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Early Childhood Educators Become Collaborative Leaders Integrating and Implementing Math, Science, and Literacy Strategies with Children and Families


The 2003-2007 "PreKindergarten/ Kindergarten FOCUS! Science, Mathematics, and Reading Training Schools (SMARTS) Leadership Institute" (PreK/K FOCUS!SMARTS) was a unique component of the University of California-Irvine FOCUS! (Faculty Outreach Collaborations Uniting Scientists, Students, and the Schools) project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2002. A major goal of the UCI FOCUS! project was to address the national challenge to improve the quality, quantity and diversity of the teacher workforce in mathematics and science through a partnership joining the efforts of teachers and administrators in three PreK-12 school districts in Southern California collaborating with university Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) faculty and staff and professional development leaders in the UCI Center for Educational Partnerships. This paper highlights professional literature and research documents which emphasize the importance of integrating science, math, and literacy in PreK-12 learning environments. Content, resources, early childhood leaders, and researchers introduced during the four years of the PreK/K FOCUS!SMARTS Leadership Institute are highlighted. Six former participants share reflections demonstrating how Key Features of the National Science Foundation Math Science Program were addressed: (1) Partnership-driven; (2) Teacher Quality, Quantity, and Diversity; (3) Challenging Courses and Curricula; (4) Evidence-Based Design and Outcomes; (5) Institutional Change and Sustainability. "Other Lessons Learned: Parent Involvement" and "Next Steps" provide suggestions for educators, community leaders, and policymakers to consider in future planning.