“ESSA requires school districts that receive Title 1 funding to coordinate with Head Start programs, and it gives states the flexibility to expand early childhood, incorporate early learning into school improvement plans, improve transitions to kindergarten, and improve educator professional learning. How should states and communities best take advantage of these opportunities? What would continuity of high-quality experiences look like in practice, and what are the implications for state and community system-building?
I suggest that leading-edge school and community partnerships focused on the first decade of children’s lives can help answer these questions and provide new direction to states and communities as they implement ESSA plans.”
“As Jacobson shared, First 10 initiatives can occur in two formats: First 10 School Hubs and First 10 Community Partnerships. First 10 School Hubs are organized around a single elementary school. Emphasis is placed on play-based, developmentally appropriate learning, and transitions from families, to child care and pre-K programs, through the elementary grades. Comprehensive services and supports are provided to families in their local school facilities, community centers, and homes.
First 10 School Hubs purposefully engage families in the neighborhood with children from newborns through the early years. Many host play-and-learn or parent-child interaction groups to foster a dialogue around strategies that help children develop and learn, and provide resources that caretakers can practice at home. The Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan in Metro Omaha includes a School as Hub component, where a full-time home visitor and family facilitator conduct home visits and hold monthly parent-child interaction groups. Home visiting staff and family facilitators have fifteen families in their caseload at once, allowing them to build deep, trusting relationships over time.
The second format, First 10 Community Partnerships, unify a wide network of regional or district-wide schools, service providers, and families, into a cohesive system. For example, Cambridge Massachusetts’ Birth-3rd Grade Partnerships are bringing together a broad range of stakeholders to improve outcomes for children. …
To sustain and expand programming, Jacobson advises that states play a larger role by increasing investments and implementing policies that allow First 10 Schools and Communities to thrive, as Oregon has done. He recommends that states provide aligned standards and assessments across the early years and technical assistance to help staff with implementation. Pointing to the successes of the SUN Service System, Jacobson asserted, ‘I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Multnomah County is in the state of Oregon.’
Moving forward, Jacobson envisions a system synergizing First 10 Schools Hubs and First 10 Community Partnerships, a model that has not yet been implemented. As Jacobson summarized, ‘This convergent First 10 approach acknowledges a fundamental interdependence between schools, families, and communities. The success of each is integrally bound up with the success of others.'”
For a helpful introduction to the First 10 study, see Eye on Early Education’s review, Addressing the Gaps in Children’s First 10 Years. Eye on Early Educationis the blog of Massachusetts’ early childhood advocacy organization, Strategies for Children.With its Massachusetts audience in mind, this post highlights examples of First 10 work in Boston, Cambridge, and Lowell. The First 10 study also includes examples from California, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, Ohio, and Oregon.
The P-3 Learning Hub is changing its name. We are now called First 10.
For the past two years I have been working on a study funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation. The study investigates community initiatives that combine improving teaching and learning in the early grades with strong family partnerships and comprehensive services—all underpinned by a deep commitment to educational equity. The study provided a great opportunity to talk with community leaders in 18 communities throughout the country and conduct site visits to six of them. The innovative work these communities are doing is inspiring.
My experience learning about these communities has convinced me that we need a new name for this powerful combination of strategies. Further, the name needs to communicate the importance of collaboration between school districts, elementary schools, and other early childhood organizations and programs. As I explain here, I follow Arthur Reynolds and Judy Temple in defining early childhood as roughly the first decade of life, and with this in mind I call these important community initiatives First 10 Schools and Communities.
The report includes 7 key findings regarding First 10 initiatives. Informed by the experiences of the communities I profile in the study, I propose a new theory of action that outlines the roles that First 10 Schools and Communities can play to improve teaching, learning, and care in the first decade of children’s lives.
Moving forward, this website and the related research and technical assistance projects my colleagues and I do will focus on supporting First 10 initiatives. (And by the way, the url you have been using will continue to work, but our primary domain is now first10.org.)
“On a June morning in this rural eastern North Carolina community, about a dozen families grabbed the edges of a rainbow parachute, making plastic balls bounce in its ripples. Grandparents, parents and children switched between water games, parachute activities and swing-sets spread across a playground.
The fun and games are serious business to the group that runs them, the Down East Partnership for Children, a 25-year-old nonprofit that provides educational and health resources to families of young children in rural Nash and Edgecombe counties. The goal of these meetings is to highlight the importance of basic interactions between parents and their kids.
Playgroups are held at least twice a month for families with children from birth to 5 years old. The meetings are a way for families to meet other families, get connected with resources and prepare children for kindergarten. Families often need support in this part of the state, an area struggling to keep up with the economic growth of the high-tech Triangle region, the metropolitan home of the state capital, Raleigh, about an hour away.
‘The ultimate goal of Play and Learn groups is to strengthen [the] parent-child bond,” said Cornelia Singletary, Down East’s family services program manager. “For families who are hesitant about putting their child in a formal child care setting, this is kind of like a little preschool, but you get to be with your child.’”
“In many cities and towns across the United States, elementary schools are forging deeper partnerships with families and community organizations well before children arrive at kindergarten. The aim of this work is to improve children’s experiences and family engagement and support along the entire continuum from prenatal care through grade 3 and beyond.
This potent combination of educational supports and family services is the single best strategy we have to address pernicious opportunity gaps and raise achievement for low-income children. Communities such as Cincinnati, Ohio; Omaha, Neb., and Multnomah County, Ore., are embracing this approach to tackle persistent poverty, family instability, the hollowing out of the middle class, and the demand for a more highly skilled workforce.”
“A new Child Trends report finds growing evidence for the effectiveness of a rapidly expanding approach to educational achievement. Integrated student supports (ISS) promote students’ academic success by connecting them with nonacademic resources that support the whole child, including secure housing, medical care, tutoring, food assistance, and other supports.
The report comes as states and school districts begin to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which explicitly encourages the use of ISS models. It finds that students’ participation in effective ISS interventions can have long-term benefits and provides an overview of effective models for policymakers, funders, and practitioners to examine as they try to build high-quality programs.”
Late last week I posted a new version of a theory of action and 7 principles for P-3 Community Partnerships. The aim of the piece is to help clarify the important role P-3 partnerships can play in improving outcomes for young children. Based on what we have learned about early learning partnerships around the country, I draw attention to a set of core strategies partnerships can employ in building the capacity of elementary schools, community-based preschools, and other P-3 organizations.
I want to mention that the Theory of Action page has been revised as well. This page provides an overview of the somewhat more detailed explanation in the post. The theme I use for the P-3 Learning Hub uses a relatively narrow column width for posts, which is intended to make reading easier. It may also make posts seem longer than they are, especially when compared to the wide columns in a report. With this in mind and following the lead of the blogging platform Medium, I’m going to start noting the expected reading time for more substantive posts. Medium calculates that the new post on Version 2.0 of the P-3 Theory of Action is a 12 minute read.
Finally, I included a footnote thanking a number of reviewers for their very thoughtful and enormously helpful feedback on the first version of the theory of action. I’d like to thank them here as well:
Laura Bornfreund, Elliott Regenstein, Angela Farwig, Kyrsten Emanuel, Lisa Hood, Karen Yarbrough, Chris Maxwell, Martha Moorehouse, Rebecca Gomez, Sara Vecchiotti, Naomie Macena, Joan Wasser Gish, Titus DosRemedios, Keri-Nicole Dillman, Sarah Fiarman, Rob Ramsdell, Joanne Brady, and Pat Fahey. Special thanks to Sarah Fiarman for in-depth conceptual and editorial support on this and related work over several years.
This post updates a theory of action and 7 associated principles that I first posted last year. I’ve revised a few of the principles, and the principles line up with the graphics much more clearly now. I also draw attention to three distinctive features of the theory of action. According to the blogging platform Medium, this post is a 12-minute read. See this page for an overview of the core ideas. Many thanks to friends and colleagues for all the helpful feedback. ¹
Over the last 10 years, research, policy, and expert opinion have converged on the idea that addressing achievement gaps requires a comprehensive focus on the first 8-9 years of life, beginning with prenatal care and continuing with high-quality supports through third grade (P-3). The goal of this work is to improve the teaching and learning of cognitive and academic skills while deepening supports for physical and mental health, social-emotional learning, and family partnerships.
Community partnerships of elementary schools, community-based preschools, and other organizations serving young children and their families have great potential for achieving this goal and addressing achievement gaps. When these organizations take concerted action around a common set of goals and strategies, they are among the most effective and powerful ways of improving educational outcomes for lower income children.
Quality Within, Continuity Across
In order for early childhood education and early elementary school to be most effective, communities need to address two obstacles. The quality of both early childhood and early elementary education is highly inconsistent, and the mixed delivery system is characterized by a high degree of fragmentation. Addressing these twin obstacles–inconsistent quality within organizations and fragmentation across organizations–requires a collective response on the part of communities, efforts that require state and federal support as well.
Communities need to raise the quality of education and care in the various community-based organizations and public elementary schools that serve young children and their families in their locale; they also need to create meaningful linkages that align and coordinate the work of these organizations. Developing this capacity requires partnerships of schools, community organizations and families focused on quality and continuity–what I call P-3 Community Partnerships.