Peabody Collaborates on New National Center
Helping foster children’s learning and readiness for school through the federal Head Start program is the goal of a new National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning, created this fall with a $40 million grant from the Office of Head Start. Peabody is one of seven institutions that will compose the center, which began work in January and will last for five years. Approximately $5 million of the grant will fund research at Peabody.
“For over 20 years, my colleagues and I have been doing research on effective instruction, and I am pleased that this center will provide the opportunity to use that knowledge to improve the quality of Head Start services all over the country,” said Mary Louise Hemmeter, associate professor of special education and the lead Peabody researcher on the project. “With this center, the federal government has made a long-term commitment to improving the quality and maximizing the effects of Head Start, and I am excited to be a part of that.”
The other participating institutions are the University of Washington College of Education Haring Center, which will lead the effort, University of Virginia, Iowa State University, University of Southern Florida, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.
The goal of the new center is to provide leadership in the area of best practices in teaching and learning for Head Start training and technical-assistance providers, consultants and grantees. The center will be integral to ensuring that the federal investment in Head Start helps foster children’s learning and readiness for school.
The center will ensure staff access to a professional development system that provides individualized support and development, including the establishment of a “Head Start University” concept that will engage nationally recognized leaders in the field to develop comprehensive, research-based college courses that can be offered for credit online or in person.
“One of the goals of the center will be to develop and implement a coaching and mentoring system to help Head Start teachers implement evidence-based practices related to teaching and learning,” Hemmeter said. “My colleagues and I have developed and evaluated a coaching approach. We are excited to be able to scale up that approach with teachers all over the country.”
The Head Start program was inspired by the work of Susan Gray in the 1960s at Peabody. Gray’s landmark Early Training Project was one of the first experimental studies to implement a preschool curriculum and family-based intervention for low-income children. That project, in collaboration with fellow researchers Carl Haywood and Nicholas Hobbs, and with the support of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., laid the foundation for Head Start.