Epiphany - Dr. Wanda Roundtree Henderson
Essential Ingredients for Effective Early Care and Education Programs
Posted December 2nd 2013

Effective programming for young children and their families must be steeped in current research and loads of practice wisdom. To this end, early childhood programs that are effectual include certain core operational guidelines or design elements. Increased child and family outcomes are contingent upon the degree to which early childhood programs can successfully incorporate essential elements into their daily program operations. These (10) quintessential elements include but are not limited to the following:

  • The establishment of well-provisioned learning environments for young children that are physically safe, emotionally nurturing and intellectually stimulating;
  • Appropriate adult-child ratios to facilitate developmentally appropriate differentiated (individualized) and group instruction as well as supervision of children;
  • A knowledgeable and qualified teaching workforce and ongoing professional learning for staff that is job-embedded, encourages ongoing reflection, self-study and inquiry-based teaching;
  • The implementation of research-based curricula and ongoing (real-time, formative and summative) assessment of children that respects children’s range of experiences, diversity, language(s) spoken and cultural backgrounds;
  • Continuity of care as children transition from classroom to classroom and from one program option to another;
  • A holistic approach towards addressing the varied needs of children and their families in the areas of physical/mental health, social, emotional and cognitive development, including the specific needs of children with mild to significant disabilities;
  • Opportunities for parents to engage in decision-making processes relative to the governance and daily operation of the program, including opportunities to volunteer on a variety of different program levels;
  • Results-oriented program leadership that is effective and responsive to the needs of staff, including ongoing supervision of staff that leads to professional growth and increased program accountability;
  • The use of a range of data sources (child/family outcomes, assessment results, parent/staff surveys, teacher-child interactional styles, child attendance, child/family demographic information, local trends, etc.) that lead to ongoing program improvement;
  • And effective partnerships with community stakeholders, local service entities and educational institutions that are beyond merely cooperating and collaborating but that include the integration of services and supports for children and their families.


What are your thoughts about essential elements for effective programming for growing families? Given the complex nature of society today and the lack of adequate funding for early childhood programs, how challenging is it to include all of the above elements? Are some design elements easier to include in programs than others, and why?

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Reply from sujey posted on December 12th 2013
It is unfortunate that there are several childhood programs that do not meet all of these essential elements for effective programs. I believe that every child should have access to quality childhood programs which contribute to their well-being and development. Today’s children are our future, and we must invest in their early childhood experiences. In my opinion, the 10 essential elements provided should be the very minimum for any program. I do understand how some of the elements can be difficult to meet due to inadequate funding, such as appropriate adult-child ratio; however, several of other elements are key to being a caring professional.
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Reply from oscar brambila posted on December 11th 2013
It is well known that building effective programming for families is very important. I believe everyone would benefit from implementing this. I believe alot more would get done and more would be involved. It would bring together communities to achieve a common goal. It would be very difficult to include all these elements because that involves bringing together a lot of people that might not agree on the same things. It would be difficult to get everyone on the same page and i think money would play a big part unfortunately. I believe addressing the needs of children and families in the areas of physical, social, emotional and cognitive development would be easier because it is well known the problems facing those disabilities. I think getting community stakeholders and educational institutions to support families would be difficult because of personal thoughts and opinions on what is right and wrong.
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Reply from Sebastian Zuniga posted on December 10th 2013
The essential elements for effective programming for students and families listed here all have the potential to be cornerstones of conducive learning environments. However, at the risk of coming off as a Debbie Downer, I believe that cash still rules. Until schools in general are adequately funded, many of these elements will remain goals rather than achievements at the majority of learning institutions. Some of these design elements are easier to include in programs than others. For instance, essential design component #5 describes maintaining a level of caring for students as they transition between learning contexts. This doesn't cost money but I believe it is indirectly affected by the funding and resources, or more accurately the lack of funding and resources. Individuals entrusted with educating our young people may question their ability to teach without adequate support from larger institutional structures.
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Reply from Kacie posted on December 8th 2013
I agree that there are essential elements that are necessary in order for programming for children and families to be effective. There are various guidelines that must be followed in order to provide the child with a safe learning environment for them to explore and develop. Unfortunately, due to today’s lack of adequate funding for early childhood programs, it has become difficult to include all of the elements that are necessary for these programs. While the funding may not be available, these programs are still essential in today’s society due to the work and school schedules for many families and these elements must be included in some way. There are design elements that easier to include than others. For instance, the establishment of well-provisioned learning environments for young children that are physically safe, emotionally nurturing and intellectually stimulating, have qualified teachers and have appropriate adult-child ratios has to be established in order to ensure the safety the child and be legal. There might only be enough funding for these programs to cover the basics, which makes these elements easier to include because they are crucial for early childhood programs. Other elements like using data sources and establishing effective partnerships with community stakeholders, local service entities and educational institutions might be more difficult due to the lack of time or resources. It is unfortunate that the nature of today’s society makes it difficult for many low-income families to be able to afford quality childcare. However, many programs will still be able to do the best with what they have and try to provide a quality education and safe learning environment for children and growing families.
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Reply from Amanda Huynh posted on December 5th 2013
All of the ten elements explained above are critical aspects needed in each childhood program to ensure a safe, effective, and efficient learning environment. Childcare and child learning programs are multidimensional and require resources from varying sponsors. Due to these various necessities, it is difficult to achieve all ten elements as indicated above. Funding, therefore, is one of the most influential factors in determining whether these ten elements can be accomplished. Additionally, funding also determines the quality of each of these ten elements. Specifically, the desire for appropriate adult-child ratios, effective partnerships with community stakeholders, and establishment and maintenance of well-provisioned learning environments are greatly impacted by the availability of funding. In order to develop and maintain learning environments that encompass all these factors, a large number of staff are required both in the forefront and background of these programs. I do not believe that the elements discussed above can be ranked as being more easily achieved. Rather, it may seem that all ten elements are interconnected and are dependent upon the other. For example, in order to accomplish a more holistic approach in addressing the various needs of children and families, there must be an appropriate adult-child ratio in order for program providers to more effectively address the needs of the children and their families.
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Reply from Rosita Villarreal posted on December 5th 2013
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Reply from Rosita Villarreal posted on December 4th 2013
The essential elements are so well listed and described, they reflect what every informed educator should live by in the field of teaching. The participation of the parents in their children learning is a major concern because some parents are not as involved in the child\'s education as may be needed. I once heard a comment about an issue of parents angst and the media . \"That if parents didn\'t know how to teach their children ,they must have just come out of a cave,\" In response, It is true that all parenting is new at first, but all parents may need new information. Life happens and we all grow up socially needy. Maybe all parents should undergo a mandatory informative session about the core standards and mandatory family participation in their children\'s academic life. In this way a holistic approach is delivered to the individual child and the family.
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