Landmark Bill Establishes Continuity Between Early Childhood and K-12 Education

August 5, 2011

Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-HI) along with Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC), Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), introduced the bi-partisan Continuum of Learning Act of 2011. This landmark legislation updates the Elementary and Secondary School Education Act (formerly known as No Child Left behind), to support a critical component of education for all children – the coordination and continuity of early childhood care and learning with K-12 education.

Bruce Lesley
, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children, issued the following statement:

“Learning begins at birth. The research is irrefutable that the years between birth and entering the school system at kindergarten (or in some states, first grade), are critical to ensuring that children can begin school ready to learn and to succeed. The achievement gap that is so prevalent among far too many of our children, most of them economically disadvantaged, is firmly in place by kindergarten, many children are simply unable to ever close this gap.

“The Continuum of Learning Act finally addresses what experts and researchers have known for years – for children to achieve their fullest potential, we must begin at birth. For far too long, we have viewed the ‘early childhood’ and ‘K-12’ worlds as separate and distinct, when they are truly, as they title of the bill so succinctly communicates, one continuum of learning. It is right and appropriate that this bill amends ESEA so that the guiding legislation for education in the United States will now encourage and incentivize coordination and collaboration between early childhood programs such as child care, Head Start, pre-kindergarten programs, etc. with elementary education from kindergarten and beyond. This is a long-needed shift and one that will provide invaluable and long-reaching benefits to children all across our country.”

Some of the main provisions of the Continuum of Learning Act:

• Encourages states to review their early learning guidelines to comprehensively address emotional, social, and cognitive development and learning and coordinate it with learning in the K-3 grades;
• Supports professional development of both early childhood educators as well as teachers and principals in elementary settings, including joint professional development;
• Helps ensure that all schools have the quality teaching, supportive environments, and family engagement that all children need to succeed in school.