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April 1, 2015



Report Offers Blueprint to Improve Professional Care and Education of Children From Birth to Age 8 


WASHINGTON – Given that children’s health, development, and early learning provide a critical foundation for lifelong progress, the workforce that provides care and education for children from birth through age 8 needs consistent, high-quality training to produce better outcomes for children, says a new report from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council.  To build a workforce unified by a common knowledge base and necessary skills, the report offers a blueprint with specific actions for local, state, and national leaders in areas of higher education, professional learning during ongoing practice, policies for qualification requirements, and other standards for professional practice.


Children begin learning at birth, and they develop at a rapid, cumulative pace in their early years. Young children thrive when they have secure, positive relationships with adults who are knowledgeable about how to support their development and are responsive to their individual progress.  However, young children’s need for consistency and continuity is not being met because the systems that provide their care and education from infancy through the early elementary years are fragmented, concluded the study committee that wrote the report. 


Qualification requirements for care and education professionals currently vary widely based on their role, the ages of the children with whom they work, and which agency or institution has authority to set qualification criteria.  The science of child development and early learning shows that the work of all lead educators for young children requires the same high level of sophisticated knowledge and skills, regardless of the child’s age. Therefore, the committee recommended a collaborative effort to develop and implement phased timelines at the individual, institutional, and policy levels for transitioning to a minimum bachelor's degree requirement for all lead educators -- those individuals who bear primary responsibility for instructional and other activities for children in formal care and education environments as well as oversee assistant teachers and paraprofessionals. 


“Despite their shared goal of nurturing and securing the future success of children, care and education professionals for this age group currently work in disparate systems where the expectations and policies have not kept pace with what the science of child development and early learning indicates children need,” said committee chair LaRue Allen, Raymond and Rosalee Weiss Professor of Applied Psychology and chair of the department of applied psychology in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University.  “Although it will take considerable time and effort, establishing a cohesive workforce for young children will help connect what we know about how to support children to what we do in the settings where they develop and learn.”


The committee concluded that higher education institutions should develop high-quality training programs for specific professional roles as well as interdisciplinary programs that foster a shared fundamental knowledge base and skills that support child development for professionals in all sectors working with young children -- care and education, social services, and health/allied health professions -- using required core coursework, learning activities, and field-based experiences.


There is a need for greater consistency not only in higher education, but also in the quality and availability of professional learning opportunities during ongoing practice, the report says.  For example, those who provide care and education for infants and toddlers and those who practice in settings outside of centers and schools, such as family child care, would benefit from greater access to professional learning programs.  Content for early elementary educators in broader K-12 professional learning systems should be improved, as it sometimes skews toward the skills needed for education of older children.


The report also recommends creation of a new model for evaluating and assessing early childhood professionals, which should align with findings on the science of how young children develop and learn, reflect day-to-day practice, be tied to access to professional learning, and account for setting- and community-level factors such as overcrowded classrooms, lack of resources, and varied home environments.


To improve continuity of children’s care and education, practitioners, leaders, and policymakers at the state and local levels should develop strategies and mechanisms for strengthening collaboration and communication across professional roles and practice settings.  For example, specific professional roles, such as navigators or case managers, could be supported to facilitate connections for children and families so that the entire burden of collaboration does not fall on practitioners.


“For too long, the nation has been getting by with the status quo for the care and education of young children rather than envisioning the systems and policies that are needed, and committing to the strategies necessary to achieve them,” said Victor Dzau, president of the Institute of Medicine.  “Although it could take years to fully implement some of these recommendations, carrying out this action plan will produce substantive changes to build and sustain a strong foundation for providing high-quality, consistent early learning opportunities to children as they grow up.” 


The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families and Health Resources and Services Administration; U.S. Department of Education; W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Robert R. McCormick Foundation; David and Lucile Packard Foundation; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, independent nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter granted to NAS in 1863.  A committee roster follows. 



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Pre-publication copies of Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age Eight: A Unifying Foundation are available from the National Academies Press on the Internet at  or by calling 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).


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Board on Children, Youth, and Families


Committee on the Science of Children Birth to Age 8: Deepening and Broadening

the Foundation for Success


LaRue Allen (chair)

Raymond and Rosalee Weiss Professor of Applied Psychology, and

Chair of the Department of Applied Psychology

Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

New York University

New York City


W.T. Boyce1

Distinguished Professor in the Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics

Department of Pediatrics

School of Medicine

University of California

San Francisco


Joshua L. Brown

Assistant Professor of Applied Developmental Psychology

Department of Psychology

Fordham University

Bronx, N.Y.


Douglas H. Clements

Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning,

Professor of Educational Research, Practice, and Policy, and

Executive Director

Marsico Institute of Early Learning and Literacy

Morgridge College of Education

University of Denver



Fabienne Doucet

Content Area Director of the Program in Early Childhood Education, and

Associate Professor

Department of Teaching and Learning

Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

New York University

New York City


John C. Duby

Director of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, and

Medical Director

Family Child Learning Center

Akron Children's Hospital

Akron, Ohio


David N. Figlio

Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy, and


Institute for Policy Research

Northwestern University

Evanston, Ill.


Jana Fleming

Former Director

Herr Research Center for Children and Social Policy

Erikson Institute

Chicago, and


Center of Excellence in Early Childhood Development

Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


Lisa Guernsey


Early Education Initiative, and


Learning Technologies Project

New America

Washington, D.C.


Ron Haskins

Senior Fellow in Economic Studies

Co-Director, Center on Children and Families, and

Co-Director, Budgeting for National Priorities Project

The Brookings Institution

Washington, D.C.


Jacqueline Jones

President and CEO

Foundation for Child Development

New York City


Marjorie Kostelnik


College of Education and Human Sciences

University of Nebraska



Nonie K. Lesaux

Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson Professor of Education and Society

Graduate School of Education

Harvard University

Cambridge, Mass.


Ellen M. Markman2

Senior Associate Dean for the Social Sciences, and

Lewis M. Terman Professor

Department of Psychology

Stanford University

Stanford, Calif.


Rollanda E. O'Connor

Professor, and

Eady/Hendrick Chair in Learning Disabilities

Graduate School of Education

University of California



Cheryl Polk


HighScope Educational Research Foundation

San Francisco


P. Fred Storti

Executive Director (retired)

Minnesota Elementary School Principal’s Association

St. Paul


Ross Allen Thompson

Distinguished Professor

Department of Psychology

University of California



Albert Wat

Senior Policy Analyst

Education Division

National Governors Association

Washington, D.C.




Bridget Kelly

Study Director



1Member, Institute of Medicine

2Member, National Academy of Sciences