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Fall Forum Focuses on Helping Children Succeed in Early Education

CCF Forum 2014

From left:  Robert Pianta, of the University of Virginia, Alan Cohen, of Dallas ISD, and United Ways of Texas CEO and president Adrianna Cuéller Rojas discussed ways to improve early education during the Center for Children and Families fall forum.

Children will have a better chance to succeed in school and in their lives if parents, educators and public policies prioritize fostering inquisitive minds and provide quality prekindergarten education. That was the consensus of experts at UT Dallas’ Center for Children and Families fall forum.

The forum, Ensuring Children’s Success in School: Effective Teacher-Child Interactions in Early Education, attracted educators, researchers and parents to hear experts’ presentations and discuss effective practices in improving early education. Speakers talked about strategies tested in research for improving teaching and learning in pre-K education and offered ideas for new education policy.

“When we talk about children, it’s about open-mindedness and how do we bring open-mindedness to adults,” Alan Cohen said about teaching adults to teach children.

Cohen, executive director of Early Childhood Education and Community Partnerships for the Dallas Independent School District, detailed his office’s efforts to increase kindergarten readiness by working to provide necessary tools and mentoring for the district’s pre-K teachers.

Dr. Margaret Owen

Dr. Margaret Tresch Owen

“This year’s forum was attended by an impressively broad array of those in our community leading the efforts to expand and improve the quality of early education,” said Dr. Margaret Tresch Owen, director of the Center for Children and Families and Robinson Family Professor. “The stimulating presentations along with the active and engaged discussions of the research guiding these efforts made for an impactful CCF forum.”

Dr. Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, offered this year’s keynote address on the importance of quality teacher-child interactions in the classroom for a child’s future academic success.

Good interactions are based on the features of emotional support, classroom organization and instructional support that gets the child thinking. From his research in classrooms across the country, Pianta said the majority of early childhood education classes are moderately to very good at offering emotional support and a well-organized classroom. But most are deficient in providing good instructional support.

Pianta shared the results of his research and efforts to improve effective interactions through collaborative, individualized professional development efforts. Better teacher-child interactions led to improved academic and social skills of students observed in more than 800 early childhood classrooms.

The annual forum brings national leaders to UTD to discuss issues important to child development. It has evolved into a much anticipated opportunity for the Center to fulfill its essential mission: Ensuring that new knowledge promoting healthy and positive development is made available to those in the community working on behalf of children.

Dr. Bert Moore,
dean of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and Aage and Margareta Møller Distinguished Professor.

Adrianna Cuéller Rojas, the president and CEO of United Ways of Texas, the voluntary state association for the local United Way organizations in Texas, stressed the challenges and new opportunities after the midterm elections for “moving the needle” in early education in Texas.

“The annual forum brings national leaders to UTD to discuss issues important to child development,” said Dr. Bert Moore, dean of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and Aage and Margareta Møller Distinguished Professor. “It has evolved into a much anticipated opportunity for the Center to fulfill its essential mission: Ensuring that new knowledge promoting healthy and positive development is made available to those in the community working on behalf of children.”

CCF will continue pursuing that theme in the 2015 spring lecture series. Owen will provide the first lecture, titled “Supporting School Readiness by Building a Communication Foundation,” from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 23, at the Naveen Jindal School of Management (JSOM 2.115). Attendance is free and open to the public.

The forum received support from the Timberlawn Psychiatric Research Foundation, Inc. and Children’s Health. Materials from the forum can be found on CCF’s website.  

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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