Setting the Early Childhood Standard in Montana

Read Time: 5 minutes
July 10, 2024

University of Montana



For over twenty years, Dr. Allison Wilson has been working in early childhood, beginning when she was just a teenager working in a home-based child-care setting. Today, she is an Associate Professor at the University of Montana and Director of the Institute for Early Childhood Education.

The University of Montana Program at a Glance

  • University students learn best practices in their coursework.
  • Students observe and then teach in three preschool classrooms on campus.
  • An average of 10 students graduates each year with a Master of Education in Early Childhood Education.
  • The program focuses on preparing prospective early childhood educators with the highest quality curriculum and assessment resources.


An important aspect of the University of Montana’s program is its Learning and Belonging (LAB) School—a real-world environment that immerses students in a ‘model’ early childhood program facilitated by carefully selected curriculum and assessment.

The LAB School has three classrooms: two mixed-age preschool classrooms and a full-day transitional kindergarten classroom. Open to the community, the classrooms operate with children from Monday through Thursday. Each Friday is dedicated to preparing prospective teachers with a model of high-quality early childhood teaching and learning through reflective team seminars. It is up to Dr. Wilson to choose the early childhood solutions that will best prepare both the prospective teachers and the LAB School’s littlest learners.


  • Select the most effective curriculum and assessment based on a play-based approach involving intentional investigations.
  • Select a curriculum that engages children in multiple ways and follows their interests.
  • Select a curriculum and assessment that entry-level graduates and prospective teachers can implement with ease.
  • Select a curriculum and assessment that are seamlessly connected.


Using her deep knowledge and experience in early childhood, Dr. Wilson focused on selecting a curriculum and assessment that incorporated what research tells us is best for the youngest learners and most supportive of its teachers.

What did The University of Montana’s Institute for Early Childhood Education select?  The Creative Curriculum and GOLD.


What I really like about The Creative Curriculum—especially for new teachers just entering the field—is the easy-to-follow structure for the teacher and [the fact] that it is play-based and the topics are meaningful to children.

Allison Wilson, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Director, Institute for Early Childhood Education

Unlike other assessment tools, GOLD provides a platform where teachers can simply click and viola—data is entered, progress is tracked, and connections to curriculum are made without pencil and paper and analyzing data to inform individualization made without filling anything out with pencil or paper, entering it into a system, looking at the data to determine individualization.


Montana is one of 63 universities and colleges that partner with Teaching Strategies. The LAB School at the university not only prepares prospective teachers, but it also employs some of its graduates from the program.  Dr. Wilson is also doing something incredibly special outside of the university. During the week, she partners with a local public school district that has three early childhood classrooms that are piloting The Creative Curriculum and GOLD. She provides them with guidance and support as they consider implementing the curriculum and assessment.

When asked what her advice would be to public schools when selecting early childhood curriculum and assessment, she said the following:

Teachers and leaders really appreciate the scope and sequence of The Creative Curriculum because it is comprehensive. For public schools, it is a great solution because it’s not: here is a curriculum for language arts, or here is a curriculum for mathematics. Rather, it takes on that very developmentally appropriate, integrated approach.

GOLD helps streamline the process for planning curriculum.  As opposed to planning curriculum and then hopefully identifying opportunities to assess learning later, the goals from The Creative Curriculum are tracked so it helps create even more individualized learning experiences.

It streamlines the process honestly— in a way that it is not SO concrete that there’s no flexibility on the part of the teacher— and it is respectful to teachers in providing a guideline to follow.





Create seamless connections between curriculum and assessment.

Explore The Creative Curriculum
Explore GOLD