carmen farina

Letter to Principals from NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina

We thought we’d share a refreshing perspective on developmentally appropriate practices from none other than our NYC Schools Chancellor, Carmen Farina. Read what she wrote to principals below:

Dear Colleagues,

A few days ago, a colleague told me about a conversation she’d had recently with a principal. The principal explained that she had suggested to one of her teachers that instead of a one-time field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Bronx Zoo, which can overwhelm students, the teacher might consider a series of two or three shorter visits to allow students time to focus on one or two exhibits or key ideas and then consolidate their learning. The teacher seemed stunned; she couldn’t possibly take that time out of the classroom with tests coming up – she needed to prepare her students for them.

This exchange reminded me that test preparation in moderation is fine, but preparing for life is living it. As I visit schools and talk to principals and teachers, I often hear the same stories about how “real” teaching, engaging projects, and exciting trips are put aside to accommodate test prep. While I certainly understand the anxiety that children, parents, and teachers feel about standardized testing, it is important for all of us to keep the tests in perspective. Ask adults what they remember about their own schooling, and you will hear about the project they worked on for the science fair, the interview they conducted for an oral history project, the day an author came to visit the class, the trip they took to a battlefield, or the scenery they created for a theater production. It is rarely the day spent preparing for a test, memorizing vocabulary words, or bubbling in answers to multiple choice questions. All of those tasks may play a role, but they are not the activities that make students enthusiastic about coming to school. They are not the events that foster a sense of well-being and they should not be the heart and soul of the school experience for our students.

As educators, most of us know that the best preparation for the test is a rich, thoughtful, engaging curriculum that awakens curiosity in students, inspires them to ask questions, helps them explore complex problems, and encourages them to imagine possibilities. We understand that the best classrooms are lively places where students are immersed in conversation, debating ideas, and developing perspectives and viewpoints. And, because the single best way to improve reading proficiency is to read, and read, and read, students in these classrooms are reading plenty of authentic literature in addition to nonfiction. Literature is helping them to understand themselves, and to make sense of the world and their experience in it. They can lose themselves in books, and find themselves as well. And, research says that along the way, they are also becoming more empathetic human beings.

So, with the test season approaching, let’s try to remember what is most important about teaching, learning, and the school experience, and let’s try to help those in our charge do the same. I know I can count on you!

With admiration,

Carmen Farina

carmen farina






(photo courtesy of NBC)

In Memoriam: Elisabeth S. Hirsch

In Memoriam

Elisabeth S. Hirsch, a professor emeritus of The City College of New York, passed away, after a long illness, in February 2014.  Born in Budapest, Hungary, she was a Holocaust survivor and a wife and mother whose career included many years as an early childhood teacher at the Little Red School in New York City followed by many more years as a professor of early childhood education at The City College of New York. 

She was the author of seminal early childhood publications, the most renowned of which are The Block Book and Transition Periods:  A Stumbling Block of Education – both published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.  These timeless works have supported thousands of early childhood educators – across the nation and the world – to become better teachers.  Grounded in a deep understanding of child development, they make complex ideas and issues easy to understand, demonstrating in a down-to-earth way how teachers and schools can facilitate young children’s optimal development by supporting the active nature of their learning and nurturing their social/emotional lives.

Lisa  – as she was known to her colleagues, students, and friends – was a great mentor and advocate for young children.  We each can honor her legacy through our commitment to continuing her work of ensuring the realization of high quality early childhood education for all.


Beverly Falk, Ed.D.

NY Times article

Robin Hood Foundation Funds PreK Study

Robin Hood Foundation,  Heising-Simons Foundation and the Overdeck Family Foundation are funding a study to determine what makes PreK successful. Here is a brief overview of the study:

The Participants: The study involves children in Brooklyn, who attend Public School 221 in Crown Heights. It will track roughly 4,000 children who enter prekindergarten in 69 schools and community-based organizations next fall, and continue following them through at least the third grade.

The Purpose: To gauge whether a certain math curriculum can create lasting improvement in students’ math and language skills, as well as their likelihood to persevere in the face of academic challenges

The Research Design: Half of them will get the curriculum, called Building Blocks, and the other half will not. Later on, if there is sufficient funding, a subset of each group will get a supplementary math program in kindergarten, in small groups or in the form of intensive tutoring.

The Idea:  According to Michael Weinstein, Chief Program Office, "he was interested in the promise of early childhood education to fight poverty, but unsatisfied by the existing research, which did not provide clear guidance as to which programs were the most cost effective."

What do you think it takes to make prekindergarten successful? Read more about this study HERE




New Research: Why Infants and Toddlers Are So Exhausting

In this funny yet informative article, Williams illuminates the inner-workings of infants and toddlers. Williams describes the importance of speaking to young children during the first four years of their lives and highlights the importance of myelinated connections — the substance that coats the rapid neural stimulation and growth in young children. Click HERE to read more.

girl playing

Register Now: The New York City Association for the Education of Young Children 2014 Conference

The New York City Association for the Education of Young Children Conference Registration is now open. 

From the flyer:

Date: Saturday, March 8th
Time: 9:00 – 3:00 (Breakfast available from 8:00 – 9:00 am; lunch 12:00 – 1:00 pm)
Location: Food & Finance High School, Park West Building, 525 West 50th St., NY 10019 (between 10th and 11th, Manhattan)
Join Us For:

  • Experts in the field
  • Exciting curriculum ideas
  • Classroom management techniques
  • Professional development strategies
  • Administrative insights
  • Networking opportunities
  • Great food
  • Exhibits
  • And more….!

Spend the day with us and be inspired and refreshed! Recharge your batteries – learn some new techniques and strategies!
Check out our website for information about the keynote/featured speakers and the full list of workshop descriptions. You will be able to take a 90-minute workshop in the a.m. and one in the p.m., too.

Why wait? Register now at

For more information, email us at or call 212-894-3382



Register Now: The New York State Association for the Education of Young Children 2014 Conference

Earlybird Registration Ends at February 15th at 11:59pm

The New York State Association for the Education of Young Children has announced the opening of Early Bird Registration, with special pricing through February 14th! 

The year promises to be another enriching and exciting conference, featuring excellent speakers, and valuable workshops for all, so register early.

NYSAEYC 2014 Conference
Thursday, April 10, 6:30pm
Friday, April 11, 7:00am-5:00pm
Saturday, April 12, 6:45am-4:30pm 
Turning Stone Resort and Conference Center
5218 Patrick Road
Verona, NY 13478

For general information and to register visit:

for preliminary schedule, speaker and workshop information, visit:


Connections in Early Learning- Creating Environments that Work for Children

IFCC Newsletter

Children learn from everything around them. The way you set up your child care environment has a significant impact on children's learning and behavior, and your ability to do your job. In this issue, the Informal Family Child Care Project discusses and shares ideas on how to create environments that work for children.

Download this issue

View all issues of Connections




It’s cold- How are you engaging in “play” with your children? Read about one idea here…

It's winter time and it's cold- if you are anything like us, you probably want to stay inside. However, read this cool article about what a mom and her 7 year old did in the freezing cold.


What are other people doing to combat the cold and engage in fun and dynamic methods of play? We would love for teachers to share some of their discoveries and experiences with children in this very cold weather.



New York State of Health: Are You Covered?

New York's new healthcare exchange website, New York State of Health is up and running, and hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have registered. Plans for individuals, organizations and families find insurance are all available. If you don't currently have health insurance, or are looking for a more affordable option, New York State of Health is where you need to be. Keep in mind that December 23 is the deadline to get coverage that starts on January 1 and a March 31 is the enrollment deadline to avoid a financial penalty for not having insurance in 2014 (more information about deadlines).

Take care of yourself, so that you can offer the best care to the children of New York!

New York State of Health