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Case Studies of Schools Implementing Early Elementary Strategies: Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service, Case Studies of Schools Implementing Early Elementary Strategies: Preschool Through Third Grade Alignment and Differentiated Instruction, Washington, DC, 2016.

To explore how educators might build on and sustain the positive effects of preschool, this study examined two types of strategies that preliminary literature searches revealed as promising practices to support children’s learning in early elementary school: (1) aligning instruction from preschool through grade 3 (referred to as P–3 alignment) and (2) differentiated instruction. To explore how educators use these two strategies, this study conducted a systematic literature review followed by case studies of five programs that used one or both of these two strategies. Key findings: (1) All five case study programs aligned instruction across grades by aligning or coordinating standards, curricula, instructional practices, and professional development; three sites also used aligned assessments. (2) Common elements of P–3 programs included the use of professional learning communities, coaches, parent engagement, and play-based or student-initiated learning. (3) Teachers in all five programs reported using strategies to accommodate students’ different skill levels, including modifying assignments, adapting learning materials, providing different levels of support, or using small-group instruction. (4) All five programs focused on increasing students’ vocabulary, oral language, and social-emotional skills.

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