New Evidence: The Impact of Community Partnerships

Liberals and conservatives often disagree about the causes of poverty and other social ills. Broadly speaking, liberals point the finger at structural factors and advocate for policy changes, while conservatives look to individuals and families and favor behavior changes. Clearly, both points of view have validity. But what’s often overlooked is what lies between these two poles — communities and neighborhoods — and the value of focusing on this middle zone. (David Bornstein, How Community Networks Stem Childhood Traumas)

In the early 1990s, Washington State created a state-wide Family Policy Council to address a spike in youth violence. The Council in turn funded local community networks to develop integrated approaches to violence prevention. David Bornstein, a reporter for the New York Times, describes the thinking behind the approach in ways that will sound very familiar to those working on P-3 initiatives:

Policy makers analyzed the problem and recognized the inter-connectedness of issues usually handled separately: child abuse, domestic violence, dropping out of high school, teen pregnancy, youth substance abuse, and youth suicide.

The separation made little sense. Youths who commit violence or drug-related crimes at 17, or drop out of school at 15, often have received a first suspension in second grade and have experienced abuse or neglect as toddlers or infants. It is now understood that the best hope of interrupting this downward spiral requires years-long collaboration between child welfare specialists, parents, educators, health workers, police officers, legal advocates and community members. [Italics added.] (Tapping a Neighborhood’s Inner Strength)

Over time the Family Policy Council began sharing research with the community networks regarding the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on young children. ACEs refer to 10 types of abuse, neglect, and family exposure to toxic stress. One in four adults report having three or more ACEs, which are closely linked to a range of problematic outcomes for adults, including drug use, physical and mental health challenges, and early onset of disease.

Washington’s community networks followed the lead of the Family Policy Council and focused their work on addressing ACEs. They launched community outreach campaigns, organized neighborhood associations to address the underlying causes of ACEs, and developed programs in schools and social service agencies. Communities chose to work on a variety of issues, including prenatal smoking and drinking, truancy, youth drinking, domestic violence, foster care, mentoring, and improving playgrounds and parks.

In recent years several evaluations have found that community networks have been highly effective in reducing ACEs, capped off by a recently-published Mathematica study that found that several communities had successfully reduced the “long-term social, emotional, and physical problems related to abuse, neglect and other adverse childhood experiences.”

Continue reading “New Evidence: The Impact of Community Partnerships”

A Lesson For Preschools: When It’s Done Right, The Benefits Last (NPR)

From a recent NPR article:

“Is preschool worth it? Policymakers, parents, researchers and us, at NPR Ed, have spent a lot of time thinking about this question.

We know that most pre-kindergarten programs do a good job of improving ‘ specific skills like phonics and counting, as well as broader social and emotional behaviors, by the time students enter kindergarten. Just this week, a study looking at more than 20,000 students in a state-funded preschool program in Virginia found that kids made large improvements in their alphabet recognition skills.

So the next big question to follow is, of course, Do these benefits last?

New research out of North Carolina says yes, they do. The study found that early childhood programs in that state resulted in higher test scores, a lower chance of being held back in a grade, and a fewer number of children with special education placements. Those gains lasted up through the fifth grade….

The big difference between the long-term findings in North Carolina and Tulsa and the fade out in Tennessee, researchers say, is the quality of the preschool program.

Having a high-quality program is key, says Dodge. ‘The long-term impact,’ he says, ‘depends entirely on quality and how well elementary schools build on the foundations set in pre-K.'”

See here for the full article.

Three Lessons: How States Can Support P-3 Efforts

This post is a cross-posting from Preschool Matters Today, the blog of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Thanks to Michelle Ruess at NIEER for her support. 

In western Oregon, a regional early learning hub supports 30 partnerships of elementary schools, neighboring family childcare providers and community-based preschools focused on professional learning and family engagement.

In Lowell, MA, elementary schools, preschool centers, and family childcare providers working in the same neighborhoods participate in “communities of practice” to improve teaching and family engagement. In addition, the city’s P-3 Leadership Alignment Team developed a school readiness definition and strategy that is informing city health, social services, and education programs.

A  Community Innovation Zone in Harrisburg, PA recognized that a paucity of pre-kindergarten opportunities resulted in too many children entering kindergarten with no preschool experience. It responded by providing a summer bridge program offering not only activities and starter libraries for children, but also workshops for parents.

Such partnerships are not accidental. Each resulted from deliberate efforts by state education agencies (SEAs) to support quality improvement and alignment throughout the prenatal through third grade (P-3) continuum. This support includes grant programs funding local P-3 efforts and state policy work to align standards, develop formative assessments, and organize leadership and workforce development opportunities.

My recently published report, Building State P-3 Systems: Learning from Leading States, examines the P-3 work underway in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, states that are part of a broader movement focused on improving quality and continuity across the P-3 continuum. Three overarching lessons for future state P-3 initiatives stand out.

Continue reading “Three Lessons: How States Can Support P-3 Efforts”

The Power of a Good Kindergarten Curriculum

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A Thinking and Feedback chart from Traka Smith’s kindergarten classroom at the Curley K-8 School

Last week approximately 35 Rhode Island teachers and coaches began learning how to implement an interdisciplinary kindergarten curriculum developed by the Boston Public Schools (BPS). This training is part of a pilot project sponsored by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) with the aim of supporting developmentally-appropriate, Common Core-aligned kindergarten teaching and learning. 23 kindergarten teachers from 8 districts are implementing Boston’s curriculum this fall with professional development support from BPS and coaching support from the Education Development Center (EDC). I’m running this project for EDC and will share highlights from the initiative in a few posts over the next couple of months.

This initiative began with RIDE identifying a need to support teachers and districts in improving kindergarten practice in ways that are both consistent with how kindergarteners learn best and aligned with the Common Core standards. RIDE then worked with us at EDC to develop an approach that began with the state’s first ever kindergarten conference this past September and continues with the curriculum and coaching pilot. In an effort to build district capacity, coaches from each district are joining the kindergarten teachers in the professional development sessions and participating in special coach training days.

Continue reading “The Power of a Good Kindergarten Curriculum”

Why K-12 should be thinking ‘Birth-3rd’

Massachusetts’ early childhood childhood advocacy organization, Strategies for Children, has posted a thoughtful article on how states should incorporate Birth-3rd strategies into their plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Other states may find the recommendations to be of interest as well. As the article states,

“It’s … crucial for our state ESSA plan to include early education throughout — and not treat the early years as an afterthought. We have to look at how much Title I funding is being used locally to support preschools. How many children enter kindergarten each year with no prior preschool experience? Let’s figure these things out as a state and provide guidance to districts that want to build out their early learning strategies.

The state could also provide guidance for schools and districts on how to collaborate with the early childhood “mixed delivery” system of preschool programs that includes schools, centers, and family-owned settings.”

Teaching Your Child Emotional Agility

“It’s hard to see a child unhappy. Whether a child is crying over the death of a pet or the popping of a balloon, our instinct is to make it better, fast.

That’s where too many parents get it wrong, says the psychologist Susan David, author of the book ‘Emotional Agility.’ Helping a child feel happy again may offer immediate relief for parent and child, but it doesn’t help a child in the long term.

‘How children navigate their emotional world is critical to lifelong success,’ she said.

Research shows that when teachers help preschoolers learn to manage their feelings in the classroom, those children become better problem solvers when faced with an emotional situation, and are better able to engage in learning tasks. In teenagers, ’emotional intelligence,’ or the ability to recognize and manage emotions, is associated with an increased ability to cope with stressful situations and greater self-esteem. Some research suggests that a lack of emotional intelligence can be used to predict symptoms of depression and anxiety.”

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