Children are already learning at birth, and they develop at a rapid pace. Their early years provide a critical foundation for lifelong progress, and the adults who care for and educate young children bear a great responsibility for their health, development, and learning.
The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council were commissioned to explore the science of child development, particularly looking at the professionals who work with children birth through age eight. LaRue Allen, Raymond and Rosalee Weiss Professor of Applied Psychology and Chair of the Department of Applied Psychology at NYU Steinhardt, served as the chair of the committee of 20 education experts from across the country. Fabienne Doucet, associate professor of education at NYU Steinhardt and an expert in early childhood education, also served on the committee.
The resulting report — Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation, which Allen described as “a call to action” — was released on April 1. The committee found that much is known about what professionals who care for and educate children need to know and do and what professional learning supports they need. However, that knowledge is not fully reflected in current workforce practices and settings, the policies and infrastructure that set qualifications and provide professional learning, and the government and other funders who support and oversee these systems.
The report offers recommendations to build a workforce that is unified by the science of child development and early learning and the shared knowledge and competencies that are needed to provide consistent, high-quality support for children from birth through age eight.
“Persisting with the status quo for the professionals who do this important, complex work will perpetuate today’s fragmented approach to the care and education of young children, resulting in inadequate learning and development, especially among America’s most vulnerable families and communities,” the committee wrote.