What is FirstSchool?

FirstSchool is a PreK-3rd grade initiative to promote public school efforts to become more responsive to the needs of an increasingly younger, more diverse population of children entering school.   Our framework for school improvement addresses schools’ ongoing struggles to produce equitable outcomes for African American, Latino and low-income students, the increased presence of pre-kindergartens within public schools, and the challenge of sustaining high instructional quality in every early childhood and elementary classroom.  FirstSchool was developed in collaboration with schools, communities, families, educators, the North Carolina Partnership for Children, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and the UNC School of Education.

 FirstSchool improves PreK-3 school experiences for African American, Latino, and low-income children and their families by forming close partnerships with educators at the state, district, and school level to:

  1. foster collaborative inquiry and a more effective use of data;
  2. develop curriculum that is aligned, balanced, integrated, relevant, and developmental;
  3. promote sound instructional practices within cultures of caring, competence, and excellence;
  4. strengthen two-way home-school partnerships that view families as important sources of knowledge about their children and;
  5. work across grade levels to create a more seamless PreK-3rd grade experience for children and families.

(Read more about who we are and what we do here!)


FirstSchool has entered into a partnership with the North Carolina Department of Instruction’s Office of Early Learning to jointly plan implementation of FirstSchool features and a PreK-3rd grade approach to education for young children across the state.  (Read full FPG/DPI press release.)

Our current work with districts and schools includes Lansing Schools (MI), Bertie County Schools (NC), and Martin County Schools (NC).

FirstSchool was first implemented in schools in Carteret, Edgecombe, Guilford and Alamance Counties in North Carolina and in the Pontiac, Lansing, and Kalkaska districts of Michigan. Six of the eight schools served predominantly minority populations and all eight schools serve many children from low income homes. Aspects of the FirstSchool framework have been piloted in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Durham Public Schools, Lexington City Schools, and Edgecombe County Schools. FirstSchool respects schools as individual communities that must rely on, utilize, and value their knowledge of the needs and challenges of the children and families they serve.


A grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation initially supported continuing collaboration with our pilot partners in North Carolina, new partnerships in Michigan and nationwide outreach. (Read the full press release)

FirstSchool has partnered with organizations and initiatives with which  we share goals and values, including Ready Schools, Promoting Academic Success for Boys of Color at the Frank Porter Graham Institute, and the Power of K project of the NC Department of Public Instruction.