Dr. M. Evelyn Fields trains educators to close achievement gap

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


SC State professor designs curriculum for instructors along S.C. Corridor of Shame

Dr. M. Evelyn Fields, an associate professor and director of Head Start Education in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, is revising the curriculum for South Carolina’s early childhood educators through a new initiative – Bridges to Early Learning. ORANGEBURG –
A SC State University professor is designing curricula and training 130 early childhood educators to close the achievement gap among more than 1,260 children in rural schools along South Carolina’s “Corridor of Shame.”

Dr. M. Evelyn Fields, an associate professor and director of Head Start Education in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, is revising the curriculum for South Carolina’s early childhood educators through a new initiative – Bridges to Early Learning.

Fields will also teach a university-level course, entitled “Effectively Teaching Children Living in Poverty,” and provide in-service training for early childhood teachers in public schools, First Steps-supported private centers and Head Start centers in seven of the poorest counties in South Carolina – all part of the 2003 equity suit Abbeville v. South Carolina.

“All the research in early care and education underscores that connecting children at an early age with academic achievement is crucial to closing the achievement gap,” said Fields. “Teachers must be able to ally themselves with the culture of the children in their classrooms in order to effectively teach them.”

“This is not a traditional course in teacher education which makes this a unique opportunity for South Carolina State University,” she added.

Bridges to Early Learning was launched during the current school year and is funded through a combination of $4.8 million in combined federal, state and local funds. The initiative is funded, in part, by a $2.4 million federal grant to the S.C. Department of Education is a portion of a total $13.4 million awarded to four organizations to help them fund professional development programs for early childhood educators, said U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

The three-year grants were awarded under the Early Childhood Educator Professional Development Program, which aims to enhance the school readiness of young children by improving the knowledge and skills of educators who work in high-need communities that serve low-income families.

“The earlier we start preparing our children for a life of learning, the better,” Spellings said. “So, it’s very important that teachers of our young children use the best practices and have effective training. These grants ensure that we get both.”

“We’ve got a terrific opportunity here for public school teachers, child care providers and Head Start to join forces,” said State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex. “We can take advantage of cutting-edge research on how the brain develops and how children learn reading and math, then use that knowledge to show educators how they can produce the best possible results with kids.”

And Dr. M. Evelyn Fields will be there, training existing early childhood educators and charting a curriculum for future early childhood educators.

Bridges to Early Learning will operate in the following counties: Allendale, Charleston, Clarendon, Florence, Lee, Marion, Marlboro and Williamsburg. An estimated 130 educators will participate in professional development involving study groups, coaching and graduate courses, ultimately impacting an estimated 1,260 children.