New Study Looks at Implementation of Aligned Instruction from Pre-K to Second Grade in the Boston Public Schools


A new study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly details efforts by the Boston Public Schools’ Department of Early Childhood (BPS DEC) to align instruction and professional development in the early grades through implementation of a pre-k to second grade model called Focus on Early Learning. The study is a part of MDRC’s larger Expanding Children’s Early Learning (ExCEL) Network project. From the study’s abstract:

As states and districts expand access to publicly funded pre-k programs, researchers and policymakers have been grappling with experimental evidence demonstrating that the benefits of pre-k on academic skills are not likely to last into early elementary school. A leading hypothesis to explain this phenomenon is that pre-k and the elementary grades are not aligned with respect to content and mode of instruction.

The Boston Public Schools Department of Early Childhood has begun to implement an aligned curriculum and professional development model called Focus on Early Learning to address this issue. The current study describes the components of this aligned model, identifies the facilitators and barriers to implementation, and examines the extent to which the model has been implemented to date.

Findings demonstrate that a critical component of Focus on Early Learning is a combination of aligned structures and rich instructional content. A number of structural and process factors have facilitated implementation, but the district has also faced barriers, including funding and the challenge of creating a culture that supports alignment. Although survey and observational data suggest that pre-k and kindergarten teachers are implementing the curriculum at moderate levels, there was significant variation in implementation across the study sample. In addition, teachers were less likely to receive professional development to support implementation. Although teachers generally supported the idea of aligning instruction across grades, they were less likely to engage in specific activities to do so, such as having common planning meetings with teachers across grades. Implications are discussed.

A PDF of the article is also available here.