First Things First!

Creating the New American Primary School

First Things FirstIn just a few weeks, schoolchildren around the country will be back in their classrooms, sitting at  desks with their pencil boxes. It is a scene that has barely budged for nearly 100 years.  Despite major changes  across society—such as our diversifying demographics,  the harried nature of parents’ work lives, and a growing recognition that success derives from much more than rote learning—elementary school hasn’t kept up. Meanwhile, achievement gaps have widened, and large percentages of young children are labeled as underperformers as they enter the schoolhouse doors.

It is time to shake up the paradigm of children’s first experiences with public education. Join us for a discussion with Ruby Takanishi, former president of the Foundation for Child Development and a senior research fellow at New America, about the urgency of rethinking the way primary education is organized in the United States. We’ll probe the findings from her new book, First Things First! Creating the New American Primary School, and delve into the implications for educators and education leaders who are implementing reforms in their own schools.


Lisa Guernsey
Deputy Director, Education Policy Program, New America


Laura Bornfreund
Director, Early and Elementary Education Policy Program, New America

Panel Discussion

Ruby Takanishi
Author, First Things First! Creating the New American Primary School

Susan B. Choplin
Kindergarten Demonstration Classroom Teacher
Walkertown Elementary School in Forsyth County, N.C.

Steve Oates
Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Administration (retired)
Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools in N.C.
Consultant to the National Institute for School Leadership

Kristie Kauerz
Director, National P-3 Center
University of Washington


Lillian Mongeau
Engagement Editor and West Coast Correspondent, The Hechinger Report

Please join us for a reception following the event.