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Early Childhood Programs

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Race Matters

General information

In an effort to promote racial and cultural equity in all programs, Pennsylvania, in partnership with the PA Build Initiative and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, will be implementing a strategy to better evaluate racial equity and diversity among OCDEL’s programs and the broader early childhood community.

Using the Casey Foundation’s Race Matters Toolkit, OCDEL will examine to what extent our programs, policies, practices, and communications are effectively serving all of Pennsylvania’s children and families; if there are discrepancies among various racial or cultural groups; and ways in which we can address those discrepancies.

OCDEL will encourage its partners and programs to implement racial equity tools as they examine the makeup of their organizations and leadership, access to services, communications, etc. The goal is to integrate the examination of racial equity into all of our work by training providers of OCDEL services, and OCDEL leadership staff on how to use these tools in their work. 

More information is available from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Changing Child Population of the United States: Analysis of the Date from the 2010 Census

supporting conversations about race and culture in early childhood settings

A series of four professional development modules (12 hours) related to racial equity and tolerance in the early childhood education classroom.  These modules identify specific strategies to address race and culture and the impact on classroom behaviors and environment.  Content includes an historical perspective of race; how young children develop racial identity, awareness and attitudes and the impact on their learning and development.  Additionally, content addresses strategies for having substantial conversations with peers, families and children about race to support respect and equality.  Participants will create an action plan to support family-teacher interactions, communication and diverse children and families.  Directors with PQAS approval will be able to deliver this content to their staff.

  • Module 1: Beginning the Conversation
  • Module 2: Historic Perspectives and White Privilege
  • Module 3: Planning Supportive Environments for Children and Families (Part 1)
  • Module 4: Planning Supportive Environments for Children and Families (Part 2)

For information about participating in these sessions, please contact your Regional Key.

NAEYC Pathways to cultural competence project

The goal for NAEYC's Pathways to Cultural Competence Project is to give early childhood programs that are participating in their state's quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) two checklists to help guide them in reflecting and improving upon their use of culturally-competent practices.  The Pathways to Cultural Competence Project is funded by the A.L. Mailman Family Foundation.

The Project is using two separate but connected checklists for early childhood programs - one that is a daily checklist for teachers and one that program directors will complete with teachers to assess how culturally-competent practices are being used in the program.  It is hoped that participating programs will use the checklists in two ways - teachers will use the teacher checklist for a specific amount of time to reflect upon their classroom practices and then discuss these practices with their program director.  The program director will then use the information from conversations with staff, as well as observation, to reflect upon overall program practices and complete the program checklist.  The goal is for staff in early childhood programs to reflect upon the program's use of culturally competent practices and determine areas in which they can improve.

The checklists are arranged by the concepts of cultural competence that were developed by a group of nationally-recognized experts in 2008.  The summarized concepts are:

  • Concept 1: "Children are nested in families."
  • Concept 2: "Identify shared goals among families and staff."
  • Concept 3: "Authentically incorporate cultural traditions and history in the classroom."
  • Concept 4: "Acknowledge child development as a culturally-driven, ongoing process that should be supported across contexts in a child's life (e.g. school and home)
  • Concept 5: "Individuals and institutions' practices are embedded in culture."
  • Concept 6: "Ensure decisions and policies embrace home languages and dialects."
  • Concept 7: "Ensure policies and practices embrace and respect families cultural values, attitudes, and beliefs toward learning."
  • Concept 8: "Equalize balances of power; counter stereotyping and bias through intentional teaching."
  1. Pathways to Cultural Competence Project Program Guide
  2. Pathways to Cultural Competence Program Checklist
  3. Pathways to Cultural Competence Teacher Checklist

Quality Benchmark for Cultural Competence a framework for moving the field forward and embedding and integrating the concepts of cultural competence into one existing policy (in this case, QRIS) in a meaningful way. QRIS criteria - is included at the end of this document.  It is arranged in matrix form, by each concept in the definition of cultural competence for early childhood.  The tool includes ideas for implementing the criteria and includes guidance on how programs (and assessors and evaluators) can determine the level of cultural competence within a program by evaluating how well an early childhood program is performing culturally-competent practices and meeting the suggested criteria.

Pennsylvania’s Healthy Initiatives

Did you know that a child’s brain develops the most during the first five years? Young children need proper nutrition and physical activity in order to grow, learn, and succeed both in school and in life. However, early childhood obesity is a barrier to their growth and development, particularly in Pennsylvania, where statewide health statistics have shown that nearly 17% of young children are obese and another 15% are overweight.

The early years are a critical time for developing lifelong habits for eating, exercise and learning, and early care and education programs can play a crucial role in setting young children on a healthy path for life.  Pennsylvania currently offers several initiatives that encourage healthy behaviors in young children and their families, such as the Pennsylvania Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (PA NAP SACC), Keystone Kids Go!, and I am Moving/I am Learning.

For more details visit Pennsylvania’s Healthy Initiatives

Strengthening Families

By providing parents with connection to support networks and services, and by promoting the healthy social/emotional development in children, quality early learning opportunities can make families stronger. Parents become more involved in their child’s education, which, in turn, promotes a healthy family dynamic and can prevent abuse and neglect. The Strengthening Families Initiative of the Center for the Study of Social Policy has found that early learning programs can help build supports for families so that abuse and neglect is less likely to occur.

Mind In the Making

Mind in the Making (MITM) Learning Modules for Early Childhood Teachers was produced by the Families and Work Institute and conducted in Pennsylvania. MITM consists of 12 modules:

  • Beginning a learning adventure
  • Essential connections
  • How learning begins
  • How social, emotional, and intellectual learning are inextricably linked
  • Building confidence and competence
  • Understanding temperament
  • How we learn to know others’ thoughts and feelings
  • Encouraging curiosity and problem solving
  • How to use language to make meaning form experience
  • Memory and learning
  • Stress and learning
  • Creating communities of learners
These modules are based upon adult education principles and lead teachers through a reflective and experiential learning process that focuses on key learning concepts, such as:
    • the importance of teachers learning about how children learn;
    • the importance of relationships;
    • how learning begins and continues in early childhood;
    • seeing social, emotional and intellectual learning as integrated; and
    • how to help children learn a variety of necessary concepts and skills (regulating their thoughts and feelings, using language to communicate, learning to solve problems, managing stress, encouraging children’s natural curiosity, and fostering a love of learning).
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