Placing children at the center of their education

Children learn best when their unique interests and abilities are honored. Ideal Learning is a whole child approach that places children at the center of their education. Many school districts value this approach. Yet programs that reflect the tenets of Ideal learning (e.g., Montessori, Tools of the Mind) have not been implemented to scale in Colorado.

Early Milestones will propel findings from our Ideal Learning in Colorado report into an actionable case for adopting these models in early learning settings.

The Colorado Context

Ideal Learning in Colorado Report

A range of real and perceived barriers is deterring broad use of Ideal Learning models in early learning settings. Our report presents findings from a state policy scan, a focus group, and stakeholder interviews.

Assessment & Accountability Brief

One key challenge to the use of Ideal Learning models is the lack of alignment between IL practices and the state’s assessment and accountability system. This brief looks at state and federal laws and points toward policy opportunities.

School Choice & Equity

In Colorado, children can be enrolled in any public school with availability, including one outside their district. Despite broad support for choice, actual choice remains limited. Many districts have promoted choice to encourage innovation, but access and enrollment are not equitable.

What Stakeholders are Saying

During our initial research, local educators shared the challenges of educating young children.

We are our own worst enemies. If we can’t agree on the right strategies, we won’t get anyone on the train with us.

There is a tension between something that requires patience – namely child development – and a system that is impatient. Benefits of whole child approaches don’t show up in test scores, but test scores are emphasized in our system.

There will always be apples-to-apples comparisons to enable improvement and choice. The state should complement those with measures that recognize quality in different ways.


This work was made possible by grant funding from the Trust for Learning.

  • Trust for Learning