“The Preschool Fade-Out Effect Is Not Inevitable”

In Education Week by Stanford professor Deborah Stipek:

“Is fade-out inevitable? No. Studies have shown definitively that investment in preschool can yield sustained effects and significant social and economic returns. But fade-out is common and remains a persistent reminder that simply providing preschool to low-income children is not sufficient to achieve long-term benefits.

If we want to sustain the effects of preschool, we need to look at what happens after children enter school. Clearly, the quality of schooling they receive in the early elementary grades matters. Poor instruction can undo the effects of high-quality preschool experiences. But instruction has to be more than good to sustain preschool effects; it has to build strategically on the gains made in preschool.”

“The Preschool Fade-Out Effect Is Not Inevitable”

And see these two summaries by the New America Foundation:

What “Transforming the Workforce” Says About the Importance of Continuity

New Report from SRCD on What PreK-3rd Means for Instruction

Children in New York City are healthier since the start of Pre-K for All

From Chalkbeat:

“The launch of Pre-K for All led to improved health outcomes for low-income children. That’s according to researchers at New York University who analyzed Medicaid data for New York City children who were eligible to enroll in free pre-K versus those who just missed the cutoff because of their age.

In a report released this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, using data from 2013 through 2016, researchers found that the children eligible for pre-K were more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with asthma or vision problems after the rollout of Pre-K for All. They were also more likely to have received immunizations or be screened for infectious diseases, both of which are requirements for enrolling in the city’s program.

Proper medical screening could have implications beyond physical well-being, the researchers suggest. Diagnosing and treating chronic health problems earlier could help students ‘cope with challenges, feel less frustrated or overwhelmed in the classroom, and communicate with peers and educators more effectively,’ the study found.”

You can find the Chalkbeat story here.

The Good News About Educational Inequality

The authors of the report mentioned in the previous post below have a piece in this week’s NYT Sunday Review. See the whole article, but here is the conclusion:

“As encouraging as this new evidence is, we have a long way to go. Poor children still enter kindergarten nearly a year behind their richer peers. Even if school readiness gaps continue to narrow at the rate they did between 1998 and 2010, it would take another 60 to 110 years for them to be completely eliminated.

Changes in parenting are not going to be sufficient to sustain or speed this progress, although more paid leave would help. Economic inequality still constrains poor children’s horizons. Low-income and middle-class parents still struggle to find affordable, high-quality preschools. The elementary, middle and high schools that rich and poor students attend differ markedly in resources and quality. And it isn’t clear that the recent reductions in school readiness gaps will automatically translate into greater equality in high school, college and beyond.

If we don’t do something about these larger problems, the progress we have made toward equality in early childhood may prove only a brief respite from ever-widening educational inequality. ‘Goodnight Moon,’ for all its charm and power, is no substitute for comprehensive social policy.”

New York Timeshttps://go.edc.org/l5tu

Are Poor Students More Prepared for Kindergarten?

“For decades, as wealthy parents invested more and more time and money on enrichment for their young children, students in poverty fell further and further behind.

New research, however, suggests that the trend is changing: The children starting their first days of kindergarten may arrive better prepared than prior generations—and students in poverty will arrive at less of a disadvantage compared with their wealthier peers.

Income and racial gaps in school readiness closed significantly between 1998 and 2010, according to studies in a special issue of AERA Open, a journal of the American Educational Research Association. …

The closing academic gaps … are ‘not because schools are getting more equal, but because something in early childhood is becoming more equal,’ Reardon said. ‘It would be great if you could have both, but we do have one.'”

Education Weekhttps://go.edc.org/u1i6

Five Practical Lessons about Birth–3rd Partnerships: Feedback Requested

A chief benefit of blogs is the interactive dialogue they can support. With the Birth–3rd Learning Hub, I have an opportunity to test ideas with people who are deeply involved in doing Birth–3rd work. A few weeks ago I posted a number of “lessons” based on the work thus far, giving examples of each to illustrate the central take-away. Here is a summary of these five take-aways:

  1. Community- and Relationship-Building are Necessary but not Sufficient
  2. Attending to the Imbalance of Power Requires Care
  3. Partnerships Need a “Backbone”
  4. Birth—3rd Improvement Requires District Early Childhood Capacity
  5. An Important Balance: Strategy with an Eye towards Capacity-Building

I’m very interested in learning about any experiences you have had that either support or challenge any of the points I make in this post. I invite you to share them via the comment section below. I’ll draw on your feedback in future posts. If you prefer to communicate with me directly, just put “private” in your comment, and I won’t make it public. Or email jacobsondl at gmail.com. Thanks for your help.

Ambitious Vision: Principal Leadership in PreK–3rd Learning Communities

The National Association of Elementary School Principals has published an ambitious vision of the principal’s role in PreK–3rd reform. This report, Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice, outlines six competencies that together form a comprehensive approach to leading early learning partnerships. This approach will require district support in addition to principal leadership. The full report fleshes out the competencies in helpful detail and includes descriptions of exemplary practice, questions for reflections, self-assessments, and links to tools and other resources. More to follow in a future post.

The PDF version of the report is free until November 15.

Relationships, Capacity, and Innovation

Innovations often evolve out of a series of what may seem to be minor developments. As a consequence, instead of waiting for disruptive products and technologies, we need to create the conditions for individuals, groups, and organizations to adapt, innovate, and improve all the time.
–Thomas Hatch, Innovation at the Core.

Principals pick up the phone to call preschool directors to discuss specific children. Communities use a new early learning partnership as a platform to win new grant funds. A district invites community-based preschool teachers to share information about rising kindergarten students, significantly influencing classroom assignment decisions.

These are all examples of activities that have emerged out of the work of Birth-3rd partnerships, activities that were not proposed in grant proposals or explicitly planned as partnership strategies. These activities have come about as a result of new relationships—both interpersonal and institutional—developed through Birth-3rd partnerships. Improving learning and care during the primary years from birth through third grade requires implementing strategies that lead to positive outcomes for children and build momentum for continued collaborative work. Effective implementation requires new interpersonal relationships and new institutional arrangements that build local and regional capacity to sustain ongoing improvement and innovation over time. Birth-3rd reform is in effect asking for Early Years Collaboratives that are broader, more robust, and more ambitious in scope than typically has been the case in the past, new institutions and new “infrastructure” that can only be effective if they are undergirded by social relationships and trust.

Collaboration between school districts and community-based preschools on PreK-3rd alignment is a significant component of what I refer to as the Primary Years Agenda. As communities around the country advance Birth-3rd work, and as 12 communities in Massachusetts continue developing Birth-3rd partnerships with funding from the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC), it is helpful to keep in mind the interconnected relationship between implementing good strategies and programs and developing institutional relationships and capacity. On the one hand, there is a danger of only of building relationships and never get around to implementing effective strategies. On the other hand, as the examples from Massachusetts and other communities described below suggest, it would likewise be a mistake not to be intentional about developing social and institutional relationships—relationships that build expertise and capacity that in turn lead to ongoing improvement and innovation.

Not Exactly Intended Consequences: Relationships that “Spill Over”

A number of Birth-3rd partnerships in Massachusetts have carried out activities that are surprising—in a sense, extra—from the standpoint of their grant responsibilities and stated strategies. These kinds of extra activities, such as the examples below, are sometimes referred to as “spillover effects.”

Simple invitation, concrete impact.  The Somerville Public Schools has for some years held an annual “speed dating” event in which district prekindergarten teachers went from table to table meeting with kindergarten teachers to discuss the rising kindergarten students that would be transitioning from one teacher to the next. As the Birth-3rd Alignment Partnership was meeting one day, the principal of the Capuano Early Childhood Center came up with the idea of inviting the community-based prekindergarten teachers as well. At the now larger Teacher Talks event, the community-based teachers share information about their children, including, for instance, which ones had strong social-emotional skills and could serve as class leaders and role models. This information influenced classroom assignment decisions as potential leaders were distributed across kindergarten classrooms.

One-to-one relationships and joint decision-making. As a result of relationships formed in Springfield’s early childhood Professional Learning Community, principals and preschool directors began calling each other to discuss children they shared in morning and afternoon programs. On a more structural level, the Birth-3rd Alignment Partnership has engaged in a collaborative decision-making process that includes district and community-based teachers in choosing a new preschool curriculum and making a joint request to the city for funding for the new curriculum.

From partnership strategy to city-wide agenda. Lowell’s alignment partnership began with a strategy focused on two communities. Its diverse Leadership Alignment Team found common ground around the issue of community school readiness. The team reached out to many other city institutions, including health, mental health, social services, and homelessness organizations in addition to city government and even the fire department. With these organizations on board, Lowell has now developed a city school readiness definition and a full-fledged city school readiness agenda that has considerable momentum.

Pooling resources to support parents. Spearheaded by the local United Way, several early childhood organizations in Pittsfield have joined together and pooled resources in order to support families in their parenting roles. Two home visiting organizations—Healthy Families and Parents as Teachers—joined with the local Head Start organization, the Community and Family Engagement coordinator, and the United Way to offer a series of evening Parent Cafes that were organized around the 5 protective factors of the Strengthening Families model. Each organization contributed different resources and undertook different responsibilities related to the workshops, events that provided more supports and were higher profile in nature than any of the organizations could have achieved individually.

From pilot group to stakeholder body. To support the implementation of the Boston Public School’s (BPS) preschool curriculum in community-based preschool classrooms, Boston’s partnership convened a monthly meeting of the directors of the participating preschools. This group has developed over time and has begun to play other roles. The directors asked to pilot a BPS transition form that had previously gone unused. Recently the partnership convened a special meeting to solicit input from this group on Boston’s emerging universal prekindergarten plan, and thus the directors are now serving as an important stakeholder body for the school district.

The Role of Relational Trust in Innovative Systems

Large scale changes come from better cross-sector collaboration rather than the isolated efforts of individual organizations. (Kania and Kramer, 2011)

These examples of informal, unplanned collaboration help illustrate the role of trust and relationships in capacity-building and organizational change. Often referred to as social capital, these types of social relationships are critical to improving educational outcomes. A large study of Chicago elementary schools found that relational trust was a key factor in schools that built professional capacity, developed a student-centered learning climate, and strengthened parent-community ties.  A lead author of that study, Tony Bryk, refers to relational trust as a “lubricant for organizational change” and a “moral resource for sustaining the hard work” of local educational improvement.

Often overlooked, social capital is an important resource within organizations, but also across organizations locally and regionally. Large scale change of the type that the Birth-3rd movement is calling for requires cross-sector collaboration across the mixed delivery system of public and private early childhood education. Such cross-sector collaboration was integral to the success that Montgomery, MD, one of Birth-3rd’s leading edge communities, has achieved in dramatically reduced achievement gaps while raising learning outcomes for all.  Montgomery County’s former superintendent, Jerry Weast, set out to unify a mixed delivery system through an inclusive approach to collaboration and a deliberate blurring of lines across institutions, leading to a culture of shared accountability and deep engagement by stakeholders—an example of social capital acting, in Bryk’s language, as a “moral resource for sustaining hard work” (Childress, 2009; Marietta, 2010).

Montgomery County’s experience is consistent with research on high-performing regions and countries that shows that a common denominator across successful educational systems is the extent to which they invest in social capital by building local and regional networks. Social capital is important in these systems, says Thomas Hatch, in that it leads to sharing resources, information, and expertise while building political and public support. Through inclusive, blurred lines systems such as Montgomery County’s they cultivate collective responsibility for children and an understanding of schooling as, in Hatch’s words, “a communal and societal endeavor.” Facilitated by relational trust and shared understanding, expertise and will and capacity grow, leading to ongoing improvement and innovation. Hatch is in effect drawing a line between informal relationships in which principals call preschool directors in Springfield and innovations in strategy like Lowell’s emergent community school readiness agenda.

In next week’s post, I suggest that the Massachusetts’ experience thus far has several practical implications for how Birth-3rd partnerships go about building the capacity to improve through cross-sector collaboration.

This post was completed as part of a contract between the MA Department of Early Education and Care and Cambridge Education (where David Jacobson worked at the time). Contract # CT EEC 0900 FY13SRF130109CAMBRID.