Mixed-Age Grouping in Early Childhood Education 16-02-2012, 02:02

Mixed-age grouping in early childhood education is defined as “placing children who are at least a year apart in age into the same classroom groups in order to optimize what can be learned when children of different as well as same ages and abilities have frequent opportunities to interact” (Katz, Evangelou, and Hartman, 1990, p. 1).

Lucy Sprague Mitchell (1878–1967) 16-02-2012, 01:55

Lucy Sprague Mitchell, founder of Bank Street School of Education, was a major figure in American progressive education during the early twentieth century. 

Mental Health 16-02-2012, 01:49

Mental health is a broad concept related to fundamental principles of psychological, social, and emotional development as they support positive child development.

Rachel McMillan (1859–1917) 16-02-2012, 01:44

Rachel McMillan’s experiences during childhood and young adulthood motivated her to enter the health field and become a sanitation inspector.

Margaret McMillan (1860–1931) 16-02-2012, 01:42

Margaret McMillan was an educator, teacher educator, and child and family advocate who fought for children’s causes and inspired legislation on the local and national levels in England.

McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership 16-02-2012, 01:38

The McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National-Louis University, Wheeling, Illinois, is dedicated to enhancing the professional orientation, management skills, and leadership capacity of early childhood administrators.

Maturationism 16-02-2012, 01:36

Maturationism is a theoretical perspective that emphasizes the contribution of biological processes to children’s development.

Mathematics early childhood education 16-02-2012, 01:31

The turn of the century has seen a dramatic increase in attention to the mathematics education of young children, for at least five reasons.

Abraham Maslow (1908–1970) 16-02-2012, 01:25

Personality theorist Abraham Harold Maslow is best known for his contributions to the humanistic psychology movement, most notably his Hierarchical Theory of Motivation.

Horace Mann (1796–1859) 16-02-2012, 01:09

While Thomas Jefferson provided important discussions on public education and developments in European education had their immediate impact on public education in the United States. . .

Loris Malaguzzi (1920–1994) 16-02-2012, 01:04

Loris Malaguzzi was founder of the public system of preschools and infant–toddler centers in Reggio Emilia, Italy.

A. R. Luria (1902–1977) 28-12-2011, 05:06

Alexander Romanovich Luria was a twentieth-century Russian psychologist of the sociohistorical school of thinking.

Viktor Lowenfeld (1903–1960) 28-12-2011, 05:02

Viktor Lowenfeld has been described as “the most influential art educator” (Chapman, 1982, p. ix) of the twentieth century, and as doing “for the drawing of children what Piaget has done for their thinking” (Harvard Educational Review, quoted in Michael, 1982, p. xv).

Literacy and Disabilities 28-12-2011, 05:00

Despite a rich knowledge base on how children learn to read and write and how best to teach them, an alarming number of children with disabilities will reach adulthood having not attained literacy (Saint-Laurent, Giasson, and Couture, 1998).

Literacy 28-12-2011, 04:52

With the introduction and widespread acceptance of literacy standards and goals starting in the 1990s, young children’s literacy development has garnered a great deal of attention on the part of policymakers, researchers, educators, and families.

Learning Disabilities (LD) 28-12-2011, 04:48

Children with learning disabilities (LD) represent over half of those students in the United States identified for special education services during their elementary or secondary school years.

Language Diversity 21-12-2011, 08:49

Language use in early childhood classrooms is of growing interest and concern in the United States, where increasing numbers of children speak languages not spoken by their teachers.

Laboratory Schools 21-12-2011, 08:43

The earliest American laboratory schools, frequently referred to as child development laboratories (CDLs), started to appear in the late 1800s, and were initially sites that reflected best practices in public schools.

Lawrence Kohlberg (1927–1987) 21-12-2011, 08:38

Lawrence Kohlberg founded the cognitive developmental position on moral development and moral education. Born in Westchester County, New York, he was the son of a wealthy businessman and the youngest of four children.

Kindergarten 21-12-2011, 08:33

The term “kindergarten” in the United States traditionally refers to the year of school that precedes “formal” schooling in first grade. In other countries, the term “kindergarten” often designates group settings for young children that precedes the beginning of formal schooling, and encompasses children from three- to six or seven years of age.

Jumpstart 21-12-2011, 08:25

Jumpstart is a national organization that believes early literacy is a fundamental building block of success. Founded in 1993 by college students, parents, and Head Start staff, Jumpstart launched its first school-year program at Yale University.

The Journal of Special Education Leadership 21-12-2011, 08:22

The Journal of Special Education Leadership provides both practicing administrators and researchers of special education administration and policy with relevant tools and sources of research on recent advances in administrative theory, policy, and practice.

Journal of Early Intervention (JEI) 21-12-2011, 08:21

The Journal of Early Intervention (JEI) is a peer-reviewed journal related to research and practice in early intervention.

Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education (JECTE) 21-12-2011, 08:20

The Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education (JECTE) is the professional journal of the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE).

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Early Childhood as a Period of Human Development Worthy of Study

It was within the context of industrialization and the modernist project at the end of the nineteenth century that the pursuit of scientific knowledge and social progress began to influence the study and education of young children (Lubeck, 1995). The twentieth century was proclaimed as the “Century of the Child” and students of child development became partners with social advocates for an early childhood education. William James proposed that child study serve as a scientific basis for pedagogy; and G. Stanley Hall urged mothers to observe and record their children’s development. Eventually rejected as not sufficiently “scientific,” Hall’s informal approaches to child study (see Child Study Movement) were replaced by more systematic and “scientific” methods, many based on Edward Thorndike’s ideas on educational measurement. As the notion of “ability” as a measurable characteristic became more widely accepted, the emerging field of child development embraced notions of normative development and soon asserted its scientific status over the field of early childhood education. Child Study and Child Welfare Institutes, among them the Iowa Child Welfare Research Station, and university laboratory schools created new settings in which professionals could work with and study young children. Throughout the second quarter of the century, early childhood institutions continued to develop in response to new understandings of child development. In this new century, amidst growing controversy, much of it fueled by Western European scholars and philosophers, child development theory and research remains the primary knowledge base for early childhood education in the United States. New brain research has added to the conviction that there is much to learn about, and much to promote during, the period of early childhood (see Brain Development).

Early Childhood as a Time to Intervene

Early educational initiatives have historically been vulnerable to social causes and, in the United States, many have focused on children deemed underprivileged. Decisions about which children needed an out-of-home educational experience were reflected in the charity movement and the day nursery movement (see Day Nurseries); some of these innovations also reflected the changing work habits of American families. Concerns about child labor and child welfare drew attention to children’s physical and psychological needs—especially those born in poverty or to uneducated parents. In 1912, the Children’s Bureau was established as a symbol of federal interest in young children as well as the beginnings of a concern with the “at risk” child.

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, early childhood educational services expanded in directions established decades earlier. Wealthy children stayed home or enrolled in play groups or private nursery or preschools (see Preschool/Prekindergarten Programs). Children of poor families and/or those whose mothers worked enrolled in federally run or privately funded daycare centers, nursery schools, or kindergartens, with family daycare in the homes of nonfamilial adults the most common. At a time when notions of universal stages of cognitive development were being detailed and the role of constructive play took on a new importance in promoting early intelligence, President Lyndon Johnson launched Head Start as a centerpiece to the War on Poverty. Begun in 1965 as an eight-week summer program, Head Start soon became a large-scale social welfare program that has varied as a function of politics as well as growing understandings of child development. In 1975, another group of children—those with disabilities—was identified as entitled to publicly funded early intervention services. Eventually renamed and amended in 1997 to include younger children, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) effectively changed the landscape and the language of early childhood education, from the classroom to teacher education to a new field of early childhood special education. To date, U.S. policies have continued to prioritize funding for children needing early intervention over the provision of universal early care and educational services.

Early Childhood as a Time to Learn

Understandings of early childhood as a time for learning emerged from child development laboratories such as John Dewey’s at the University of Chicago. The mantra of “learning by doing” was soon part of the discourse of the early nursery school movement of the 1920s, and children were not the only ones who were busy. Social activists and others committed to progressive education traveled abroad and returned with new perspectives on early educational practices. As Friedrich Froebel’s kindergarten came under criticism, the ideas of Maria Montessori gained favor. Abigail Eliot returned from England with new ideas about the “total child” concept, including a focus on parents. Teacher training schools were launched, and by 1925 a National Committee on Nursery Schools was convened— a group of women who eventually served as founding mothers of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

As laboratory schools and research centers spread across the United States— some at major research universities—so too did the influence of child development research on teacher preparation. By the 1930s, many middle-income children attended nursery school and/or kindergarten for purposes of enhancing their development and their teachers sought training in departments of home economics, psychology, or education. By mid-century, the kindergarten was increasingly viewed as the first and best place to establish children’s “readiness” for formal schooling. Jean Piaget’s treatises on the child’s distinctive ways of reasoning—most disseminated decades after they were first published—provided new windows on children’s developmental processes and new rationale for an early childhood education.

Ideas about the period of early childhood—and children’s early education— were also reflected in and supported by businesses. For example, by the end of the nineteenth century, major toy companies were marketing toys as educational games. The twentieth century saw a dramatic increase in mass-produced toys, many of them designed for solitary play. Lincoln Logs, Erector sets, and Crayolas enhanced constructive and creative activities and provided new interest, in play that could take place indoors. Subsequent debates on the value and nature of toys, and their roles in educational environments, were sparked by such leading figures as Montessori, Roland Barth, and Erik Erikson, among others. Controversy surrounding the contributions of play to children’s learning, identity, and development became a part of the early childhood education discourse.

Early Childhood as Contested Terrain

Each of the above features—the notion of scientific research as a basis for decisions about early childhood, the premise of early intervention into the lives of children deemed “at risk,” and the presumed benefits of capitalizing on children’s early learning potentials—has generated controversy as well as new policy initiatives throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century.

There is little doubt that decisions by governors and state legislatures to invest public revenues in early childhood programs has been influenced by advances in child development knowledge that have occurred during the past quarter century, including new understandings of the infant brain as brimming with neurological potential waiting for stimulation rather than as an empty vessel seeking to be filled.

Such political involvement in ECE has brought long-desired recognition as well as unanticipated challenges, as evidenced by theNo Child Left Behind Act and new performance standards for Head Start that are more akin to those of elementary schools than what many believe is appropriate for young children. The nature and aims of science are also at stake, as funding agencies increasingly emphasize the importance of empirical evidence to the exclusion of qualitative forms of inquiry in the determination of developmentally appropriate educational practices as essential to maintaining the “scientific” and professional status of the field.

As the stakes increase for research that can demonstrate “what works” in early childhood classrooms, postmodern scholars and contributors to the reconceptualist movement question the capacity of research to tell it “how it is,” and caution against the certainty based on empirical knowledge, especially when such “truths” include a standardized image of childhood. Within this oppositional context, professionally derived determinations of quality and developmentally appropriate practices in the United States continue to be informed by child development research; and comparative studies of early education, in turn, continue to demonstrate alternative interpretations of high quality early care and education. In short, debates about the role of early childhood education and the consequences of various curricula and teaching methods on children’s lives echo many of the debates of a century ago. And yet the field has much to acclaim, as the following policy initiatives show.

Recent Policy Developments Influencing American Early Childhood Education

Interest and activity in the field of early childhood education has reached an unprecedented level both within the United States and worldwide during the past twenty-five years. In the United States, this attention has been generated by the confluence of many different but complementary trends and policy initiatives. One influence contributing to decisions to invest public revenues in programs serving young children has been the previously described advances in child development knowledge. The accumulation of long-term longitudinal studies showing benefits from participation in intensive early education programs during the preschool years has also resulted in a number of specific policy initiatives and accompanying new debates.

Concern with School Readiness

The first of these trends has been an increased emphasis on insuring that young children are well prepared for success in primary school, stimulated in part by a National Education Goal established at the federal level in 1991 specifying that “All children in America will start school ready to learn.” “School readiness” became a mantra during the 1990s that has carried over into the new century, and has led to concerted efforts within the fifty states and the District of Columbia to find policies and programs with demonstrated capacity to enhance the competencies and skills needed by young children to be successful in the early grades.

The primary school readiness strategy employed by the states during the past decade has been funding of prekindergarten. At least thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia now fund state prekindergarten programs for four-year-olds (Barnett et al., 2005). As of this writing, four of these states (Georgia, New York, Oklahoma, West Virginia) are implementing universal programs, and two others (Florida, Massachusetts) have laws in place to do so. Currently these state programs serve four-year-olds, although extending this opportunity to three-year-olds is under discussion in several states. Many of these ECE programs serve children in both school and nonschool (child care, family support) settings. Their schedules may be part- or full-day, and typically are limited to the school year.

The Expansion of Comprehensive Early Intervention Systems and Services

Federal laws and policy initiatives have also contributed greatly to the heightened interest in early education and care. By the late 1990s, the federal law required that the states provide for the development of comprehensive early intervention systems for infants and toddlers with developmental delays or disabilities, in addition to the services developed for 3–6-year-olds. The interest in the birth-three age period is also reflected in changing policies and programs in Head Start.

Head Start and Early Head Start

The federal Head Start program, although under way since the mid-1960s, received substantial funding increases during the Clinton administration (1993– 2001), both for expansion and for program improvement. In 1993, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services undertook a review of the Head Start program that led to a number of recommendations, including the development of services for infants and toddlers living in low-income families (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1993). Early Head Start, created in 1994, has grown from 68 to more than 650 programs, serving more than 62,000 families and their very young children in the ten years between 1995 and 2004. As importantly, the positive findings from the longitudinal study of the impacts of Early Head Start have stimulated increased interest in services for 0–3-year-olds and their families at the state and local levels (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002).

Changes in the Welfare System

A major shift in federal policy toward low-income families occurred in the mid- 1990s in the area of welfare reform. In 1996, the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) law, which had provided modest monthly financial support to unemployed single mothers with children as an entitlement, was allowed to lapse. It was replaced by a new law, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), which provides funds to the states to assist families with young children under certain conditions. These conditions include immediate participation in work preparation programs and entrance into the labor market within two years. No family is eligible for support for more than five years. One effect of this new emphasis on employment for parents with young children and little income has been more attention by states and local communities to the provision of subsidized child care for these families, much of which is family based and some of which is provided by kith and kin (family child care and family, friend, and neighbor care).

Efforts to Help Parents and Communities Assess Quality

The generally mediocre quality of U.S. early care and education programs has been identified as an enduring problem, that approaches the level of a national crisis, especially when accompanied by concerns regarding the lack of equity (equal access to comprehensive supports) and inadequate infrastructure (NICHD, 2005). One recent policy response to the quality challenge has been the development of quality rating systems. A quality rating system (QRS) is a way of assessing, improving, and publicizing the level of quality achieved by an early childhood setting. State QRS systems have five elements: standards (based on widely accepted guidelines), accountability (through assessment and monitoring), outreach and support to practitioners (to improve quality), financing incentives (such as bonus payments for quality, tiered reimbursement rates based on quality, etc.), and parent education. Thus these systems have dual purposes: to assist the parent consumer in making an educated choice and to improve the overall quality of the ECE system. In 2004, nine states and the District of Columbia reported having a QRS with several levels of quality available throughout their jurisdiction, and a number of other states were in earlier stages of implementation. This quality improvement and parent education strategy has the added advantage of bringing the state’s early care and education into the public eye, in the hope that this visibility will expose shortcomings in the system, spur public discussion, and lead to improvements in access and infrastructure as well as program quality.


Social characteristics that exacerbate these issues include the increased presence and diversity of immigrants in American schools and communities. The United States was founded by immigrant settlers from England who left their homes under duress and then took over the lands and lives of Native Americans. By the nineteenth century, the pattern began to change and immigrants—many from southern and eastern Europe—were often, although not always, wealthy members of Jewish, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox religions. These groups came together in the “melting pot” of the United States, where the goal of assimilation far outweighed the goal of maintaining distinguishing cultural and linguistic traditions. A century later, the United States continues to be a nation of old and new immigrants, but the new immigrants are now helping to constitute a radically different version of U.S. multiculturalism that includes people, languages, and traditions from Arab nations as well as Cambodia, the Caribbean and Latin America, China, South Korea, Russia, and Eastern Europe.

The Economic Impacts of Early Childhood Education

Although the long-term pay-offs from early investment in early care and education services have been understood by social scientists and educators for more than a decade, economists have become fully aware of the implications of these findings for macro-economic policy only since the turn of the century (Dickens, Sawhill, and Tebbs, 2006). The realization by economists that the “return of investment” of early childhood programs is very high over the long term (20 years) and substantial even in the medium term (5–10 years or more) has led them to urge expansion of such services at the state and federal levels, and to recommend that ECE programming be included in the community development strategies promoted by a number of major national foundations. Exciting work is also under way that documents the economic impacts of the early care and educational sector on local community development, through wages paid to the very sizable ECE work force, capital investments in early childhood programs, and the employment opportunities afforded parents who would otherwise need to be caring for their children themselves (Warner et al., 2004; OECD, 2006).

Multiple Perspectives on Early Childhood Education

In conceptualizing this four volume encyclopedia, we did not set out to simplify early childhood education concepts, programs, and policies to appeal to some “average” reader, nor have we sanitized the entries to make the early childhood education field seem cleaner and more coherent than it in fact is. Combining as it does ideas and perspectives from child development, health, education, early intervention, and family support, our intention has been to represent early childhood education as it is—complex, dependent upon collaborative relationships, and unwieldy as a field of study. Because public involvement with young children must by definition encroach upon the private domain of family life, there must be controversy. The cultural dimension of the ECE field is also a given because the field concentrates on that stage of the life course when cultural values, beliefs, and norms are first being introduced to the developing child, and reinforced through daily routines, social practices, program structures, communal activities, and interpersonal relations and interactions. The recently released report by the OECD (2006) attests to the global interest and the cultural diversity in approaches to early childhood. It is at this cultural level that we believe Volume 4 makes its greatest contribution, by allowing readers to explore early childhood education within cultural contexts outside their own, and in so doing to see and appreciate the cultural dimensions of their own policies and practices in new ways. These features—complexity, controversy, cultural differences, and collaboration—have also characterized development of these volumes and their contents, and this was intentional rather than accidental. They have led to productive conversations among contributors and editors, which hopefully will be extended and expanded by publication of the four volumes. We hope that the ideas and perspectives contained herein will stimulate productive and valued conversations both within and across cultures, so that the lives of all our children and their families can continue to be enriched in new and exciting ways by caring and wise teachers and other caregivers who think globally and teach locally.