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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET 2  |   CHAPTER ONE • notable gains exist in ECE’s knowledge base, but as a field of practice, they’re neither widely understood nor applied; • increased expectations exist for ECE’s contributions to children’s successful kindergarten entry, but the field lacks the ability to fulfill them; • the field’s increasingly complex systems of delivery, uneven funding, and variable standards undermine a more coherent approach for achieving con- sistent results across settings; and • others, impatient with the field’s relative passivity, have stepped into the leadership void. 4 This composite portrayal is discouraging at best. While growing in sophistication as a field of practice, ECE at this point in its evolution can best be described as a field whose occupational configuration—meaning the way in which the field’s components are arranged in relation to one another—is unsuited to its current realities. Having acknowledged its present state, what follows is further explanation for the field’s need to step forward to co-create an alternative future for ECE as a field of practice and for the children and families it serves. Professionalizing Early Childhood Education As a Field of Practice: A Guide to the Next Era, however, moves beyond my earlier efforts to present the case for rethinking ECE as a field of practice by iden- tifying questions that will need to be addressed and the individual and collective skills that will be required to answer them. This first chapter concludes with an overview of this guide, its purpose, and its organization. STEPPING FORWARD TO BECOME AN ORGANIZED FIELD OF PRACTICE This is a defining moment for ECE. Families and leaders in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors are all demanding more of ECE. Yet studies too often doc- ument that ECE’s practitioners do not foster early learning in ways that fulfill expectations 5 —not only the general public’s but also our own as a field. According to a citation by Steven Barnett, between 35 and 45 percent of children entering kindergarten are ill prepared to succeed in school. 6 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL