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Evidence-based Practice: Skill-based curricula


Using skill-based curricula in ECE programs is tied to large improvements in children’s cognitive abilities, pre-academic skills, and overall outcomes—especially for literacy or language-specific curricula. Although most ECE programs use some form of a curriculum to promote children’s early learning, not every program uses evidence-based curricula that provide explicit academic instruction and focus a portion of the day on developing specific skills. The language-specific curricula reviewed by Sun Joo et al. provided teachers with structured guidelines to promote literacy/language skills in classroom activities (for example, role play, reading books, and so on) and instructional materials. For example, the Literacy Express curriculum, which includes teaching materials, suggested activities, recommendations for room arrangement, daily schedules, and classroom management, as well as professional development opportunities for teachers, had positive impacts on English learner pre-K students’ language and literacy skills.  As another example, Doors to Discovery, a literacy curriculum that provides teachers with resource kits organized into eight thematic units, had positive impacts on children’s oral language and print knowledge. The NIEER benchmarks for high-quality pre-K recommend states offer guidance on criteria for selecting evidence-based curricula or require adoption of specific curricula by all programs and sites. Additional research is needed to identify effective pre-K curricula and the characteristics that make them effective, particularly for Black or Latino children, emerging multilingual children, and those experiencing poverty.


The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.

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