Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tools of the Mind Begins Third Year in the Hoboken Public Schools- How It Got There (and how it almost didn't)

Tools of the Mind (ToM) is an integral part of the Hoboken Curriculum Project and is the curriculum for all Pre-K3, Pre-K4, and Kindergarten classrooms in the Hoboken Public Schools. Research and interest in the program goes back to 2007 when it was decided by Dr. Petrosino and Early Childhood Coordinator Jessica Peters that a new early childhood curriculum was needed to reflect self regulation and metacognition-- cornerstones of the Hoboken Curriculum Project.

Along with the curriculum, there is a corresponding professional development sequence that is critical to effective implementation.

But support was more difficult than imagined when first proposed. Despite peer reviewed research on the program's effectiveness and extensive write-ups in the NY Times, this program was met with skepticism and negativity by the Kids First Board of Education members. "Focus on the high school" was the general response....as if a district administrator can afford to focus on only a single aspect of a school district.

Interestingly, at the time, Hoboken High School was under the leadership of Dr. Lorraine Cella (Ph.D Columbia University), and the school had recently been awarded its' second consecutive Bronze Medal Award by US News and World Report and New Jersey Monthly had named it the "second most improved high school in the state of New Jersey". Certainly the school needed attention, as all schools do, but it 1) wasn't being ignored and 2) there was some indication that HHS was on a good trajectory*.

Fortunately for the young children of Hoboken, a non-Kids First majority existed on the Board of Education and this innovative, research based, and responsive curriculum was supported by the Board of Education and was able to be effectively implemented in the Hoboken Public Schools. Tools of the Mind is now celebrating the third year of successful implementation.

Special recognition to recently departed Early Childhood Director Jessica Peters for her leadership in coordinating Tools of the Mind during its first 2 years. Good luck to all those currently involved. -Dr. Petrosino

* Some of you may recall the circumstances of Dr. Cella leaving the district. For more details on that incident, please click HERE.

Description: Tools of the Mind is an early childhood curriculum for preschool and kindergarten children, based on the ideas of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. The curriculum is designed to foster children’s executive function, which involves developing self-regulation, working memory, and cognitive flexibility. Many activities emphasize both executive functioning and academic skills. A growing body of new research indicates that many children start school not ready to learn not because they do not know their letters or numbers but because they lack one critical ability: the ability to regulate their social, emotional, and cognitive behaviors. Current research shows that self-regulation – often called executive function -- has a stronger association with academic achievement than IQ or entry-level reading or math skills.

Picture: The "new" Malibu diner in Hoboken, NJ.