• by José L. Rodríguez • IDRA Newsletter • March 2004 •
The Hispanic population in the United States is very young. One in five zero to 5-year-olds are Hispanic. Hispanics also are the youngest ethnic group, and children under five represent about 11 percent of the total Hispanic population (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000).
IDRA recognized these projections 11 years ago when the first Annual IDRA La Semana del Niño Early Childhood Educators Institute was begun to celebrate the International Week of the Young Child. It is a professional development experience that enhances early childhood educators’ professional skills and gives them opportunities to network with colleagues and other experts and to learn from each other. Thousands of teachers, administrators and parents have been a part of this experience.
IDRA’s mission “to create schools that work for all children” is always the focus of the institute to ensure that all children receive quality and equitable education throughout Texas and the United States. The institute focuses on ensuring that children who speak a language other than English benefit from quality instructional programs that capitalize on students’ language and culture.
In fact, this institute is the only early childhood conference that focuses on English language learners.
Pedagogy and Curriculum
In 2000, White children had higher assessment scores in reading than Black children and Hispanic children. Access to high quality preschool is a key factor in achievement of young children. IDRA’s early childhood institute has addressed these issues from the start and will continue doing so until these gaps narrow.
A major instructional concern in early childhood literacy programs is the varied language backgrounds of the children who come to daycare centers, preschools, kindergartens, and first, second, and third grades (Mandel Morrow, 2001).
The IDRA conference dedicates a day to each of the following concentrations: curriculum and pedagogy, features of successful early childhood programs, and parent and community engagement.
IDRA provides excellent presenters to share their knowledge and experience in early childhood education.
When selecting presenters for the institute, we look closely at what they will be teaching and how this information will be disseminated. We want the participants to gather information, but also take this information and incorporate it into their own teaching.
It is equally important to address the socio-cultural issues that language-minority children bring with them to school on a daily basis.
Features of Quality Early Childhood Education
Having received quality information on curriculum and pedagogy, institute participants are then guided through the features of quality early childhood programs. They get the opportunity to visit some of San Antonio’s best early childhood programs in action. Teachers are able to see some of the same concepts being taught in different ways and augment their own teaching of the concept.
One participant stated, “Visiting the school was so beneficial, and it was exciting for me to see a dual language in action.”
After the site visits, the participants attend various concurrent sessions that highlight the features of quality early childhood programs such as classroom environment, learning centers, and preparing print-rich environments. Participants enjoy finding more information on Parents As Teachers (PAT), HIPPY, Even Start, and Head Start programs and their features.
Community and Parent Engagement
As parents’ education attainment increases, so does the early childhood enrollment rate of their children. However, in 2001, fewer Hispanics age 25 and older had completed high school than their Black and White counterparts – 57 percent of Hispanics, had completed high school, compared to 89 percent of Whites and 81 percent of other non-Hispanics (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002).
On the third and final day of the IDRA institute, educators receive information on the importance of parent and community engagement. Parents of young children and professionals working with young children watch with anticipation the developmental milestones indicating a child is picking up the skills expected at a certain age.
In the first year of life, the focus is typically on motor skills. In the second year attention shifts to language development (Shiver, 2001). It is interesting to see parents and teachers interacting and learning from each other.
A powerful feature of the IDRA La Semana del Niño Early Childhood Educators Institute is the parent conference component. This full-day event concentrates on the challenges in early childhood education and how to maximize parent leadership. Parents and educators share ways to focus their leadership to enhance early childhood learning.
This professional development experience enhances early childhood educators’ professional skills and gives the participants an opportunity to network with colleagues and other experts.
The 11th annual institute is being held in San Antonio on April 20-22, 2004 (see Pages 10 and 11 for details).
For 30 years, IDRA has been on the cutting-edge of current knowledge and research and was visionary when the first IDRA La Semana del Niño Early Childhood Educators Institute was held 11 years ago.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Projections of the Population by Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States; 1999 to 2100 (Middle Series) (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000).
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Current Population Survey, Table 7.1 Educational Attainment of the Population 25 Years and Over by Sex, Hispanic Origin, and Race: March 2002 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2002).
Shiver, E. “Brain Development and Mastery of Language in the Early Childhood Years,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, April 2001).
Mandel Morrow, L. Literacy Development In The Early Years: Helping Children Read and Write (4th ed.) (Boston, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon, 2001).
National Center for Education Statistics. The Condition of Education, 2003, Special Analysis of Readying – Young Children’s Achievement and Classroom Experiences (Washington, D.C.: NCES, 2003).
José Rodríguez is an education associate in the IDRA Division of Professional Development. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2004, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the March 2004 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]