In early 2021, Erikson Institute partnered with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to create a program that addressed the need for educator professional development (PD) about play-based learning and observational assessment using the required Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS).
The result was Project Connect, classroom-based professional development designed to strengthen kindergarten teachers’ ability to observe, document and interpret children’s behavior and thinking to holistically address their needs. Throughout the year, teachers have dedicated time to work with small groups of students on formative assessment activities, collaborate with Erikson facilitators, and gain a deeper understanding of children’s math and literacy development. Teachers also receive support inside and outside the classroom, as well as professional development credit hours for their work.
Project Connect teachers report a greater transfer of learning to their everyday practice than more traditional PD. Teachers join virtual learning communities from their schools during the school day. This allows for classroom-based work to happen with students on the very same day. “I can use the information right away. I like that we can apply it that day,” says Tracy Parson of Blue Ridge CUSD #18 in Farmer City. Imoni Baxter of Bellwood SD #88 agrees, “I get to apply real experiences in my classroom to the professional development and get support from my colleagues.” Project Connect is informed by data from the KIDS assessment and supports teachers to better understand developmental trajectories in language, literacy, math, and social emotional learning. By helping teachers and administrators understand the value of observational assessment and using KIDS to document growth over the kindergarten year, they deepen their knowledge of the needs of the whole child.
“You’re able to really get a deeper understanding of, not only the KIDS assessment tool, but where your students are on these different continuums –Laura Iacullo of Aptakisic-Tripp SD #102.
Over the past two academic years, Project Connect has worked with nearly 200 Kindergarten teachers from 43 districts across the state of Illinois. “It’s not often that you’re a part of something that is actually revolutionizing your teaching. I’m grateful to be a part of it.” — Amy Runkle of Fairview SD #72 in Skokie.
Learn more about Project Connect or apply for the 2023-24 school year. This is the last year of funding for Project Connect, so apply soon to reserve your spot!
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