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Convening Allies: Shaping the Future of Early Childhood Education in Pennsylvania

Early Childhood Education System Design Partnership

In the heart of Pennsylvania, a story is unfolding—one that paints a picture of unity, vision, and commitment towards early childhood education (ECE). This is a story of a varied group of individuals, from educators to advocates, funders to agency leaders, coming together to create a sustainable partnership that consistently provides equitable opportunities for every child.

This initiative is made possible through a partnership among the Commonwealth’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU), the Southwestern PA regional early childhood organization Trying Together, and the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE).

A group of educators and policy makers meet to discuss Early Childhood in PA.

“What excites me is that there is already a tremendous commitment in the county. The partners are smart, capable and committed to serving children.”
Annette O’Boyce, NCEE National Facilitator

The journey begins with a blueprint envisioning ECE as an integral part of a lifelong learning system, extending from early childhood through young adulthood. Inspired by high-performing education systems globally, Pennsylvania seeks to create a seamless transition from ECE to K12 educational systems. This vision encompasses a developmentally appropriate curriculum, emphasizing learning through play, and aligning closely with primary education standards to ensure children are fully prepared for the next stages of their learning journey.

Central to this narrative is the transformative partnership between early childhood providers, K-12 teachers, leaders, and the broader community. In partnership with the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), efforts are underway to foster a common language and understanding around vision, system design, and instructional foundations based on best practices both domestically and internationally. This collaborative endeavor aims to cultivate a culture of distributed leadership, where every vested partner contributes to the collective success of Pennsylvania’s children.

This team has committed to learning together over a series of four months and using collaborative efforts to implement a strategic plan. During their first session, leaders explored learner experiences relevant to the early years. In their second session, educators and leaders worked to envision a system that supports a learner-centered environment. In the coming weeks, the group will explore the challenges of attracting and retaining staff who are focused on the well being of the child. And finally, they will design new partnerships to create a holistic vision for the youngest of learners.

Despite the promising progress, challenges remain. Key among these is addressing the disparate funding structures between ECE providers and K12 education, impacting the quality of education, equitable access and the ability to attract and retain qualified staff. Creating a common vocabulary and vision relative to children in a learner centered environment remains a focus.

This story of impact in Pennsylvania is more than a narrative of policy and partnership; it’s a call to action for everyone who believes in the transformative power of early childhood education. By coming together, sharing expertise, and committing to a shared vision, we will increase the number of children who love learning and are prepared and confident for their progression to the upper elementary grades.

As we continue to write this story, let’s keep the goal in mind: to build sustainable, cross-sector partnerships across the prenatal to age 5 and K12 providers, funders, advocates and families to establish a coherent aligned service model that is responsive to changing needs and conditions. It is by convening allies for shared learning and dialogue that we will accomplish this goal.