Published Online: October 22, 1997

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Early Years

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Integrating proven early-childhood-education practices into the rest of the elementary school curriculum can improve the entire culture of a school, a report from the National Association of State Boards of Education says.

The report, "Early Childhood Champions," focuses on six public school administrators who encouraged the use of methods that are more common in preschool and kindergarten classrooms, such as "child initiated" learning, small work groups, and multiple assessment methods.

For example, Marilyn Butcher, the principal of Travis Heights Elementary School in Austin, Texas, established multiage classrooms and made cooperative learning and hands-on instruction a regular part of the curriculum. Health and social services were also made available to children at the school.

Travis Heights now has a more welcoming environment, the report says. Parents are visible in the school, and children are engaged in discussions about what they are learning. Cooperation between Ms. Butcher and the school's faculty is also evident, according to the report.

"Early Childhood Champions" is the latest in a series of studies on early-childhood education from the Alexandria, Va.-based NASBE.

Many of the nation's leading businesses and foundations are investing millions of dollars to support a wide range of initiatives designed to improve child-care and early-childhood-education programs.

Twenty-two corporations, including American Express and Hewlett-Packard, are part of the American Business Collaboration for Quality Dependent Care.

The Early Childhood Funders Collaborative involves 16 foundations, such as the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

As part of their mission, both groups have identified leadership development and the credentialing of child-care and early-education directors as issues they want to address.

The business collaborative, for example, is giving $1.2 million to provide training for staff members and directors at 185 child-care centers in several cities. Another project will provide professional development to early-childhood teachers in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, and New York at a cost of $692,000.

The foundations will give $2.4 million for pilot projects that will focus on developing leaders in early-childhood education, with a special emphasis on recruiting leaders from minority groups.

--LINDA JACOBSON ljacobs@epe.org

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