We are aware that building a coherent system is more time consuming and less flashy than just adding more slots or more dollars to an existing system. But we have an opportunity to … build a system that coherently knits together our existing resources and thoughtfully brings in new resources to meet the needs of our youngest residents.
–Richard Rossi, City Manager, Cambridge, Massachusetts
This is about as important as it gets, frankly. Achievement gaps do not begin in the fifth grade or the third grade. They begin much earlier. The right way to reduce and eventually eliminate achievement gaps is to start early…I believe whole-heartedly that with this effort to get there, we can make that difference. It is about coherence. The adults have to come together.
–Jeff Young, Superintendent of Schools, Cambridge, MA, speaking to a joint meeting of the City Council and School Committee
On November 16, the City Council and School Committee in Cambridge, MA met to review an ambitious set of recommendations to develop a citywide Birth through Third Grade (Birth—3rd) system. The recommendations were presented by the City Manager, the Superintendent, and the city’s Early Childhood Task Force with the aim of expanding access to early childhood services and improving quality across the organizations that serve young children and their families. These recommendations are intended to guide a significant financial investment the city will make in improving Birth—3rd services, projected at $1.3 million in the first year, $2.6 million in the second year, and potentially increasing further in subsequent years. Continue reading “Building a Citywide Birth—3rd System: One City’s Plan”
In Washington, DC for a meeting with Preschool Development Grant and Early Learning Challenge grantees. Jim Lesko of AEM discusses the rationale for Birth–3rd approaches:
- Eliminates artificial distinction between early childhood and early elementary education.
- Supports continuity, coherence, and support for children
- Promotes intentional and collaborative professional development
- Promotes cross-pollination of knowledge about development leading to sustaining efforts to support children’s learning gains
He adds that a coherent and aligned Birth–3rd system:
- Focuses on the whole child
- Provides seamless transition across components
- Includes aligned and comprehensive standards and curriculum
- Uses comparable instructional practices
- Enables communication and data-sharing across the entire assessment
- Establishes durable and long-lasting family, community, and school partnerships
- Supports PreK–3rd teachers participating in joint professional development opportunities
- Reduces the achievement gap among children in families at risk
A great article about how New Bedford, MA has come together to support a focused Birth–3rd strategy. Thanks to Titus DosRemedios and Strategies for Children for laying it out so clearly and compellingly (and for the kind mention). Titus has also been a key contributor to New Bedford’s Partnership. It has been very inspiring to see New Bedford embrace this work. The district and the community have brought great ideas and experience to the table, and we are seeing the results in a concerted program of on-the-ground activity this fall.
Also of note, emerging out of this work is a deepening and very promising partnership between the New Bedford Public Schools and the Housing Authority. With district support, the Housing Authority is expanding and developing the educational components of its after-school programs. District teachers and “resident service coordinators” from the Housing Authority will meet regularly to discuss the children they share in common; resident service coordinators are participating in the district’s early literacy professional development, which also includes both district and community-based prekindergarten teachers; and the district’s literacy coach is advising the Housing Authority on program design, book purchases, and other aspects of the after-school program.
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:
- Setting and Resetting the Stage
- Assessment and Planning
- Working Together/Taking Action
- Measuring Progress and Evaluating Impact