Defending the Early Years (DEY) is a left-leaning advocacy organization that supports changes to child education policy, such as delaying when children are taught to read and write, in the name of justice and equity. It claims that its advocacy is based on scientific research.
Defending the Early Years is a 501(c)(3) education policy advocacy group. Its main contention is that children are being taught to read and write at an increasingly earlier age, such as kindergarten or earlier, and that any rote academic education should be saved for when children are in first, second, or even third grade. It characterizes its advocacy as in pursuit of justice and equity, and that the education system’s attempts to start the education of children in literacy and math at earlier ages causes “institutionalized crushing of their insatiable love of learning.” 1
The organizations hold that a majority of early childhood classrooms in America are informed by “developmentally inappropriate standards-based tests and check lists” which are at odds with children’s real needs, capacities, and even cultures. This, it argues, unfairly leads to some children becoming marked by the education system as deficient learners, with the “heaviest burden” falling on children “who live in poverty and with the fewest resources.” It blames an increasing commercialization of teaching scripts and a subsequent “dumbing down” of teachers and their teaching skills. It claims that “less prepared teachers who are more willing to follow commercial scripts and manage data are entering the field of early childhood at the same time that increasingly frustrated experienced teachers are leaving.” 2
, Defending the Early Years aims to publicize scientific studies on early childhood learning that support its claims and persuade politicians and other policymakers to base education policies on these studies, such as “developmentally appropriate educational practices.” It hopes that childhood education can become a just and equitable system in its eyes and one that serves as a “protective factor for children experiencing trauma, toxic stress, racism, and other systems of oppression.” 3
In 2014, DEY partnered with Alliance for Childhood on a report titled, “Reading in Kindergarten: Little to Gain and Much to Lose.” Pursuing a “play based, experiential approach to learning for young children,” the organizations argued that there were negative implications in teaching reading before children are “developmentally ready.” 4
In 2020, Defending the Early Years had a revenue of $229,488, expenses of $174,055, and net assets of $204,942. 5
The Dartnell Foundation has financially supported Defending the Early Years. 6
As of 2023, the executive director of Defending the Early Years was Denisha Jones. Denisha joined the DEY advisory board in 2014 and previously worked as the director of Early Childhood Organizing and co-director of the organization. Denisha is a part-time faculty member at Sarah Lawrence College and Howard University and had formerly worked at Trinity Washington University specializing in early childhood education methods. 7
- “Platform for Early Childhood Education.” Defending the Early Years, June 6, 2022. https://dey.org/publication/platform-for-ece/.
- “Defending the Early Years.” LinkedIn. Accessed May 7, 2023. https://www.linkedin.com/company/defending-the-early-years.
- “About Us.” Defending the Early Years. Accessed May 7, 2023. https://dey.org/about-us/.
- Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). Alliance for Childhood. 2014. Part III – Statement of Program Service Accomplishments.” Section 28.
- Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990). Defending the Early Years. 2020. Part I, lines 12, 18, 22.
- “Defending the Early Years – Nonprofit Explorer.” ProPublica. Accessed May 7, 2023. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/full_text_search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=defending+the+early+years.
- “About Us.” Defending the Early Years. Accessed May 7, 2023. https://dey.org/about-us/