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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET CHAPTER 1 Moving Early Childhood Education Forward as a Professional Field of Practice FEW OF US FAMILIAR with early childhood education (ECE) are unaware of its struggle to fulfill its ambitions as a field of practice. 1 Even though in recent years ECE has experienced significant increases in policy support and funding, the field continues to be characterized by sector fragmentation, reliance on an underdevel- oped workforce, and uneven public respect, resulting in a divided field of practice, patchy policy support, and capricious public financing. Further exacerbating the field’s status is its historic reluctance to step forward and create a desired future for ECE as a field of practice. As Jeffrey Conklin has noted, fragmentation represents a phenomenon that pulls apart something that potentially should be whole. 2 Consider the following: Other than working with children or on their behalf, few commonalities bind ECE in terms of shared knowledge, preparation, qualifications, commitments, or aspira- tions. Rarely do we think of ourselves as part of something larger than our individ- ual programs or separate sectors. As a field, we lack common expectations for the knowledge, skills, dispositions, or preparation teachers need for effective practice. As a result, the cohesion necessary for ensuring ECE’s practitioners consistently and competently facilitate children’s learning and development is lacking. 3 Fueled by findings from brain science and evaluations of high-quality ECE pro- grams, immense resources have been directed toward reducing learning gaps between low-income kindergartners and their more advantaged peers. This has resulted in an unprecedented spotlight being aimed at ECE over the past three decades. Yet despite this surge in policy and public interest • too many children are losing ground, and too many others are not access- ing their potential; | 1 | COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL