Letter to the Editor: Early childhood rules based on research

Preschool providers protest outside the Wilson Building on June 5. (Mark Lieberman/The Current/June 2017)

In response to The Current’s June 28 editorial “Burdensome preschool regulations merit further review,” the Office of the State Superintendent of Education would like to clarify the process by which the regulations were developed and the impact of a highly qualified early childhood workforce on young children.

According to an overwhelming body of research, the first years of a child’s life are the most critical to brain development. During this rapid period of development, more than 1 million new neural connections are made every second. The quality of children’s earliest experiences sets them on the path for positive language, cognitive and social-emotional development and builds essential groundwork. An educated early childhood workforce equipped with an understanding of brain development and the skill set and competencies for supporting development can have a profound impact on a child’s success.

To that end, our office released new licensing regulations in December to ensure that care and education provided in D.C. child development facilities supports children’s development and future academic achievement by establishing minimum requirements to protect the health, safety, welfare and positive development of children. We held two rounds of public comment on the regulations and made substantial changes in response to feedback before they were finalized. The final regulations phase in the credential requirements over a number of years and provide a waiver option for experienced educators. We have heard from many providers and partners who support these requirements as what is needed for young children’s development.

Our office is taking concrete steps to support educators in meeting these new requirements. In fiscal year 2018, D.C. will invest $3 million to build capacity and provide educational opportunities so our early learning workforce can meet the requirements. Initial data show that 38 percent of teachers in D.C. child development facilities already have an associate degree or higher in early childhood education, or are a few classes away from meeting the minimum requirement of 24 credit hours in early childhood education. About 80 percent of center directors have a bachelor’s degree or higher in early childhood education or are a few classes away from meeting the minimum requirement of 15 credit hours in early childhood education. Our office continues to help additional educators meet these credentials through scholarship programs, partnerships with institutions of higher education, and substantial financial resources.

D.C. leads the nation in several key measures of early childhood education and continues to strive for excellence. These changes are essential to elevating our early childhood workforce and providing our children the best opportunity to enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

Hanseul Kang, D.C. Superintendent of Education