The second post in this series showed how First 10 partnerships are funded, how they are advancing equity by using this funding to support urban and rural communities with significant low-income populations, and how some partnerships are combining First 10 with anti-racism efforts. In this post, I discuss how communities get started with First 10. I describe the two structures—community-wide partnerships and school-based hubs—First 10 partnerships employ to carry out their work, how they form teams, and how they begin their planning efforts.
Community-wide and School-based First 10 Structures, Sometimes in Combination
The First 10 initiative in York City, PA is a good example of a comprehensive First 10 community partnership (see Figure 1 below). York City is a district of approximately 6100 students, 91% are students of color, and 95% are low-income. The First 10 initiative spans the entire city. First 10 is overseen by a steering committee that includes a board member/parent representative and senior leaders from the district, several early childhood programs, the library, local funders, and other nonprofit organizations. York is forming a family advisory committee to allow for more direct community representation, and importantly, the school district is pairing its First 10 work with a major racial equity and cultural competence training push. At the beginning of the pandemic it established several First 10 teams to carry out a number of strategies that impact the entire community:
Alabama launched its new Transition to Kindergarten Toolkit in December. We have really appreciated the opportunity to partner with Alabama on this important resource. Congrats to Secretary Barbara Cooper (Department of Early Childhood Education), her team, and her colleagues in other agencies. Alabama asks me to convey its thanks to the Rhode Island Department of Education for inspiring the basic idea of this toolkit.
States and counties may get ideas they can adapt from the toolkit, and communities will find helpful guidance materials in sections 2-9.
The focus of the toolkit is on supporting local communities in developing and implementing effective transition to kindergarten plans. Here are a few highlights that may be of interest:
I’m really looking forward to this conversation with Dan Wuori of the Hunt Institute about the great First 10 work underway in Maine and Pennsylvania. We’ll also talk about similar initiatives in Alabama and Rhode Island. I hope you can join us.
The first post in this series described how the first 40 First 10 and transition to kindergarten communities are working to improve quality and alignment and address early childhood challenge #3 (i.e., local system-building). I also previewed some of the lessons this blog series will explore. In this second post, I show how First 10 partnerships are funded, how they are advancing equity by using this funding to support children and families who live in low-income households, and how some partnerships are combining First 10 with anti-racism efforts.
“The tragic fact remains true in this country: children’s outcomes are predicted by their demographic characteristics, the color of their skin, their family’s income bracket, and their home language. These inequities begin before birth and follow children into the early care and education (ECE) system, one of the first systems with which they interact. Indeed, grave inequities in children’s access to, experiences in, and outcomes during and after early learning vary drastically based on what a child looks like, where they live, what language they speak, and where they are from.”
“The opportunity to finally bring about equitable change across America’s systems, including the early learning and education systems, is as ripe as it has been in a generation.”
Local school-community partnerships that carry out effective strategies to improve the quality and coordination of the supports communities provide to children and families are one of the most powerful strategies we have to address the “grave inequities” referenced above. In conjunction with increasing access to high-quality ECE programs and improving workforce compensation, cross-sectoral collaboration focused on the first decade of children’s lives has significant potential to improve outcomes for children and families who live in low-income households. This includes those most affected by current and historical racism and marginalization and those living in rural areas. A recent call to action on advancing equity in ECE from the Children’s Equity Project and eight other organizations recommends the field take the following four actions (among several others), all of which can be advanced by cross-sector community partnerships: 
“The ultimate goal of a stronger, more seamless care and education continuum is to initiate and sustain a strong foundation for future success by providing effective learning opportunities across the infant-toddler years, preschool ages, and early grades in all settings.” (National Research Council, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation).
“The broader lesson of our analysis is that social mobility should be tackled at a local level by improving childhood environments.” (Chetty and Hendron, The Impacts of Neighborhoods on Intergenerational Mobility)
The United States is on the cusp of making a historic investment in early care and education (ECE). This investment comes at a moment in time when the pandemic has exposed the fragmented and siloed nature of our early childhood systems in both urban and rural communities. Widespread racial protests have launched a national reckoning with pervasive racial inequities. Also, during the past two years, an important development has been taking place in the ECE world that can help inform our response to these challenges. Twenty-eight states across the United States have been hard at work improving state and local ECE systems, supported by $275 million of Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B–5) funds. The aim of these efforts is to improve the quality of early childhood programs and services, including how programs and services work together in a coordinated fashion to best meet the needs of children and families. I suggest that state and local system-building efforts like those supported by PDG B–5 are essential to how we address learning loss in the aftermath of the pandemic, and how, as we expand access to ECE programs, we rebuild better, more equitable systems of care and education.
As we rebuild after the pandemic, we have an enormous opportunity to reinvent early education and care in the United States in ways that dramatically improve outcomes for children and families, strengthen communities, and advance equity for all.
In this post, I share three core principles for rethinking how communities serve children and families and make the most of this opportunity. Thanks to the Partnership for Early Education Research at the Yale University School of Medicine for inviting me to blog.
“It explained how the care sector — defined as economic activity in the home and the market — was a crucial part of the economy but operated differently than other types of businesses.
You can’t measure the productivity of a child-care center the way you would, say, a car factory, she explained. The incentives are nothing alike. The profits don’t go only to the center’s owner. Instead, benefits are shared by children and their parents, and society as a whole. The country benefits from a more educated and productive work force.”
While I disagree with the suggestion that public schools can’t do this work, I appreciate the dual generation/comprehensive services thrust of Conor’s article. See this recent webinar series for more examples of school-community partnerships for the whole child.
A few excerpts:
“This juxtaposition — family members decades apart, but attending classes down the hall from one another — is central to a ‘dual-generation’ educational approach ….
These programs have a straightforward theory of education: If children’s success is tightly intertwined with their families’ stability (and we know it is), and families do better when they have access to nutrition, health care and economic opportunity, why not address all of these needs together? …
Now, more than ever, American schools are realizing that they cannot ignore these challenges as they try to reconnect students with learning opportunities. ‘Education is one arm in somebody’s success,’ said Reena Gadhia, the former manager of one of Briya’s work force training programs. ‘You really cannot disregard access to mental health services, access to social services, access to child care, transportation, all of it.'”
“At the root of this crisis is America’s relationship with child care itself. Unlike every other developed country, the United States has never, with the exception of a few years during World War II, treated child care as an essential service. Since at least the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon vetoed a bipartisan effort to implement a universal child-care system because it had what he called ‘family-weakening implications,’ the industry has been cast as a personal choice — more specifically, a mother’s choice.
‘We have never valued the work that goes into caring for our families — we’ve never accounted for it, we have made it invisible and have always taken for granted that women will shoulder the responsibility,’ said Ai-jen Poo, senior adviser for the nonprofit Care in Action and an expert on the care economy.”