Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children
Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

A recent blog post from NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research) takes an inspiring and wide reaching look at the past year.

“Looking back over 2015, it’s been a year packed with action around early childhood education at NIEER, in the states, and across the country,” NIEER’s Preschool Matters blog says.

The blog points first to a U.S. News and World Report opinion piece that provides a summary of the year, noting:

“The needs of our nation’s littlest learners have garnered increasing attention in 2015. Although early learning still takes a back seat to K-12 education and higher education in national policy debates, state and national politicians are incorporating calls for early childhood investments into their stump speeches, philanthropic funders are targeting resources to early learning and, according to a new First Five Years Fund poll, average Americans increasingly recognize the importance of early learning for children’s long-term success.”

Among the five biggest stories that the U.S. News piece points to are New York City’s expansion of pre-K, the overhaul of Head Start performance standards, and “an increased national awareness of the need for parental leave.”

In January, as NIEER’s blog notes, “child care was highlighted in the State of the Union address, in February we reviewed that and the federal budget implications for pre-K.”

In the Spring, NIEER released its State of Preschool Yearbook 2014, explaining, “State pre-K programs may have turned a corner in 2013-2014, but progress remains slow. . . . At the 2013-2014 growth rate it would take about 75 years for states to reach 50 percent enrollment at age 4 and 150 years to reach 70 percent enrollment.”

During the summer NIEER invited a group of experts to write about leadership in early childhood education. The summer also saw national politicians comment on childcare and early education — among them was Hillary Clinton who spoke on the presidential campaign trail.

Fall brought Congress’ reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant.

And: “Even more recently, we’ve seen the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed (see some useful links on that courtesy of NAECS-SDE in this week’s newsletter), and increased funding for some early childhood programs proposed this week.”

In addition, all throughout the year: “people have been paying increased attention to the importance of the early childhood workforce.”

NIEER also counted down its most viewed blog posts on Twitter. These included “It’s Time to Make ECE’s Promise a Reality,” by author and consultant Stacie Goffin, who writes in part:

“As I’ve argued, professionalizing ECE requires defining, unifying, and taking responsibility for our profession — which Jacqueline Jones similarly underscored in her post last week that reviewed the Institute of Medicine’s report on the ECE workforce. With the increasing attention being placed on ECE, though, the stakes are mounting. Ultimately, we must move forward together to fulfill ECE’s promise because it is a matter of our integrity as a field of practice.”

Here at Strategies for Children, we are excited about all the progress that was made in 2015. And we’re looking forward to seeing how this momentum sparks more positive growth in 2016.