By Katie Whitehouse
Last week, the City of Longmont, Colo., held a statewide summit that brought together Longmont Mayor Dennis Coombs, other city leaders and key local stakeholders to share information about the educational success of young children from birth through third grade.
Funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the meeting was part of an 18-month project conducted by the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF Institute) that focused on educational alignment for young children.
Numerous studies have made clear that high quality, early learning from Pre-K through third grade is the foundation of a successful education. Children who fall behind early in their education are unlikely to catch up. If a child does not attain a solid educational foundation in reading by the end of the third grade, he or she will continue to struggle. City leaders are increasingly aware of the importance of early learning and the role that they can play in developing a strong educational pipeline for children from birth through age eight.
City Leaders as Early Learning Champions
For the past 10 months, the YEF Institute has engaged city leaders in six cities as early learning champions through in-depth technical assistance, site visits and peer learning opportunities as a part of the Municipal Leadership to Promote Educational Alignment for Young Children (EAYC) project. The YEF Institute provides each city with technical assistance in building partnerships, promoting parent engagement, increasing enrollment in high-quality early education and aligning standards for curricula assessments and professional development.
City officials, working in partnership with school leaders, are encouraged to develop and enact policies that advance these objectives. The cities participating in the project are Austin and Fort Worth, Texas, Hartford, Conn., Longmont, Colo., Richmond, Va. and Rochester, N.Y.
As a part of the project, NLC is assisting each city to convene a state summit that brings together city leaders from three to four other cities in the state along with state government officials to facilitate peer learning and intergovernmental partnerships among city and state officials. The statewide summits are designed to create connections among municipal leaders and help local and state leaders learn about each other’s perspectives, initiatives and policies.
Additionally, they serve to bring a higher level of visibility to the issue of improving educational outcomes for young children in their local areas. With support from the YEF Institute, each EAYC team will plan and host the summit in partnership with the city and state leaders.
Statewide Summit in Longmont
The City of Longmont was the first city of the six to hold its summit, convening city leaders last week. Mayor Dennis Coombs and Councilwoman Sarah Levinson hosted municipal and community leaders from Aspen, Aurora, Boulder and Denver, as well as representatives from the state and foundation communities.
The goals of the meeting were to learn about the essential elements of a well-aligned system for young children; share activities, hopes, successes and challenges in moving toward educational alignment; and engage in conversation with state and local early childhood professionals to share ideas, resources and initiatives.
City Manager Harold Dominguez participated in the meeting along with Sam Mamet, Executive Director of the Colorado Municipal League. Community leaders are hopeful that this is the first of many meetings and the beginning of a robust peer learning network in Colorado.
State Summits will also take place in Connecticut, Virginia, New York and Texas (who will represent both Austin and Fort Worth) over the next few months. These summits are unique opportunities for the project communities to drive the conversation about early childhood education and highlight the role that municipalities can play in these efforts.
After each meeting, the YEF Institute will provide technical assistance to the host city to determine how to continue the conversation among the cities in attendance and state representatives. The YEF Institute anticipates that the summits will lay the groundwork for future collaborations that will inform local and state policy to support young children and their families.