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Early learning and K-12 go hand in hand: A conversation with Iheoma Iruka

By Iheoma Iruka
April 2021
Early childhood and K-12 educators have a lot to learn from each other, Iheoma Iruka says. Iheoma Iruka is founding director of the Equity Research Action Coalition at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and research professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Her work focuses on supporting the optimal development of children from low-wealth and marginalized communities and ensuring excellence for young diverse learners, especially Black children and their families, through the intersection of research, programs, and policy. This conversation has been condensed and edited. “There’s a lot we can and should do to align the early childhood and K-12 spaces. It’s not just about aligning curriculum or assessments but also about teachers coming together and sharing approaches. … Part

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Early Learning Network, earlylearningnetwork.unl.edu

Equity Research Action Coalition, UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, fpg.unc.edu/equity-research-action-coalition

García Coll, C.T., Lamberty, G., Jenkins, R., McAdoo, H.P., Crnic, K., Wasik, B.H., & García, H.V. (1996). An integrative model for the study of developmental competencies in minority children. Child Development, 67(5), 1891-1914.

Gardner-Neblett, N., Pungello, E.P., & Iruka, I.U. (2012). Oral narrative skills: Implications for the reading development of African American children. Child Development Perspectives, 6(3), 218-224.

National P-3 Center, nationalp-3center.org

Professional learning could also do more to center race. The concept of color blindness has been so injurious to our communities. I want to say: See my color! See my experiences! See my joy and my brilliance!


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Iheoma Iruka is founding director of the Equity Research Action Coalition at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and research professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.


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