The Progress of Education Reform


Foundations for future learning are laid in the earliest years of a child’s life. Research shows that, while mutable, the course of school achievement — or lack of it — is often set before children reach the kindergarten door. This understanding
has led to education policies that stress the importance of supporting reading skills in the preschool years because lack of reading readiness is linked to lower school achievement and school difficulties such as grade retention and dropout. Strong emphasis has been put on making certain that all children are proficient readers by third grade. Recent research shows, however, that early mathematics skills and general knowledge in science and social studies might be even more important for school achievement, not just in math and science but in reading as well. Knowledge of the natural and social worlds seems to be more predictive of reading achievement than are early reading skills.

Source: Education Commission of the States

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Using Blocks to Build Tomorrow’s Engineers |


While most early educators recognize that block play is linked to early learning, it can be difficult to find blocks and other simple building materials in today’s first and second grade classrooms — and sadly, even in many kindergartens.

But over the past few years, a chorus of science teachers and researchers has started lobbying for elementary schools to offer a block-building program called Ramps & Pathways. They argue this is a great way to build young students’ skills in STEM and literacy, especially when trained teachers offer challenges and guidance and then step out of the way. A recent article I wrote for the Smithsonian Magazine’s Innovations blog, “To Develop Tomorrow’s Engineers, Start Before They Can Tie Their Shoes,” describes how it works:

In Ramps and Pathways classrooms, children explore the properties and possibilities inherent in a few simple materials: blocks, marbles, and strips of wooden cove molding, a long, thin construction material used to finish cabinets and trim ceilings. Teachers push desks and chairs out of the way to allow room for the sometimes-sprawling roller coasters that emerge. By building and adjusting inclines propped by blocks, children experiment with marbles moving along various paths. Their job is to test and retest different angles, figuring out new ways to take their marbles on a wild ride.

“We always see little sparks” of insights among the students, says Rosemary Geiken, an education professor at East Tennessee State University who assists elementary school teachers who have never used this teaching method before. One time, she says, she watched a little girl with three boys having trouble getting a marble to land in a bucket. The girl whispered to the boys. Soon they were all propping up the ramp differently and the marble dropped right in. “Now you know I’m a scientist,” the girl said to Geiken. (Full article here, with links to video of children at work.)

Later in the article, I introduce Beth van Meeteren, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa who started conducting research on Ramps & Pathways more than a decade ago. “I’d love to get this into more classrooms,” van Meeteren says. “It seems that only gifted classrooms are allowed this quality instruction. All children benefit.”

Source: The New America Foundation

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Balancing Math Skills and Play in Kindergarten


It’s one of the biggest debates going on among early childhood development experts: Is it more important for kindergartners to focus on academics and learn their ABC’s and numbers? Or spend more time on social and emotional issues, like how to play nice and pay attention?

Recent research by a UC Irvine education professor shows that math skills among kindergartners turn out to be a key predictor for future academic success.

Professor Greg Duncan and his colleagues analyzed studies conducted with close to 20,000 kindergartners, assessing their knowledge of math, literacy and other skills, including their ability to stay on task and make friends. The studies followed the kindergartners for several years through elementary school, testing them in reading and math.

Source: MindShift

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SAVE THE DATE! Front Porch Series Broadcast Calls Why and How Can We Promote Science in Early Childhood

The National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning logoSAVE THE DATE!
Front Porch Series Broadcast Calls

Why and How Can We Promote Science in Early Childhood

Monday, November 28, 2011
1:00 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. (EST)

The National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning (NCQTL) will be launching our Front Porch Series/Broadcast Calls. These calls, scheduled the fourth Monday of every month will provide an opportunity for you to hear from national experts in the field on current research and findings in early childhood.

Join NCQTL for the first broadcast call, Why and How Can We Promote Science in Early Childhood on November 28 at 10:00 a.m. (EST). Dr. Andrew Shouse and Dr. Ximena Dominguez will moderate the call to present an overview of young children’s ability to engage in inquiry, share insights on how early childhood teachers can foster children’s engagement in science practices, and highlight the benefits of early science teaching and learning. A question and answer session will follow their presentation.

Topics for the Broadcast Call Include:

  • Children’s ability to engage in inquiry
  • Fostering children’s engagement in science
  • Benefits of early science teaching and learning

Who Should Participate?
Everyone! Head Start program staff, Early Head Start and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program staff, Alaska Native/American Indian Head Start program staff, Head Start parents, directors, managers, administrators, T/TA managers, T/TA providers, federal and Regional Office staff, State Collaboration Offices.

Participating in the Broadcast Call
The broadcast call will only be accessible via computer and not by telephone. Select this link to register for the broadcast call and to review system requirements for participation:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing additional instructions on how to join the broadcast. Space is limited to 500 participants. This call will be recorded for future viewing if you cannot join us on November 28.

You may send your questions to or call 877-731-0764.

Guía para el Maestro de la Serie de transmisiones vía web sobre las ciencias de la Oficina Nacional de Head Start

Averigüe cómo son las ciencias en los ambientes de educación temprana. Los equipos docentes, incluyendo los padres y las familias, pueden beneficiarse de este método intencional de descubrir la ciencia en las experiencias cotidianas de los niños pequeños. Explore con los pequeños mientras ellos observan, coleccionan investigan, predicen y comunican sus experiencias en el mundo natural.

Source: Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center

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Office of Head Start Teacher’s Guide to the Discovering Science Webcast Series

This guide is a basic introduction to science for young children and includes a variety of resources to help explore science in a fun and effective way. Investigating questions that arise from children’s experiences and interests is one of the best ways to promote science in early learning environments. This guide provides material to teach science well, based on almost any question children might ask. Learning to take full advantage of every opportunity to use the science process skills will ensure that children’s science learning experiences will be valuable and long-lasting.

Source: Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center

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Literacy in the Sciences

Many of the skills that are critical for growing strong readers and writers are also core skills in the study of science and math. Predicting, understanding cause and effect, understanding sequence, acquiring a rich vocabulary, building background knowledge, and developing the ability to read and write informational text are some of the skills we’re looking at in the Literacy in the Sciences series. These easy-to-read two-page tip sheets are written especially for parents and include activities and books to extend your child’s learning.

Source: Reading Rockets

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