Fresh Views - Dr. Lawanda Wesley
Tools to Improve Quality
Posted December 5th 2015

The field of early childhood education has entered an era of unprecedented accountability with increased federal, state, and local funding. Bi-partisan policymakers across the United States are particularly interested in how investments in early childhood education contributes to the country's overall global vitality (Lowenstein, 2011; New America, 2015). Young children that do not gain a strong foundation in social-emotional and pre-literacy skills during the preschool years are academically at-risk of graduating from high school and being unprepared to succeed in college and the workforce (Duncan et al., 2007; Governor's State Advisory Council on Early Learning and Care, 2013; Whitebook et al., 2012). There are individual, social, and economic benefits when preschool age children receive high-quality early childhood learning experiences in high-quality environments. According to economist Heckman (2010), the benefits translate to high school graduation, college preparedness, reduced number of students requiring remedial education services, a more qualified and skilled workforce, quality health, and decreased poverty and crime rates. For every $1 invested in early childhood education, there is a $7.00 to $10.00 return of investment.

What comes into question is how we ensure public investment in early childhood education leads to desired outcomes for young children. How and what tools should early childhood professionals consider as reliable and valid tools when measuring high-quality early childhood education programs for our youngest citizens? There are key elements known to contribute to high-quality early learning experiences inclusive of, but not limited to classroom environments, adult/teacher-child interactions, curriculum instruction, administration and leadership practices, and family engagement (Espinosa, 2002; Talan & Bloom, 2011; Martinez-Beck, Tout, & Halle; Harms, Clifford, & Cryer, 2014). Both the context and process of early childhood settings impact the quality and effectiveness of program delivery (Washington State Office of Superintendent and Public Instruction, 2008). Each of these key elements can be measured using widely researched and evidence-based assessment tools that provide sound data regarding early childhood programs' strengths and weaknesses, as well action planning support resources to guide quality improvement efforts. These tools include:

Environment Rating Scales (ERS)

Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)

Curriculum & Instruction:
   Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)

   Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation (ELLCO)

   Preschool Rating Instrument for Science & Mathematics Inventory (PRISM) –
   not available for public use –currently being developed

Cultural Responsiveness:
   Roots and Wings: Affirming Culture in Early Childhood Programs
   Early Childhood Classroom Observation Measure (ECCOM)

Program Administration Scale

Family Engagement & Support:
Strengthening Families

It is important to align all quality improvement efforts with desired outcomes for children, families and staff. The observational data from these assessment tools should be utilized to make informed decisions based on established program goals, as well as guide the development of short and long term program plans. Ensuring high-quality early learning experiences for young children entails ongoing assessments using a variety of complimentary assessment tools that provide both global and in-depth measurement of specific program elements.

A Guide to Assessment in Early Childhood; Infancy to Age Eight. Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 2008.

Bryant, D. (2011). Observational measures of quality in center-based early care and education programs. Retrieved from

Duncan, G. J., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., & Japel, C. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428-1446

Early childhood assessment: Why, what, and how. (2008) Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2008. Retrieved from

Espinosa, L. M. (2002). High-quality preschool: Why we need it and what it looks like. National Institute for Early Education Research.

Governor's State Advisory Council on Early Learning and Care. (2013). California comprehensive early learning plan. Retrieved from

Harms, T., Clifford, R. M., & Cryer, D. (2014). Early childhood environment rating scale. Teachers College Press.

Lowenstein, A. E. (2011). Early care and education as educational panacea: What do we really know about its effectiveness? Educational Policy, 25(1), 92-114. New America (2015). Pre-K funding overview. Retrieved from

Martinez-Beck, I., Tout, K., & Halle, T. (2011). Quality measurement in early childhood settings. Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company.

Talan, T. N., & Bloom, P. J. (2011). Program administration scale: Measuring early childhood leadership (2nd ed). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Whitebook, M., Kipnis, F., Sakai, L., & Austin, L. E. J. (2012). Early care and education leadership and management roles: Beyond homes and centers. Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, 14(1). York, S. (2003). Roots and Wings, Revised Edition: Affirming Culture in Early Childhood Programs. Redleaf Press.

What are your thoughts concerning the elements of program quality in early childhood education? What policies support program quality and how can program quality be measured?

Reply to the above post
Reply from Zainab Khan posted on December 15th 2015
Building a strong foundation of knowledge and learning is very important and it begins with quality early childhood education programs. It is essential for students to be in an inclusive and integrative learning environment. Assessment tools are very useful in monitoring the progress of the child. The data collected through the observations can be used in progressing the child's development and improving programs.
Reply to the original post | Reply to this comment from Zainab
Reply from Hannah Davis posted on December 14th 2015
I believe that to have a high quality education system and benefits society as a whole, you must have high quality teachers and administration teams. Investing in hiring the right teachers and program directors is crucial when it comes to ensuring our early education is at its highest quality. Program quality can be measured by using the tools mentioned in this blog post. Having highly trained assessment professionals is key to making sure the assessments are implemented correctly and efficiently. By assessing early education programs, we can get a sense of who is missing what and what additional resources are needed for specific programs. From that assessment, providing the required resources to benefit our society in the long run is how program quality should be supported. Thank you, Hannah Davis
Reply to the original post | Reply to this comment from Hannah
Reply from Patricia Johnson posted on December 13th 2015
yes i do believe that investment in early childhood education is crucial. The reason why i believe that this is crucial is because this is where children are starting to gain an understanding of the world and how what they learn in school. In my old neighborhood there was a lot of children in a class but only one teacher and not everyone got the attention they needed. A little investment does go a long way and every dollar counts and an investment in the future can last a long time.
Reply to the original post | Reply to this comment from Patricia
Reply from Bao Her posted on December 13th 2015
Investing in early childhood education is a must. I believed that the earlier the child learns, the better he or she will advance their cognitive development. I think the government should invested more money into education and pay educators more because like the saying "Children are our future." School lacks money which educators cannot buy for their classroom and unable to teach their students. I feel like teachers are unable to young students because they don't have the funding. Every child learns differently and teachers should be able to have supplies to teach every child according to his or her needs. Now days schools are always buget cutting and it seems like there's nothing left in schools and teachers and students to learn or teach. I feel like the only thing a teacher can do now, is to be there for a child and help him or her through what's left of the supplies that their school has to offer. I think school should measured the students on their performance, not on standardize testing.
Reply to the original post | Reply to this comment from Bao
Reply from Bethlehem Tewolde posted on December 12th 2015
Investment in childhood education is a must. As stated in the reading for every $1 we invest in early childhood education, there is 7 to 10 dollar return of investment also there will be less crime, and much more positive outcomes in the future if children are educated. They are the future and we need to invest on them. We need to have teachers who will teach them very well and government funding. Everything that needs to be done should be done to educate children early on starting preschool.
Reply to the original post | Reply to this comment from Bethlehem
Reply from Wendy Morales posted on December 9th 2015
I do believe investing more in early childhood education is crucial. Children are the future. Programs are often having structural weaknesses. A lot of time they lack from not having adequate financing. There’s are also the teacher children ratio to think about. Or how teachers are not being paid enough. Having high quality programs can be measured from how the teachers are encouraging their students to reach their goals. The attitudes and skills that they are developing. The ability to cooperatively work with others. And having support from the community and families would also help the children with their education.
Reply to the original post | Reply to this comment from Wendy
Reply from Ariadne Singh posted on December 8th 2015
I believe it is essential to invest in early childhood education because our youth represents the future. In order for children to be successful, educators must come up with effective educational curriculums which can challenge students to become critical thinkers. It is important for children to build a strong educational foundation to facilitate their understanding of the material covered in school.
Reply to the original post | Reply to this comment from Ariadne
Reply from Miley Chang posted on December 7th 2015
Indeed, during early childhood education, parents and family members expect their kids to learn something from school that will be beneficial to the students in their future. But during the early childhood, many students are beginning to explore the world around them. They are more into play than learning. If early childhood education programs were to coorperate more play learning lessions into their curriculum, then it's likely that students will learn something from the program.
Reply to the original post | Reply to this comment from Miley
Reply from Shanelle Ray posted on December 7th 2015
More money should be put into early childhood education. If children aren't able to start grade school with a good base everything becomes much more challenging. Teachers should be held accountable for program quality based on multiple tests and checkins throughout the year instead of one big test at the end. This will keep the teachers from teaching only to the test.
Reply to the original post | Reply to this comment from Shanelle
Reply from Spruce P. posted on December 6th 2015
This reminds me of a study where a researcher put large amounts of funding into a low income area. The researcher payed for education, after school programs, parenting classes, and extracurricular programs. With all these elements combined the overall SES of the area went up. This leads to the idea that with proper funding everywhere could be prosperous. The issue is that not every bad neighborhood has a rich benefactor to help uplift them. For people to prosper as a species we need to come together and invest in our youth on a serious level.
Reply to the original post | Reply to this comment from Spruce
Reply from LaWanda Wesley posted on December 6th 2015
Yes I agree with your comment. We know investments in early childhood education have long lasting dividends that surpasses the immediate contribution. As teachers, parents, administrators, policy-makers, businesses members and community based organizations, we must raise awareness about what is at-risk when we fail to invest in our lower SES communities. There should be a moral call to action to level the playing field for our youngest citizens including those from low-income communities. I urge you to stand in your truth as you posted here and begin a grassroots effort to engage your fellow community constituents in ongoing dialogue to create recommendations for public policy initiatives that lead to financial investment to under resourced communities. Ask tough questions and deconstruct existing policies aimed at closing the achievement gap starting with young children. Go one step further and ask what data sources are being identified and used to provide sound evidence that advancements for this population of children are indeed occurring. Additionally, ask what progressive policies are missing that fail to address the everyday needs of these children to ensure they thrive throughout their educational careers to the doors of college and the workforce. How do we know all children mature to adulthood to become productive citizens of our community and global society assuming this is our collective goal?
Reply to the original post | Reply to this comment from LaWanda
Latest Posting