An IDRA Center of Excellence is a place where all young children thrive and are ready for school. It ensures reading, cognitive and emotional success for all preschool children through a print-rich environment with appropriate accommodations for English language learners and children with disabilities.
Centers of Excellence are comprised of classrooms of excellence that are vibrant, active, engaging, interactive learning spaces where children are learning to read with teachers who expect only the best from each and every child. Children develop their oral language, phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, and print awareness. Teachers encourage communication and language exploration through discussions in both Spanish and English as a basis for learning English. Materials, books, pictures, computer-based materials and other forms of print are used for learning. Children are encouraged to talk with each other, ask questions, and predict what might happen.
IDRA’s Reading Early for Academic Development (READ) project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, established in preschool classrooms of excellence in specific Head Start centers in San Antonio. IDRA used a research-based classroom-based professional development initiative involving Head Start and public school teachers to form a seamlessly-integrated instructional program to prevent children from encountering reading difficulties when they enter school. The project used a rigorous quantitative and qualitative research design to document approaches and strategies, assess their effectiveness, and inform replication opportunities. A multi-tiered comparison group design made a number of comparisons between participating and non-participating centers, students and teachers.
This research informed the development of IDRA’s supplemental curriculum, Semillitas de Aprendizaje.
Instruction – Dynamically-Enriched Environment and Instruction
The IDRA Centers of Excellence model teaches young children to read and lays out the path to reading success.
Teachers have a clear vision of their children’s success, with high expectations for all of them. They have trusting relationships with their students and are confident in the material they must teach. Teachers are also comfortable working with technology and communicate this comfort to their students so they, too, use the computers to learn, practicing their letters and spelling whole words. Parents and teachers plan and work together on children’s lessons and field trips. Parents participate in the story telling with students reading to them in English or Spanish. There are pictures and written materials available everywhere. There are dramatic play areas where children can act out what they read and hear. They can create their own stories with characters and plots with problems and solutions they work out.
There are floor stories that children can engage in, creating their own stories, letters, and other printed communications as they carry out activities that reflect their day-to-day experiences of life.
Teachers and administrators meet regularly to discuss student progress and work with each individual student to achieve success.
Professional Development – Professional Development Model that Embraces Culturally-Relevant Pedagogy
The IDRA Classrooms of Excellence model supports competent, elevated teacher quality.
Teachers are provided professional development to improve their competencies in early literacy by discussing the importance of working with families in the development of early literacy, understanding cultural influences on language and literacy development, and their role in promoting language and early literacy development.
Teachers learn developmentally appropriate, challenging but achievable, learning goals for children; learn to individualize goals and adapt literacy materials for children with disabilities and special needs; learn ways to involve families and other professionals in assessing young children’s learning and development.
Teachers use culturally appropriate props and themes to enhance literacy learning through play. They also learn how to engage families in talking, storytelling, and reading with children. They also learn how to use appropriate computer software to promote writing for second language learners and children with special needs.
Family Engagement – Building Strong Teacher, Child and Family Relationships
The IDRA Centers of Excellence model supports engaged parents supporting their children.
Parents help their children practice the sounds of language, and the alphabet, pulling words apart and putting them together, listening to their children read words, pointing out letter-sound relationships, and reading and re-reading familiar books, in English and Spanish.
Parents plan field trips with teachers and actively engage their children in learning opportunities and exploration.
Critical Elements of the Model
Staffing – Lead teachers who are responsive and competent with their young charges and who share their lessons learned with each other.
Educational Equity – Children of all races, economic circumstances, gender, disability, and English language learning levels thriving in excellent, vibrant classrooms.
Accountability – Teachers and directors holding themselves accountable for results. Children being able to count on the adults to help them succeed. They see themselves as responsible for their children’s success.
Teacher Expectations – Teachers expect that all children will be ready to read in kindergarten and their children know this.
Academic Achievement – Children are reading joyfully with teachers and parents celebrating their achievement.
Social Maturity – Children are self-disciplined and respond correctly to requests. Children cooperate and work well with others.
Classroom Management – Classrooms are well-organized with access to technology and print-rich. Learning takes place in every space.
Parent Participation – Parents reinforce learning at home and work with their children’s teachers on building reading readiness.
For more information on early childhood centers of excellence, see IDRA’s publication, Creating Centers of Learning – Home and School or listen to our podcast, Early Childhood Classrooms of Excellence.
Quality Professional Development Creates ‘Classrooms of Excellence,’ IDRA Newsletter, by José L. Rodríguez, M.A. (May 2006)
Reading Early for Academic Development – Creating Classrooms of Excellence, IDRA Newsletter, by José L. Rodríguez, M.A. (March 2005)
The Joy of Preschool Reading, IDRA Newsletter, by Dr. Bradley Scott (March 2004)
Reading Right, Reading Well, IDRA Newsletter, by Dr. Bradley Scott (February 2003)
Valued Parent Leadership, IDRA Newsletter, by Aurelio M. Montemayor, and Anna Alicia Romero (June-July 2000)