About Us

FirstSchool is a PreK-3rd grade approach to improving early elementary school experiences for African American, Latino, and low-income children and their families. We form 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.


 We also use tools like the FirstSchool Snapshot to give teachers a full picture of how students are currently experiencing their classrooms.  By engaging educators at all levels in this process, FirstSchool reinvigorates professionalism and provides meaningful opportunities for both individual growth and teamwork. Our framework for school improvement focuses on 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. (Read more about our work.)

FirstSchool is based at the FPG Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill.  It was developed in collaboration with schools, communities, families, educators, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and the UNC School of Education.  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.)

For our first eight years, grants from the WK Kellogg Foundation supported collaboration with our partners in North Carolina, and Michigan as well as nationwide outreach. (Read the full press release.)

Over the past several years, FirstSchool was primarily implemented in schools in Carteret, Edgecombe, Guilford and Alamance Counties in North Carolina, and in the 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 were also piloted in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Durham Public Schools, Lexington City Schools, and Edgecombe County Schools.

FirstSchool’s ongoing work is further supported by the Lansing School District , NCDPI–Office of Early Learning  (Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge), W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, UNC-Chapel Hill, and private donors.  Current school partners include Bertie County Schools (NC), Martin County Schools (NC), and Lansing Schools (MI).