Ideal Learning

The Need.

The foundations of learning include four core mutually-reinforcing skills: social-emotional, self-regulation, oral language & early literacy, and early math. Experts agree that young children learn best through play, collaborative inquiry, and differentiated instruction; content and skill support should be delivered accordingly. Whole child education (also referred to as Ideal Learning), is a comprehensive, developmentally-appropriate approach to early education that includes cognitive, social-emotional, and other skills.

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) and many school districts, including Denver Public Schools, highly value this approach, which is reflected in Colorado’s Early Learning and Development Guidelines and Colorado’s Competencies for Early Childhood Educators and Administrators. Programs that reflect the tenets of Ideal Learning, like Montessori and Tools of the Mind, have not been implemented to scale in Colorado due to real and perceived barriers around implementation, academic achievement and minimizing achievement gaps.

The Focus.

This project seeks to better understand real or perceived policy barriers to the implementation of Ideal Learning programs, especially in the context of district and state literacy goals, and to identify opportunities to address them. An analysis at the school, district, state, and program levels will identify core levers for change to better enable the spread of such approaches throughout the state. As a result, we believe that more children will reap the benefits of these learning environments and achieve to their full academic potential.

The Strategy.

This is a partnership project between the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), Denver Public Schools (DPS), Early Milestones Colorado, and two DPS schools currently implementing two Ideal Learning Programs (Montessori and Tools of the Mind) in preschool through third grade. Early Milestones is conducting a comprehensive policy scan and stakeholder interviews in order to identify common barriers and opportunities to the spread of these programs. With the input of the project advisory team recommendations will be developed to support the spread of best practice that also meets specific district and state education goals.

This project is generously supported through the Trust for Learning,
which is committed to the widespread implementation of whole child “Ideal Learning” practices.