A community of practice brings together people around a common interest to share best practices and create new actionable knowledge. We launched our community of practice with a webinar that brought together representatives from our six First 10 states to hear from two groups that are successfully building partnership systems to support young children.
Our first speaker, Secretary Barbara Cooper from Alabama’s Department of Early Childhood Education, is working with EDC to establish First 10 partnerships in Alabama. Alabama is building a comprehensive approach to kindergarten readiness and school success. In addition to expanding its highly regarded First Class Prekindergarten program, Alabama is working to align all pre-natal to age 8 services in the state and is building partnerships within communities to create environments in which all students can succeed.
As part of this work and in collaboration with EDC, Alabama has published a Transition to Kindergarten Toolkit that includes guidance, resources, and strategies to support local communities in implementing effective transition to Kindergarten plans.
We also heard from Cris Lopez Anderson and Amy Schmidtke from the Buffett Early Childhood Institute. Their work in Metro Omaha, Nebraska was an inspiration for First 10. Cris and Amy shared their extensive experience implementing the Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan: A Birth Through Grade 3 Approach. This approach is centered on three pillars:
- Quality (what children and families experience in terms of practices),
- Continuity (how children and families experience services over time and ensuring that services are aligned and coordinated), and
- Equity (who experiences quality and continuity).
The Superintendents’ Plan brings together home visiting (birth to age 3), family supports, and coaching for teachers in elementary schools that serve as hubs for children and families. The Plan started by testing this full implementation model in six districts seven years ago.
While showing many signs of success, over the years, the Buffett Institute has identified a key challenge to the Plan’s current implementation model: their work in schools has been siloed and not adequately connected to district goals and initiatives. To tackle this challenge, the Superintendents’ Plan is taking a systems-approach and creating an action plan with district leaders focused on how district goals for early childhood education are being supported and tackled at each level of the system. The goal is to be transparent with all community members—children, family, school staff, and school leaders—about what the goals are and what each member’s role is.
These two presentations led to small breakout group discussions to give attendees time to meet one another and to discuss what they had heard and how they could apply aspects of these approaches to their own First 10 partnerships.
It was a full agenda! We’ll be pausing community of practice meetings for the summer but are looking forward to our September meeting, where we will be sure to include lots of time for attendees to meet, network, and learn about one another’s work!