The School of the 21st Century includes six guiding principles:
Strong Parental Support and Involvement
Research indicates that parent involvement is essential for the optimal development of children. It is also a crucial factor in the success of any program. Schools of the 21st Century commit to fostering positive relationships with parents by creating an inviting school environment, involving parents in program planning and providing services to meet the needs of families.
Universal Access to Child Care
All families should have access to high-quality, affordable child care. 21C schools work to make quality care affordable by subsidizing middle- and lower-income families with a sliding-scale fee system. Qualifying families receive direct subsidies through state or local funds. In some communities, local businesses contribute to a scholarship fund to help parents who are not eligible for public subsidies, but still cannot afford to pay minimal fees.
Not all families in every community need the services of the 21st Century School, and families make their own decisions about which, if any, of the services they use.
Focus on the Overall Development of the Child
21C schools work to promote all aspects of a child’s development, including physical, social, emotional, and intellectual. For example, early care and education programs focus on play and social interaction, while school-age childcare allows children to take time off from mental tasks by providing them with opportunities to engage in physical, recreational activities and other non-academic activities.
21C schools strive to provide high-quality programs and services to meet the needs of the children and families they serve. 21C schools are encouraged to work toward state and national quality standards for child care programs and to implement best practices in all of their 21C core components.
Professional training and advancement opportunities for child care providers
21C schools work in partnership with other local child care providers to offer training and peer support opportunities for child care professionals. The goal is to address aspects of the childcare field (low salaries, lack of benefits, stressful working conditions, and low job status) that result in staff turnover and negatively impact program quality.