This all-day symposium, held in Louisiana on December 10, 2015, explored policy, research, and practice in early childhood education.

Louisiana Charter Schools
Darlene Brown, Alliance Liaison

Early childhood education practitioners, teachers, program directors and coordinators, policymakers, and researchers

Jackie Burniske
Dissemination Director
REL Southwest

About REL Southwest

Sign Up for REL Southwest News
Subscribe to the REL Southwest mailing list to learn about future events and to receive our e-bulletin.


Agenda and Presentations Adobe PDF icon

Handouts and Practice Guide Adobe PDF icon

News Items and Photo Gallery


This free all-day symposium will set the stage for bridging research, policy, and practice in early childhood education, with a focus on early reading and mathematics. Through discussions and hands-on activities, participants will build their knowledge of early childhood trends, policy issues, and instructional strategies. In addition, participants will tour a high-quality early learning program at Bains Lower Elementary School in West Feliciana Parish School District, Louisiana's top-ranked district in kindergarten readiness.


Participants will increase their working knowledge of the following:

  • Policies and trends in early childhood education
  • Louisiana state policies regarding high-quality early childhood education
  • Data-driven strategies to differentiate instruction and improve learning in early literacy
  • Practical methods for increasing young children's knowledge, literacy, and competency in mathematics


photo of Virginia Buysse

Virginia Buysse, Ph.D.
Principal Researcher, American Institutes for Research

Virginia Buysse, Ph.D., is a principal researcher at American Institutes for Research (AIR) and previously was a senior scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. In addition to directing a program of research on a prekindergarten model of response to intervention, her research interests include innovations in early childhood professional development; models such as consultation, coaching, mentoring, and communities of practice that support professional development and program improvement; and education practices and interventions that address the unique needs of learners who have disabilities, learning difficulties, or dual-language needs. Dr. Buysse has been published widely in the field of early childhood education and has served as codirector of the National PreK Implementation and Evaluation Center.

photo of Hollis G. Milton

Hollis G. Milton
Superintendent, West Feliciana Parish School Board, St. Francisville, LA

Hollis G. Milton is superintendent of West Feliciana Parish School District as well as president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents. Under his leadership, West Feliciana has been recognized as the best school district in the state as well as first in kindergarten and college readiness and as a model of universal prekindergarten. Since becoming superintendent in 2010, Milton has shown a proven commitment to academic excellence, student success, and leadership development, promoting the implementation of policies and programs to advance universal opportunities and achievement for all students, foster strong relationships with the community, and support fiscal security. He holds an M.A. in educational leadership from Louisiana State University.

photo of Brian Mowry

Brian Mowry
Prekindergarten Instructional Specialist, Austin Independent School District, Austin, TX

An award-winning educator, Brian Mowry has 24 years of experience in the education of young children. After teaching bilingual prekindergarten and kindergarten for 11 years in the Austin Independent School District, he served as a district-level K–5 mathematics specialist and currently works as the district's early childhood preschool curriculum specialist. In addition, Mowry is the senior author of the Frog Street Mathematics Pre-K program, has presented at numerous conferences, and has received various awards, including Teacher of the Year, the Austin Association for the Education of Young Children's 2011 Teacher Educator of the Year, and Austin's E3 Alliance 2015 Architect of EducationalChange for his work in promoting kindergarten readiness in Central Texas.

photo of Kathleen Theodore

Kathleen Theodore
Senior Technical Assistance Consultant, American Institutes for Research, Metairie, LA

Kathleen Theodore is a senior technical assistance consultant at American Institutes for Research (AIR). Her areas of expertise include elementary curriculum/instruction, reading/language arts and writing instruction, language and literacy, and standards-based instruction and assessment. She works primarily with the Southeast Comprehensive Center, where she leads an Early Childhood Community of Practice, a Mississippi Early Childhood project, and a Common Core State Standards English Language Arts video series, among other projects. She also works with the Center for High-Performing Schools providing districts and schools with onsite professional development and technical assistance on implementing effective literacy instruction and professional learning communities.

photo of Sheryl Turner

Sheryl Turner
Senior Research Associate, RMC Research Corporation

Sheryl Turner is a senior research associate at RMC Research Corporation. She currently works with the Southeast Comprehensive Center as well as the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southeast. Previously, she was a literacy expert with the Center on Instruction and a technical assistance provider for the National Reading Technical Assistance Center. She has extensive experience in organizing and providing consultative assistance to states and districts in planning and implementing literacy programs. Turner serves as a high-quality resource in literacy and teacher quality, providing evidence-based tools and resources, product development, and collaboration on professional development to support capacity building at the state and district levels.


The following resources provide the basis for the symposium: