more people by sharing this with your friends and co-workers interested in early childhood education.

Research clearly indicates that exclusionary discipline — practices that remove children from their usual learning and social settings, such as suspension and expulsion — are harmful to preschool students. Photo courtesy of Pexels. Graphic by Sergio Osnaya-Prieto.

The EdNC early childhood team (myself, policy analyst Katie Dukes, and our wise editor Eric Frederick) has covered a lot of different areas as some of our young learners start a new school year and all of us head into a new season:

But all these stories have an overarching narrative. As we continue to recover from the pandemic, there is a real need to do better by teachers, young children, and families.

A quote from Katie’s reporting on preschool suspensions and expulsions highlights this common theme.

When asked about alternatives to exclusionary discipline in early childhood classrooms, Iheoma Iruka told Katie: “Banning it is not just going to magically change everything. Let’s make sure that we’re providing the full conditions for teachers to thrive, for children to thrive.”

What do those conditions look like? Experts told Katie that addressing low early childhood teacher compensation and giving teachers resources and training would make a world of difference in the well-being of young children. Ensuring children and families’ identities are affirmed is the ultimate goal, they said.

Those are the same goals that the Dogwood team is working toward: strengthening and expanding the critical early childhood workforce. These goals also align with what families on CandL’s listening tour have said: We need access to supported teachers and consistent care, and we need our families and children to be respected and affirmed.

We’ll be on the road in the coming weeks, visiting community colleges and asking about early childhood teacher preparation and child care in communities across our state.

We’re excited to bring you new stories and insights along the way. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping those common goals in mind. Thanks for teaching us.

Early Bird reads: What we’re writing

Lessons from Mecklenburg, Craven, and Durham counties in barriers to early education

When it comes to building trust, CandL lifted up these parent desires from the sessions:

  • Relationship-building between providers and parents to ensure parents and children are seen and valued.
  • Having providers that are from their own communities and speak their languages.
  • Training for providers who are well-paid and consistent.
  • Family engagement so providers and parents are working toward common goals.
  • Consistency in programs remaining open.

We know suspensions and expulsions are bad for preschool students. What are some alternatives?

“You’d like to say the policy solution is just we should ban it,” said Paul Lanier, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at UNC-Chapel Hill. “But if there are not supports in the classroom, the kids are going to suffer unless you’ve addressed the cause of the problem, not just the symptom.”

Lanier pointed out that there’s already precedent for a ban on expulsions for young students. Head Start has prohibited the practice since 2016.

What does the latest CDC guidance on COVID-19 mean for schools and families?

The CDC guidance aims to give flexibility to districts and early childhood programs to do what makes most sense given their community’s situation. Find county-level data here, where the CDC labels communities as low, medium, or high risk, based on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

For example, the CDC still recommends universal masking for schools and child care programs in high-risk communities.

Dogwood Health Trust hopes to glean lessons on strengthening early childhood teacher workforce

Dogwood Health Trust, a private foundation that serves 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary, opened a request for proposals earlier this month from organizations with ideas on how to improve working conditions, attract new people to the field, and increase access to workforce education.

Your take, for goodness sake: EdNC perspectives

Perspective | Economic growth depends on child care — progress post-Labor Day needed

Marsha Basloe, president of the Child Care Services Association, reflects on the most recent Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey with data from June 29 to July 11.

The survey found that “6.1 million parents are not working because they do not have child care (176,984 in North Carolina),” Basloe wrote. “In the past four weeks, an additional 6 million parents (237,251 in North Carolina) had challenges with child care that kept them home temporarily. Throughout the U.S., about 63% of these parents are women, but in North Carolina, 70% are women.

“What we know is that parents need child care in order to work or return to the workforce. We also know the supply of child care falls short of the demand in many communities.”

In other early learning news: What I’m reading

Research & Resources: Let's talk Department of Education on kindergarten readiness

The U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse released a “practice guide” for parents and educators, informed by an expert panel, on research-backed practices to prepare children for school success in the early years.

The guide has seven key practices in preparing young children ages 3-5 for school:

  1. “Regularly provide intentional, engaging instruction and practice focused on social-emotional skills.
  2. Strengthen children’s executive function skills using specific games and activities.
  3. Provide intentional instruction to build children’s understanding of mathematical ideas and skills.
  4. Engage children in conversations about mathematical ideas and support them in using mathematical language.
  5. Intentionally plan activities to build children’s vocabulary and language.
  6. Build children’s knowledge of letters and sounds.
  7. Use shared book reading to develop children’s language, knowledge of print features, and knowledge of the world.”


Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.