Early Development and the Achievement Gap: ICD Symposium

New findings on why early brain development matters

In exploring how to close the achievement gap for K-12 students, researchers at the University of Minnesota are examining what impact negative experiences have on children. This includes experiences such as trauma, neglect, homelessness and violence. On February 7, nine researchers will share new findings on why early brain development matters. And perhaps most importantly, how this research can help address the achievement gap. The public is welcome to the ICD Symposium, hosted by the College of Education and Human Development in partnership with the Center for Early Education and Development (CEED).

The Symposium is structured with Table Talk Discussions with child development experts, and kicks off with a welcome and overview by Megan Gunnar, Regents Professor of Child Psychology and Director of the Institute of Child Development. Four talks will follow.

Talk 1: Zeroing in on the Timing of Early Adversity Effects

Bryon Egeland, Professor Emeritus of Child Psychology and Andrew Collins, Morse-Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor of Child Psychology will discuss data from the Minnesota Longitudinal Project on Risk and Adaptation which has tracked children born in 1975 to women living in poverty in Minneapolis. Bryon is one of the study’s founders and will describe how IQ in early elementary children is impacted by trauma.

In the second half of the presentation, Andrew will share how the security of an infant’s early relationships predicts health in young adulthood.  Both their findings link the importance of early experiences with both school achievement and life-long health.

Talk 2: Toxic Stress and Development

Kathleen Thomas, Associate Professor of Child Psychology and Dante Cicchetti, McKnight Presidential Chair in Child Psychology and Psychiatry will focus on toxic stress and its impact on development. Kathleen will present evidence that long periods of deprivation and neglect early in children’s lives alter the development of critical brain regions. Dante will share how an intervention designed to improve the parent-child relationship in maltreated infants can help reduce toxic stress.

Talk 3: Homelessness and the Achievement Gap

Ann Masten, Distinguished McKnight-University Professor of Child Psychology, Stephanie Carlson, Associate Professor of Child Psychology and Philip David Zelazo, Lindahl Professor of Child Psychology will highlight how to partner child development research with private and government agencies. Ann will describe results from her work in collaboration with the Minneapolis Public School System and major homeless shelters in Minneapolis that serve families. Her work shows it is critical to intervene with homeless and highly mobile children to reduce the achievement gap.

Stephanie will then discuss joint work that is being done at ICD on the importance of executive function skills and how homeless children perform as they start kindergarten. Finally, Philip will share how specific interventions can improve the skills known as “executive function” in homeless children to prepare them for kindergarten.

Talk 4: Second Language Learners and the Achievement Gap

In our final talk, Maria Sera, Professor of Child Psychology and Melissa Koenig, Associate Professor of Child Psychology will describe the work they are doing with preschoolers, looking for the factors that facilitate second language learning in early childhood. This work includes examining how development in your first language relates to development in your second language. Their work has an impact on the timing of immersion programs and programs to facilitate English language learning for children entering public school.

For additional Symposium information and to register online for the free event, visit www.cehd.umn.edu/icd/events/icdsymposium. If you can’t attend, please Subscribe to our blog as we share the latest in education and human development research and how CEHD is improving lives!

We hope to see you on February 7!


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2 Responses

  1. sherri rutman says:

    I would like to register for this symposium on Feb 7 and cannot figure out how to register!