Build Initiative’s Community Systems Development Toolkit

The Build Initiative has published a large collection of resources to guide community system-building efforts.

The Community Systems Development Toolkit supports the hands-on implementation of collaborative systems work at the local level, providing resource tools that cover the full spectrum of community systems and coordination work.

Tailored to the needs of community-based collaboration and organized in systems change theory, the toolkit is designed to provide accessible, comprehensive resources supporting the changing stages and needs of communities engaged in collaborative work. Tools include forms, examples of community level strategies, questions, guidance, samples, processes and articles.

The Toolkit is organized in four sections:

  1. Setting and Resetting the Stage
  2. Assessment and Planning
  3. Working Together/Taking Action
  4. Measuring Progress and Evaluating Impact

Social and Emotional Learning in Schools: Excerpts from a Helpful Overview

A large-scale meta-analysis of 213 studies involving over 270,000 students confirmed that SEL [social-emotional learning] produces significant positive effects in six different aspects of adjustment. These outcomes included improvements in academic performance, SEL skills, prosocial behaviors, and attitudes toward self and others (e.g., self-esteem, bonding to school), as well as reductions in conduct problems and emotional distress (e.g., anxiety and depression). [Emphasis added.]

Teachers were more successful when conducting programs than were outside staff members who entered the school to administer programs. This indicated that SEL interventions can be incorporated into routine educational practice. [Emphasis added.]

Unfortunately, most programs are introduced into schools as a succession of fragmented fads, isolated from other programs, and the school becomes a hodgepodge of prevention and youth development initiatives, with little direction, coordination, sustainability, or impact.

Many teachers respond favorably to the possibility of providing SEL programming to their students, although they need administrative and policy support to do so effectively. Their efforts are enhanced when … leaders champion a vision, policies, professional learning communities, and supports for coordinated classroom, schoolwide, family, and community programming. [Emphasis added.]

Continue reading “Social and Emotional Learning in Schools: Excerpts from a Helpful Overview”

New Infant-Toddler Report and Other Resources

The Center for American Progress has released a new report, “Emerging State and Community Strategies to Improve Infant and Toddler Services.” The report makes policy recommendations for financing and aligning infant-toddler services and includes examples of both state and community initiatives that target high-needs neighborhoods.

Decades of research on brain development and outcomes from early learning interventions have clearly demonstrated that children thrive when they have consistent access to high-quality early childhood programs starting at birth or even before and continuing until they enter kindergarten. Yet too often, programs that target young children provide services in isolation, are underfunded, and fail to meet the needs of all eligible families. Creating a continuum of services that are intentionally aligned to reach children for as long as possible can help ensure that early childhood services and programs effectively support all aspects of young children’s healthy development.

Also see Eye on Early Education’s piece on the Massachusetts Reading Corps:

“But are we really meeting the needs of the people we’re serving?”

That’s what Shannon Langone wanted to know in 2007 when she started working for the AmeriCorps program at Springfield College.

“What can we do that we know will work?” she wondered and set out to find ways to make a measurable difference for school children.

She found an answer in the Midwest: the Minnesota Reading Corps.

And as another indication of the growing recognition of the importance of social-emotional skills:

Early Childhood Social-Skills Program Boosted by $20 Million Donation

Vroom Delivers Tips, Community Playbook, and Apps for Parents and Caregivers

Vroom now has a community playbook available for free. From a post on the Grade-Level Reading Campaign’s Huddle site:

Vroom turns shared moments into brain building moments. Whether it’s mealtime, bathtime, or anytime in between, there are always ways to nurture our children’s growing minds.

Vroom was developed by a group of dedicated scientists, community leaders, and trusted brands, with input from community organizations and families like yours. Together, we’re providing parents and caregivers with ways to boost early learning in fun and friendly ways.

Vroom was designed to be owned, adopted, and driven by others, and we’re working hard to make this a reality. At this stage in the development of Vroom, we have completed our pilot project in the Seattle area, and as a result we’ve published a Vroom Playbook as a “how to” for communities, organizations, and individuals interested in activating Vroom. Our Playbook, printable tips, and other materials are freely available for download from the “Tools and Activities” section of our website at joinvroom.org. For your convenience, here is a direct link to those materials, available in English and in Spanish.

Deepening and Extending the Work in New Jersey

New Jersey is well-known for its leadership in early learning. Notable examples include the state’s highly-regarded preschool and kindergarten implementation guidelines, its investment in preschool across the state, extensive support for PreK-3rd early literacy in low-income communities, its PreK-3rd Leadership Training Series, and leading edge success stories in communities like Union City and Red Banks. Vince Costanza, the Executive Director of the Race to the Top—Early Learning Challenge for the NJ DOE, recently shared some updates on the state’s early learning work in a blog post and in a presentation at the Ounce of Prevention Fund’s Birth—3rd District Leadership Summit. Here are a few highlights:

  • 1st through 3rd Grade Guidelines: Having created PreK and Kindergarten guidelines, the state is extending its implementation and best practice guidance to the early elementary years. Costanza says that the transition out of K is “the next frontier.” Regarding the new guidelines: “We want something that say the things that need to be said and aren’t currently being said; that conceptualize academic rigor and developmentally appropriate practice and show what it would look like.” Supported by NIERR and CEELO, the Department of Education has worked closely with teachers, districts, and higher education, building engagement and buy-in at the local level. Costanza expects that the guidelines will be finalized this fall.
  • Deepening Kindergarten Practice:  The Early Childhood Department has developed a 3-part video series, High-Quality Kindergarten Today, that demonstrates best practice in kindergarten classrooms. Renowned early childhood educator Dorothy Strickland provides helpful commentary throughout the series. The department is also creating a professional development series focusing on problems of practice in kindergarten teaching.
  • Connecting State Initiatives: Regarding integrating state initiatives like the Common Core, educator evaluation, student growth objectives, and the kindergarten entry assessment, Costanza talks about the need to “double down and define what this work looks like in the early years.” See New Jersey’s Teacher Evaluation Support Document for PreK and K for an example.
  • The KEA and Social-Emotional Development: Rick Falkenstein, the superintendent of the Kingwood Township School District, describes a partnership in which the state supported KEA implementation in a number of school districts. Falkenstein reports his kindergarten teachers saying that their use of Teaching Strategies Gold has made them more “intentional” in their teaching. One veteran told him, “I know my students in ways I didn’t before.” Falkenstein also noted that as a result of his kindergarten teachers using the KEA, 1st and 2nd grade teachers are expressing more interest in social-emotional development. “It has been pretty contagious.” I wonder if other districts are experiencing this kind of contagion effect?
  • 10 Kindergarten Policies: The Ounce session on kindergarten also profiled a policy statement from the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education: The Power of Kindergarten: 10 Policies Leading to Positive Child Outcomes.
  • New Transition Tool from Washington State: And in a contribution to the session from the West Coast, Anne Arnold from the Highline Public Schools shared a Profile of a Kindergarten-Ready Child, a transition form developed by a cross-district coalition that included Seattle and that was supported by the Gates Foundation.

Collection of Early Childhood Assessment Resources

Writing from Day 4 of Massachusetts’ Early Educators Leadership Institute, I want to share a set of resources on early childhood assessment that Albert Wat (National Governors Association) and Linda Warren (Early Childhood Associates) have pulled together.

In addition to general information on assessment, the resources are organized by 8 topics, including, for example:

  • Finding Time to Use Assessments
  • Conducting and Aligning Environmental and Instructional Practice Assessments
  • Engaging Families as Sources and Consumers of Data
  • Effective Professional Development Models

You can find the resources at Early Childhood Assessment Resources.

“You Are on the Cusp of a Huge Movement”

So exclaimed Libby Doggett, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the US Department of Education. Doggett discussed the Birth—3rd movement at the recent District Leadership Summit in Chicago organized by the Ounce of Prevention Fund. She told the audience of district leaders that we are at “unique moment in time” and “can finally realize the promise of early learning” through the broader frame of the Birth—3rd approach. Diana Rauner, the President of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, agreed with Doggett, saying, “We are at the beginning of something big here, a new normal, a new vision for educational attainment, and a new vision for collaboration.” Rauner shared the experience of the Birth-to-College Collaborative, a partnership between the Educare early learning program and the University of Chicago Charter School. Saying it took two years to “put our weapons down,” Rauner emphasized the importance of developing “a shared goal, a shared language, shared identity, and a shared vision for our kids.” Rauner suggested we need to “be able to present an aligned vision of parent engagement throughout the continuum.” In my post on the Birth-to-College Collaborative’s Toolkit, I mentioned how the  Collaborative had created a Parent Advisory Committee to help guide their work, and family engagement comes through as a strong priority throughout the Toolkit.

Introducing the New “Transforming the Workforce” Report

For an introduction to the important new report, Transforming the Workforce For Children Birth through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation, see this post by Lisa Guernsey, who served on the report’s committee. From Guernsey’s post:

At the report’s heart is the recognition that supporting the growth and development of young children from birth through age eight—including their cognitive development, their social-emotional development, and so much more—is complex and challenging work. Parents, of course, are primary in children’s development, and a forthcoming report from the Academies will examine the parenting side of early childhood. But last week’s report addresses the skills of adults who are paid for working with and teaching young children. It recognizes that helping to develop children’s bodies and minds requires much more than putting out snacks and coloring books.  Yet many parts of today’s early education system, or in many cases, its non-system, do not help adults provide much more than that.

“For too long,” the report states, “the nation has been making do with the systems and policies that are rather than envisioning the systems and policies that are needed, and committing to the strategies necessary to achieve them.”