In the 1960s, Evelyn Moore transitioned from her role as a special education teacher to an early educator for the Perry Preschool Project a program designed to provide high-quality preschool education to three- and four-year-old African American children living in poverty and assessed to be at high risk of school failure. The original Perry Preschool Project was 1962-1967.
Evelyn is the founder and Executive Director Emeritus of the National Black Child Development Institute. For 38 years she led NBCDI and constantly worked to improve and advance early education for young African American children. Moore continues to defend and support the need for universal childcare which includes access to high-quality early childhood education for all children regardless of race, economic level, or other identifiers.
As she grew into a young teacher trained in special education, Evelyn carried with her the value and importance of literacy and education that her parents instilled in her as a child. The youngest of the four founding Perry Preschool Project teachers, Evelyn learned of the importance of cognitive development for children from psychologists like Piaget, Ed Ziegler, and Jerome Kagan. Her years at Perry Preschool were an important part of Evelyn’s life a young African American woman, allowing her to play a role in the trajectory of African American children by looking at them from a growth mindset versus deficit mindset. She had hope for these children’s future. Fast forward to today, Evelyn believes that policymakers need to invest in the early childhood workforce. Teachers, just like doctors, need to be trained to not only teach, but also understand the human developmental theory and cognitive development. Pursuing her passion, Evelyn was asked to write a grant to start a national organization focused on the advocacy of the early education of African American children, now known as the National Black Child Development Institute, in which she was offered the position as President.
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“I really hope we can get away from this deficit model…With preschool [being thought of as] targeting disadvantaged children, we’re still in the deficit model. And I would like to see us move away from that so that it becomes just like kindergarten, first, second grade. Everybody gets it, it’s no big deal.”
“So I think we should look at this nomenclature that we use because we’re really talking about children who are growing up poor. They’re low income. But that doesn’t necessarily determine that you’re going to be disadvantaged…I really believe in these children.”
“I think a great lesson that we’ve had [is] the research on brain development and we know more about how important it is for children to become critical thinkers rather than rote learners. And so I think that we’ve come a long way, but we have a ways to go.”