Curriculum

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Criterion 1

Evidence Base for Child Outcomes

Evidence from research demonstrates that the curriculum has been associated with children's positive learning outcomes. The curriculum has been implemented and directly studied in early childhood programs, and the research showed significant, positive effects on children's developmental outcomes. Evidence of effectiveness has been obtained in rigorous research studies, such as randomized controlled trials or regression discontinuity designs. Research studies on the curriculum have optimally included multiple, diverse groups of children and teachers.

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At the time of this review, there are two sets of research studies that have been published, as part of the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Consortium (PCER) and the Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES) (Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Consortium, 2008; Zill, O'Donnell, & Sorongon, 2003). The publisher, Teaching Strategies, has conducted an implementation study and an effectiveness study; but because these are not published in peer-reviewed journals, these studies were not included in the following rating.

Rigorous Research Design: In the PCER studies, The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool was evaluated using a randomized controlled trial. Head Start FACES was a longitudinal, descriptive study.

Sample and Generalizability: Across the PCER and FACES studies, the majority of samples were from public preschools and Head Start programs, which included children from primarily low-income and diverse race-ethnic backgrounds.

Fidelity of Implementation: In the PCER studies, teachers were in their second year of curriculum implementation. They attended four to five refresher training sessions that included a mix of lecture, small-group projects, video viewing, and hands-on practical application activities. Technical assistance was also provided. Fidelity of implementation was assessed using a global implementation fidelity measure developed by the research team. Fidelity was rated as medium (2.11 on a scale of 0–3). The FACES study did not provide information on training or implementation.

Child Outcomes: The PCER studies investigated the effects of The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool on math, oral language, print knowledge, phonological awareness, and behavioral child outcomes in pre-k and kindergarten. The studies found no statistically significant effects on any of these child outcomes. The FACES study found that The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool did not significantly predict gains in children's outcomes (e.g., pre-reading, oral communication skills).

References:

Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Consortium. (2008). Effects of Preschool Curriculum Programs on School Readiness (NCER 2008-2009). National Center for Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Zill, R., O'Donnell, K., & Sorongon, A. (2003). Head Start FACES (2000): A Whole-Child Perspective on Program Performance: Fourth Progress Report. Washington, DC: Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Criterion 2

Research-Based Curriculum

The curriculum provides research-based content and teaching practices to support children's development and learning. A research-based curriculum is consistent with research on how children develop and learn. Specifically, it provides rich content, teaching practices, and learning experiences that research has shown to be effective in supporting children's development and learning. A research-based curriculum focuses on domain-specific, developmentally appropriate content and skills that contribute to children's long-range development in each domain.

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Approaches to Learning: Volume 1: The Foundation describes research-based teaching practices to support children's emotional, behavioral, and cognitive regulation skills. Teaching practices include guidance on effective classroom organization and classroom management strategies. The Mighty Minutes provide brief activities to support children's regulatory skills during transitions. The daily schedule allows opportunities for children to make choices and engage in open-ended exploration, which research suggests sets the context for children's initiative, curiosity, and creativity.

Social and Emotional Development: Volume 6: Objectives for Development and Learning provides several examples of research-based teaching practices for teachers to support children's positive relationships, emotion regulation, and cooperation. The Intentional Teaching Cards promote a variety of research-based teaching practices, such as supporting children as they learn to regulate their emotions and guiding children to use problem-solving skills to resolve social conflicts. Finally, all Book Discussion Cards include a section on "Supporting Social Emotional Development," which encourages teachers and children to use language to focus on social and emotional topics (e.g., feelings, friendship, social conflict).

Language and Communication: Volume 1: The Foundation provides guidance on how teachers can integrate rich oral language opportunities throughout the day, such as using small groups to encourage children to share ideas or engaging in conversations during mealtimes. Additionally, Volume 3: Literacy provides research on language development. It includes information about second language acquisition and research-based strategies for fostering English language development. The Intentional Teaching Cards, Mighty Minutes, and Book Discussion Cards offer teachers several discussion prompts, open-ended questions, and new vocabulary to support children's language and communication skills.

Literacy: Volume 3: Literacy provides research on different facets of literacy development, including how children develop literacy skills in two different languages. The curriculum provides many research-based teaching practices to support children's literacy skills. It offers specific guidance on interactive read-alouds (e.g., Book Discussion Cards) and various opportunities to use print (e.g., Volume 2: Interest Areas; Volume 3: Literacy). Teachers are encouraged to build literacy experiences based on children's interests.

Mathematics Development: Volume 4: Mathematics describes research-based teaching practices to support children's understanding of numbers, geometry, measurement, and patterns (e.g., model comparing the number of objects in two sets, take advantage of daily experiences to discuss measurement concepts). The Intentional Teaching Cards provide developmentally appropriate activities with strategies to support mathematical skills at different levels (e.g., activities that support children in creating patterns or comparing and measuring). Volume 2: Interest Areas includes guidance for creating a mathematically-rich learning environment.

Scientific Reasoning: Volume 5: Science and Technology, Social Studies, & the Arts highlights research-based teaching practices that support experiential learning and scientific inquiry (e.g., providing tools for exploration, describing observable physical changes, asking open-ended questions). The Teaching Guides provide investigations that include learning opportunities and research-based teaching practices to support children in asking questions, exploring, observing, and predicting.

Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development: Volume 2: Interest Areas provides guidance for creating safe indoor and outdoor areas that promote children's movement and physical activity. Volume 6: Objectives for Development and Learning provide several examples of research-based scaffolding strategies for teachers to support children's locomotor, gross motor, and fine motor skills (e.g., demonstrating movements slowly as describing it; labeling children's movements). The Intentional Teaching Cards and Mighty Minutes provide repeated opportunities for children to practice new physical skills (e.g., running, jumping, balancing, grasping, coordinating hand and eye movements).

Criterion 3

Scope and Sequence

The curriculum includes an organized developmental scope and sequence to support children's development and learning. A scope and sequence outlines what the curriculum focuses on and how the plans and materials support children at different levels of development. The scope refers to the areas of development addressed by the curriculum; the sequence includes plans and materials for learning experiences that progressively build from less to more complex, with the goal of supporting children as they move through the developmental progressions. A content-rich curriculum ensures that sequences of learning experiences include multiple, related opportunities for children to explore a concept or skill with increasing depth. Sequences of learning experiences should be flexible to respond to individual children's interests, strengths, and needs.

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Scope: The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool clearly identifies nine areas of development and learning: Social-Emotional, Physical, Language, Cognitive, Literacy, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Social Studies, and the Arts. Volumes 1–6 provide an overview of young children's development as well as specific teaching practices to support children's development and learning in each of these domains.

Sequence: The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool provides guidance within activities on how to support children as they move through the developmental progressions. The Intentional Teaching Cards describe activities in the domains of Language, Literacy, Mathematics, Social and Emotional, and Physical Development. Each activity includes a "Teaching Sequence" to support children at different levels of the developmental progressions specified in Volume 6: Objectives for Development & Learning: Birth Through Third Grade. This allows teachers to individualize activities to meet the strengths and needs of each child. Additionally, teachers can use the Mighty Minutes, Teaching Guides, and guidance provided in Volumes 1–6 to provide multiple, related learning opportunities for children to explore concepts and skills in most domains. However, the curriculum lacks developmental progressions of children's scientific reasoning and inquiry skills in Volume 6: Objectives for Development & Learning: Birth Through Third Grade. The Teaching Guides provide opportunities for children to develop science knowledge and skills (e.g., making focused observations, conducting investigations) and investigations in each study become more specific over time. Even so, there is no gradual progression of building children's scientific reasoning or inquiry skills within each study or across the studies.

Criterion 4

Alignment with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF)

The curriculum is aligned with the ELOF. Aligning a curriculum with the ELOF identifies the extent to which ELOF domains and sub-domains are addressed in the curriculum. Curricula that are fully aligned with the ELOF are comprehensive and cover all areas of children's learning and development described in the ELOF.

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Alignment with the ELOF: A thorough review of all the curriculum materials in relation to the ELOF domains and sub-domains indicates that The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool is fully aligned with the ELOF. All ELOF sub-domains are supported throughout the various curriculum materials. For example, Volume 2: Interest Areas describes how each interest area in the classroom supports children's development in the ELOF domains and sub-domains. Additionally, Volumes 3–5 provide specific teaching practices to support children in different ELOF domains and sub-domains.

Criterion 5

Learning Goals for Children

The curriculum specifies learning goals for children. The curriculum's learning goals are objectives for children's development and learning across domains. Learning goals should be measurable and developmentally appropriate. Measurable learning goals focus on skills, behaviors, and knowledge that are observable; developmentally appropriate learning goals are consistent with well-established developmental progressions. Teachers should be able to use a curriculum's learning goals to individualize learning experiences for all children, such as children from diverse cultures, children who are dual language learners (DLLs), children who are tribal language learners, and children with disabilities or other special needs.

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Learning Goals: Volume 6: Objectives for Development & Learning: Birth Through Third Grade specifies the curriculum's 38 measurable, developmentally appropriate learning goals. It also describes how to use the learning goals when working with children with disabilities or children who are DLLs. The objectives are integrated throughout many of the curriculum's materials. For example, the Intentional Teaching Cards specify objectives and provide learning experiences to support children's progress towards these goals.

Criterion 6

Ongoing Child Assessment

The curriculum provides guidance on ongoing child assessment. Ongoing child assessment is a process of gathering information to understand and support children's development over time. Information gathered through observation and documentation helps inform curriculum planning, teaching, and individualizing for all children. Ongoing child assessment can also be used to periodically complete standardized and structured assessment instruments to evaluate children's developmental progress.

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Ongoing Observation and Documentation: The curriculum provides a four-step process for ongoing observation and documentation: 1) Observing and Collecting Facts, 2) Analyzing and Responding, 3) Evaluating, and 4) Summarizing, Planning, and Communicating. To support this process, the Intentional Teaching Cards include "Questions to Guide Observations." There are also specific prompts for observation and documentation throughout the Teaching Guides.

Standardized and Structured Assessment Instruments: The curriculum encourages programs to use the publisher's Teaching Strategies Gold Assessment System (TS GOLD), which is aligned with The Creative Curriculum® objectives. The online platform, MyTeachingStrategies™, features resources related to TS GOLD that describe how assessment instruments should be valid, reliable, as well as individually, culturally, and linguistically appropriate. The curriculum also stresses the importance of regularly assessing children's development and using this information to plan instruction.

Criterion 7

Parent and Family Engagement

The curriculum promotes parent and family engagement. Parent and family engagement is a collaborative and strengths-based process through which early childhood teachers, families, and children build positive and goal-oriented relationships. It is a shared responsibility of families and staff that is built on mutual respect for the roles and strengths each has to offer. The curriculum provides culturally and linguistically responsive strategies to communicate with families and to engage families in children's learning.

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Communicating with Families: Volume 1: The Foundation provides a range of communication strategies that encourage both learning from and sharing information with families. Some curriculum resources specify the importance of translating materials for families who do not speak English and of understanding the backgrounds of families with whom you work.

Engaging Families: The curriculum provides multiple resources to support parent and family engagement. The Learning Games are activities for families to do at home with their children, available in both English and Spanish. The Letters to Families provide information about the interest areas and studies, such as suggested vocabulary and activities, to extend children's learning at home. Other suggestions for family engagement were inviting families to volunteer in the program or participate in classroom activities, and these suggestions included consideration of families' diverse needs (e.g., using families' home languages).

Criterion 8

Professional Development and Materials to Support Implementation

The curriculum offers professional development and materials to support implementation and continuous improvement. Professional development includes gaining the knowledge and skills required for effective implementation of a curriculum. Standardized training procedures include initial and ongoing training to support education staff as they learn to implement a curriculum with fidelity. Standardized training procedures provide consistent content and delivery methods across training sessions. Curriculum materials to support implementation include resources that come with a curriculum to help education staff understand how to use it. The materials may also include resources to help education managers and coaches support education staff to implement the curriculum effectively.

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Professional Development: The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool offers two free standardized initial trainings online. One is a 10-hour introduction to the learning objectives, and the other is a two-hour exploration of the curriculum. Initial in-person trainings are offered at an additional cost. Ongoing professional development opportunities include a range of courses, offered both online and in person at an additional cost. Some training topics include supporting domain-specific learning in the classroom and effectively implementing interest areas. Finally, the publisher offers to work with programs to customize trainings based on program needs.

Curriculum Materials to Support Implementation: The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool includes a comprehensive set of materials to support implementation. It provides a Guide to The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool, which orients teachers to the curriculum materials and how they fit together. The curriculum offers six volumes to support teachers as they implement the curriculum (e.g., Volume 1: The Foundation, Volume 2: Interest Areas). Finally, the Daily Resources provide teachers with detailed guidance on what to do each day (e.g., Teaching Guides, Intentional Teaching Cards).

  • Fidelity Tool: For an additional fee, programs can purchase The Fidelity Tool for Administrators and The Fidelity Tool Teacher Checklist. Both tools assess the fidelity of implementation of the Daily Resources, The Foundation, and Teaching Strategies GOLD. Additionally, programs can purchase Coaching to Fidelity, Preschool Edition, which is a coaching guide for fidelity with specific strategies linked to items from the teacher checklist.

Criterion 9

Learning Experiences and Interactions

The curriculum promotes rich learning experiences and interactions to support development across domains. Rich learning experiences support and extend children's knowledge, understanding of concepts, and skills across domains. As children actively explore their learning environment by manipulating objects and investigating concepts, teachers interact with them to extend their exploration, thinking, and communication. The curriculum offers children ample opportunities to engage in hands-on exploration and provides teachers with guidance on how to extend children's exploration, thinking, and communication. Rich learning experiences should be culturally and linguistically responsive and inclusive of children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs.

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Active Exploration: The curriculum provides ample opportunity for preschoolers to actively engage in hands-on exploration. The curriculum highlights the importance of children having time for free, unstructured play daily. Volume 2: Interest Areas provides many suggestions for how to set up the environment with open-ended learning materials that promote hands-on exploration. Some of the structured activities in the Intentional Teaching Cards and Teaching Guides also invite children to manipulate objects and investigate concepts.

Interactions That Extend Children's Learning: Many of the curriculum's resources provide guidance and examples on how teachers engage in interactions that extend children's exploration, thinking, and communication. For example, the Intentional Teaching Cards and Book Discussion Cards provide examples of open-ended questions and prompts that teachers can use to spark children's thinking and encourage them to describe, explain, predict, and brainstorm.

Individualization: The curriculum provides specific guidance on how to individualize learning experiences for all children. Many of the structured activities include suggestions for including children with disabilities or other special needs and scaffolding strategies to support children who are DLLs. The curriculum suggests that teachers consider the family and community cultures as they plan learning experiences, but it provides fewer specific examples and supports for embedding children's cultures within learning experiences throughout the curriculum materials.

Criterion 10

Learning Environments and Routines

The curriculum provides guidance on how to set up rich learning environments and developmentally appropriate routines. Rich learning environments are nurturing spaces that support the development of all young children. The curriculum provides guidance on how to design developmentally appropriate schedules, routines, and indoor and outdoor opportunities for choice, play, exploration, and experimentation. Learning environments include age-appropriate equipment, materials, and supplies. They also reflect home cultures and are flexible to support the changing ages, interests, and characteristics of a group of children over time.

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Environment: Volume 1: The Foundation and Volume 2: Interest Areas provide specific guidance on how to establish well-organized, engaging indoor and outdoor environments that promote active exploration and support children's development across domains. The curriculum includes some specific guidance on how to include children's home languages and cultural artifacts in the physical environment. Universal design principles are discussed to ensure the physical environment is accessible for children with disabilities or other special needs.

Learning Materials: The Volumes provide guidelines on how to select developmentally appropriate learning materials for interest areas and support children's development in specific domains. The Intentional Teaching Cards and Teaching Guides offer suggestions for learning materials to use in specific activities. The curriculum provides some guidance for ensuring that the learning materials authentically represent the cultures, ethnicities, and home languages of children in the program and meet the unique needs of children with disabilities or other special needs.

Schedule and Routines: Volume 1: The Foundation describes large group time, small group time, choice time, transitions, and daily routines (e.g., mealtimes, rest time). It also includes specific guidelines for setting up a daily schedule and sample schedules. The Beginning of the Year Teaching Guide and some Intentional Teaching Cards help teachers introduce children to the daily schedule and routines. There is some consideration of adjusting schedules and routines based on individual children's needs (e.g., discussing family mealtime routines; conducting small groups first in the home language and then in English later in the week).

Criterion 11

Cultural Responsiveness

The curriculum supports cultural responsiveness. Cultural responsiveness is a strengths-based approach to teaching and caregiving rooted in respect and appreciation for the role of culture in children's learning and development. A culturally responsive curriculum prompts teachers to learn about each child's strengths, abilities, experiences, and interests as developed within the child's family and culture. The curriculum provides guidance on how to modify and enhance curriculum plans and materials to build on these strengths, abilities, experiences, and interests with the goal of incorporating each child's culture into the classroom.

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Interactions: The curriculum provides guidance about culturally responsive ways of interacting with diverse children and families. Volume 1: The Foundation provides specific suggestions for how teachers can learn about children's and families' cultures. Additional curriculum resources, such as Volume 3: Literacy and Volume 6: Objectives for Development & Learning: Birth Through Third Grade, prompt teachers to consider how culture shapes families' values and interactions.

Learning Experiences: Volumes 1–6 consistently support culturally responsive learning experiences. Volume 1: The Foundation provides a general discussion of the importance of learning experiences that build on children's family and community cultures. Volumes 3–5 offer prompts to remind teachers to invite families to participate in the classroom and share aspects of their cultural heritage (e.g., invite families to share songs, dances, or musical instruments used in their cultures). However, the Teaching Guides and Intentional Teaching Cards lack specific guidance for how to integrate children's cultural traditions and practices into the learning experiences.

Learning Environment: The curriculum provides specific guidance and examples embedded throughout Volumes 1–6 on selecting materials that reflect children's cultures and ethnicities (e.g., books and dramatic play props that respectfully depict the cultures of children in the classroom). In addition, the Children's Book Collection offers some consideration of society's diversity through portraying people from varied ethnic backgrounds, cultural identities, and life circumstances. However, the Teaching Guides and Intentional Teaching Cards lack guidance on how to select and use materials that authentically represent the cultures of children and families.

Criterion 12

Linguistic Responsiveness

The curriculum supports linguistic responsiveness. Linguistic responsiveness refers to teaching practices that support the learning, development, and engagement of children from diverse linguistic backgrounds. It includes supports for continued development of children's home or tribal languages by authentically incorporating children's languages into the learning environment. Furthermore, linguistically responsive practices can facilitate English acquisition. The curriculum provides scaffolding strategies to support children at any level of English knowledge to fully participate in the curriculum's learning experiences.

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Scaffolding Strategies: The curriculum provides specific guidance to scaffold the development and learning of children who are DLLs. Volume 1: The Foundation offers a description of dual language development. Volume 3: Literacy provides a range of specific strategies to support children who are DLLs at various stages of English language acquisition. Furthermore, specific scaffolding strategies and supports for children who are DLLs are embedded throughout the Intentional Teaching Cards and Teaching Guides.

Home and Tribal Languages: Volumes 1–6 provide guidance on how to incorporate children's home languages into the learning environment, such as labeling materials in children's home languages and incorporating children's home languages in classroom activities. In addition, the Teaching Guides and Intentional Teaching Cards offer specific suggestions for how to use children's home languages during learning experiences (e.g., count in children's home languages; introduce books in children's home languages before English). Many curriculum materials are translated into Spanish. Tribal languages are not addressed.

Criterion 13

Individualization for Children with Disabilities, Suspected Delays, or Other Special Needs

The curriculum provides guidance on how to individualize for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs. Individualization for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs includes providing more specialized supports for children to access and participate in learning, social experiences, and activities. The curriculum's guidance for specialized supports includes specific teaching practices and ways of interacting with children, as well as adaptations to daily schedules, learning activities, and the learning environment. Individualizing for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs enables all children to access, participate, and thrive in early learning settings.

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Teaching Practices and Interventions: Volumes 1–6 provide strategies and examples of how to ensure daily routines and activities are inclusive of children with disabilities or other special needs (e.g., using visual and tactile cues, providing picture sequences). The Teaching Guides and Intentional Teaching Cards provide specific suggestions for how to include children with disabilities or other special needs in learning experiences (e.g., providing something to hold during large group activities to focus a child's attention, suggesting alternative materials for all children to participate in an activity).

Learning Environment: The curriculum provides specific guidance that is embedded throughout many of the curriculum materials to ensure the physical environment and learning materials are accessible to children with disabilities or other special needs. The Volumes offer many examples of universal design principles and modifications to the physical environment. The activities in the Teaching Guides and Intentional Teaching Cards provide specific suggestions for how teachers may need to add or modify learning materials to meet individual children's needs.

Criterion 14

Individualization Based on Interests, Strengths, and Needs

The curriculum offers guidance on how to individualize based on children's interests, strengths, and needs. Individualization is a process of planning and implementing learning experiences that are responsive to each child's interests, strengths, and needs. Teachers reflect on their observations of each child and then plan the most effective ways to support each child's learning and development. When learning experiences are tailored to children's interests, they are more engaging and meaningful to children. Because children may vary in their developmental progressions, it is also important that the curriculum supports teachers in planning learning experiences that are responsive to individual children's strengths and needs.

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Individualization Based on Interests: The Creative Curriculum® for Preschool provides guidance on how teachers can incorporate children's interests into the curriculum's interest areas and learning activities. For example, the "Choice Time" hour each day allows for children to make choices daily to engage with materials and activities that are of interest to them. While the Teaching Guides have pre-planned activities for the first three weeks of each study, teachers are invited to plan the fourth week of the investigation based on children's interests and needs.

Individualization Based on Strengths and Needs: Volume 1: The Foundation provides an overview of how individualization is central to the curriculum's philosophy. Teachers are encouraged to "Observe-Reflect-Respond," which is one way of responding to children's individual strengths and needs. Furthermore, the Intentional Teaching Cards provide specific scaffolding strategies to support children at different levels of a developmental progression. This allows teachers to individualize learning experiences to meet children's strengths and needs.