Aligning Early Learning with K-12

In many states, the early childhood education and K-12 systems operate independently, creating a disconnected chain of educational experiences for students.

K-12 alignment helps children’s achievement in later years.In a birth to eight approach, alignment between the early care and education system and the K-12 systems is essential. Without this alignment, the gains made by children participating in high quality early learning programs often fade or disappear completely.

For decades, the barriers to such alignment have seemed so unsurmountable that it was not even considered worthy of consideration. Such barriers have included the:

  • Differences in the funding between the early learning and K-12 systems.
  • Education levels of teachers in the two systems.
  • Diversity of approaches to learning between the two systems, including the use of very different curricula.
  • Public perception of early learning as babysitting and K-12 as “academic education.”

Essential elements in an early childhood/K-12 alignment approach include:

  • Coordinated kindergarten transition efforts between early education programs and schools.
  • Aligned early learning standards and K-3 standards, assessments and curricula.
  • Professional development and higher education for early learning and K-12 teachers as well as superintendents, principals and center directors that emphasizes the full continuum.
  • Longitudinal data systems across the two systems.
  • Meaningful opportunities for the involvement of families at all levels.
The BUILD Initiative is supporting states in creating better alignment between early childhood education and K-12 systems. Efforts have included webinars and meetings emphasizing key components of alignment including assessment and standards.