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Early Childhood Education

Can a quality preschool experience help to narrow the achievement gaps that plagues our society? This question has been a subject of contention between researchers and policymakers for over five decades. The Institute began its work in early childhood by trying to help answer this question, working to bridge the historic divide among early childhood researchers, advocates, and practitioners, on the one hand, and their counterparts in K-12 education on the other.

In February 2001, we convened a successful off-the-record seminar for leaders in the early childhood and public school communities about their common interest in supporting a dramatic expansion and improvement of educational opportunities in early childhood. A central topic was whether advocates of early childhood care and early childhood education could be brought together around a few key principles, framed by advances in cognitive research.This was soon followed by an Institute-sponsored study trip to France to examine that country’s universal system of crèches and ecole maternelles, or government nurseries and public preschools, which serve children from the ages of 3 months to 3 years, respectively.

Since that time, the Institute has hosted many more meetings and seminars, sponsored research and publications, and worked to develop resources and tranings to help support the important work of early childhood educators.

In general, there are two ways for social policy to affect educational outcomes for preschool-aged children who live in poverty: the first is to improve the social and economic condition of their families; the second is to use a preschool or daycare setting to compensate for these conditions.  While the first option would be more direct -- and many would argue more effective and long lasting -- it is also more difficult and unlikely. Thus, the Institute's continuing work is to focus on the national consensus in favor of equal educational opportunity to ensure that all children are able to begin school on a more equal footing.

  • Let’s Talk: Professional Development Modules

    The highest rate of vocabulary development (and corresponding acquisition of background knowledge) occurs during the preschool years. This makes preschool a crucial time for effective, content-rich instruction. Accordingly, the Institute has developed a series of Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-aligned modules, which are designed to strengthen the ability of early childhood educators to impart rich, academic content in fun, developmentally appropriate ways. The modules cover the academic domains of oral language development, early literacy, early science, and early mathematics.

  • Measuring School Settings: The Preschool Educational Environment Rating System

    The Preschool Educational Environment Rating System (PEERS) is a measure designed to examine the quality of instruction in preschool settings. Unlike other rating scales, it not only measures the environment, it also examines both how teachers construct their classroom for instruction and the quality of the enactment of instruction.

  • Positive Behavior in the Early Years

    This new program investigates what may be driving high rates of suspensions of poor children of color in early childhood classrooms. Our prelimnary work suggests that, aside from the important issue of unconscious bias, some problems arise from children’s lack of experience in using language to mediate behavior and the failure to provide teachers with alternatives to suspension.

  • Let's Talk - Overview

    Young children’s oral language development has long-term implications for their academic success; but there are profound differences in word learning and content knowledge between children living in poverty and those from more economically advantaged homes.

  • Implementing Large-Scale Change in a Midsize Urban District

    This program helped in the development of a high-quality, districtwide professional development plan for pre-K oral language development in St. Louis Public Schools, building on a unique labor-management partnership and a joint commitment to increasing both the quantity and quality of pre-K classrooms in this midsized urban school system.

  • Learning About the French Early Childhood System

    In 2001, the Institute organized a study trip to France, designed to enable participants to get an intensive look at the French preschool system, which has gained international attention for being both universal and of high quality.

  • Zombie Education Reform

    October 9, 2019

    Wednesday, October 9, 2019, noon to 2:00 pm. Sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers. Speakers: Brian Gill, Senior Fellow, Mathimatica; John Jackson, President and CEO, Schott Foundation for Public Education; Christopher Lubienski, Professor of Education Policy, Indiana University; Fellow, National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado, Macke Raymond, founder and director, Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), Stanford University. Registration and more information.
  • Teaching: Art, Craft, or Science?

    April 10, 2019

    Teaching: Art, Craft, or Science? In the modern era, the debates over teaching have increasingly focused on views that have seen teaching as an art, a craft or a science – different ways of conceiving of the intersection of knowledge and practice. Our panelists include education scholars with rich bodies of research in support of different conceptions, and educational practitioners who have reflected deeply on the meaning of their own teaching practice. Watch the video here.
  • The 2018 Elections: What Do They Mean for American Education?

    November 27, 2018

    What are the implications of the results of the 2018 election for American education, in Washington D.C,. in state capitols and in the nation’s schools and classrooms? From a variety of perspectives ranging from political actor to scholar, our panelists will address this question. Speakers: Domingo Morel assistant professor, political science, Rutgers University; visiting scholar, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University; Michael Petrilli, president, Thomas B. Fordham Institute; research fellow, Stanford University's Hoover Institution; executive editor, Education Next; distinguished senior fellow, Education Commission of the States; Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers and Albert Shanker Institute. Moderator: Michelle Ringuette, assistant to the president for labor, government & political affairs, American Federation of Teachers. Watch the video.
  • Puerto Rico: The Road to Recovery and Reconstruction

    March 1, 2018

    Puerto Rico: The Road to Recovery and Reconstruction (#rebuildPR), March 1, 2018, co-sponsored by Albert Shanker Institute, American Federation of Teachers and Hispanic Federation. With the future of Puerto Rico hanging in the balance, this national conference focused on what needs to be done to rebuild the Puerto Rican economy and its educational system in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.  Watch the video.

     

  • Deborah Meier Book Event and Reception

    October 25, 2017

    Wednesday October 25, 2017. More information

  • School Integration By Race & Class: A Movement Reborn?

    June 7, 2017

    In recent years there have been signs of a resurgent grassroots movement to integrate schools. From a variety of perspectives, our panelists examined the state of segregation by race and class in America’s schools, and the promising initiatives and practices that are emerging in the renewed movement to integrate America’s schools. Watch the video.

  • In An Age of Scapegoating, Making School A Safe & Nurturing Place for Youth

    May 10, 2017

    From a variety of different perspectives and work with different populations of vulnerable students, our panel examined the challenges facing American educators and the best practices educators have developed to address them. Watch the conversation..

  • Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education Conversation Series 2013-2016

    June 8, 2016

    Sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute and the American Federation of Teachers, this conversation series held the second Wednesay of the month during the school year, is designed to engender lively and informative discussions on important educational issues. Watch the videos from the last three seasons.

  • Educating English Language Learners in an Age of Anti-Immigrant Scapegoating

    June 8, 2016

    Most students who immigrate to the United States enter our schools as English language learners (ELLs). These students face the challenge of simultaneously learning a new language and the same subject material as students for whom English is the native language, while struggling to adapt to a new, often alien culture. Few groups are more poorly served by our schools. The divisive, hateful rhetoric of racial, ethnic and religious bigotry that has been unleashed in the current presidential election campaign has increased the obstacles faced by these students, and left them shaken and unsure about their place in American society. What is the appropriate response of American educators to this critical situation? What must be done to provide English language learners with the quality education that addresses their specific needs? What pedagogical strategies best meet the needs of English Language Learners? What must be done to provide students with a pathway to citizenship and full incorporation into American society? How should educators confront expressions of prejudice and bigotry against immigrant students and other English language learners? Our panel will address these and other questions from different vantage points and experiences.

    Speakers include: Steven Choi, Executive Director, The New York Immigration Coalition and Joe Luft, Executive Director, Internationals Network for Public Schools, Inc. Watch the video.
  • Educating Tomorrow's Teachers: Are U.S. Education Department Regulations for Schools of Education a Help or a Hindrance?

    April 13, 2016

    Controversial new regulations for teacher education have been proposed by the U.S. Ed Dept. Although there are objections to the regulations, the controversy centers on the proposed measures of teaching performance -- student test scores, as seen through the prism of value-added measurements, and surveys. Are there better alternatives? Can they be replicated at scale? Given the need for teacher ed schools to prepare teachers to do well from day one, what is the best way to ensure that all teacher prep programs are of the highest quality? Wed., April 13, noon to 2:00 pm. Watch the video.

  • Quality Teaching: Individual and Social Approaches

    December 7, 2015

    This two-panel conversation focused on theresults of the annual “PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes toward the Public Schools,” and their implications for policy and practice, taking on the question of how government, schools of education, school districts and schools can promote, nurture and support quality teaching. Watch the video.

  • Positive Alternatives to Suspending And Expelling Misbehaving Students in Early Childhood Education

    November 4, 2015

    Recent research and news reports show that even very young children--and particularly young children of color--can be subject to harsh and overly punitive school disciplinary practices. At the same time, the need for schools to be safe and orderly places to teach and to learn remains a top priority in poll after poll of parents and the public.These are the issues our speakers will discuss.

  • Creating Safe & Supportive Schools II: Next Steps

    November 4, 2015

    The focus of this Good Schools seminar was to share effective policies and strategies to enhance school climate, mitigate behavior problems, and support improved performance, with special attention to supporting labor-management teams as they work to comply with new rules and guidelines on behavior management. The discussion bridged a wide range of topics, including: schools as caring communities; providing the social, emotional and medical supports that students need; the challenge of implicit bias; and alternative behavior and classroom management strategies

  • Teaching Content Through Oral Language Development

    July 14, 2015

    In this workshop, learn how to take advantage of children's natural learning processes to teach content and build background knowledge in the academic domains of science and mathematics, using strategies that are both developmentally appropriate and aligned with the demands of the Common Core standards. This panel is part of AFT's TEACH Conference. Watch the panel.

  • Gauging the Impact of School-Based Health Care On Students’ Health, Wellbeing and Educational Outcomes

    June 12, 2015

    Co-sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute, the American Federation of Teachers, the American Public Health Association, and the National Association of School Nurses. Watch the video.

  • Early Childhood Education: The Word Gap & The Common Core

    December 11, 2013

    Do the Common Core State Standards represent a threat or an opportunity for the early childhood field?
  • Early Childhood Education: The Word Gap & the Common Core

    December 11, 2013

    Given states’ difficulties in implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) thoughtfully, many early childhood educators have begun to worry about what the NAEYC refers to as “a downward pressure of increased academic focus and more narrowed instructional approaches.”
  • The Role of Curriculum in Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Programs

    November 17, 2011

    This workshop session offered an overview of research on why the early acquisition of broad content knowledge is crucial to young children’s later academic success, and provides a guide so that the design, choice, and use of teacher training materials is improved by careful focus on content suitable for three and four year olds. The presenters discussed these findings and what they mean for the improvement of professional development programs for early childhood educators, and offered examples from four new research-based teacher training modules in the content domains of oral language development, early literacy, mathematics, and science.

  • Early Childhood Assessments: Problems & Possibilities

    October 8, 2004

    With increased support for and public investment in early childhood education programs, federal, state, and local authorities have begun to grapple with the need to assess student outcomes, for diagnostic, accountability and program improvement purposes. At the same time, critics continue to raise questions about the appropriateness, validity, and utility of assessments with very young children: How accurate is the data that’s being gathered through various methods and for what purposes can it legitimately be used? What can research tell us about how to design assessments for preschool children that are reasonable, reliable, valid, and useful for teachers and policymakers alike?

  • Education and Care for Children in their Preschool Years

    February 21, 2001

    This conference, involving participants with a wide range of viewpoints, was designed to elicit discussion about what the academic core of high-quality preschool programs should entail and how it should be delivered.

  • Eugenia Kemble Research Grants

    In honor of its founding executive director, the Albert Shanker Institute announces the creation of the “Eugenia Kemble Research Grants Program.” Tax-deductible donations to this program are welcome. Please make donations through PayPal or by check to the Albert Shanker Institute (555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001). More information. Watch the Memorial Service.

  • Publications Order Form

    Use this form to order hard copies of any publication. All copies are free unless otherwise indicated.
  • Good Schools November 2015 Resources

  • Video: Let's Talk

    This 5-minute video, a part of the Institute’s Let’s Talk initiative, explains how children’s knowledge and language develop in tandem, forming the foundation for all subsequent learning, and what parents and caregivers can do to help.

  • Let’s Talk Foundations: Oral Language Development I

    Oral language—listening and talking—is the primary means by which young children learn about and interact with the world. This training module for early childhood educators offers simple but powerful ideas to support young children build the skills, knowledge, vocabulary, and attitudes that can help prepare them for future academic learning across the content areas. Here, we offer excerpted materials for a workshop on supporting English language learners.

  • Let's Talk PD: Early Literacy Development

    This module for early childhood educators presents an overview of research on the foundations for literacy and how they may be enhanced in early childhood, including applied information to help guide instructional improvement. The materials are designed to be presented as an intensive one-day seminar or can be broken into separate workshops covering the areas of print and book awareness, phonological awareness, letter knowledge and early word recognition, and written expression and curriculum integration. This excerpt includes materials for a professional development workshop on phonological awareness.

  • Let’s Talk PD: Early Mathematics Development

    This training module for early childhood educators provides an overview of the research and standards on age-appropriate mathematics development, including practical takeaway materials to help assist in instructional. The most important early childhood mathematical foundations are addressed, including numerical sense and problem solving, building math vocabulary, using math manipulatives, and curriculum integration. The materials may be presented as a very intensive one-day session or broken into separate workshops. This excerpt contains materials for a workshop on curriculum integration.

  • Let’s Talk PD: Early Science Development

    This module for early childhood educators provides research-based information on early science development in the three key areas of physical science, life science, and earth science, along with applied information for improving instruction in each area. These materials can be implemented as an intensive, day-long professional development seminar or broken up into a series of workshops. This excerpt contains materials for a workshop on life science.

  • How Relationships Matter In Educational Improvement

    This short video explains some shortcomings of mainstream education reform and offers an alternative framework to advance educational progress. Educational improvement is as much about the capacities of individuals as it is about their relationships and the broader social context.

  • Literacy Ladders

    This curated collection of essays for early childhood educators and others examines the research on increasing young children's language, knowledge, and reading comprehension.

  • Measuring School Settings: The Preschool Educational Environment Rating System

    The Preschool Educational Environment Rating System (PEERS), designed for practitioners and administrators, is a method for examining the quality of instruction in preschool settings. Unlike most other rating scales, it not only measures the environment, but also it examines how teachers construct classroom instruction and the quality of the enactment of instruction.

     

  • Oral Language Project Boosts Preschoolers' Vocabulary in St. Louis

    This paper, from NYU's Steinhardt School, describes a Shanker Institute-sponsored pilot project designed to help pre-K teachers in the St. Louis Public Schools increase the oral language development of their students.

  • Video: The Early Language Gap is About More Than Words

    The vocabulary gap between rich and poor children develops very early and it is about more than words. If words are just tip of the iceberg, what lies underneath? Watch this three minute video and find out.

  • Tips on How to Promote Early Oral Language

    Download this brochure offering tips and suggestions on early oral language development for educators, parents and caregivers put together by the AFT and ASI.

  • Call for Common Content

    A statement released by the nonpartisan Albert Shanker Institute and signed by dozens of educators, advocates, policymakers, researchers and scholars from across the educational and political spectrum, highlights one largely ignored factor needed to enable American students to achieve to high levels and become internationally competitive—the creation of voluntary model curricula that can be taught in the nation’s classrooms.

  • Preschool Curriculum: What's In It For Children and Teachers

    Preschool Curriculum is an accessible research synthesis of how and how much young children learn in the academic domains of oral language, literacy, mathematics, and science.

  • Best Research to What Works Luncheon Series: Transcripts

    This forum series was designed to highlight best research on key educational issues, then to link these findings to the practical steps that schools can take to improve student achievement. Held periodically from 2002 to 2007, these events brought together a select group of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to discuss crucial issues about which research and practice appear to diverge.

  • Early Language and Literacy Development

    What is known about the language and literacy development of young, preschool-age children and how does this relate to their long-term success in school?

  • This short presentation explains some shortcomings of mainstream education reform and offers an alternative framework to advance educational progress.

  • This video is part of the Let’s Talk initiative, a program aimed at raising community awareness and expertise in how a child’s knowledge and language develop in tandem, forming the foundation for all subsequent learning.

  • The vocabulary gap between rich and poor children develops very early and it is about more than just words. In fact, words are the tip of the iceberg. So what lies underneath? Find out by watching this three-minute video.

    Given states’ difficulties in implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) thoughtfully, many early childhood educators have begun to worry about what the NAEYC refers to as “a downward pressure of increased academic focus and more narrowed instructional approaches.” But, as the NAEYC’s statement on the CCSS also observed, that “threat also provides an opportunity” for early education to exert more positive, “upward pressure” on the K–12 system.