National Academies Releases Scientific Review of Equity Gaps
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released a prepublication copy of its recent report, Closing the Opportunity Gap for Young Children. The scientific report represents an evidence-based consensus by its authoring committee of experts and includes findings, conclusions, and recommendations for closing the opportunity gaps for young children from birth to age 8.
Research indicates that inclusive early childhood education (ECE) programs result in positive outcomes for children with disabilities. Yet, a lack of a coherent, intentional approach across Head Start, state pre-K programs, and Child Care Development Block Grant Act programs leads to disparate outcomes for young children. The report stresses that while the benefits of Head Start and state pre-K programs are clear, ECE capacity is limited by lack of availability of programs. Over 5 million more seats are needed to provide universal preschool to 3 and 4 year old children.
The report also highlights that despite the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requirement that children ages 3-5 have the right to specialized services, a lack of identification prevents children from receiving these needed services. “More generally, it is estimated that while about 10.55 % of children aged 3–5 have a developmental delay, only approximately 2% to 3% of U.S. infants and toddlers with developmental and social emotional disabilities receive early intervention under IDEA Part C (Zablotsky et al., 2019; U.S. Department of Education, 2021b).” (p. 2-21) The NAS report concludes with an acknowledgement that many of the findings and challenges are not new, and will continue to perpetuate until the necessary investments are made.