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Understanding alignment in children's early learning experiences: Policies and practices from across the United States

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This special issue of Early Childhood Research Quarterly aims to respond to these needs by reporting on a range of studies from across the United States that were designed to explore factors influencing high-quality learning experiences during PreK and across the transition into early elementary school. The papers in this special issue represent work done as part of the Institute of Education Sciences-funded Early Learning Network, a group of universities and research organizations tasked with addressing critical questions related to children's experiences in PreK through 3rd grade in the United States. In particular, five of these teams (MDRC, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, University of Virginia, and Ohio State University) were funded to identify malleable factors in children's educational environments that support academic and social-emotional development in early learning and elementary school settings. Each of these teams was responsible for conducting a study at the local and/or state level to document factors related to quality and continuity in children's learning experiences from PreK into elementary school. Complementing the efforts of these five groups, a final team (University of California - Irvine) set out to develop a new measure of PreK to third grade classroom quality with a focus on individual students. In this introduction, we outline how the papers in this special issue contribute to the extant literature on practices being used around the United States to improve early educational quality and enhance alignment in learning across the PreK to third grade period. We conclude by summarizing how the work in this special issue can guide future research, practice, and policy. (author abstract)
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