- Developing a local curriculum that connects concepts from the end of one grade to the beginning of the next and bringing together teachers from across the primary grades to learn over the summer are two of the ways Boston Public Schools (BPS) has worked to strengthen learning in pre-K through 2nd grade, according to a new report.
- Released last week by New America, the report comes as experts increasingly stress that one reason why the benefits of preschool seem to fade over time is because teachers in the early grades don’t build on what students already know. “The district realized that a singular focus on expanding access to pre-K was not enough for ensuring long-term academic success,” the authors write.
- Teachers new to the district in those grades also receive coaching throughout the year and have access to more specific professional development on topics such as guiding reading and storytelling, and the district’s Department of Early Childhood emphasizes the use of data, such as assessments of teacher and parent feedback and instructional coaches’ observations.
The case study on BPS’ progression toward a stronger vision for connecting early childhood and the early grades comes as new research reinforces that consecutive years in high-quality classrooms contribute to more gains in early literacy skills and academic knowledge, especially for those who entered school with fewer skills. Published in the Early Childhood Research Quarterly, the study, focusing on a sample of almost 1,300 children in “low-wealth, rural” areas of North Carolina and Pennsylvania, suggests that greater attention to high-quality teaching in the early grades can help reduce the achievement gap.
The study shows, however, that only 4% of children in the sample had access to higher-quality classrooms — as measured by the widely used Classroom Assessment Scoring System — across kindergarten through 3rd grade. Another recent study, appearing in the journal Early Education and Development, has similar findings.
The report on Boston also notes that challenges still exist with getting principals to support changes to curriculum and instruction that can improve outcomes for young learners. “Building greater principal understanding of early education will be a stronger priority for the team in the coming years,” they write.
In Boston, as in other districts, strengthening principals’ knowledge of early childhood may be necessary before districts are able to provide more children with highly effective and responsive teachers across the years of elementary school.