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5 Top Takeaways from Promise Venture Studio’s Show+Tell: Equity Ventures in Early Education

Because we can’t take our Early Learning Nation Studio on the road during this time, stay tuned as ELN recaps Top Takeaways from important webinars, town halls and virtual events from the Early Learning field. Read them all and join the conversation! And visit our Early Learning Nation channel on YouTube for interviews with leaders from education, child development, business, politics and more.


I attend every one of Promise Venture Studio’s Show+Tell webinars that I can because they introduce me to childhood development entrepreneurs I wouldn’t have heard about otherwise. The concise, compelling pitches at the events are aimed at funders, researchers and policy makers who can scale up visionary ideas—but they’re valuable for anyone in the field.

Equity and Justice was the theme of the July 27 Show+Tell, which began with a spirited conversation between Iheoma Iruka, Ph.D. (Equity Research Action Coalition) and Cemeré James (National Black Child Development Institute) about the forthcoming National Agenda for Black Children: a strategy to achieve systemic change by protecting our children from racism and discrimination; promoting economic security, health and access to education; and preserving cultural heritage and identity.

👉 Register now for NBCDI’s 50th Anniversary conference, October 14-15, 2021.

Here are our takeaways.

1. Early learning is built upon relationships. “But what happens when those relationships are racially biased?” asked Stephanie M. Curenton, PhD, director of the Center for the Ecology of Early Childhood Development (CEED) at Boston University. In too many of the settings where children are supposed to be nurtured, they are victims of overt and subtle bigotry. Professor Curenton argued that traditional metrics fail to detect incidents of racism. A new measure called the Assessing Classroom Sociocultural Equity Scale (ACSES) is based on a culturally relevant, anti-bias framework geared toward different learning and communication styles.

Daisy Han of Embracing Equity shared her experience as a “well-intentioned but ill-equipped” Montessori teacher and explained her organization’s virtual, scalable model for building equity in education communities. Rahil Briggs of ZERO TO THREE discussed how HealthySteps promotes school readiness through pediatric visits and health care relationships.

2. Supporting education means supporting teachers. We can’t improve access to and quality of early education without adequate compensation and advancement opportunities for the workforce. Noting that early educators are poorer, less organized as a workforce and more likely to be women of color than teachers of older children, Lea Austin of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment summarized data from the states on workforce qualifications, work environments and compensation.

Randi Wolfe of Ecepts presented an innovative apprenticeship model and noted the importance of growing the workforce to keep pace with the expansion of universal preschool around the country. (Read more about apprenticeships in early learning.)

3. Equitable teaching means focusing on assets. Zeno recognizes that math, a subject seemingly without racial bias, is a language, a way of thinking. In order to instill a love of math and learning, educators need to account for race, place, language and culture. Gigliana Melzi, Ph.D., professor of applied psychology at NYU, has conducted extensive research into how dual language learners acquire math, and all too often she observes a deficit view—a focus on what students don’t know—that perpetuates inequities. In her work with Development and Research in Early Math Education (DREME), she celebrates and promotes “family math,” which comprises all the activities and conversation among parents, caregivers and young children in the home and during their daily activities.

4. If we fail dual language learners, we fail our nation. One-third of U.S. children under five are dual language learners, according to Alexandra Figueras-Daniel of the Straus Center for Young Children & Families at the Bank Street College of Education. She introduced viewers to Classroom Assessment of Supports for Emergent Bilingual Acquisition (CASEBA) and Self-Evaluation of Supports for Emergent Bilingual Acquisition (SESEBA): tools for learners and teachers, respectively. Dr. Teresa Granillo of Avance stressed the importance of engaging parents in early education, while Pilar Torres of LUNA presented an innovative model for supporting Latina child care entrepreneurs.

5. Inclusion means all, not most. Erin Griffin of the American Indian College Fund demonstrated how strengthening care and learning systems in partnership with tribal colleges and universities advances inclusivity as well as job opportunities. In Washington, D.C., House of Ruth provides culturally appropriate psychotherapy and psychiatry for children and caregivers who have experienced domestic violence. Tara Villanueva emphasized the importance of therapists who look like the families they serve.

The Show+Tell program concluded with a dialogue between Walter Gilliam, professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at the Yale University Child Study Center; and Tena Sloan of Kidango, a nonprofit network of child care centers in California. The pair focused on inherent bias in disciplinary practices, noting the persistent trend of higher expulsion rates for Black preschoolers, which makes interventions less accessible. Rather than kicking children out, Kidango brings mental health clinicians into its centers.

Mark Swartz writes for and about nonprofit organizations. He lives in Takoma Park, MD, with his wife and two children.

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