The Power of a Good Kindergarten Curriculum

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A Thinking and Feedback chart from Traka Smith’s kindergarten classroom at the Curley K-8 School

Last week approximately 35 Rhode Island teachers and coaches began learning how to implement an interdisciplinary kindergarten curriculum developed by the Boston Public Schools (BPS). This training is part of a pilot project sponsored by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) with the aim of supporting developmentally-appropriate, Common Core-aligned kindergarten teaching and learning. 23 kindergarten teachers from 8 districts are implementing Boston’s curriculum this fall with professional development support from BPS and coaching support from the Education Development Center (EDC). I’m running this project for EDC and will share highlights from the initiative in a few posts over the next couple of months.

This initiative began with RIDE identifying a need to support teachers and districts in improving kindergarten practice in ways that are both consistent with how kindergarteners learn best and aligned with the Common Core standards. RIDE then worked with us at EDC to develop an approach that began with the state’s first ever kindergarten conference this past September and continues with the curriculum and coaching pilot. In an effort to build district capacity, coaches from each district are joining the kindergarten teachers in the professional development sessions and participating in special coach training days.

Continue reading “The Power of a Good Kindergarten Curriculum”

In Case You Missed It in August …

For those of you who were perhaps enjoying the last weeks of summer and may have missed it in August, here are links to a three-part series I wrote on the experiences of two community-based preschool teachers implementing a new curriculum. 

Teaching a New Curriculum in East Boston (Boston K1DS at the East Boston YMCA #1)

How does classroom practice change as a result of Birth-Third work? How do children, teachers, and leaders experience these changes? This week I begin a series of posts that examine the experience of implementing a new preschool curriculum from the vantage point of two teachers and the program director at the East Boston YMCA.

Deeper Learning (Boston K1DS at the East Boston YMCA #2)

This week I discuss the impact of longer, more structured units that emphasize multiple and multi-purpose read-alouds of stories and a robust math curriculum aligned to the developmental learning trajectories of 4-year olds.

Small-Groups and the Broader Impact (Boston K1DS at the East Boston YMCA #3)

I conclude the series by describing the use of small-group activities and independent centers as well as changes in classroom management, teacher confidence, and the development of oral language and thinking skills.

 

Small-Groups and the Broader Impact (Boston K1DS at the East Boston YMCA #3)

Gloria in a small group

I introduced the East Boston YMCA’s experience with the BPS Opening the World of Learning (OWL)/Building Blocks curriculum in the first post in this series. In the second, I discussed the impact of longer, more structured units, multiple and multi-purpose read-alouds of stories, and a robust math curriculum. Today I conclude the series by describing the use of small-group activities and independent centers as well as changes in classroom management, teacher confidence, and the development of oral language and thinking skills.

Small-Groups and the Broader Impact

Deeper Learning (Boston K1DS at the East Boston YMCA #2)

another E. Boston circle time

In last week’s post, I began describing the East Boston YMCA’s experience implementing the Boston Public School’s prekindergarten classroom, introducing the range of changes that the new curriculum has brought about. This week I discuss the impact of longer, more structured units that emphasize multiple and multi-purpose read-alouds of stories and a robust math curriculum aligned to the developmental learning trajectories of 4-year olds.

Deeper Learning (Boston K1DS at the East Boston YMCA #2)

Teaching a New Curriculum in East Boston (#1)

How does classroom practice change as a result of Birth-Third work? How do children, teachers, and leaders experience these changes? Having summarized the strategies of the first five Birth-Third Alignment Partnerships in Massachusetts (Boston, Lowell, Pittsfield, Somerville, and Springfield), I am now posting an occasional series of articles describing the on-the-ground experience of implementing these strategies. I began these profiles of direct service by describing teacher professional development in Lowell’s Communities of Practice for family child care and center-based preschool teachers. Future posts will cover home visits in Pittsfield and literacy coaching in Somerville. This week I begin a series of three posts that examine the experience of implementing a new preschool curriculum from the vantage point of two teachers and the program director at the East Boston YMCA.

For this series I’m trying out a new blogging platform called Medium. When you click on the link below, a new tab will open in Medium with the first post on the East Boston YMCA. Medium provides an attractive environment for article-length posts and photos. The type is clean and big, and it’s a distraction-free place to read. There are no sidebars with links inviting you to go somewhere else. Medium also has improved notes and commenting capabilities. Click on the discreet numbers to the right of paragraphs for notes from me (like footnotes) or from other readers. You do not have to sign in to read posts, but if you sign in using your Twitter or Facebook account, you can comment on paragraphs or even sentences or words. Nothing will be posted to your account unless you want it posted. Click the plus sign (+) to the right of a paragraph (or highlight text and click the plus sign) to add comments.

I welcome your comments on the posts, and let me know what you think of Medium via comment or email.

Here is the first post:

Teaching a New Curriculum in East Boston

New Brief on Reading Proficiency Learning Network and Other Resources

Strategies for Children (SFC) has released a new brief describing the work of the Massachusetts Third Grade Reading Proficiency Learning Network: Changing the Trajectory: Communities Take Action to Increase Reading Proficiency. SFC convened a group of Massachusetts communities to engage in a strategic planning process in collaboration with Harvard literacy expert, Nonie Lesaux. This process included a robust impact analysis drawing on two tools: a Program Design Evaluation Tool and a Funding Analysis/Stability Index.

According to the brief, “After one year of engaging in this comprehensive and innovative effort, these four Massachusetts communities have:

  • Refined strategic plans;
  • Developed a comprehensive asset map of resources and outcomes;
  • Created a profile of the public and private funding supporting those resources; and
  • Determined an action plan for more effective and impactful resource allocation and coordination.”

Check out Changing the Trajectory to learn more about this important work.

Other resources of note:

The current issue of American Educator is on early childhood education. Articles include:

  • The Magic of Words: Teaching Vocabulary in the Early Childhood Classroom
  • Starting off Strong: The Importance of Early Learning
  • Taken for Granted: Why Curriculum Content Is Like Oxygen

Vicky Shippers makes the case for 0-3 programs in an Education Week commentary, “Waiting Until Pre-K is Too Little, Too Late.”

NationSwell has a summary of early education policy and funding issues, “Ask the Experts: How Can We Fix Early Childhood Education?”

“The first eight years of life are crucial to academic success. So why aren’t early education programs a priority in the U.S.? NationSwell asks the experts.”

Upcoming Learning Hub posts:

  • Implementing a new curriculum in East Boston
  • Tagging along on home visits in Pittsfield
  • Literacy coaching in Somerville: a teacher’s experience

Snapshots of Birth–3rd Strategies in Five Communities

This week I’m posting short bulleted summaries of the core strategies of the first five EEC alignment partnerships, an idea prompted by a helpful conversation with Titus DosRemedios of Strategies for Children last week at an ESE Kindergarten Networking Meeting. These updated summaries may be helpful to the seven new communities coming on board in the Round Two grants. You can also find short paragraphs on each community here. Click on the EEC Alignment Partnerships category in the blue panel on the left to see all the posts thus far on these communities.

Pittsfield and Boston represent the ends of the continuum in the graphic above. Springfield, Lowell, and Somerville are all implementing two-pronged strategies that include both community-wide and targeted components.

Pittsfield

  • Community Goal: The Pittsfield Promise–90% reading proficiency on the 3rd grade MCAS by 2020
  • Berkshire United Way as community backbone organization
  • Supported by a strategic plan and six committees
  • Focus
    1. Community-wide family engagement around literacy
    2. Home-visiting
    3. Preschool participation, quality and alignment
    4. Out-of-school time programming

Boston

  • Implement BPS K1 (preschool) model in 14 community-based classrooms
    1. BPS K1 (preschool) model
      • Integrated OWL and Building Blocks curriculum
      • Making Learning Visible professional development
      • Skilled coaching
      • NAEYC accreditation
      • Demonstrated results; national and international recognition
    2. Implement model in 14 community-based classrooms (Boston K1DS)
      • Teachers with BA degrees
      • K1 curriculum
      • Professional development
      • Compensation
    3. Potential to expand to additional community-based classrooms contingent on results

Springfield

  • District and community-based preschool collaboration
    1. Joint selection of community preschool curriculum
    2. Joint identification of shared standards
      • Priority Teaching Strategies Gold domains
      • Social-emotional standards
    3. Common formative assessments
    4. Common professional development and outreach
    5. Public/Private Professional Learning Community Meetings
      • Preschool teachers from two elementary schools and several community-based programs
      • Cross-site visits
    6. Define kindergarten readiness
    7. Expand teacher-to-teacher observations
    8. Share kindergarten assessment data

Lowell

  • Pilot project in two low-income neighborhoods (expanding to three this fall)
    1. One elementary school, center-based preschools, and family childcare providers in each
    2. Use of CLASS observations across settings
    3. Training in Teaching Strategies Gold
    4. Communities of practice for center-based and family childcare programs
      • Professional development workshops
      • Use of ECERS-R and FCCERS-R tools
      • Addition of coaching beginning this fall
    5. Family engagement workshops and activities
  • Emergent community-wide school readiness agenda

Somerville

  • Four strategies focused on early literacy
    1. Kindergarten Readiness Group
      • Public/private preschool and kindergarten teachers
      • Half-day workshops over three semesters
      • Cross-site visits
      • Using Play to Address Standards” theme
    2. Literacy coaching
      • 8 classrooms (public, private, and Head Start)
      • Two observations and debriefs with literacy coach each month all year
      • Pre- and post- ELLCO observations
    3. Teaching Strategies Gold training
    4. Website for families with young children
      • Outreach to parents on use of site through agencies
  • Universal Kindergarten Readiness Plan

This post was completed as part of a contract between the MA Department of Early Education and Care and Cambridge Education (where David Jacobson worked at the time). Contract # CT EEC 0900 FY13SRF130109CAMBRID.