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Conference Held On Early Learning:

On Saturday, November 19, over 400 early childhood educators, parents and interested residents gathered in the John Adams Middle School Auditorium for a conference on “Exploring Early Learning Standards Through Play.”

Conference keynote speaker was Dr. Sharon Lynn Kagan, who is known in this country and abroad for her work on the care and education of young children. She is Director of the Office of Policy and Research and Associate Dean for Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University.

As standards-based education becomes the norm for America’s K-12 system, the early care and education system is developing preschool standards.

California’s standards will be ready for public review in mid-2006.

Kagan said the accountability pressures on the K-12 system have led to the promotion of preschool, in the belief that it will improve student performance in the later grades. While Kagan said that early childhood educators should not fear standards, they should be aware of the risks if the standards are not comprehensive, developmentally appropriate and fail to recognize the needs of culturally diverse children.

In addition to Kagan’s keynote address, the morning agenda included breakout sessions at which participants viewed video clips of children engaged in play that demonstrated that good early childhood programs engage children in learning through exploration.

An afternoon session for leaders from throughout the county resulted in a call for action. Dr. Jose Cruz, President of National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC) led a discussion of the ways and means of ensuring that the California standards now being developed will promote student success and call for support of early childhood programs from both professionals and parents.

The conference was hosted by RAND Corporation, in collaboration with the City of Santa Monica; Connections for Children, Santa Monica College, Santa Monica Child Care and Early Education Task Force, Southern California Association for Education of Young Children (SCAEYC), and several other organizations.Thus far, RAND has organized four conferences, as part of a development agreement with the City of Santa Monica.

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