By Katie Whitehouse
NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) has selected six cities to participate in a technical assistance project that will align early childhood learning and K-12 systems to improve educational outcomes for children.
The two-year initiative, funded by grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, will help city leaders ensure the healthy development and education of children and increase the likelihood that they will achieve educational success by the end of 3rd grade.
The cities chosen for this project are:
Research shows that high quality, early learning is the foundation for all future learning. 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 ages zero to eight.
The YEF Institute will engage city leaders as early learning champions through in-depth technical assistance, site visits and peer learning opportunities. This work will be informed by the Institute’s previous work in developing an educational alignment framework based on best practices from 12 cities.
Using this framework as a guide, each city will receive 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, will be encouraged to develop and enact policies that advance these objectives.
Cities will have the opportunity to become part of a peer learning community where city leaders and staff can learn how other cities are addressing alignment and discuss best practices as well as the challenges they are currently facing.
In addition to the work in these six cities, the Institute will host convenings in four states to open new lines of communication among city, state and federal policymakers to identify policies that advance best practices.
Austin plans to initiate conversations with public school leadership in the city, as well as a citywide school readiness team, to coordinate efforts, integrate resources and set goals toward educational alignment for young children across child care providers, school districts and social service agencies and organizations.
Fort Worth plans to deepen its alignment efforts by creating more opportunities for parent engagement and developing new partnerships. City leaders also want to strengthen their work by aligning assessments of programs and child outcomes and sharing data among partners.
Hartford seeks to promote high-quality early learning opportunities along the education spectrum including at home and in the community. The city plans to encourage the use of model curricula in all classrooms, and promote screening and assessments to guide instruction.
Longmont will research and develop a systematic approach to educational alignment, with a focus on creating a system for tracking school readiness data and progress on initiatives for all partners in the project. City leaders hope to overcome barriers that early education providers have confronted with alignment and identify a model for how to successfully transition children to kindergarten.
Richmond plans to develop a kindergarten transition plan, parent resource centers, and programs in libraries to increase outreach to the community. The city would like to build on their efforts by using assessments and data to demonstrate measurable results.
Rochester will focus on developing an alignment plan by hosting focus groups for teachers across Pre-K-3rd grades, and establish a network of principals to share best practices. City leaders plan to look for new financing mechanisms for funding Pre-K for three-year olds and will work to build community knowledge on the best ways to strengthen parent engagement.