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U.S. DOE to offer grants to education professors across the country
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2014 14:06 PM

Advocates of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) believe that academic excellence should begin as early as pre-K and kindergarten. Now, teachers committed to the early development of children in the U.S. will receive some financial help from the federal government. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education has promised more than $1 million to the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education's Leaders for Tomorrow's Children program. The program aims to improve the quality of graduate-level education in the study of early childhood learning and development. Professors Tina Stanton-Chapman, LaVae Hoffman and Stan Trent are among the first education professors to receive the award. The grant will also benefit nine other programs across the nation.

Developing early education leaders
The Leaders for Tomorrow's Children program at the University of Virginia supports the efforts of people invested in early childhood special education. The program primarily works to increase the number of graduate students enrolled in education training. The creators of the program aim to develop high-caliber professors who can conduct research and submit their work to peer-reviewed journals. This data will help future generations of undergraduates and graduate students develop knowledge and skills useful in teaching infants, toddlers and preschool children in a classroom setting. According to Trent, a cultural diversity specialist, the program will benefit education communities locally and abroad.

"Through the Curry School of Education's relationships, each Leaders for Tomorrow's Children student will have the unique opportunity to partner with agencies and school districts that serve children from high-poverty and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds," Trent said in a statement.

Obstacles to early childhood education programs
Despite the U.S. DOE's recognition of the importance of early education, some politicians in Congress believe programs like Leaders for Tomorrow's Children will not really benefit young children. House Republicans raised the issue at a Workforce and Education Committee meeting earlier this month. According to committee chairman Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., there is a lack of substantial evidence that early education programs produce positive results. Russ Whitehurst, a senior fellow at Brooking's Institute, testified that data related to the benefits of preschool programs is outdated and inapplicable to programs used today.

Forging comprehensive early education programs
Although people like Kline might not believe in early education programs, the University of Virginia won't stop training teachers like Stanton-Chapman, Hoffman and Trent. The university's Curry School of Education plans to expand its number of doctoral-level students that focus on early childhood education. It will provide a number of opportunities for students to conduct research and recruit individuals from diverse education backgrounds that have studied communication disorders, learning disabilities and other related fields.