Administrators Q&A

We wrote Great First Eight with metropolitan settings in mind and have only piloted the curriculum in metropolitan areas. There are many features of the curriculum that may not work in other settings. For example, we wrote the curriculum with the assumption that when toddlers go on a walk, they will see environmental print (e.g., street signs) that the teachers can point out and discuss. As another example, many of our project-based units involve connecting with businesses and cultural institutions within close proximity of the care setting or school. Using Great First Eight in other settings would require careful adaptation.

One of our foci when writing the Great First Eight Curriculum was children from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds. We are unapologetic about this, as many curricula have been written with little or no attention to children from these backgrounds. We have strived for extensive, positive representation of people from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds in every aspect of the curriculum.

Although no set of curriculum materials can, by themselves, guarantee an education that is tailored to each child’s knowledge, cultural background, strengths, and needs, Great First Eight is intentionally designed to better support teachers through both curriculum and professional development materials to provide such an education for each child in their classroom.

Notably, when fewer children from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds are in your classrooms, more thought and preparation will be needed to ensure that the curriculum is supportive of, and not harmful to, all children in the classroom. For example, if you are discussing differences among people in physical features, and you have only one child with a particular hair type, you must take care that that child is not singled out in a negative way.

No. We have designed the curriculum to include many positive representations of people who are White as well. We also attend to many aspects of identity beyond race and ethnicity, such as diversity in language and physical abilities. Our aim is for every single child in a Great First Eight classroom to develop a positive identity, pride in their families, and a sense of belonging in and appreciation for diversity within the classroom and broader community.

No. The curriculum is designed so that children can enter at any point up to and including kindergarten and still be successful with proper differentiation. However, the more years of the curriculum children experience, the more likely the positive and long-term impact, as each year of the curriculum builds carefully on the years prior.

Unfortunately, we don't think it would go well for a school to begin the curriculum in first grade or later, as there is just too much Great First Eight instruction that children would have missed by that point. For example, we have children reading consonant-short-vowel-consonant words and certain digraphs by the end of kindergarten, but many children are likely to come from other kindergartens in which they have not reached that milestone.

No. Critical race theory is an academic theory that is not appropriate for instruction in the birth-through-age-eight years.

We do address race in developmentally appropriate, research-informed ways, as summarized in the one-pager linked above. We also develop children’s ability to be critical. For example, in our first-grade curriculum, one social studies unit focused on economics is called Critical Consumers. One of the products of this unit are Public Service Announcements children develop about the importance of critically analyzing advertisements.

We wanted to make the curriculum free in order to increase the likelihood that it could be used in child care settings, schools, and districts that are underfunded or otherwise under-resourced. Therefore, rather than developing the curriculum through a commercial publisher or investment group that would expect a financial return, we have funded development thus far through the generous support of an anonymous donor to the University of Michigan, as well as through the support of the Kellogg Foundation, and Stand for Children. We are in the process of raising additional funding to complete curriculum development on an accelerated timeline.

Yes. Although the curriculum itself and many materials associated with it are free, there are materials required for effective implementation that have to be purchased. This includes materials for science investigations and a large number of published children’s books for read alouds. There are also materials that need to be printed, such as our alphabet chart and books we have written for young children to read. We are working hard to secure an agreement with a compiler that will fulfill materials orders to up to 50 schools implementing Great First Eight Kindergarten in ‘23 - 24. To inquire about participating in the Vanguard group of implementers please see the Teachers or Administrators page of the website. We will have an estimate of classroom materials costs determined soon. If you submit an inquiry, we will notify you once cost information is available.

Please note that in addition to required materials, there are technology requirements for Grades K and above, including tablets or touch-screen devices, styluses, and headphones for every child in K - 2, and costs related to required professional development time for teachers and coaches. Materials Lists and a full list of technology requirements are located in Great Gate, which can be accessed by creating a free account and logging in.

We will be selecting up to 50 schools nationally to implement Great First Eight Kindergarten in ‘23 - ‘24, First Grade in ‘24-’25, and Second Grade in ‘25-’26. To inquire about participating in the Vanguard group of implementers please see the Teachers or Administrators page of the website. If ‘23-’24 is too soon for you, please sign up on the home page to receive regular Great First Eight updates!