Alabama Launches a New Transition to Kindergarten Toolkit

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:

Continue reading “Alabama Launches a New Transition to Kindergarten Toolkit”

Hunt Institute Webinar this Thursday: First 10 in Action

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.

You can register by clicking the link here.

Promoting Educational and Racial Equity through Cross-Sector Partnerships for Children and Families (Post #2)

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.”[1]

“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.”[2]

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: [3]  

Continue reading “Promoting Educational and Racial Equity through Cross-Sector Partnerships for Children and Families (Post #2)”

Taking Action for Children and Families: Learning from the First 40 Communities

“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).[1]

“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)[2]

The United States is on the cusp of making a historic investment in early care and education (ECE).[3] 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.

Continue reading “Taking Action for Children and Families: Learning from the First 40 Communities”

A Game-Changing Opportunity for Early Childhood (Yale School of Medicine)

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.

The Top 10 Takeaways from the ‘School-Community Partnerships for the Whole Child’ Webinar Series

New America’s Elise Franchino has summarized our recent webinar series in 10 takeaways. Check out her post here. She includes great insights from the presenters. Many thanks to all the panelists, moderators, and partner organizations! You can find the webinars and associated resources at these links:

  1. Collaborate to Improve Teaching and Learning
  2. Coordinate Comprehensive Services
  3. Partner with Families
  4. Lead Strategically and Continuously Improve

The Way Forward: Reinventing Early Childhood Education After COVID-19

Burt Granosky/EDC

COVID-19 has exposed a fundamental truth about our systems of education, health, and social services: They are fragmented and siloed, thwarting efforts to improve the quality of learning and care for children. Nowhere is this clearer than in the schools, preschools, and community programs that serve the 44% of U.S. children under 9 identified as low-income. The lack of collaboration and shared vision among these systems means that the extraordinary efforts of people who work on the frontlines are severely handicapped in meeting the needs of children and families.

As we rethink national and state education policies, and as we rebuild schooling and caregiving, we must ensure that the schools and programs that serve children and their families work together at the local level where it matters most.

For over a decade, I’ve studied the work of innovative communities nationwide where just this sort of collaboration is in full force. Preschools, elementary schools, and community health and social service organizations join forces to create and carry out a clear equity agenda that focuses on improving the quality of life for low-income children and their families and children of color and their families. Their successes provide a road map to reinventing early childhood education that begins with three core design principles:

Connect Early Years and Early Grades. When early childhood and K–12 educators collaborate, they can ensure high-quality learning for children. Yet this seldom happens. Instead, we have created two systems with very different philosophies and practices for children of similar ages. The innovative communities that I’ve studied bring early childhood programs together with elementary schools to align curricula, work on how best to teach young children, and develop common approaches to supporting families. As a result, children’s learning can proceed smoothly, consistently, and successfully.

Deepen Partnerships with Families. It’s time to move beyond “random acts of family engagement” like occasional back-to-school nights. Research shows that families play a vital role in children’s success in school, and schools and communities must make two major shifts to support families in this role. The first shift is one of mindset: begin with respect for families and their contributions, be responsive to families’ cultural traditions, invite families to participate as full partners in school affairs, and promote families’ development as leaders. These changes must be coupled with new structures to support families with comprehensive services such as family liaison positions, family resource centers, and well-thought-out partnerships with health and social service agencies.

Strengthen Communities. Harvard’s Opportunity Insights project has shown that of all government policies, investments in low-income children have the highest returns and pay for themselves. The project’s researchers have also demonstrated that the neighborhoods where children grow up have enormous impacts on children’s future social mobility. They conclude that, “The broader lesson of our analysis is that social mobility should be tackled at a local level by improving childhood environments.” Here the first two design principles come together with a third: the most powerful way to improve childhood environments is to implement comprehensive strategies across the elementary schools, early childhood programs, and health and social service agencies that serve children and families in the same community.

Translating principles into action: How does life change for children in these communities? Communities in Maine, Nebraska, Oregon, and Pennsylvania are improving home visiting, family childcare, preschool, and Head Start programs. They are finding new, more effective ways to help children acquire key literacy, math, and social-emotional skills. Families are receiving the health, mental health, and social service support they need to build on their strengths and overcome challenges. Schools, preschools, and community agencies are coordinating their work: sharing data, aligning curricula, supporting children and families through the transition to kindergarten, and leading community-wide campaigns on parenting, school attendance, and early literacy. They are sustaining this work during COVID-19. These communities are demonstrating how to create coherent systems. They are showing us the way forward to better futures for children and families.

Join Us Thursday: Partnerships for the Whole Child (Panelists Posted)

I’m looking forward to moderating the first webinar in our 4-part series, School-Community Partnerships for the Whole Child this Thursday at 4:00 ET. Please join us as we learn about:

  • Boston’s innovative PreK – 2nd Grade curriculum, coaching, and professional learning model and its collaboration with community-based preschools,
  • The district-wide use of non-evaluative classroom observation tools to improve teaching and learning in the early grades in Lansing, MI, and
  • Woonsocket, RI’s transition to kindergarten partnership and its city-wide approach to social-emotional learning in preK and kindergarten classrooms.

The panelists for the first two webinars are posted here, and the remaining panelists will be posted soon.

Building State and Local Systems in Tandem

New America

New America published my new report on state and local First 10 initiatives today.

In 2018, state leaders in Maine determined that their efforts to support children and their families were hampered by the lack of coordination among key stakeholders—early education and care providers, public school educators, and health and social services providers. Addressing these challenges would require new forms of collaboration both among state agencies and at the local level. In response, they created initiatives designed to work in tandem—a state inter-agency team and a companion initiative in 13 communities throughout the state.

Maine chose to use the First 10 framework to guide and structure this work. First 10 partnerships bring together school districts, elementary schools, early childhood programs, and community agencies to improve the quality and coordination of education and care for young children and their families. They work to improve teaching and learning, deepen partnerships with families, and provide comprehensive services for children and families.

Building Systems in Tandem: Maine’s State and Local Initiatives to Improve Outcomes for Children

Education Week Commentary: Getting the First 10 Years Right

Annotation 2020-02-12 115821

See my Education Week Commentary on bridging the gaps between early childhood, elementary school, and health and human services. Please join me in getting the word out and supporting these important collaborations. In addition to the leading edge communities I mention in the essay, 13 communities in Maine and 13 in Pennsylvania are implementing First 10 initiatives, with more to come in Alabama and Rhode Island.

Four Strategies for Getting the First 10 Years of a Child’s Life Right (Education Week)