The Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy in the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education was recently awarded the Central Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) along with four other partners, led by Marzano Research Laboratory. The award for $181,000 spans the next year with opportunities for additional funding over the next five years.

The REL program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and serves the United States through ten designated regions. Each REL supports state and local agencies in its region and provides technical assistance, research assistance, and resources to introduce best and proven practices into the nation’s schools. Specifically, REL Central supports these efforts in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Marsico’s focus for this year will be on early childhood education in rural areas. Although Marsico resides in an urban setting at the Morgridge College of Education, the Institute and College are committed to educational equality across the age span and across the region. This includes a focus on the children and families that reside in the region’s rural communities. Across all levels of the College, researchers are pioneering innovative solutions to ensure that rural school districts have access to the best practices and resources in the field. Additionally, faculty are collaborating with rural school districts to improve student outcomes in areas ranging from early learning, to physical activity, to college access.

Led by Dr. Douglas Clements and Dr. Julie Sarama, who are national experts in the field of early childhood education, Marsico identifies the best in early learning research, practice and policy and delivers this information to academics, practitioners, policymakers, and parents.

“We connect with the people who can create and implement changes to improve the lives of young children,” said Sarama.

Dr. Carrie Germeroth, assistant director of research at Marsico, has previously worked with several states involved with REL Central and said, “Being awarded the Central REL will allow us to further our reach with communities who may otherwise not have access to these resources. Everyone at Marsico is thrilled to work with Marzano Research Laboratory to enact change and bring education to everyone.”

Morgridge College of Education Dean Karen Riley, is delighted to see the Institute continue to grow and believes being awarded REL Central highlights the great work being done by the entire College regarding education expansion to rural areas.

“We have several programs within Morgridge that allow us to work with educators in rural districts,” said Riley. “From our top-ranked educational leadership program to teacher preparation and piloting new approaches to distance learning, we are committed to working with rural partners across the region. For the University, being awarded the Central REL shows our dedication to the community beyond its campus borders and allows us to live up to our pledge to be a great, private University dedicated to the public good.”

MCE’s Drs. Doug Clements and Julie Sarama, have been awarded a $3.5 million grant to study learning trajectories in early childhood mathematics instruction. Drs. Clements and Sarama, both Kennedy Endowed Chairs at the Kennedy Institute for Educational Success, have been funded through the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences for their research. The project, which evaluates the effect of learning trajectories used in early childhood mathematics instruction, looks specifically at whether learning trajectories are better than other approaches in the support of young children’s learning.

Drs. Sarama and Clements will be working with colleagues Art Baroody and David Purpura, conducting research out of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy and the Kennedy Institute. By conducting eight experiments in local schools, they will investigate the efficacy of learning trajectories. Their results will impact the ways in which learning trajectories are used across a variety of subject fields, but the implications for mathematics is particularly important. Mathematics is a strong predictor of later school success in mathematics, but also for overall school achievement, graduation, and even college entry.

Morgridge College of Education faculty member, Dr. Douglas Clements, sat down with NPR Morning Edition to discuss Why Math Might be the Secret to School Success. Across the country, enhancing the education of young children has been a major area of focus from academia to politics. This podcast focuses on Building Blocks, a math curriculum developed by Dr. Clements and Dr. Julie Sarama.Currently, in New York City, a $25 million study is collecting evidence on ways to effectively raise educational outcomes for children in poverty. Building Blocks is one math curriculum being tested in the study. Dr. Clements and Dr. Sarama believe that math may be key to increasing educational outcomes.

The NPR Morning Edition podcast was released a day prior to the December 10, 2014, White House Summit on Early Childhood Education. Morgridge faculty are at the forefront of the conversation of early childhood learning. Their work is pushing the envelope on how teachers engage and promote educational outcomes for future generations.


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