ERIC Identifier: ED345867
Publication Date: 1992-00-00
Author: Lombardi, Joan
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Beyond Transition: Ensuring Continuity in Early Childhood
Services. ERIC Digest.
In the early childhood field, the word TRANSITION is used in many different
ways. Traditionally, TRANSITION has been used to describe the period of time
that falls between two different types of activities. TRANSITION may also be
used to describe the time period in which children move from home to school,
from school to after-school activities, from one activity to another within a
preschool, or from preschool to kindergarten. In each case, early childhood
professionals have been concerned with easing the transition between two
different types of activities or environments.
CONTINUITY: A CONCEPT REVISITED
With more and more children
participating in early childhood programs before they enter school, there is an
increasing focus on the transition that occurs when children move from preschool
to kindergarten. Many children have problems adjusting to elementary school
programs that have a different philosophy, teaching style, and structure than
those programs in which they participated during their earlier years. Transition
efforts were designed to help ease the entry into school by preparing both
children and families for the differences children will encounter.
But more recently, there has been a growing consensus that the key to
effective services for young children is less through bridging the gap between
different types of programs, and more through ensuring continuity in certain key
elements that characterize all good early childhood programs. This notion of
continuity is not new. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, efforts such as
Project Developmental Continuity and Follow-Through were designed to ensure that
the principles of good early childhood programs continued into the early years
of elementary school. But today's concept of continuity has changed in several
respects. First, there is now much more consensus in the field regarding what
constitutes appropriate practice in all types of early childhood programs from
infancy through the primary grades. There is also growing recognition that
parent involvement is a key to a child's success and should be encouraged as
children move on to elementary school. Finally, the need for supportive services
for both children and families has intensified. Comprehensive family support and
health services are critical components throughout the early years.
TOWARDS CONTINUITY: THREE KEY ELEMENTS
If programs are to
provide effective early childhood services throughout children's early years,
they must share at least three characteristics: developmentally appropriate
practice, parent involvement, and supportive services for children and families.
DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE. Continuity across early childhood
services is facilitated by the degree to which all programs are developmentally
appropriate. Naturally, the setting, age range, and abilities of the children
will differ across programs. As children progress from preschool to kindergarten
and on to the primary grades, they show increased motor and language skills,
they can pay attention longer, they can play more cooperatively, and they are
more able to develop interests that go beyond their immediate surroundings.
Throughout the preschool and early elementary years, children learn best through
active exploration of their environment and through interactions with adults,
other children, and concrete materials that build on earlier experiences.
Programs for young children should not be seen as either play-oriented or
academic. Rather, developmentally appropriate practice, whether in a preschool
or a primary classroom, should respond to the natural curiosity of young
children, reaffirm a sense of self, promote positive dispositions towards
learning, and help build increasingly complex skills in the use of language,
problem solving, and cooperation.
PARENT INVOLVEMENT. One hallmark of any successful early childhood program is
the degree to which it involves parents. Such involvement should not stop when
children reach the schoolhouse door. Good schools for young children welcome
family members in ways that go well beyond traditional parent activities such as
fundraising and annual parent-teacher conferences. Ongoing communication between
parents and teachers has become increasingly important. Parents can be involved
as decision makers, volunteers, and staff. They can participate in parent
education and support groups, be encouraged to observe the classroom, and, in
general, take a more active role in their child's education both at school and
Schools also need to respond to the diversity among families. Parent
activities need to be responsive to the language and culture of the family and
be tailored to meet specific needs of teen parents, single parents, working
parents, blended families, and families with special service needs. Given the
increasing number of working parents with young children, employers can be
supportive of parent involvement by providing release time for parent
participation and by initiating policies that support work and family life.
SUPPORTIVE SERVICES. Effective early childhood programs, particularly those
for low-income families, need to respond to the comprehensive needs of children
and families for health care, child care, and other family supports.
Traditionally, schools have not played a role in ensuring that such services are
provided. Yet there is a growing recognition that schools are the natural hub
for child and family services. New relationships between school and other health
and human service providers are emerging as comprehensive services are
integrated into public education.
Supportive services that include school and parent representation promote
collaborative processes and community development. The uniting of school and
community resources and concerns, and the clear recognition of the fact that the
school is embedded in its community, sustain healthy environments and contribute
greatly to continuity for children and families.
Traditional notions of transition, which focus
on bridging the gaps between different types of early childhood programs, are
changing. Because we now know that young children learn in similar ways
throughout the early years, all programs in the community should adhere to
developmentally appropriate principles from infancy through the primary grades.
In addition, parent involvement, family support, and linkages to health
services, which often characterize preschool programs, should continue into the
early years of elementary school. It is through the continuity of such services,
in and out of the classroom, that we will eventually move beyond a concern for
transition and ensure continuous and effective services throughout the early
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Behrman, Richard (Ed.). THE FUTURE OF
CHILDREN: SCHOOL LINKED SERVICES. Los Altos, California: Center for the Future
of Children. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 1992.
Bredekamp, S. (Ed.). DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE PRACTICE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD
PROGRAMS SERVING CHILDREN FROM BIRTH THROUGH AGE 8. Washington, D.C.: NAEYC,
Epps, Willie J. "Issues in Strengthening Linkages and the Transitions of
Children," NHSA JOURNAL 10 (Winter, 1991): 44-48.
Kagan, Sharon L. "Head Start, Families and Schools: Creating Transitions That
Work," NHSA JOURNAL 10 (Winter, 1991): 40-43.
Katz, Lilian G. ENGAGING CHILDREN'S MINDS: THE PROJECT APPROACH. Norwood, New
Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1989.
Levy, J.E., and Copple, C. JOINING FORCES: A REPORT FROM THE FIRST YEAR.
Alexandria, Virginia: National Association of State Boards of Education, 1989.
Lombardi, J. (Ed.). EASING THE TRANSITION FROM PRESCHOOL TO KINDERGARTEN.
Washington, D.C.: Administration for Children, Youth and Families, OHDS, USDHHS,
1986. ED 313130.
Melaville, A., and Blank, M. WHAT IT TAKES: STRUCTURING INTERAGENCY PARTNERSHIPS TO CONNECT CHILDREN AND FAMILIES WITH COMPREHENSIVE SERVICES. Washington, D.C.: Education and Human Services Consortium, 1991. ED 330748.
National Association of State Boards of Education. RIGHT FROM THE START.
Alexandria, Virginia: National Association of State Boards of Education, 1987.
National Association of State Boards of Education. CARING COMMUNITIES:
SUPPORTING YOUNG CHILDREN AND FAMILIES. Alexandria, Virginia: National
Association of State Boards of Education, 1991.
"Position Statement: Guidelines for Appropriate Curriculum Content and
Assessment in Programs Serving Children Ages 3 Through 8." YOUNG CHILDREN 46
(March, 1991): 21-38.