FirstSchool partners with school communities to focus on improving PreK-3rd grade school experiences for African American, Latino and low-income children and their families. The FirstSchool team provides research expertise and professional development support in collaboration with districts, schools, administrators, and teachers.  Read more about our work here and explore our site to access related resources!

Making the Case for PreK-3

FirstSchool's focus on improving PreK-3 experiences for African American, Latino, & low-income children stems from an accumulation of evidence that the early elementary years are crucial to children's development and learning trajectory.  For more information, we recommend viewing the webinars that FirstSchool Director Dr. Sharon Ritchie helped lead for the PreK-3rd Grade National Work Group.

Reinvigorating Professionalism

FirstSchool collaborates with educators to examine their practice and engage them in inquiry.  Teachers deserve to work within environments that support their own learning and professional growth, just as we would expect teachers to provide positive learning environments for their students.  We also encourage schools to utilize teachers' expertise by involving them in decisions about policy and program implementation.

A Culture of Collaborative Inquiry

We believe that while the effective use of data is at the center of improving school for African American, Latino, and low-income students, teachers need more guidance in this area. Making a shift towards a more productive, positive culture of collaborative inquiry means using data to drive continuous improvement in ways that are more formative than evaluative.   

Improving Curriculum & Instruction

After designing high-quality curriculum that is aligned, balanced, integrated, relevant, and developmental, the natural next step is to make closely related decisions about how it will be delivered.  We have organized thinking about instruction around developing cultures of caring, competence, and excellence

Strengthening Home-School Partnerships

FirstSchool partners with school communities as they work to develop more respectful, inclusive, and effective home-school partnerships.  Check our our new guide to exploring families' beliefs and practices, so families' knowledge about their children can be better integrated into their school's curriculum and instruction! 

Advocating for African American, Latino, and Low-Income Children

Our ultimate goal is to improve the school experiences of African American, Latino, and low-income children and their families.  Our focus is on helping schools change to better meet the learning, cultural, and language needs of the children in their classrooms.

Where You Can Find Us Lately

January 14th

Forsyth Co. Schools

As a followup to the participation of the Forsyth Co team at the P-3 Institute in Seattle WA in December, Sharon will present the FirstSchool approach to all district elementary principals and central office personnel.

January 23rd

Vermont RTT-ELC

The entire FirstSchool team will travel to Vermont to kick off our RTT-ELC challege project. We will be meeting with interested school and district-based teams to  orient  them to FirstSchool approach to developing high quality PreK-3 school communities and to generate interest in becoming particpants in the three year project.

January 26th

Institute of Medicine

Sharon will attend the first in a series of 4 meetings serving as member of the Institute of Medicine--National Research Council (IOM-NRC) Committee on The Use of Economic Evidence to Inform Investments in Children, Youth, and Families.

January 27th 

Sharon will present the FirstSchool approach to the  New Jersey Leaadership Academy sponsored by National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)

Center on Enhancing Early Learning Outcomes (CEELO as part of their ongoing efforts to develop responsive leadership in settings serving young children.

February 18th

The National PreK-3rd Grade Work Group will host a webinar on Full Day Kindergarten (

February 25th

Sharon will present the FirstSchool approach to leaders from 25 State Education Agencies focusing focus on our methods of sharing data with teachers and principals. Norris Parker, Principal of East End Elementary in Martin Co will join her in Austin Texas for this event.

FirstSchool Whereabouts: Things that occured prior to January 2015



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