SEHD Professor’s Impact on Early Childhood Education Beyond Texas
Dr. Hope Gerde, a professor in the School of Education & Human Development (SEHD), is influencing early childhood education beyond the Lone Star State. Prior to joining SEHD, she collaborated on an educational pilot program in Michigan that received $2.2 million in funding through a state bill recently signed into law.
On July 14, 2022, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Enrolled Senate Bill 845. The budget includes support for a new early childhood initiative on which Dr. Gerde is principal investigator for the program’s evaluation. The initiative involved developing and piloting the Strong Beginnings program to help 3-year-olds prepare for school and support family wellbeing. Dr. Gerde evaluated the pilot study for feasibility of implementation and impact on children and families.
Prior to joining Texas A&M in 2021, Dr. Gerde served as an assistant and associate professor at Michigan State University for 13 years. For the Strong Beginnings program, she worked with a team of researchers, educators and policymakers across Michigan. The team developed programming to support developmental goals and needs specific to 3-year-olds and their families. That specificity was key in Dr. Gerde’s recommendations. “We didn’t just include 3-year-olds in classrooms designed for 4-year-olds,” she said.
Dr. Gerde and her Michigan State University collaborators – Drs. Lori Skibbe, Jamie Wu and Joan Firestone – led an evaluation of the project’s implementation by partnering with Michigan school directors, teachers and family liaisons who pioneered this program. Their feedback guided the evaluation’s design. “These professionals are committed to enhancing the lives of young children and families,” Dr. Gerde said. “They rolled out this new program during a pandemic.”
To ensure safety for everyone involved, the research team designed an innovative remote assessment to gather data from the children, families, and teachers. The data the team collected informed an understanding of the program’s multifaceted impacts, challenges and opportunities.
Dr. Gerde is playing a lead role in SEHD’s effort to promote early childhood education in Texas and beyond. As a professor in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture, she was among a group of faculty, staff and grad students who spoke with practitioners at the first early childhood education conference held by the Brazos Valley chapter of the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children last April.
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