Guest Blogger: Tracy Zimmerman

September Update on 10 Key Early Childhood Strategies

Dedicated teams have continued their work on each of the ten selected strategies. Here’s an overview of the work and the next steps associated with each strategy.
  • Strategy 1: All new parents connected to information, services and supports. Ready/Ready staff are participating in statewide strategy sessions in early October to learn more about strengthening the zero to three system of care. The Family Action Learning Team (ALT) shared their perspectives about what supports and services would be most helpful to families. (See monthly meeting minutes here.) Our goal is to launch a team in early 2017 to begin the design phase of this work. In addition, the Breastfeeding Friendly Community 100-Day Challenge Team has made significant strides in the community and has expanded their reach. Join their Facebook page to see regular updates.
  • Strategy 2: Embed coordinated developmental screening and referral processes into settings that provide services for young children. The 100-Day Challenge Team made several recommendations about how our community can approach developmental screenings to ensure that families are connected to appropriate resources earlier and to collect data to determine what interventions are most needed. Ready/Ready has submitted a proposal to a local funder to convene key players across agencies and organizations that would be charged with building a common vision for developmental screenings in the community and designing a process to support that vision.
  • Strategy 3: Effective coordination and referral network. This pilot launched in May has continued through the 15 agencies/organizations who serve families through the Family Success Center (specifically, in the 27406 zip code). The team, led by Robin Britt at Guilford Child Development, will reconvene in October to determine how to scale the work across the community.
  • Strategy 4: Leverage and expand early literacy resources/services (birth through age 5).  Jenny Gore (Reading Connections) and Dr. Whitney Oakley (GCS) will serve as Co-Chairs of the Early Literacy Design Team that will meet on October 26 for the first time to design the early literacy system. They are expected to complete the design phase in March, with implementation to follow. Ready/Ready has hired Michigan State University’s Joan Blough to help design the process and to serve as a co-facilitator. Denise Nelson (independent contractor) will co-facilitate and Rachael Burrello will be the Ready/Ready staff member supporting this work. The team consists of experts in early literacy, plus design/strategic thinkers, and community change agents who work in this space. The team will meet four times to: examine data and best practices, develop a vision for early literacy that supports kindergarten readiness, design powerful strategies and begin implementation of strategies through small wins.
  • Strategy 5: Leverage and expand parenting resources. This strategy is embedded within each of the community strategies as we consider what parents need at every stage of their child’s development. The Family ALT provided input around what kind of supports families would take advantage of, including creating more social supports, a 24/7 parenting resource line and for parenting information and resources to be available in places where they  frequent, i.e. community centers, child care centers/family child care homes, parks, grocery stores, and more.
  • Strategy 6: Address affordability and accessibility of high-quality child care in Guilford County. Several cross-agency groups continue to work on the affordability, accessibility and quality child care initiative. A team that includes early childhood professionals meets regularly to develop a strategy around compensation for early childhood teachers, which is closely tied to enhancing quality in the classroom. A small team, convened by Guilford County Partnership for Children, will meet in early October to determine next steps. In addition, Ready/Ready Co-Chairs provided a letter of support for a proposal to secure additional Early Head Start slots in Greensboro, and the county is under consideration for participation in statewide effort through the Child Care Services Administration (CCSA) around pay for early care and education professionals.
  • Strategy 7: Ensure a smooth transition from PreK to kindergarten for children, families, teachers and administrators. The transition from PreK to kindergarten sets the stage for how students think about and experience the educational system. The PreK to K transition team have set three key goals: (1) Proposing a kindergarten registration process that increases family engagement and lends community support to this important transition; (2) Determining how to ensure that the PreK and kindergarten health assessments are completed accurately, and that results are used to improve the health of children; and (3) Developing a strategy for ongoing principal (and teacher) engagement in the early childhood (prenatal to age 5) space by leveraging expert community resources. The team also had a busy summer — read more about their work.
  • Strategy 8: Ensure system is responsive to and respectful of family voice/need. The next Family ALT meeting is Monday, October 17. To date, families have learned about social-emotional development, cognitive development, and provided feedback on several different programs and strategies to help children enter kindergarten ready for what’s ahead. See monthly meeting minutes here. 
  • Strategy 9: Increase public demand for school readiness through implementation of public awareness campaign. The team has developed a process and materials for engaging three key audiences in this work — the faith community, the health care system and business leaders. In addition, Ready/Ready staff have participated in several events, including the recent High Point Education Summit.
  • Strategy 10: Focus on continuous improvement (including 0-8 data system). The American Institute for Research (through our partnership with Say Yes) is working with us to vet indicators, to make recommendations for how to collect needed data, and to develop the architecture for a 0-8 data system to measure progress against key indicators.
Community Connections:
  • We’ve movedReady/Ready moved to 500 W. Friendly Avenue in Greensboro and to office space at the Southside Recreation Center in High Point (next to Fairview Elementary). Thanks to the Guilford County Partnership for Children and to UNCG for supporting our work with this gift of space!
  • We’re engaged in state-wide early childhood system building work. Rachael and Mary are participating on two separate teams that are doing work at the state level to build a stronger early childhood system across NC. This effort is sponsored by North Carolina Partnership for Children, NC Early Childhood Foundation, Best NC, and others. Learn more
  • Steering Committee works with Racial Equity Institute. In September, the Ready/Ready Steering Committee worked with Deena Hayes-Greene and Bay Love to learn about institutionalized racism and explored how we can conduct our work in a way that focuses on equity. Based on feedback, this was a powerful learning session for all of us. We will debrief at the October Steering Committee meeting on Oct. 10.
  • Collaboration continues with Children’s Home Society/UNC Regional/High Point University/Ready-Ready: A grant from the Foundation for a Healthy High Point enabled four organizations to work on a process to embed parenting education within a pediatrician’s office in High Point. Recently, Natalie Tackitt (CHS) trained High Point University Physicians Assistant Program students (who will serve as navigators) in early brain development, toxic stress, positive parenting, local resources and more.
  • Liftoff to Learning will take off this spring. The annual Liftoff to Learning event (formerly “Kickoff to Kindergarten”) will be held in early 2017 and focus on families from birth to age five. This is a collaboration with many organizations, and is coordinated by the Children’s Museum of Greensboro and the High Point Museum.
  • Building a literacy rich Guilford County. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that families read to babies starting at birth. To support the early literacy work, Kay Zimmerman has volunteered to do some research about what other communities are doing to support literacy at this crucial stage.
A Few Small Wins
  • The Breastfeeding-Friendly Community 100-Day Challenge Team has had some significant wins over the past month — securing two breastfeeding friendly rooms for new mothers at the National Folk Festival, serving as speakers at a variety of events, and moving their own organizations and others to become certified as breastfeeding friendly spaces.
  • Ready/Ready officially named as Say Yes Guilford’s convening partner for the PreK to 5th Grade Task Force. The Task Force met on Thursday, Sept. 8 and three groups were formed around each of Say Yes’ early indicators of success: (1) kindergarten readiness; (2) third grade reading; (3) high-stakes testing at 5th grade (reading and math). While the Ready/Ready focus is kindergarten readiness, this work gives us the opportunity to collaborate with Say Yes in meaningful ways and to build the cradle to career pathway in Guilford County. Were excited about this partnership and will keep you updated about progress.

Early Childhood System Transformation: Priority Indicators, Ten Strategies & What’s Next

Ready/Ready is a partnership with hundreds of community members focused on building a more responsive, innovative early childhood system so each child enters school ready for what’s ahead. Together, we’ve collected qualitative and quantitative data, examined best practices in early childhood system building, collaborated across agencies and organizations on key parts of the system, and engaged families along the way. This work has led to the development of priority indicators for this work, ten key strategies, and a roadmap for the work ahead.

Priority Indicators 

In June, the Ready for School, Ready for Life Steering Committee agreed to priority indicators to drive the work of the early childhood system transformation in Guilford County. At the highest level, the indicators focus on three areas:

  1. More children will enter kindergarten with the needed social-emotional skills.
  2. More children will enter kindergarten with the needed literacy skills.
  3. Critical elements of an effective early childhood system will be put in place.

Each has associated measures on several levels: child impact, supportive families, supported families, aligned and accountable policies and programs, and foundation for community action. To make a positive difference at the child impact level, we all need to make a concerted effort to address the rest of the levels. <See the full list of indicators here.>

Ten Key Strategies

To reach these goals, we’ve identified ten key areas of focus for the next three years of Guilford County’s early childhood system transformation work. The strategies are based on all of the research done to date, as well as recommendations  the twelve 100-Day Challenge Teams made in May 2016. The strategies are:

  1. Ensure all new parents are connected to critical early childhood information and community supports/services.
  2. Connect more young children and their families to needed services by embedding coordinated developmental screening and referral processes into settings that provide services for families with young children.
  3. Improve family access to needed programs through the creation of an effective referral and coordination network for young children and their families.
  4. Leverage and expand early literacy resources/services to meet community need by determining and launching priority program and system changes.
  5. Leverage and expand parenting resources/services to meet community need by determining and launching priority program and system changes.
  6. Improve school readiness by addressing affordability and accessibility of high-quality child care in Guilford County.
  7. Create seamless and easy transition experiences for children and their families by aligning Pre-K and kindergarten priorities, curriculum, and transition processes.
  8. Ensure the local early childhood system is responsive to and respectful of family needs and voice.
  9. Increase public demand for school readiness by implementing a public awareness campaign focused on building community buy-in about the importance of early learning and development (0-8).
  10. Embed continuous improvement orientation within the local early childhood system.

What’s next?

La comunidad acepta el reto de asegurar el éxito de los niños en el condado Guilford (Qué Pasa)

Escrito por ADRIANA BENÍTEZ

Greensboro, 25 de mayo.- La iniciativa comunitaria Listos para la Escuela, Listos para la Vida reunió el martes a representantes del Condado de Guilford en el Greensboro Airport Hotel para compartir los logros de 12 equipos, que apenas un poco más de 100 días atrás, aceptaron el reto de comenzar a identificar y derribar barreras que impiden que más niños estén debidamente preparados para iniciar con éxito su educación escolar.

Los 150 miembros que dijeron manos a la obra incluyeron representantes de 44 agencias, organizaciones, y negocios que junto a padres y voluntarios comunitarios trataron temas que tienen inherencia en el desarrollo de los niños durante sus primeros años de vida, incluyendo la educación a los padres, el alfabetismo, el acceso a cuidado de calidad y costeable, y la lactancia, entre otros.

El trabajo, que comenzó el 4 de febrero en la Cumbre de la Primera Infancia, dio vida a programas pilotos que los grupos ya pusieron en prueba.  Entre estos se encuentra el Sistema de Referido Electrónico, un esfuerzo apoyado por 15 organizaciones que busca mejorar la comunicación entre las agencias que ofrecen servicio a padres y niños en edad pre-escolar y las personas a las que sirven. También se lanzó una iniciativa entre la Allen Jay Elementary en High Point y el Staley Head Start Child Development Center para facilitar la transición de los niños que se preparan para pasar de un ambiente pre-escolar a uno más estructurado en el kindergarten.

“Siempre he dicho que hay un largo camino por recorrer para asegurar que los niños puedan desarrollarse a plenitud en la primera etapa de su vida y que estén listos para iniciar con éxito su educación, pero basado en lo que he visto que la comunidad puede lograr en solo 100 días, no tengo duda de que lograremos nuestras metas”, dijo Mary Herbenick, directora de la coalición comunitaria refiriéndose al impacto de los recientes esfuerzos.

Esta coalición cuenta con el apoyo de la Fundación Cemala, la Fundación Joseph M. Bryan, la Fundacion Weaver y Cone Health, entre otros.

En la foto, de izq a derecha, Amber Robinson, Rachael Burrello y Damaris Johnson, representantes de la comunidad que formaron parte de unos de los 12 equipos que aceptaron el reto. Equipo: Familias como Agentes de Cambio

Ready for School, Ready for Life presents 100 day challenges (The Carolina Peacemaker, May 26)

 

By Yasmine Register

Staff Writer

Community members who pledged to help break down early childhood education barriers met at the Greensboro Airport Marriott on Tuesday, May 24 to share how they have addressed those challenges.

The initiative, spearheaded by Ready for School, Ready for Life, asked people to team up and come up with ways to help Guilford County children be prepared for school.

Twelve teams implemented a 100 day challenge or plan on a variety of early childhood topics including: early literacy, family engagement, developmental screenings, high-quality child care, safe and stable homes, parenting education, improving referral processes, Pre-K to Kindergarten transition, social-emotional supports for early childhood educators, building a breastfeeding-friendly community, and boosting public will around early childhood education.

“We have a lot of great community recommendations from this project,” said Mary Herbenick, executive director of Ready for School, Ready for Life. “We’re pulling together all the plans to see what is implementable right away.”

The work started at the Get Ready Guilford Early Childhood Summit back in February, when Ready for School, Ready for Life unveiled its strategic plan for achieving better outcomes in early childhood development, which covers birth to age five.

One hundred and fifty community members and early childhood education advocates came together to research and understand root causes of education disparities, while evaluating best practices and analyzing local data. Some teams designed strategies to address the actual problems, while others launched pilot programs to test their proposed strategies.

One of the pilot programs is an electronic referral network, which brought together 15 organizations to improve data sharing among service providers with families.

“Many families are not aware of the resources available in the community and many who do have difficulty accessing them,” said Robin Britt, executive director of Guilford Child Development. “Service providers need the ability to communicate and coordinate with other agencies to connect families with the services they need and to do so in a safe and protected manner. The electronic referral network is a step in the right direction.”

Parent participants discussed how difficult it is to connect quality, accessibility and affordability together when searching for childcare centers. Ashley Allen, a compensation and work environment specialist at EQuIPD (Education, Quality Improvement & Professional Development) noted that childcare centers often have minimal resources to offer certain services and many parents can’t afford the high fees associated with higher quality childcare centers. According to EQuIPD data, it can cost a parent at least $455 a month in Guilford County for infant childcare.

Another challenge team created a virtual reality tour to help parents and children understand the pre-K to Kindergarten transition. Milton Jordan, with Guilford Child Development discussed the importance of guiding children through the transition from pre-K to Kindergarten.

“I think people underestimate the social and emotional benefits from a head-start program,” said Jordan. “Talking to kids about the new experience, the new environment and giving them a push is getting the kids ready for what is expected of them.”

According to Ready for School, Ready for Life, children with high-quality early childhood experiences during the first 2,000 days of life have higher reading and math scores, become more financially self-sufficient, and are five times less likely to be chronic criminal offenders by age 27 than their peers.

What participants believed was unique to the Ready for School, Ready for Life initiative is that parents were asked to contribute ideas and opinions. Nine families participated in the Photovoice Project, where they met and shared their experiences of raising children in Guilford County, and to make recommendations for the community. Photos taken by the families for the Photovoice Project were on display at Tuesday’s community event.

“It felt good to be a part of active change in our communities,” said Damaris Johnson, a parent who led a 100-day challenge team that focused on safe and affordable housing and financial literacy. “All these solutions were heartfelt and personal.”

The greater Guilford County community is encouraged to join action teams or create their own teams with a 100 day challenge.

“I encourage the community to research and learn what is facing us in the area of early childhood education. To really break down those barriers and be successful, we need everyone in,” said Herbenick.

For more information on Ready for School, Ready for Life and the 100 Day Challenges, visit getreadyguilford.org

Too Small to Fail

recent op-ed piece by Nicholas Kristof is a great example of early childhood investment getting national attention. Kristof presents a compelling argument in his The New York Times article, “Too Small to Fail” (a play on words about rescued banks who were “too big to fail”).

Using references to the work of James Heckman, the Russell Sage Foundation, and Roger Thurlow, Kristof makes the argument that we should be investing in children as early as possible, preferably during the prenatal period. He stresses the importance of preschool, but points out that preschool may be too late to intervene with children who are impacted by poverty. One example he uses is the vast spoken word disparity–30 million words–between households of professionals and families on welfare.

What seems to make Kristof view the early childhood period with such intensity is recent brain development research that has revealed how rapidly the human brain develops during the first 2,000 days.

You can view the entire article here.

Also in the news this week is the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book. This valuable resource details state trends in child well-being. Positive findings include a rising high school graduation rate and a reduction in births to teen mothers. However, reading further, the KIDS COUNT data book outlines the areas where improvement is needed and breaks down the data by shaded thematic maps of the US.

Calling all families with children under age 8! Join the Family Action Learning Team

Families from across Guilford County are invited to the first meeting of the Family Action Learning Team (ALT) on April 25 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. This is one opportunity to be part of the change to make sure more Guilford County children enter kindergarten ready for school and for success.

The Family ALT will meet each month to:

  1. Create strategies for our community to better support families in getting their children ready for kindergarten, and get involved in the action.
  2. Connect with other families and learn more about what’s offered in Guilford County for families.
  3. Connect to resources, skill building, and information that improves families’ lives—and that you can share with other families!

All parents/caregivers with a child under the age of 8 are invited to participate! Bring a friend.

WHEN: Monday, April 25th, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

WHERE: First meeting will be held in Greensboro; please RSVP for details (see below)

FREE REFRESHMENTS AND CHILD CARE WILL BE PROVIDED.

SPACE IS LIMITED, so please RSVP to Rachael to reserve your spot and receive final location information. Call (336) 273-0247 or send an email to rachaelb@getreadyguilford.org. Please provide a contact phone number, and let us know: (1) number and ages of children you are bringing with you; and (2) if you will need an interpreter/translator

Spread the word! We look forward to seeing you on April 25th

 

Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net (Vlado, Image ID: 10065814)

100-Day Challenge Team Progress!

Change is underway in Guilford County! Participants in February’s Early Childhood Summit joined 100-Day Challenge Teams with each team addressing one part of the Ready for School, Ready for Life framework.  The goal? To address system barriers that keep Guilford County children from achieving success in school.

Teams are using the ABLe Change Framework, a systems change approach that helps communities more effectively address significant social issues. They’ve used the ABLe Change action learning process along the way — DEFINE the problem, DESIGN powerful strategies, DO the work through effective implementation, and LEARN along the way.

  • Six teams are working together to define systems issues. Each team is addressing a key area — early literacy, parenting education, developmental screenings, social-emotional health of early childhood professionals, financial literacy, and access to high-quality child care. They’re collecting data to better understand the current situation, looking at national best practices, assessing the need versus what’s currently available in Guilford County, and identifying opportunities to make system improvements. Teams will share what they’ve learned about assets and gaps that will inform our next steps in providing supports and opportunities to families with young children in each area.
  • Others are starting to design strategies. After defining the problem using available local data, teams have started designing strategies in three areas: encouraging more breast-feeding friendly practices, improving policies/practices related to transition from preschool to kindergarten, and building a culture that values and encourages kindergarten readiness. Teams will share those strategies and make recommendations about implementation.
  • Teams in the “do” phase are testing the strategies they’ve designed. One is piloting a program to improve communication between preschool and kindergarten classrooms to make the transition to kindergarten easier for children, teachers, and parents. Another group — led by parents — is launching the Family Action Learning Team whose members will be decision-makers and consultants to the Ready/Ready work moving forward. A third is piloting an Electronic Referral System designed to make it easier for families to get connected with needed services — and for service providers to make sure those connections happen.
  • Each team is learning along the way. These lessons will be shared at the 100-Day Challenge Celebration on May 24 along with recommendations for moving the work forward.

This has been a big commitment for Challenge Team members, and they’re doing great work together. Stay tuned for more about the small wins teams have logged and the lessons learned.

How Investing in Youth Curbs Poverty: Experts agree that ending poverty starts with successful brain development in infants and toddlers.

By Kris Perry, Executive Director, First Five Years Fund (Posted from Media Planet; Education and Career News)

This election season, we are hearing from local, state and federal candidates about the need to expand opportunity or address poverty in this country in a meaningful way. It’s a complex issue that will require complex solutions.

But the one thing we know for sure is that our elected officials should all begin with the baby steps of making sure low-income children have access to quality early childhood education, from birth to age 5. These early learning experiences prepare children for school by forming the foundational skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in the classroom and beyond.

Busy little brains

The science is clear and compelling. Motor skills, literacy and numeracy, analyzing, vocabulary and speech are all made possible through new connections between neurons in the brain. Seven-hundred of these connections are formed every second in the first three years of life, through interaction with parents and caregivers. Unfortunately, children living in poverty are least likely to have exposure to these experiences and early learning. Every parent wants to do right by their child, but not every parent has the time, resources or tools without some help and guidance.

Without these opportunities, children begin school well behind their peers, and as the evidence shows, many kids never catch up. Children from more affluent families are, on average, exposed to 30 million more words than children from low-income families. And this disparity goes beyond words to gaps in critical social and emotional skills such as attentiveness, impulse control, persistence and teamwork—all the skills necessary for effective, lifelong learning.

Breaking the cycle

Therefore, if we want to set our most vulnerable children on the path to break the cycle of poverty, we must first ensure that each child has the opportunity to arrive at kindergarten with the foundational skills they need to succeed—through programs such as home visiting, high quality child care and development and prekindergarten.

When children participate in high quality programs there are gains in achievement and decreases in behavior problems, grade repetition and special education, which are followed by increases in high school graduation rates, increased earnings, decreased crime and better health outcomes. By some estimations, we see a 26 percent increase in adult earnings and the ability to prevent chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

The political front

As candidates for office spell out their plans to support children and families, reduce poverty and create opportunity, investing in quality early childhood education should be a top policy priority. The good news is, investing in early childhood is emerging as the one bipartisan issue in a deeply polarized society. Governors from red and blue states alike are making significant investments in early learning. The U.S. Congress has found bipartisan agreement on increasing funding for existing programs and creating new ones. In fact, 75 percent of voters say we should invest more—or equally—in early education over college. But more needs to be done.

Anyone who wants to fight poverty can walk that talk by making sure low-income children have access high-quality early childhood education. Baby steps are giant steps toward shared prosperity.