$493,750 in NJ Race to the Top Funding Awarded to Rutgers Researchers to Improve First Through Third Grade Teaching

Researchers from Rutgers Graduate School of Education (GSE) and the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recently received $493,750 as part of the  Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant from the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). The funding supports Principal Investigator Dr. Shannon Riley-Ayers, Associate Research Professor at NIEER, and Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Sharon Ryan, Professor of Early Childhood Education at the GSE, in developing Guidelines for Teaching and Learning First through Third Grade and training modules to support implementation of the guidelines statewide.

The goal of the project is to provide guidance to teachers and administrators on the implementation of high quality, developmentally appropriate instructional practices for children in the early elementary grades. Grounded in real examples from classrooms and best evidence from research, the guidelines reflect best practices for teaching young children that are responsive to the diverse cultural and linguistic experiences children bring into the classroom.

“The materials are being developed with the intention of being sustainable across the state for years to come,” notes Dr. Riley-Ayers. “Part of that will be making the materials accessible online and also aligning the materials to complement the Common Core Content Standards in a way that is developmentally appropriate.”

The guidelines have been written and reviewed by many entities at the GSE. In addition to Dr. Riley-Ayers and Dr. Ryan, GSE faculty members Dr. Dan Battey, an elementary mathematics expert, Dr. Nora Hyland, an elementary education expert, Dr. Lesley Morrow, a literacy expert, and Dr. Jorie Quinn, a research coordinator at NIEER, contributed to the development and review of the guidelines. GSE Ed.D. students have been involved in developing classroom vignettes that show how the guidelines can be implemented in first through third grade and have also reviewed the guidelines and provided feedback on the practicality of them being implemented within classrooms.

“Including the Ed.D. students helps ensure the guidelines are realistic,” states Dr. Ryan. “But it also allows doctoral students to see how research can be a valuable informant to practice.

The guidelines have begun field-testing through focus groups that include approximately 60 administrators and teachers from the northern, central, and southern parts of New Jersey. These practitioners and leaders were purposefully selected to provide a diverse set of perspectives on the relevance and usability of the guidelines.

Over 1,100 educators-representing approximately 90 school districts across the state of New Jersey-will receive training on implementing the guidelines in their schools by the end of the project in 2017. The guidelines and training modules will then be refined and shared statewide, allowing all early childhood educators to benefit from the project.

The 12 training modules that will be developed to assist educators in implementing the guidelines in their classrooms will include one self-paced online module, three in-person training sessions, three webinars, two peer-audit workgroups, and three leadership meetings for administrators. Online communities will also be created so that all participants are able to collaborate with their colleagues.

“These guidelines, which are an essential component of the RTT-ELC grant, will complete the DOE Early Childhood Guidelines series from preschool through third grade and assist educators in the early elementary years with the implementation of practices that are both developmentally appropriate and academically rigorous” notes Dr. Vincent Costanza, Executive Director, Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, NJDOE. ”Without question, this partnership with Rutgers will position New Jersey as a national leader in preschool through third grade practices.”


To learn about another NJ Race to the Top grant that the GSE is involved in, please click here.