Early Childhood Education

  • 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 A

  • 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

  • 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?

  • Tiny Crayons & Big Promises: What is Next for Early Care Provider Compensation in the U.S.?

    Society’s youngest members have received some pretty big mentions recently—and for good reason. The United States isn’t heading into a childcare crisis any longer; it is fully in it. The already struggling industry was hit especially hard by the pandemic and has impacted families across the nation. The childcare crisis is so pervasive that President Biden prioritized childcare and prekindergarten stating, “if you want America to have the best-educated workforce, let’s finish the job by providing access to preschool” in his State of the Union address.

    In the audience, several U.S. Representatives brought individuals directly impacted by the childcare crisis as their guests of honor. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts brought Eugénie Ouedraogo, a mom and nursing student who depends on access to affordable early care and education. Senator Patty Murray of Washington brought Angélica María González, a mother who experienced firsthand the lack or quality care for her children and a Moms Rising advocate. Senator Murray took her statement of support beyond who was sitting with her to what she was wearing. Senator Murray organized Democrats in the House and Senate to wear pins in the shape of tiny crayons to signal support for childcare funding, as President Biden proposed at the beginning of his administration. In an analysis of the State of the State addresses given by governors, First Five Years Fund found that the childcare crisis was an important issue on both sides of the aisle, with 40 percent of Republicans and 60 percent of Democrats talking about it. However, of the governors who specifically mentioned early childhood education as a priority for their states, only one in four governors referenced the childcare workforce and the struggle to find, recruit and retain workers. While these are exciting developments (especially in contrast to Donald Trump’s one 16-word sentence in his State of the Union in 2019) why is so little of the conversation centered around the early care workforce? The priority seems to be getting parents with young children back to work with affordable childcare.

  • Who Will Stand Up for Public Education?

    Our guest author is Karin Chenoweth the founder of Democracy and Education an organization dedicated to providing information and support to school board candidates who are standing up to the extremist threat

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    With all the attention on federal and state campaigns in November 2022, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that right-wing extremists had set their sights on winning school board elections.

    School board elections tend to be an afterthought among both voters and those most involved in electoral politics. Civic-minded community members running without party affiliation—sometimes without opposition—traditionally have made for rather staid elections. Voters walking determinedly into the polls fully informed about presidential and congressional races can be stopped in their tracks with the question, “Do you know who you’re voting for school board?” They often haven’t thought about it.

    And yet, with more than 88,000 school board members in more than 13,000 school districts, there are more elected school board members than any other category of elected official. Often intimately involved in their communities while working many hours for little or no pay, school board members are in many ways the face of small-d democracy in their communities.

  • School Vouchers: There Is No Upside

    Our guest author today is Josh Cowen, Professor of Education Policy at Michigan State University.

    What if I told you there is a policy idea in education that, when implemented to its full extent, caused some of the largest academic drops ever measured in the research record?

    What if I told you that 40 percent of schools funded under that policy closed their doors afterward, and that kids in those schools fled them at about a rate of 20 percent per year?

    What if I told you that some the largest financial backers of that idea also put their money behind election denial and voter suppression—groups still claiming Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Would you believe what those groups told you about their ideas for improving schools?

    What if I told you that idea exists, that it’s called school vouchers, and despite all of the evidence against it the idea persists and is even expanding?

  • Infrastructure Matters

    Towards the end of the summer of 2022, citing a recently-published article, Chester Finn wondered whether we have seen the end or a new beginning for standards-based reform. The theorized mechanism behind standards-based reform is that alignment across three key areas: academic standards, curriculum, and student assessments will drive student achievement. A hallmark of the accountability policy era, standards-based reform links assessment and materials, while paying less attention to the role of leadership to frame and implement the adoption of standards and curricular materials, the role of curriculum in organizing and sequencing instruction, or the role of professional development in ensuring access to information and support for enacting standards-based instruction. Many standards-based reforms presuppose that schools are equally primed for change and that change will be meaningful if accomplished. The gains from 30 years of implementing standards-based reforms have been lackluster. Many wonder whether standards-based reform is not only a failed experiment, but one we could have predicted would fail.

  • Heartwarming or Heartbreaking: Reflections on Abbott Elementary and Our Underfunded Schools

    It took me about eight minutes into the pilot of Abbott Elementary, before I let out a sigh. For those who have not seen it, Abbott Elementary is a “mockumentary” that follows a group of passionate educators, all with vastly different experience levels, coming together to teach at an elementary school in Philadelphia. My sigh was coming from a place of relief—finally, someone had captured the duality of how heartwarming and heartbreaking being a teacher could be. The frustration, the tension, the passion, and the warmth was all there, neatly wrapped in about 22 minutes per episode. Now, Abbott Elementary is being nominated (and winning!) award after award, but to many former and current teachers, it is so much more than that. Personally, the show feels like my chance to explain what I did—to explain why I loved what I did but also to explain why ultimately, I had to leave the teaching field.

    Some scenes felt so close to my own experiences, I wondered if the creator and star of the show, Quinta Brunson, had quietly but closely been watching my teaching journey. She had to have been there; she captured my experience too well to have not been with me through the astronomical highs and the gut-wrenching lows. From the anticipation and optimism of the first day, to my first moment of true clarity and understanding after a difficult yet urgent meeting with a parent, to the moments of connection with students. It is clear that despite having never taught, Brunson understood and continues to understand, the sheer joy that comes from being a teacher. But she also captured the disappointment, the feelings of failure, and the never-ending frustration of having to navigate problems that you did not create—all on top of the fact that when you finally get to go home, you live the lifestyle that comes with low pay and low respect. After watching and reflecting, I realized that perhaps my experience as a burnt-out teacher in an underfunded school was not as unique as I thought it was.

  • Teaching Kids What It Means To Be An American

    Richard D. Kahlenberg is a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, where he is working on a project to strengthen American identity through public education. He is the author or editor of 17 books, including Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race and Democracy, and a Shanker Institute board member.

    Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, many of us shared our gratitude for the results of the recent election, setting aside partisan considerations, because the outcome provided strong evidence that large numbers of American voters care deeply about the health of our democracy.

    While the pundits warned that people were focused only on economic issues (which are important, to be sure), it turned out that “preserving democracy” was a salient theme for many Americans as well.

    Candidates who denied the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election – a falsehood that was used by rioters on January 6 to try to disrupt the peaceful transition of power – lost in large numbers. The defeats by election deniers were particularly notable in high-profile elections in the Great Lakes states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

  • Whose Knowledge Matters in Literacy Instruction?

    Our guest author today is Dr. Courtney Hattan. Dr. Hattan is an Assistant Professor of Elementary Literacy Education in the School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University.

    Knowledge is inarguably crucial for reading comprehension. What students know, including their academic knowledge and personal experiences, will influence what they understand and remember from texts. Therefore, recent efforts that call for building students’ knowledge base during elementary literacy instruction are important. Attention to knowledge-building enriches the conversation about reading science and helps bridge the research-to-practice gap. However, what’s missing from some of these conversations is a consideration of whose knowledge matters and what perspectives should be centered in the texts that students read.

    In 1990, Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop stated that students need to read texts that serve as windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors. Windows expose students to new ways of thinking and seeing the world, while the sliding glass doors provide opportunities for students to be immersed in those new worlds and perspectives. Mirrors allow students to see their language practices, histories, and values represented in the characters and experiences that are communicated through texts. Providing students with multiple perspectives allows them to consider various points of view, grapple with potentially conflicting information, and draw conclusions about what they believe to be true.  

  • From Circletime to Civics: Involve our Youngest Learners in Civic Engagement

    Early childhood classrooms are a surprising yet ideal site for introducing meaningful civic engagement. Schools, particularly preschools, are often the first institutions where children must work alongside others, beyond the members of their families and their immediate circles. With the somewhat shocking change that entering a school environment brings, there is also the opportunity to introduce and practice good civic skills. Think about it, at the blocks center, children begin to develop their negotiating and compromising skills for a limited set of resources. At dramatic play, children navigate competing interests, advocate for themselves and their ideas, and navigate big emotions as they are experienced when they don't get their way. Do these skills sound like they should be applicable outside the classroom? I hope they do, because they are the foundational skills for engaging in civil discourse and participating in the democratic process. This is more than just voting on what to name the classroom pet fish—democracy, in its purest and most beautiful form, is woven deep within the seemingly mundane play interactions children engage in and teacher-supported instruction. Too often, we observe children developing these skills without giving the experience the acknowledgment it deserves: lived experiences that cultivate civic capabilities and a developmentally appropriate understanding of equity. These skills, and the acknowledgment of these skills, are more critical now than ever.

  • Banning of our "Beloved" Books: A Call for Continued Conversation and Action

    It’s that bittersweet time of the year when my much-beloved copy of Beloved by Toni Morrison returns to its spot on my bookshelf. Beloved and I have had this routine since the 2011 National Book Festival. I am inspired to pick it up and read it, as an act of thanks for the opportunity to explore humanity beyond my own experiences, only to promptly return it to its rightful spot on the bookshelf upon completion. While the topics explored in this text were initially uncomfortable when I was first introduced to them in high school, I have come to find great comfort in this routine. This year, however, felt different and unsettling in ways that provided no comfort in completing my annual tradition. I knew that pulling my copy of Beloved from my shelf wasn’t going to be enough to make up for the fact that it, along with hundreds of other books, have been pulled from library shelves all over the United States, uncertain of when, or if, they will ever return.

  • Reimagining Teacher Mentoring Programs: A Key to Solving the Teacher Shortage

    It is officially that time again. The time when teachers start returning to their classrooms for another school year. For an estimated 310,000 teachers (Perry-Graves, 2022), this will be their first time in the classroom, and back to school also means meeting their assigned mentor. Most districts use a formal mentoring program in which districts place new teachers with veteran colleagues. While many believe that mentors are only responsible for providing feedback on their mentee’s classroom instruction, the mentor’s role is much more complex. A good mentor can be an essential resource for helping novice teachers navigate the hidden curriculum of their new workspace, find a sustainable work/life balance, juggle the countless demands of the profession, and rely upon a consistent sounding board for what is sure to be a rollercoaster of a year.

    As a former teacher, I was lucky enough to have an active and caring mentor during my first year of teaching, and was able to model those relationships as I moved from mentee to mentor later in my career. My mentor and my mentees were all good matches for my personality, and we were able to establish strong relationships through shared goals and reciprocal trust. But I know my experience might be an outlier, as the effectiveness of mentoring programs is often questioned. Given these concerns, I have identified several interconnected areas that need further consideration to improve the mentoring experience for novice teachers.