Metro Schools’ Prekindergarten is national model for ‘behavior, social-emotional learning’

Cambridge Early Learning Center (ELC) students 

Cambridge Early Learning Center (ELC) students

Metro Schools is once again in the spotlight for modeling best practices in early learning. The district’s newest school, Cambridge Early Learning Center (ELC), has been chosen by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to be used as a national model for equity in discipline and behavioral support.

Cambridge ELC, a school that is funded by the federal Preschool Development Grant, will be used to set the standard for addressing issues of implicit bias, uneven implementation of discipline and integrating social and emotional education with academics in early learning programs.

“It’s another sign that our early learning programs are headed in the right direction,” said Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph. “We have been aggressively pushing for equity in discipline practices district-wide. By setting a foundation for positive behavior support in prekindergarten, we are investing in a future of better schools. This is a vote of confidence from the federal government about how we’re changing our approach to both early learning and discipline in education.”

ED and HHS intend to establish demonstration programs within Preschool Development Grant sites like Cambridge ELC that can serve as national models on addressing issues of disproportionate discipline outcomes and using culturally responsive practices.

9Through a program called the Pyramid Equity Project, they hope to provide recommendations on establishing preventative disciplinary policies and administering those policies without discrimination or bias.

The objectives of the project coincide with Metro Schools’ mission to the whole child through integrating physical, social and emotional development with academics.

“We are honored to be one of two schools chosen across the United States to become a demonstration site through the Pyramid Equity Project,” said Dana Eckman, director of Model Early Learning Centers and the Pre-K Expansion Grant for Metro Schools. “The Tennessee Department of Education, Office of Early Learning and Cambridge Early Learning Center will work collaboratively with national experts in the implementation of the project. This opportunity is one that will be shared across Tennessee as Cambridge ELC becomes a national model for social-emotional best practices to other districts and early childhood programs.

The project strives to raise awareness about the issues of race, ethnicity and national origin in early childhood settings. It focuses on the high rates of suspensions and expulsions that occur in preschool settings nationwide, with much concern given to how these practices are associated with negative educational and life outcomes.

Currently, the preschool instructional model at Metro Schools is serving as a basis for changing elementary school education. Metro Schools believes that the new pre-K discipline model can also lay the groundwork for changing elementary school discipline in the same way.

In the future, these changes can extend beyond elementary school and into the middle and high schools in the district.