Kirwan Commission Recommendations for Early Childhood Education

The Maryland Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education (“the Kirwan Commission”) recently released its preliminary report with recommendations across five policy areas, including investing in early childhood education, that will enable all children to start kindergarten on track and ready to learn.

The Commission reviewed educational outcomes in industrialized nations similar to the United States to learn how students in Maryland compared. Their conclusion is that our students (even the top students) are increasingly far behind top-performing countries in reading, math, and science.

The Commission reported that it could not ignore the impact that a child’s first three years can have on the rest of the child’s life and were obligated to make recommendations to strengthen not only the early childhood education system but also the systems that provide other vital services in communities, especially those that serve vulnerable families.

We agree, we cannot ignore the early years! We are encouraged by the preliminary recommendations and strategies proposed by the Commission. Many of these reflect the Resource Center’s recommendations to the Commission as well as to Congress and State leaders to ensure equal access to high-quality child care.

The Commission will continue its work and have final recommendations by the end of 2018.

Below, you’ll find a summary of the Commissions’ recommendations for investing in early childhood education in Maryland to fully prepare our young children to be ready to learn by time they enter kindergarten and beyond.

  • Provide strong supports for children and their families BEFORE students arrive at school
    • Supports include family allowance, paid family leave for mother or father, free medical care, health screening services, home visits by nurses, prenatal and maternal care services, wellness care and education. Children in families with low incomes are much more likely never to have quality early learning experiences that will prepare them to start school ready to learn.
  • Expand the current early childhood education program so that all four-year-olds, regardless of income, have an opportunity to enroll in a full-day program.
    • Establish a “diverse delivery” system composed of both public and private providers. Provide more funding for four-year-olds from low-income families, including no charge for students from families at or below 300% of the federal poverty level, while higher income families would be expected to pay a portion of the cost.
    • Three-year-olds from low-income families should also have access to a full-day early childhood education program.
    • Policies designed to support these changes would need to be phased in, with priority going to provision of a full-day program for special education children regardless of family income.
  • Ensure all early childhood education programs, public and private, are of high quality and follow standards for personnel as in countries with high-quality early childhood education systems.
    • Create a staffing system for approved Maryland early childhood education providers that is fully integrated with the proposed a statewide career ladder system.
    • Require public and private providers to achieve level EXCEL Level 5 in order to receive state funding.
    • Increase the supply of high-quality providers based in the community rather than in schools.
  • Assess school readiness of every child prior to entering kindergarten using an existing instrument or a new instrument in collaboration with Maryland teachers.
  • Adopt policies similar to benchmark nation’s and expand the network of Judy Center and family support centers so that all families can access supports for infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities.

To read the full preliminary report of the Commission:

Posted on March 20, 2018