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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27429.
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INTRODUCTION 1-1 1 Introduction Preschool provides young children with the promise of meaningful early learning experiences, and high-quality preschool experiences offer an opportunity to support young children and their families while serving to reduce educational inequities. Curriculum is an important factor that interacts with other factors to shape the quality of a child’s learning experience in the classroom. Not only have scholars identified curriculum as a key ingredient in the quality of preschool programs quality (Burchinal et al., 2016; Institute of Medicine [IOM] & National Research Council [NRC], 2015; NRC, 2009; Yoshikawa et al., 2013), but it is also an important building block in realizing the promise of preschool to improve developmental outcomes equitably, for all children (Engle et al., 2011; Magnuson et al., 2007; Melhuish et al., 2015; National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC], 2019; Phillips et al., 2017; Yoshikawa et al., 2013). Preschool offers a chance to combat educational disparities experienced by historically underserved groups, such as children from racially/ethnically marginalized communities, multilingual children, children living in poverty, and children with disabilities. When equitable opportunities and practices are in place, educational disparities can be reduced (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine [NASEM], 2023a, 2023b). However, preschool is not universally available to children in the United States, and many children from populations that have been historically marginalized lack access to high-quality early learning opportunities (Bassok & Galdo, 2016; Dobbins et al., 2016; Nores & Barnett, 2014). Improving access to high-quality preschool for these children is a clear need, and meeting this need requires a rich understanding of program features that can support effective learning and social experiences (NASEM, 2023b). Decades of research have shown that high-quality preschool is linked to positive social and academic outcomes (Phillips et al., 2017; Yoshikawa et al., 2013). The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the nation’s largest professional organization of early childhood educators, administers a national accreditation system for high-quality early childhood programs and promulgates guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice in these programs (NAEYC, 2020, 2022). These guidelines state that high-quality preschool programs are learning environments in which teachers create a caring community of learners, intentionally support children’s learning and development, foster reciprocal partnerships with families, observe and assess children’s development and learning, and use curriculum as a planning tool to promote children’s learning (NAEYC, 2020). A substantial body of research spanning decades, encompassing longitudinal randomized controlled trials, program evaluations, meta-analyses, and nonexperimental studies, has established the multifaceted advantages of high- Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-2 quality early childhood education programs for children (IOM & NRC, 2015; NASEM, 2023a). 3 These benefits can manifest not only in the short term but persist through adolescence and into adulthood, shaping children's long-term developmental trajectories. For example, children who participate in high-quality preschool programs compared with those who do not tend to have higher educational attainment, earnings, and health outcomes, as well as less involvement with the criminal justice system as adults (Belfield et al., 2006; NASEM, 2023a; Reynolds, Ou, & Temple, 2018; Schweinhart et al., 2005; Yoshikawa et al., 2013). Society at large also benefits from high-quality preschool programs because they support the development of healthy adults and communities while also reducing the need for more expensive interventions later in a child’s life (Heckman and Karapakula, 2019a, 2019b). However, this research base also illuminates the stark disparities in access to and quality of ECE programs, highlighting how these differential experiences can affect later developmental and academic outcomes. Children from marginalized communities consistently face greater barriers to accessing such programs. Furthermore, even within programs, children from these communities often experience markedly lower-quality ECE compared to their white, higher-income, and native English-speaking peers, perpetuating inequities (NASEM, 2023a). The complexity of the current early childhood education system and the diversity of program options leads to great variability in children’s preschool experiences. The United States has a mixed delivery system for early childhood programs. There is a variety of program types, including center-based programs, home-based programs, and multiple care arrangements. In addition, programs are funded through a variety of sources, including private tuition, foundation grants, public funding, and other streams. Demographic data for 2019 reveal that 74% of children aged 3–5 who were not yet in kindergarten were in at least one weekly nonparental care arrangement, and 26% had no such arrangement. Among the former children, 83% were in center-based care (i.e., child care centers, Head Start programs, preschools, pre-Ks, and other early childhood programs), 26% were in relative care, and 14% were in nonrelative care. Some children were in also in a combination of settings (Cui and Natzke, 2021). Unfortunately, racially and linguistically marginalized children do not have the same level of access to preschool programs as do White children. In addition, program cost is a barrier for many families, and this is especially true for those children whose families have low income (NASEM, 2023a). Because privately funded preschool is expensive, access to preschool is unaffordable for many families without government financial support (NASEM, 2018). Examples of government-funded support for preschool include child care subsidies, Head Start, state and locally funded public pre-K, and pre-K programs for children with disabilities. Children in low-income families can also gain access to free pre-K through local school districts (NASEM, 2018). However, for all children, program slots are limited and unevenly distributed as a result of a number of factors related to geography, income, race/ethnicity, and age (NASEM, 2023a). For example, families in rural areas face particular challenges in finding licensed child 3 For a broader discussion of research related to ECE program quality and outcomes see Chapter 2 of NASEM (2023a), Closing the Opportunity Gap for Young Children. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-3 care 4 that is both affordable and conveniently located, and Indigenous and Latine families are more likely than any other subpopulations to live in a child care desert (Malik et al., 2018). Preschool enrollment varies based on children’s racial and ethnic background. In 2021, for instance, among 3- to 5-year-olds, the enrollment rate was higher for White children (56.1%) than for children who were Black (52.6%), of two or more races (55.2%), or Asian (51.3%), and these rates were all higher than the enrollment rates for children who were Indigenous (49%), Latine (48.6%), or Pacific Islander (41.2%) (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022). The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these inequities; the greatest enrollment declines due to COVID-19 occurred among non-White children from low-income households (Barnett & Jung, 2021b). Even before the pandemic, however, children who were non-White, multilingual, and/or from families with low income were less likely to attend universal public pre-K programs (Friedman-Krauss et al., 2022; Shapiro et al., 2019). Even when low-income and racially/ethnically marginalized children do have access to preschool, they are more likely than their White, higher-income peers to be enrolled in programs of lower quality (NASEM, 2023a). For instance, state-funded preschool programs offered in low- income and racially/ethnically marginalized communities tend to have lower quality scores compared with programs in predominantly White and affluent neighborhoods (Bassok & Galdo, 2016; Valentino, 2018). For example, a 2019 report from the Education Trust reported that only 1% of Latine and 4% of Black children were enrolled in public pre-K programs that meet the National Institute for Early Education Research’s (NIEER) Pre-K benchmarks , which include elements such as early learning and development standards, curriculum supports, teacher education, specialized training in pre-K, professional and development and coaching for staff, class size, staff-child ratio, health screenings and referrals, and presence of continuous quality improvement systems, among others. (Gillespie, 2019; NASEM 2023a; NIEER, 2019). Highlighting how much work there is to be done, NIEER has long emphasized these benchmarks are a floor on quality; they do not cover whether programs use evidence-based curricula or compensate Pre-K teachers with parity with K-12, for example. These inequities can have detrimental effects on marginalized and low-income children, families, and communities because they lose the potential benefits of access to high-quality preschool. On the other hand, if programs incorporate children’s heritage cultures and languages/dialects in meaningful ways while also providing developmentally appropriate and rigorous content, children are likely to engage in the classroom activities, develop both social-emotional and academic skills, and improve their self-concept (Craig & Washington, 2006; Gort & Sembiante, 2015; Hancock, 2017). Additionally, culturally and linguistically responsive programs can help foster teacher– family relationships and parent involvement (NASEM, 2023a). 4 Child care licensing is a process where minimum health and safety requirements (e.g., criminal background checks for staff, ongoing safety training for staff, sanitation, building safety, child and caregiver health) that child care programs must meet are set by state and local governments. These requirements do not guarantee quality, but rather are minimum health and safety requirements. Compliance with these requirements is monitored as part of licensing (childcare.gov, 2023). Accreditation is a voluntary process that requires ECE programs to meet standards beyond those required by regulatory requirements. These standards have been developed by a number of different organizations (National Center on Child Care Quality Improvement, 2018) Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-4 Research conducted over several decades has established numerous consistent indicators of program quality associated with positive child experiences and outcomes; however, there is significant variation in the definitions of quality, which often overlook dimensions that are vital to children from historically marginalized communities—in particular, children who have a home language other than English, children of color, and children with disabilities (NASEM, 2023a). Quality is typically conceptualized as encompassing aspects of structural quality, such as physical infrastructure, teacher-child ratios, evidence-based curricula, language of instruction, discipline policies, and a highly-skilled and supported workforce, and process quality, such as quantity and access to engaging learning experiences, richness of teacher-child interactions, emotional responsiveness, and family engagement (NASEM, 2023a). These dimensions of quality are interconnected and influenced by systemic factors such as funding and policy. Crucially, specific dimensions of quality, both structural and process-based, significantly impact the experiences of children of color and those from historically marginalized communities in particular. These dimensions include cultural responsivity, access to bilingual staff, differential teacher expectations, and strong relationships with families whose home language is not English. These factors demonstrably shape children's experiences, particularly for children who are immigrants, Latine and Asian American children, and multilingual learners (Adair, 2015; Limlingan et al., 2020; NASEM, 2017, 2023a; Suárez-Orozco et al., 2010). Preschool curricula—the focus of this report—are key dimension of overall structural and process quality and differ across multiple dimensions, such as theoretical underpinnings, content, developmental domains covered, format, expectations for teachers and children, and assessment strategies (Duncan et al., 2015; Jenkins & Duncan, 2017). And although the quality of the curriculum is important in determining a child’s learning experience, the quality of its implementation matters as well. There is vast diversity in the contexts and circumstances in which curricula are implemented. The quality of young children’s learning experiences and their interactions with curriculum depends on teachers’ qualifications and professional development and the fidelity of implementation, as well as the extent to which teachers differentiate instruction, make curricula culturally and linguistically responsive to children, engage families, and use data and assessment to drive instruction. School district, state, and federal contextual factors and policies are also linked to the effectiveness and equity of curriculum. However, this educational landscape is fragmented and in some instances, lacks sufficient coordination (NASEM, 2023a). Overall, although the quality and implementation of curriculum is recognized as an important element of high-quality preschool. Existing evidence identifying components of effective curricula can provide insights into components of effective curricula and the supports needed for implementation, but rarely focuses explicitly on the needs of children from marginalized populations (Bredekamp & Joseph, 2024; NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2003; Yoshikawa et al., 2023). Currently there is no clear consensus on what constitutes curriculum quality and for whom. Clear information is needed on what constitutes a high-quality preschool curriculum, taking into account the landscape of the preschool years including the wide array of programs that are responsible for meeting the various program standards and requirements as well as the diversity of contexts children come from. A better understanding of the historical contexts in which programs were developed, who was included in the development, and how this Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-5 has implications for the research that exists to date is also critical. In examining this question, part of the committee’s task is to propose recommendations that integrate evidence about what works best for target populations—what has been missing and how to identify strengths to realize potential of all children. ABOUT THIS STUDY Sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Board on Children, Youth, and Families (BCYF) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) convened an ad hoc committee of relevant experts to gather information on and explore the range of issues associated with the need to build a consensus definition of high-quality preschool curriculum. The committee was tasked with building a vision of what constitutes an effective, high-quality preschool curriculum that can serve to reduce inequities in children’s learning experiences during the preschool years (see Box 1-1 for the committee’s statement of task). It should be noted that the committee was not asked to evaluate individual curricula, isolated strategies or approaches, or training programs as part of this study. The 13-member committee included experts in early childhood education, early childhood development, equity, curriculum development, implementation science, public policy, children with disabilities, multilingual learners, child health, mental health, and neuroscience. BOX 1-1 Statement of Task The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will convene an ad hoc committee to conduct a study on pre-k curriculum quality for children ages three through five, with special attention to the needs of Black and Latinx children, dual language learners, children with special needs, and children experiencing poverty. The study will support equitable curriculum development, state and center-level pre-k curriculum selection, and local curriculum implementation. The committee will review research on early childhood development, including research on access to contemporary early learning opportunities, and consider the lived experience of diverse young children, their families, and early childhood educators. The committee will make recommendations aimed at creating a new vision for high quality pre-k curriculum, including: • The fundamental assumptions, principles, and definitions that should guide the content, development, and use of high-quality, equity-driven curriculum for prekindergarten children. • The components, criteria, and/or features of high-quality pre-K curriculum that support equity and learning and development of all children. Special considerations that may be needed for Black and Latinx children, culturally and linguistically diverse learners, children with special needs, and children experiencing poverty. • How the components, criteria, and/or features of high-quality, equitable curriculum should be used by state and local preschool program directors to make curricular decisions for diverse learners and guidance needed to facilitate selection of curricula. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-6 • Curricular supports and professional development opportunities needed by diverse early childhood educators in diverse pre-k settings to enable the effective and equitable implementation of high-quality pre-k curriculum. • Funding mechanisms, state and federal policies, and new innovations that can support the selection and use of effective and equitable pre-k curriculum. • Research that is needed to address current gaps in understanding of components, criteria, and/or features of high-quality pre-k curricula. STUDY APPROACH Evidence-Based Sources The committee met six times over a 1-year period in 2021–2022. During this time, the committee reviewed the published literature pertaining to its charge, including peer-reviewed materials, book chapters, reports, working papers, government documents, white papers and evaluations, editorials, and previous reports of the National Academies. In addition, the committee conducted three public information-gathering sessions and two public listening sessions. These sessions included expert presentations on high-quality pre-K curriculum for dual language and multilingual learners, communities of learning and the role of language and culture in curriculum development, future considerations for designing and adapting curriculum for children with disabilities, state policies and decision making related to early care and education, and curriculum adaptation and enactment. The committee also commissioned two papers to help address questions in the statement of task. The committee commissioned School Readiness Consulting (SRC) and Boston University’s Center on the Ecology of Early Development (CEED) to conduct a comprehensive literature review and synthesize research findings related to high-quality pre-K curriculum. The aim of this literature review was to inform the committee in its effort to build a consensus definition of high-quality preschool curriculum, with special attention to the needs of Black and Latine children, multilingual children, children with disabilities, and children experiencing poverty. The committee commissioned a second paper to provide an analysis of state- and program-level selection of curriculum. This analysis was focused on reviewing criteria for selecting curricula, including considerations related to state-level funding, state standards, and the state and local decision-making entities involved in the process. The findings from the committee’s review of these evidence sources informed the committee’s deliberations and served as the basis for the committee’s key conclusions and recommendations, which are presented in Chapter 10. Evidence Standards The committee’s commissioned literature review helped to inform the committee’s effort to build consensus around a vision for high-quality preschool curriculum by providing a foundational understanding of what is currently known about curriculum quality for preschool Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-7 programs for children aged 3–5 in the United States. This review drew on empirical, peer- reviewed research on preschool curriculum, as well as complementary sources highlighting the lived experiences of children, families, and educators who engage with this curriculum. The review included both quantitative and qualitative literature across multiple disciplines. Building on the findings of this commissioned literature review, the committee took an expansive view of evidence in developing this report and drew on and privileged a diversity of methods and evidence types. The committee reviewed many types of studies, including meta- analyses and syntheses; experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations of curriculum; qualitative case studies; ethnographic and field studies; and interviews, focus groups, and surveys. Consistent with previous National Academies reports, the committee adopted recommendations from the foundational National Academies report Scientific Research in Education (2002), which support “a wide variety of legitimate scientific designs available for education research” (p. 6). The committee remained mindful that a study’s results and conclusions may be influenced by the assumptions of the researchers who conducted the study. In reviewing the evidence, then, the committee considered the theoretical perspectives, positionality, and methodologies involved in how study results were collected, analyzed, and interpreted. In particular, the committee discussed and evaluated the extent to which study findings and their interpretation may have been limited by perspectives not compatible with the committee’s new vision for high-quality, equitable preschool curriculum. For example, some early evaluation studies of preschool programs were conceptualized and designed from a deficit-oriented perspective without recognizing the knowledge and strengths of children and families from marginalized communities (NASEM, 2023a); this perspective may have affected researchers’ interpretation of what it means for curriculum to be high-quality and effective in promoting desired outcomes. The specific outcomes included in studies may also have been narrowly restricted to mathematics and literacy in English without consideration of additional languages children and families may speak and additional competencies not addressed, such as initiative, positive identity, and curiosity. In considering the evidence, the committee also evaluated whether the methodologies and tools used for determining curriculum effectiveness are appropriate for assessing the knowledge, skills, and assets of diverse young children and their families, especially those from marginalized communities. The development of a new vision of high-quality preschool curriculum considers consideration of the multiple and complex ways in which cultural and linguistic, individual, and contextual factors interact with curriculum choice in ways that will affect children’s developmental outcomes. As in previous studies of the National Academies, the committee relied significantly on studies that had undergone the peer review process to help ensure the quality of design, methods, and conclusions. While the committee’s conclusions rely primarily on peer- reviewed journals and books, the committee reviewed the literature in the context of systematic biases that may have affected the availability of published findings. The committee also reviewed practitioner journals, technical reports, and policies, and invited testimony from members of the early childhood education community with differing perspectives. The committee considered as well the perspectives of educators, program directors, and state policy makers who implement and administer preschool programs. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-8 Building an evidence base for a new vision of high-quality preschool curriculum takes time, resources, and coordinated effort from multidisciplinary researchers. It also requires confronting a central tension: that research in this field tends to lag behind the state of the art in emerging theories, perspectives, and approaches. Conceptual Framework The committee’s conceptual framework for understanding factors that influence and define high-quality preschool curriculum (Figure 1-1) draws on a number of sources to describe and define factors that affect the development and implementation of high-quality preschool curricula and guides the organization of this report (Garcia Coll et al., 1996; Iruka, 2020; Iruka et al., 2022; Spencer, Dupree, & Hartmann, 1997). This framework is based on the realities that characterize how children from populations that have been racially and ethnically minoritized, children who are multilingual learners, children with disabilities, and children living in poverty grow up in the United States. Racism, bias, and discrimination permeate all the systems and direct experiences that are part of the lives of racially, ethnically, and linguistically minoritized children, and thus immeasurably impact their development (Garcia Coll et al., 1996; Iruka et al., 2022). An unrelenting and accumulating source of toxic stress for minoritized children is being confronted every day with negative stereotypes, microaggressions, and discrimination (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2020). Such high levels of unrelenting stress can negatively impact children’s mental and physical health (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, 2020). The continuing negative impact of historical bias and discrimination is evident in these children’s unequal quality of educational opportunity, disproportionately harsh discipline, preschool suspension and expulsion rates, and much more (Meek et al., 2020). Persistent biases also negatively affect the development of children with disabilities, who have historically been excluded from educational settings and continue to be despite federal laws requiring their inclusion (Meek et al, 2020). Similarly, policies that do not support development of children’s home language in addition to English promote deficit model of multilingual learners rather than capitalizing on their linguistic knowledge and potential for bilingualism. These are the realities of the lives of minoritized children, children with disabilities, and children who are multilingual learners, as well as children experiencing poverty. However, negative outcomes are not inevitable for these children (Garcia Coll et al., 1996). Awareness of these historical and current inequities is vital to transforming preschool curriculum to ensure the health, well-being, and school achievement of every child. Most important, the committee’s framework emphasizes that high-quality, equity-driven curriculum rejects a deficit perspective on children; rather, the committee’s new vision for preschool curriculum focuses on children’s strengths, assets, and resilience. Thus, the framework incorporates the lived experiences of children, families, and educators while pointing to evidence-based curriculum and teaching practices that can ensure equitable, positive outcomes for each child. The outermost section of Figure 1-1 describes the larger systems and structures that impact the everyday experiences of marginalized and minoritized groups of people in the United States. Unquestionably, these forces impact children and must inform the development, content, and use of high-quality, equity-driven curriculum for diverse learners; they include historical and current inequities; structural racism, discrimination, and bias; federal, state, and district policies; Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-9 and a variety of funding mechanisms. The influence of these macro variables has the potential to be operationalized in a child’s life and influence both curriculum and quality early education (Bronfenbrenner & Crouter, 1983). As noted by Garcia Coll and colleagues (1996), children from marginalized and minoritized groups face unique developmental conditions based on “three major derivatives of social stratification (social position, racism, and segregation),” and it is these nonshared experiences that promote or inhibit warm and inclusive learning environments, cultural and linguistic adaptations in curriculum, and the attainment of developmental competencies (Garcia Coll et al., 1996, p. 1896). Within this broader macrosystem exist the family and community contexts that influence a child’s cultural identity; spoken language or languages; socialization; physical health and well- being; and access to resources, including high-quality preschool, among many other factors. Developmental outcomes for diverse groups of children and contributors to both their risk and resiliency can be influenced by poverty, race, school quality, and neighborhood factors, as well as intermediate experiences of stress, including the safety of their physical environment and exposure to violence (Reading, Haynes, & Shenassa, 2005; NASEM, 2023a) Similarly, their strengths and assets, including their sense of agency, are influenced by the family and community contexts, which then impact the system at the level of early childhood programs, including family engagement and reciprocal relationships, culturally and linguistically responsive learning environments, child characteristics, teacher characteristics and support, and program quality (NAEYC, 2019). Finally, in the center of the framework is high-quality preschool curriculum itself and its vital connection to ensuring equitable outcomes for every child. The two-way arrow indicates that “Children change from experiencing the curriculum, and the curriculum changes in response to the learners’ interests, strengths, experiences, abilities, and progress” (Bredekamp & Joseph, 2024, p. 380). The quality of early childhood programs is typically defined as having two dimensions: structural and process (Burchinal & Farran, 2021). As noted earlier in this chapter, structural quality includes readily evaluated features such as maximum group sizes, teacher–child ratios, and teacher qualifications. Process quality, on the other hand, refers to the quality of teacher– child relationships, and the appropriateness and effectiveness of the learning experiences and teaching strategies for individual children. Process quality consists of human factors that are more difficult to evaluate but are the most important determinants of the quality of children’s experiences and their learning outcomes (Center on the Developing Child, 2016). Process quality describes daily life for children, how they should be treated, and how teachers implement an engaging curriculum and teach effectively (Bredekamp & Joseph, 2024). Structural and process variables are integrally connected. Positive relationships between teachers and children are more likely if group sizes and teacher–child ratios are relatively small (Burchinal & Farran, 2021). A developmentally appropriate, well-equipped, culturally responsive environment is also essential to protect children’s health and safety and promote optimum learning. High-quality preschool curriculum is both a structural and a process determinant of the quality of children’s experiences and their outcomes. That is, a program may adopt a validated curriculum, whether domain-specific or comprehensive, but if it is to be effective, teachers need to implement it with fidelity and to individualize and adapt their instruction in culturally and linguistically responsive ways based on regular assessment of children’s progress. All these Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-10 elements are interrelated. For example, teacher qualifications, preparation, and compensation affect the process variables that influence child outcomes, such as positive self-identity, content learning, and physical and cognitive development. State and local policies and program standards vary, and these also may affect curriculum availability and selection, as well as the additional qualified staff and curriculum supports needed to provide equitable early education for children of color, multilingual learners, and children with disabilities. This consensus report and the committee’s conceptual framework build on pioneering work in the field, such as Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 2004; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006). However, the committee’s framework differs from previous work in that it pays special attention to the strengths and needs of Black and Latine children, multilingual learners, children with disabilities, and children experiencing poverty. Children from diverse backgrounds benefit from culturally and linguistically responsive education in a variety of ways, and this report highlights the fallacy of previous suppositions that merely supplementing mainstream early childhood programs with culturally relevant material is adequate for all learners (Nãone & Au, 2010). A new vision of preschool curriculum can seek to expand the epistemology of curriculum, including the goal, purpose, and outcomes of learning, and create transformative, social justice– oriented curricula that ensure equity and, more important, humanity for all. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-11 FIGURE 1-1 A conceptual framework for understanding factors that influence and define high-quality preschool curriculum. 11 Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-12 KEY TERMS USED IN THIS REPORT This section provides definitions for key terms that are throughout this report (Box 1-2). Terms not defined here are used less frequently in the report and are explained and/or defined in the chapters in which they appear. Box 1-2 Definitions of Key Terms Black This term includes all people of African descent, as well as their cultures. The report uses “Black” instead of “African American” to be inclusive of all children from across the global diaspora, which encompasses diversity in terms of language, national heritage, and immigrant experience. The term is intended to represent psychosocial and social- political status within the United States, not to denote any genetic or epidemiological significance (Agyemang et al., 2005). Comprehensive curricula (also called global or whole-child curricula) address all or most developmental domains. Curriculum is as a cohesive set of principles, learning goals, intentional teaching strategies, activities, experiences, and materials designed to help children learn and thrive. (This definition is adapted from that of the Institute for Education Sciences and the National Center for Education Evaluation [SRC, 2022]). Children with disabilities This term describes children who, because of an identified disability or other special educational, developmental, physical, emotional, behavioral, or medical condition, require additional care and effective supports, or whose activities are restricted by a certain condition. Deficit model/perspective is a perspective that attributes outcomes such as lack of achievement or learning to a personal lack of effort or deficiency in the individual, rather than to failures or limitations of systems grounded in racism, classism, ableism, sexism, xenophobia, and other forms of oppression. Domain-specific or content-specific curricula address one or a limited number of developmental domains or content areas. Equity is the goal and process of ensuring that everyone has a fair opportunity to thrive which requires valuing all individuals and populations equality, fully recognizing systemic racism and oppression, and rectifying historical and contemporary structural injustices, systemic biases, and oppression, and providing resources and supports accordingly (Curenton et al., 2017; Jones, 204; Muhammad, 2023). Indigenous is an overarching term describing Native populations in colonized places; it includes American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders. The term “American Indian” or “Native American” is used in the U.S. census and in many research studies; however, the committee’s preference is to use the term “Indigenous” unless the population in a research study being cited uses another term. Latine This term denotes people in the United States who are immigrants from Latin America or descendants thereof. The committee chose to use this term to reflect its solidarity with and understanding of the current language trends. “Latine” is gaining popularity among young activists and scholars, and it appears to align with current global efforts to Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-13 degenderize the Spanish language (see, e.g., Melzi et al., 2021; Miranda et al., 2023, for additional information). Marginalized populations are those relegated to a marginal position within a society or a group on the basis of factors such as race, gender, age, physical ability, or language (Merriam -Webster, 2024; Pratt & Fowler, 2022). Minoritized populations are populations that are marginalized or persecuted as a result of systemic oppression. This term is used rather than using the label of being a minority (NIH, 2024). Mixed Delivery System A mixed delivery system combines different program types (center- based programs, which may be located in schools or community programs, and home- based programs) and different funding mechanisms (including tuition paid privately by families; private funding such as foundation grants or university sponsorship; and publicly funded pre-kindergarten, Head Start, child care subsidies, and other public funding streams) together in order to maximize access to programs or to enhance the quality (Morris & Smith, 2021). Multilingual learners are those children who are developing proficiency in multiple languages and who are using one or more languages other than or in addition to English in the home, in early care and education settings, and in their communities. The committee may sometimes use the terms “dual language learners” when a research study being cited uses this term. Prekindergarten (pre-K) programs typically serve children between the ages of 3 and 5 and focus on kindergarten preparation. Many of these programs are only open during the school year and are offered by states at free or low cost to qualifying families. This term is often associated only with publicly funded programs (ACF, 2023). Preschool is used more broadly to refer to early care and education programs offered to children aged 3–5, including those in family child care settings. Although the committee discusses both privately and publicly funded programs (e.g., Head Start and state- funded programs), this report predominantly uses the term preschool rather than pre-K or prekindergarten. Racialization is the act of giving a racial character to someone or something or the process of categorizing, marginalizing, or regarding according to race (Merriam-Webster, 2022). HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT As noted earlier in this chapter, a key component of understanding what features and criteria constitute a high-quality pre-K curriculum is understanding the diversity of the landscape of preschool programs, as well as the historical contexts in which existing programs were developed and who was involved in their development. A cursory examination of early childhood curricula suggests that they are tacitly or explicitly based on theories of learning and teaching that, for the most part, originated in and reflect White Western European cultural perspectives. As a foundation for this report, this section examines the underlying theoretical foundations of these curricula, including the epistemology from which the most widely used curricula and associated approaches emanated. Importantly, the committee also examines the sociocultural and Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-14 historical origins of these curricula and the underlying theories—and the theorists—which have influenced the predominant early care and education (ECE) curricula in the United States. One approach to addressing these matters is informed by Brazilian educator and scholar Paulo Freire (1973), who discussed adopting a “critical consciousness lens” to dismantle systems of oppression and inequity by understanding (1) the historical, political, and social implications of a situation (i.e., the context); (2) one’s own social location in the context; (3) the intersectionality of one’s own multiple identities (e.g., race, socioeconomic class, gender); and (4) the inherent tensions that exist between a vision of social justice and current societal conditions for all people. This lens can be used to examine how history and ideology can play a significant role in influencing which curricula are widely used in early education programs as well as opportunities to identify where existing curricula may be excluding or perpetuating harmful narratives about marginalized communities and to elevate excluded, ignored, or erased perspectives. Many preschool curricula purport to be rooted in sociocultural or constructivist theories of development, which posit that people develop and learn by interacting with others, exploring their environments, and building on their prior experiences (Branscombe et al., 2014; DeVries et al., 2002; Zigler & Bishop-Josef, 2006). The committee found that the most frequently cited underpinnings of curricula are “inquiry-based,” “project-based,” and “play-based.” In carrying out its charge to identify the fundamental assumptions, principles, and definitions that should guide the content, development, and use of high-quality, equity-driven curriculum, the committee also had to examine the assumptions, principles, and definitions related to existing curricula—for example, why these are the pedagogical underpinnings of the most widely used curricula in early childhood, as well as which approaches may be missing and why. In reviewing the historical roots of early childhood curricula in the United States, several theorists from as far back as the 1600s are often highlighted as key influencers (e.g., John Amos Comenius, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and John Locke) (Lascarides & Hinitz, 2000). The philosophies of these influencers emphasized concepts such as the societal benefits of literacy and the benefits of sensory exploration and critical thinking as essential components of learning. A major early education influencer was Friedrich Fröebel (1782–1852), a German educator, who developed the first kindergarten, or “children’s garden,” based on his belief that child development is a natural unfolding. The kindergarten movement was widely adopted in the United States and highly influential in the history of early childhood education. Fröebel believed that children learn through play and that education should be based on children’s interests and their active involvement. He developed concrete materials and planned experiences designed to teach skills (called “gifts and occupations”). Fröebel focused on teachers’ observing children and developing activities that supported children’s skill levels. Another major influencer in the field was Maria Montessori (1870–1952), an Italian physician and educator. She emphasized children as the source of knowledge and educators as the facilitators who prepare the classroom environment and experiences to engage children in learning content and social skills. She viewed the teacher’s role as observing and facilitating but not interfering with children’s natural exploration. Montessori founded Casa dei Bambini for children living in the impoverished neighborhoods of Rome who were considered to have cognitive disabilities. Her program demonstrated that giving children from impoverished communities enriching experiences could Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-15 greatly enhance their development. Montessori also developed sensori-motor materials to be used in specific practical ways. Montessori stressed the value of engaging children in independent hands-on, real-life activities as opposed to pretend play (Lillard, 2013). Jean Piaget (1896–1980) described children’s development as a series of fixed stages— sensorimotor, preoperational, and concrete operational. His stage theory has since been criticized for assuming universality and ignoring cultural determinants of development and learning (Matusov & Hayes, 2000). However, the most lasting and influential aspect of Piaget’s theory is constructivism—the idea that children construct their own knowledge and understanding through direct and active interaction with the environment and other people. Also highly influential, Russian theorist Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934) believed that interaction, especially adult–child interaction, is critical in supporting children’s linguistic, social, and cognitive development. In particular, he introduced the concept of a zone of proximal development that requires teachers (and parents and other adults or capable peers) to scaffold children’s learning with tasks that are just beyond or just within their capability. Vygotsky also believed that grouping children of mixed ages in a learning environment supports their acquisition of skills and knowledge. Vygotsky was a strong believer in the power of sociodramatic play to promote the development of self-regulation. John Dewey (1859–1952), professor at the University of Chicago, believed in the idea of democratically run and socially conscious schools where learning emanates from children’s interests and firsthand experiences, leading to project-based learning. Dewey is considered the founder of the progressive education reform movement, focused on making U.S. schools more democratic and responsive to children’s needs. In his view, teachers’ roles are to promote children’s curiosity and inquiry. Dewey believed that children should engage with subject matter content in ways they could understand, so he introduced the idea of integrated and child-centered curriculum. Erik Erikson (1902–1994) stressed the importance of social-emotional support and positive development as a key component of children’s experiences and early childhood curriculum. Italian educator Loris Malaguzzi (1920–1994), in collaboration with teachers, parents, and children, founded the Reggio Emilia approach, which has had widespread impact in the United States and around the world. The approach is based on the “image of the child as rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent and, most of all, connected to adults and children” (Cagliari et al., 2016; Penn, 1997). A key principle is “the hundred languages of children,” referring to how children’s understanding is transformed by representing and re-representing their learning using diverse media, such as drawing, painting, sculpting, writing, photography, and video. In this view, children and teachers co-construct knowledge through long-term projects, and teachers use systematic documentation to display and revisit children’s work and thinking processes. These theorists and their approaches focus attention on providing what current early childhood curricula (and approaches) seek to do: create an environment that is enriching and engaging for children (i.e., child-centered), and facilitates their cognitive development and social competence through interactions with one another, adults, and the physical environment. Thus, it is not surprising that the most commonly used curricula (and approaches) in early childhood draw on these theorists. The Creative Curriculum is said to draw on Piaget and Vygotsky, emphasizing inquiry, exploration, and discovery. HighScope, created by David Weikart (1931– Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-16 2003), is said to draw on the theories of Piaget, Dewey, and Vygotsky, focusing on broadening children’s social and intellectual skills through active learning experiences. Through the HighScope “plan-do-review” process, children discuss each day how they will plan their experiences during the child-choice time of day, typically 45–55 minutes (Epstein, 2014); children then follow their plan, and finally review and reflect on what they did and learned with their teacher and how to follow-up the next day. The often-referenced Perry Preschool studies documenting long-term positive outcomes and financial benefits to society were based on children in classrooms that were implementing an early version of the HighScope Curriculum (Heckman & Karapakula, 2019a, 2019b; Schweinhart et al., 2005). Although some historical documents note that Indigenous cultures on the African continent (Hilliard, 1985, 1986) and in the Americas likely influenced European theorists who are often cited as pillars of early childhood curricular approaches, these influences are often not elevated. For example, many Indigenous populations in the United States, such as the Lakota and Anishinaabe, similarly have values and character principles rooted in creation stories that highlight wisdom, courage, and honesty among others, yet the preservation of knowledge through oral traditions, coupled with genocide, has resulted in Indigenous North American philosophies being largely obscured (ACF, 2021; Reyhner & Eder, 2017). EARLY CHILDHOOD CURRICULA: A CURRENT STATE OF THE FIELD This section describes the prevalence of preschool curricula, the underlying theories and approaches among existing curricula, the topical domains that are covered, curricula intended for various early childhood settings, and the availability of existing curricula. A wide array of curricula have been developed and studied. The committee’s commissioned literature review identified 172 existing preschool curricula 1 (see Appendix A). The curricula identified include only those that are discussed or referenced in publications or other publicly available resources; preschool curricula that are proprietary, locally developed, or not included in published sources may not be represented in this count. Although many curricula exist, only a few are used widely by preschool programs. Nationally representative surveys show that the top two commercially available curricula used in publicly funded pre-K programs are the Creative Curriculum and HighScope—both of which are multidomain (Doran et al., 2022; National Survey of Early Care and Education Project Team, 2015). However, The Creative Curriculum is the most common primary curriculum in both Head Start programs and preschool programs funded by state or local agencies. Locally developed curricula and no use of curriculum are less common in Head Start programs than in other publicly funded preschool programs (Doran et al, 2022).; this difference in use is most likely due to programmatic requirements (e.g., Head Start Program Performance Standards require a curriculum). 1 The curricula identified as a part of the committee’s commissioned literature review were not evaluated for their effectiveness or for their alignment with the committee’s definitions of quality or equity. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-17 Preschool Curricula by Domain Preschool curricula vary in the topic areas and domains of learning they include, with some curricula covering multiple domains and others focusing on a specific subject area or domain of learning. Comprehensive curricula (also referred to as “whole-child” or “global” curricula) are aimed at supporting children’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development, and include content across the multiple academic and social domains of early childhood education (Jenkins and Duncan, 2017; Odom et al., 2019; Zigler and Bishop-Josef, 2006). Implicit in the concept of comprehensive curricula is inclusion of all domains that are important or relevant for young children’s development and achievement. In addition, Head Start and many state-funded pre-K programs require the implementation of comprehensive curricula (Fantuzzo et al., 2011) The commissioned literature search revealed that comprehensive curricula are often advertised as complete sets of instructional materials and strategies that cover most or all domains. In this report, the committee uses the term “comprehensive curricula” to indicate when more than one domain is included but does not assess the extent to which these domains include all important content. National organizations (e.g., NAEYC, 2018; NAEYC and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education [NAECS-SDE], 2003) recommend using these wide-scope, comprehensive curricula to promote whole-child development. In contrast with comprehensive curricula, domain-specific curricula (also known as developmentally focused, content-specific, or targeted curricula) center on a particular subject area or developmental domain, such as mathematics, literacy, or social-emotional development (Jenkins and Duncan, 2017). Supporters of domain-specific curricula have pointed to the strong evidence bas for these curricula as an effective approach for improving children's outcomes in competencies with a focused scope (Jenkins et al., 2018; Phillips et al., 2017; Yoshikawa, 2011). There are differing perspectives on the advantages of using multidomain versus domain- specific curricula in classrooms. A key advantage of comprehensive curricula is that all instructional content is theoretically coherent and aligned within the single set of curriculum materials, without requiring early childhood educators individually having to determine the pacing and integration of multiple curricula. On the other hand, a key advantage of domain- specific curricula is that the instructional materials may provide more depth and focus on that one domain, with the possibility of better supporting child learning in that topic area. In practice, educators use a variety of approaches to curriculum content, including using just one comprehensive curriculum, using a domain-specific curriculum to supplement a comprehensive curriculum (e.g., HighScope supplemented by Numbers Plus math, Wakabayashi et al., 2020), and combining several domain-specific curricula. For example, Boston’s public preschool program combined two domain-specific curricula with strong evidence of effectiveness—a math curriculum called Building Blocks (Clements and Sarama, 2007) and a language and literacy- focused curriculum called Opening the World of Learning (Schickedanz and Dickinson, 2005)— to support children’s learning in those two domains (Weiland and Yoshikawa, 2013). More recently, Boston developed their own comprehensive curriculum building from Opening the World of Learning and Building Blocks, Focus on PreK that includes separate programs for 3’s and 4’s. The content of the curriculum addresses MA state PreK standards including approaches Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-18 to learning, literacy, language, social-emotional learning, social studies, science and engineering, and the arts, and incorporates Building Blocks math curriculum. In addition, the 2023 revision includes a focus on equitable literacy and projects (Boston Public Schools Department of Early Childhood, 2023). About half of (n=88) the preschool curricula identified in the literature search address multiple developmental domains—usually from four to eight domains. Most comprehensive preschool curricula address the domains of literacy/language, math, science, social-emotional learning, and the arts. Comprehensive curricula are especially popular in Head Start programs because the Head Start Program Performance Standards require that curricula be aligned with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework and state early learning standards, which vary from state to state. In addition, curricula must educate the “whole child,” offering developmentally appropriate learning experiences in the domains of language, literacy, social and emotional development, mathematics, science, social studies, creative arts, and physical development (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016). Of the curricula identified in the literature review, about half are domain-specific, with nearly half of those focused on literacy/language. The second most common domain-specific curricula target social-emotional development. Few domain-specific curricula center on mathematics, science, social studies, or the arts. These findings are consistent with prior research on teachers’ and families’ beliefs about language/literacy, which shows that teachers and families tend to view language/literacy development as more important than math development (see National Research Council [NRC], 2009, for a review.) These results also echo the core findings from a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report on science and engineering in preschool through the elementary grades (NASEM, 2022)—that science is seldom attended to in the early grades and that language/literacy is prioritized over other domains. Preschool Curricula by Setting Preschool education can be offered in various settings, including public schools, Head Start agencies, private schools, private child care centers, and home-based or family child care (FCC). These settings vary in their characteristics, funding sources, and requirements (Jenkins et al., 2019). Although most published preschool curricula are designed to be implemented in any educational setting or program, the curricula do not always meet the needs of FCC providers. FCCs settings stand apart from other settings in that they serve small, mixed-age groups of children (typically, ages 0–5), so they need curricula that can be used not only with preschoolers but also with younger children (Bromer et al., 2021). In reviewing the evidence, the committee found limited information on FCCs. In addition, the committee found few commercial preschool curricula (with the exception of the Creative Curriculum for Family Child Care and Redleaf Family Child Care Curriculum) that target FCCs or offer them guidance in adapting the curriculum to mixed-age groups. In addition, family child care providers have shared in prior studies (e.g., School Readiness Consulting, 2019, 2021) that most curricula cater to center- or school-based providers that serve single-age or narrower age-range groups and have more staff and children. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-19 Preschool Curricula by Availability The landscape of preschool curricula includes those that can be purchased as commercial off-the-shelf packages; those that have been developed for public use but are not widely available (and may or may not be included in the research literature); those that are proprietary and were developed for use in specific private preschool programs, which are not available for purchase; and those that were developed locally and were designed by local educators or districts for use in their own classrooms, but are not intended for public distribution (Duncan et al., 2015). Most preschool curricula are commercially available, and publishing companies have a significant influence on curriculum uptake by preschool programs (Duncan et al., 2015; SRC, 2022). Preschool curricula are often created by educational researchers and practitioners and then sold to programs by publishers (Duncan et al., 2015). The committee found that over the past 20 years, McGraw-Hill has published the largest number of preschool curricula—14 of the 172 identified in the literature search. During this same time period, most other large curriculum publishers (e.g., Kaplan Early Learning, Brookes Publishing, Pearson) produced from 3 to 6 curricula. In total, 17% of the identified curricula (30 of 172) were sold by medium to large publishing companies. A small proportion of the identified curricula were commercialized by universities or by small publishing companies. These curricula are typically less well known and have a smaller market share than curricula published by large companies. Importantly, the committee’s literature review found, based on the reviewed publications and publishers’ websites, that none of the commercially available curricula are described as grounded in equity principles, antibias approaches, or cultural responsiveness (SRC, 2022)—although, as discussed below, some curricula offer suggestions for incorporating children’s and families’ cultures. Proprietary and locally developed curricula are unavailable to the public. The literature review revealed that 17 (10%) of the existing curricula were developed by private child care organizations and are not publicly available. For example, KinderCare Learning Centers—a for- profit operator of more than 1,300 child care facilities across 39 states and the District of Columbia—developed a comprehensive preschool curriculum that is not commercially available (Early Foundations Curriculum for Prekindergarten) and is used solely in its facilities. 5 Other preschool curricula often unavailable to the public are those developed by local educators (Duncan et al., 2015). Locally developed curricula may incorporate components of various commercial curricula and/or activities that local teachers have created (Duncan et al., 2015). Nationally representative surveys indicate that locally developed curricula are especially common in family child care settings and private child care centers, where teachers/providers generally have more flexibility to design their own lesson plans and assessment tools (Doran et al., 2022; National Survey of Early Care and Education Project Team, 2015; Jenkins et al., 2019). In essence, very few preschool curricula are freely available. Two comprehensive curricula (CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum and Focus on Pre-K) and two domain-specific curricula (Problem Solvers, a math curriculum, and Read It Again–PreK (RIA), a literacy curriculum) are offered for free in their digital format. These curricula were developed through collaborative partnerships involving academics, teachers, administrators, and district- or state-level leaders 5 See https://www.kindercare.com/our-centers#AL for more information on KinderCare. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-20 (see Justice and McGinty, 2013; McCormick et al., 2024). While research on the CIRCLE Pre-K Curriculum and Problem Solvers is scant, there is growing empirical evidence of the positive effects on children’s outcomes of Read It Again (see Durán et al., 2016; Hilbert & Eis, 2014; Justice et al., 2008; Mashburn et al., 2016) and Focus on Pre-K 6 (McCormick et al., 2024; Weiland, 2016a; Weiland & Yoshikawa, 2013). The free curricula are not as well known or widely used as commercially available curricula, and the limited number of free or low-cost curricula, as well as the lack of public awareness and low uptake of those that exist, may be a factor contributing to differences in curriculum use. Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Program Approaches and Curricula A number of notable small scale longitudinal studies from the 1960s and 1970s demonstrated that high-quality early childhood educational experiences have the potential to convey long-term benefits for children, including improved school performance, higher future earnings, health, and well-being (Campbell et al., 2002, 2012; NASEM, 2023a; Schweinhart et al., 2005). Yet while these rigorously reviewed programs (e.g., the Abecedarian Project , the HighScope Perry Preschool study, the Chicago Child–Parent Center study) have resulted in long- term positive outcomes for children, some scholars have criticized the approaches used in these older studies (e.g., terminology, deficit perspective), how quality was defined, and lack of attention to the lived experiences of young children from diverse backgrounds and contexts (Derman-Sparks & Moore, 2016; Allen et al., 2021; Bruno and Iruka, 2022; NASEM, 2023a). The philosophies underpinning existing early childhood programs often were historically grounded in one of two perspectives: the first held that “lower income families were incapable of properly socializing their children”; the second emphasized the “potential benefits that would accrue to young children from a program attuned to their developmental needs—one that also prepared them for elementary school,” noting that “as far back as the 1820s and 1830s, infant education was promoted as a kind of ‘head start’ for children’s educational careers” (Cahan, 1989, pp. 10–11). However, programs that focused on enrichment were available only for middle- and upper-income White families, creating a two-tier system. The goal of programs serving children from poor families, such as the early ones in Boston and the federal and religious boarding schools targeting Native American children, was to provide them with moral training, assimilate them into the larger society, and suppress their languages and cultural identity (Newland, 2022). Thus, while the underlying philosophical premise of early childhood curriculum is ostensibly focused on child-initiated experiences, inquiry, discovery, and the development of social competence, without consideration of their cultural and linguistic strengths, the implementation of these curricula for Black, Indigenous, and other children of color; multilingual children, children with disabilities; and children living in poverty may have unintentionally focused on “fixing” them to remedy their “cultural deprivation” under the assumption that “other” cultural groups (apart from White European middle-class families) are unable to support children’s holistic development. In contrast, contemporary scholars advocate for revisiting these early models with strengths-based program approaches that consider the relevance and sensitivity of program 6 https://www.bpsearlylearning.org/focus-on-prek Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-21 outcomes, processes, and practices to children’s sociocultural heritage, language, cultural values, and healthy racial identity development (NASEM, 2023a). Strengths-based approaches also incorporates children's sociocultural context into the program design (Allen et al., 2021; Bruno & Iruka, 2022). Such strengths-based approaches are “rooted in respect and appreciation for the role of culture in children’s learning and development” (NCECDTL, 2020, p. 10). As noted earlier, however, although contemporary approaches (e.g., culturally responsive teaching [Gay, 2018], culturally relevant pedagogy [Ladson-Billings, 1995]) view curricula that respectfully acknowledge and respect difference and diversity as a goal, early childhood curricula firmly rooted in the theoretical values and worldviews of the diversity of cultures and languages of Black, Indigenous, and other children of color are lacking. Few curricula today are considered to show full evidence of cultural responsiveness—that is, the curriculum offers specific guidance and teaching strategies related to cultural responsiveness embedded throughout the materials (NCECDTL, 2020). The commissioned literature review found that among the 17 mainstream preschool curricula identified, only 5—the Creative Curriculum for Preschool, Galileo Pre-K Online Curriculum, HighScope Preschool Curriculum, Frog Street Pre-K, and World of Wonders—showed moderate evidence of cultural responsiveness (i.e., the curricula provide general guidance on effective practices, but do not provide specific, embedded teaching strategies throughout the materials). Moreover, while these curricula provide some guidance for teachers on how to adapt lessons and materials to children’s diverse home culture and languages, no specific strategies are included to help teachers interact with children and their families, create culturally responsive learning experiences, and use relevant instructional resources, although home-based curricula are more effective in this regard (School Readiness Consulting, 2022). Such curriculum adaptations may be especially helpful for teachers who are unfamiliar with culturally responsive, antibias curriculum and teaching practices, and teachers who are new to such approaches often need guidance on how to put them into practice and incorporate their students’ identities and languages into daily classroom activities (Derman-Sparks & the A.B.C. Task Force, 1989; Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2020; Kimura et al., 2022; Nganga, 2015). Thus, curriculum can serve as a scaffold for teachers to move from theoretical to practical understanding of cultural and linguistic responsiveness and antibias education (Nganga, 2015). Some preschool curricula not yet considered mainstream warrant recognition for their cultural responsiveness. For example, the publicly available Focus on K0/K1 curricula used by Boston Public Schools are guided by an asset-based approach to classroom cultural diversity. In professional development materials focused on teachers’ cultural competency, it is emphasized that “cultural responsiveness is not just celebrating holidays, different customs, traditions, etc. but also actively challenging bias, stereotypes, and building children’s ability to do the same” (Ramsey, 2020, video). Cultural responsiveness is made visible in the classroom through classroom materials (e.g., images and resources representative of the children in the classroom and the wider world, nursery rhymes and music from around the world); processes (i.e., providing children with background information so they can interact meaningfully with instructional content); and products (i.e., making children’s learning visible to highlight diverse cultural understandings and experiences). Recently, researchers at New York University developed a Culturally Responsive Curriculum Scorecard (Bryan-Gooden et al., 2019), which Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-22 consists of checklists intended to help place specific practices, instructional materials, and interactions on a continuum from culturally responsive to culturally destructive. While some curricula are designed to promote culturally responsive instruction, recent literature highlights the need to go beyond responsiveness and actively practice antibias pedagogy. Antibias instruction goes beyond celebrating diversity, infusing everything that happens in a program—including interactions among teachers, children, families, and administrators—and shaping how the curriculum is implemented every day (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2020). Antibias instruction fulfills four distinct goals: “support children’s development of a confident sense of identity without needing to feel superior to others; an ease with human diversity; a sense of fairness and justice; the skills of empowerment and the ability to stand up for themselves or for others” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2020). However, there is no evidence that any present curriculum is explicitly grounded in antibias/anti-racist principles, although scholars (e.g., Husband & Escayg, 2022) have laid out theoretical models for such curricula. There is a need to address the ecosystem of early childhood curricula, from publishers to developers, as well as to interrogate the theoretical frameworks that guide curriculum development and implementation. Also needed is explicit attention to how curriculum and pedagogy (along with other processes, such as assessment) converge to create culturally incongruent and inequitable learning opportunities. Curricula that fail to take the lived experiences of the plurality of minoritized children, families, and communities into account maintain the status quo. REPORT ORGANIZATION The committee was charged with developing a new vision for high-quality preschool curriculum that would support equitable curriculum development, state- and program-level preschool curriculum decisions and selection, and local curriculum implementation. The remaining chapters of this report present the committee’s findings, conclusions, recommendations, as well as areas for future research. As a foundation for the committee’s vision, Chapter 2 describes the current evidence base for the effectiveness and implementation of high-quality preschool curriculum. This is followed in Chapter 3 by an overview of findings from neuroscience and other research on how children develop and learn optimally. Building on this evidence base, Chapter 4 articulates the committee’s new vision for high-quality, equity- driven curricula and provides guidance for curriculum developers and decision makers. Chapters 5 then describes conditions for the implementation of learning environments for implementing effective curriculum and early education for all children. Chapter 6 looks at specialized and targeted curricula for children with disabilities, while Chapter 7 focuses on high-quality curricula and practices that support multilingual learners. Chapter 8 reviews state and program-level policies that impact and guide the selection and implementation of high-quality curricula. Chapter 9 examines variations in curricular effects. Finally, Chapter 10 presents the committee’s key conclusions and recommendations regarding support for high-quality, equitable curriculum development, state and program-level preschool curriculum selection, and local curriculum implementation. This chapter also identifies key areas for future research based on gaps identified by the committee during its review of the literature, as well as resources needed to Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

INTRODUCTION 1-23 support research that can produce valid and reliable estimates of variations in curriculum effects and identify sources of variation. REFERENCES Adair, J.K. (2015). The impact of discrimination on the early schooling experiences of children from immigrant families. Migration Policy Institute. Available: https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/impact-discrimination-early-schooling-experiences- children-immigrant-families Agyemang, C., Bhopal, R., & Bruijnzeels, M. (2005). Negro, Black, Black African, African Caribbean, African American or what? Labelling African origin populations in the health arena in the 21st century. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 59(12), 1014-1018. Allen, R., Shapland, D. L., Neitzel, J., & Iruka, I. U. (2021). Creating anti-racist early childhood spaces. YC Young Children, 76(2), 49–54. Available: https://fpg.unc.edu/publications/viewpoint-creating- anti-racist-early-childhood-spaces Anti-bias curriculum: Tools for empowering young children. National Association for the Education of Young Children, Washington, DC Barnes-Najor, J. & Jacki Haight. (2021). Innovations in tribal early childhood programs. In ACF Launches a Webinar Series for Tribal Early Childhood Programs. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ecd/Innovations-in-Tribal-Early-Childhood- Programs-Report-on-a-Webinar-Series.pdf Barnett, W. S., & Jung, K. (2021). Seven impacts of the pandemic on young children and their parents: Initial findings from NIEER’s December 2020 Preschool Learning Activities Survey. New Brunswick, NJ: National Institute for Early Education Research. Bassok, D., & Galdo, E. (2016). Inequality in preschool quality? Community-level disparities in access to high-quality learning environments. Early Education and Development, 27(1), 128–144. https://doi.org/10.1080/10409289.2015.1057463 Belfield, C. R., Nores, M., Barnett, S., & Schweinhart, L. (2006). The High/Scope Perry preschool program cost-benefit analysis using data from the age-40 followup. Journal of Human Resources, 41(1), 162–190. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40057261. Boston Public Schools Department of Early Childhood, (2023). Focus on Pre-K: Orientation to the revised curriculum. www.bpsearlylearning.org Branscombe, N. A., Burcham, J. G., Castle, K., & Surbeck, E. (2013). Early childhood curriculum: A constructivist perspective. 2nd edition. Routledge. Bredekamp, S., & Joseph, G. E. (2024). Effective practices in early childhood education: Building a foundation (5th ed.). Pearson Education. Bromer, J., Porter, T., Jones, C., Ragonese-Barnes, M. & Orland, J. (2021). Quality in home-based child care: A review of selected literature (OPRE Report No. 2021-136). Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/report/quality-home-based-child-care-review- selected-literature Bronfenbrenner, U. (Ed.). (2004). Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development. Thousand Oaks, CA:Sage Publications, Inc. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (2006). The bioecological model of human development. In R.M. Lerner & W. Damon (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology (6th ed.), Vol. 1, Theoretical models of human development (pp. 793–828). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Crouter, A.C. (1983). The evolution of environmental models in developmental research. In W. Kessen (Series Ed.) & P.H. Mussen (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 1. History, theory, and methods (4th ed., pp.357–414). New York: Wiley. Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

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INTRODUCTION 1-25 Derman-Sparks, L., & Edwards, J. O. (2020). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children. DeVries, R., Zan, B., Hildebrandt, C., Edmiaston, R., & Sales, C. (2002). Developing constructivist early childhood curriculum: Practical principles and activities. Williston, VT. Teachers College Press. Dobbins, D., McCready, M., & Rackas, L. (2016). Unequal access: Barriers to early childhood education for boys of color. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. https://www.childcareaware.org/boysofcolor/ Doran, E., Reid N., Bernstein S., Nguyen T , Dang M., Li A., Kopack Klein A. , Rakibullah S., Scott M., Cannon J., Harrington J., Larson A., Tarullo L., & Malone L. (2022). A Portrait of Head Start Classrooms and Programs in Spring 2020: FACES 2019 Descriptive Data Tables and Study Design. OPRE Report #2022-15. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/report/portrait-head-start-classrooms-and-programs-spring-2020-faces- 2019-descriptive-data Duncan, G. J., Jenkins, J. M., Auger, A., Burchinal, M., Domina, T., & Bitler, M. (2015). Boosting school readiness with preschool curricula. Irvine Networks on Interventions in Development. https://compcenternetwork.org/sites/default/files/archive/Duncanetal_PreschoolCurricula_20151.pdf Durán, L. K., Gorman, B. K., Kohlmeier, T., & Callard, C. (2016). The feasibility and usability of the Read It Again Dual Language and literacy curriculum. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(5), 453–461. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-015-0729-y Engle, P. L., Fernald, L. C. H., Alderman, H., Behrman, J., O’Gara, C., Yousafzai, A., De Mello, M. C., Hidrobo, M., Ulkuer, N., Ertem, I., & Iltus, S. (2011). Strategies for reducing inequalities and improving developmental outcomes for young children in low-income and middle-income countries. Lancet, 378(9799), 1339–1353. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60889-1. Epstein, A.S. (2014). Essentials of active learning in preschool: Getting to know the HighScope curriculum. HighScope Press. Fantuzzo, J. W., Gadsden, V. L., & McDermott, P. A. (2011). An integrated curriculum to improve mathematics, language, and literacy for Head Start children. American Educational Research Journal, 48(3), 763-793. Freire, P. (1973). Education for critical consciousness. New York, NY: Seabury Press. Friedman-Krauss, A. H., Barnett, W. S., Garver, K. A., Hodges, K. S., Weisenfeld, G., Gardiner, B. A., & Jost, T. M. (2022). The state of preschool 2021: State preschool yearbook. New Brunswick, NJ.National Institute for Early Education Research. https://nieer.org/state- preschool-yearbooks- yearbook2021 García Coll, C., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H.P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B.H., and Vázquez García, H. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67(5):1891-914. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.1996.tb01834.x Gay, G. (2018). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. teachers college press. Gort, M., & Sembiante, S. F. (2015). Navigating hybridized language learning spaces through translanguaging pedagogy: Dual language preschool teachers’ languaging practices in support of emergent bilingual children’s performance of academic discourse. International Multilingual Research Journal, 9(1), 7–25. https://doi.org/10.1080/19313152.2014.981775 Hancock, R. E. (2017). Global citizenship education: Emancipatory practice in a New York preschool. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 31(4), 571–580. https://doi.org/10.1080/02568543.2017.1346731 Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore, Md: Paul H Brookes Publishing Company. Heckman, J.J. & Karapakula, G. (2019a). Intergenerational and intragenerational externalities of the Perry Preschool Project: NBER Working Paper No. 25889. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. DOI:10.3386/w25889. https://www.nber.org/papers/w25889 Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

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INTRODUCTION 1-27 Limlingan, M.C., McWayne, C.M., Sanders, E.A., & López, M.L. (2020). Classroom language contexts as predictors of Latinx preschool dual language learners’ school readiness. American Educational Research Journal, 57(1), 339–70. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831219855694. Magnuson, K. A., Ruhm, C., & Waldfogel, J. (2007). Does prekindergarten improve school preparation and performance? Economics of Education Review, 26(1), 33–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2005.09.008 Malik, R., Hamm, K., Schochet, L., Novoa, C., Workman, S., & Jessen-Howard, S. (2018). America’s child care deserts in 2018. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/article/americas-child-care-deserts-2018/ Mashburn, A., Justice, L. M., McGinty, A., & Slocum, L. (2016). The impacts of a scalable intervention on the language and literacy development of rural pre-kindergartners. Applied Developmental Science, 20(1), 61–78. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2015.1051622 Matusov, E., & Hayes, R. (2000). Sociocultural critique of Piaget and Vygotsky. New Ideas in Psychology, 18(2-3), 215-239. McCormick, M. P., MacDowell, C., Weiland, C., Hsueh, J., Maier, M., Pralica, M., ... & Sachs, J. (2024). Instructional alignment is associated with PreK persistence: Evidence from the Boston Public Schools. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 67, 89-100. Meek, S., Iruka, I. U., Allen, R., Yazzie, D., Fernandez, V., Catherine, E., McIntosh, K., Gordon, L., Gilliam, W., Hemmeter, M. L., Blevins, D., & Powell, T. (2020). Start with Equity: Fourteen priorities to dismantle systemic racism in early care and education. The Children’s Equity Project. Retrieved from: https://childandfamilysuccess.asu.edu/cep Melhuish, E., Ereky-Stevens, K., Petrogiannis, K., Ariescu, A., Penderi, E., Rentzou, K., Tawell, A., Slot, P., Broekhuizen, M., & Leseman, P. (2015). A review of research on the effects of Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) upon child development (Curriculum Quality Analysis and Impact Review of European Early Childhood Education and Care). CARE. https://dspace.library.uu.nl/bitstream/handle/1874/326604/new_version_CARE_WP4_D4_1_Review_o n_the_effe cts_of_ECEC.pdf?sequence=1 Melzi, G. Curenton, S., Harris, K., & Jarquin, C. (2021, May 26). CEED is embracing Latine. CEED blog. https://www.bu- ceed.org/community-blog/ceed-is-embracing-latine Merriam Webster (n.d.). Racialization. Merriam Webster Dictionary. https://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/racialization Merriam Webster (n.d.).Marginalized. Merriam Webster Dictionary. https://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/marginalized Miranda, A. R., Perez-Brumer, A., & Charlton, B. M. (2023). Latino? Latinx? Latine? A call for inclusive categories in epidemiologic research. American Journal of Epidemiology, 192(12), 1929-1932. Morris, S., & Smith, L. (2021, June). Examples of mixed-delivery early care and education systems. Bipartisan Policy Center blog. https://bipartisanpolicy.org/blog/examples-of-mixed-delivery-early- care-and-education-systems/ Muhammad, G. (2023). Unearthing Joy: A Guide to culturally and Historically Responsive Teaching and Learning. New York, NY: Scholastic. Nãone, C. K., & Au, K. (2010). Culture as a framework versus ingredient in early childhood education: A native Hawaiian perspective. In O. Saracho & B. Spodek (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives on language and cultural diversity in early childhood education (pp. 147-165). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2002). Scientific Research in Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10236. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). Communities in action: Pathways to health equity. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018). Transforming the financing of early care and education. Washington, DC. National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/24984 Prepublication Copy, Uncorrected Proofs

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A high-quality preschool education can foster critical development and learning that promotes joyful, affirming, and enriching learning opportunities that prepare children for success in school and life. While preschool programs generally provide emotionally supportive environments, their curricula often fall short in advancing learning in math, early literacy, and science, and lack the necessary support for multilingual learners emerging bilingualism. Additionally, access to high-quality, effective early learning experiences may be limited and inadequate based on factors such as a childs race, location, gender, language, identified disability, and socioeconomic status.

A New Vision for High-Quality Preschool Curriculum examines preschool curriculum quality for children from ages three to five, with special attention to the needs of Black and Latine children, multilingual learners, children with disabilities and children experiencing poverty in the United States. The report articulates a vision for high-quality preschool curricula for all children, grounded in an equity and justice-oriented principles from inception to implementation and evaluation.

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