“Education policy has become as polarized as the rest of American politics. In the new administration, disagreements over standards, funding, school choice, and students’ civil rights are sure to intensify. Yet despite this polarized state of affairs, liberal and conservative education priorities are converging in a number of important respects, driven in part by mounting research findings. Common ground is emerging where conservative commitments to character formation, strong families, and local solutions meet liberal commitments to services that help low-income families overcome obstacles to improving their quality of life.
Borrowing a term from the Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, I suggest that a number of educational priorities, described below, are “purple”—they resonate with both red and blue constituencies. Further, these priorities animate a powerful reform movement that is spreading across the country ….”
I have strengthened the language around family engagement and support in the principles for effective P-3 partnerships and the associated theory of action graphic. You will see that I drew on a consolidated version of the renowned Head Start family and community engagement outcomes, which I think are right on-point and fit well within the context of the P-3 theory of action. Check out the Overview and/or the Full Explanation (a 12-minute read). Many thanks to my EDC colleague, Heidi Rosenberg, for her helpful suggestions.
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.
I’m pleased to announce that EDC has received a grant from the California-based Heising-Simons Foundation. The grant is funding a study of place-based approaches to improving early learning outcomes for young children. I will work with my colleague, Kyle DeMeo Cook, to investigate three types of community partnerships for early education:
Cradle-to-Career partnerships that bring together community leaders and community organizations around a common vision and common benchmarks,
Community approaches to wrap-around services for preschools and schools, and
P-3 Partnerships that support prenatal through third grade alignment
Cradle-to-career, wrap-around, and P-3 partnerships are all part of a new wave of educational collaboration for education. They each have a place-based dimension in that they attempt to concentrate their impact within defined geographic areas, and the early years figure prominently in all three. Yet they have developed as three distinct reforms, each with its own principles, priorities, and learned experience. Typically these partnerships have been implemented separately from each other. The new study will investigate how leading edge communities across the country are drawing from the three partnership models as they design integrated approaches to best serve young children and their families. The aim of the study is to inform—through recommendations, guidance documents and presentations—the work of communities interested in implementing effective community partnerships for early education.
This research study is part of a broader project to develop the P-3 Theory of Action, the associated 7 principles, and related practical implementation guidance. See in particular Principle 4 on integrating vertical and horizontal alignment strategies and Principle 5 on strengthening neighborhoods and communities by linking P-3 with cradle-to-career initiatives.