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SPARK Linking Ready Kids to Ready Schools: A Report on Policy Insights from the Governors' Forum Series

March 1, 2009

Each year too many children start kindergarten unprepared to learn. Many will never catch up. The reasons for this are complex, but this much is clear: The multiple systems – from family to schools to government – that should be supporting young children too often are failing to do so. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation seeks to change that, and to permanently improve systems that affect children's learning.As policymakers look for ways to improve student outcomes by creating "seamless" systems of education starting at preschool, communities have been getting it done. SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids) — a fiveyear initiative funded by the Kellogg Foundation — has contributed a unique, community-based perspective to the national conversation on what it takes to effectively link learning systems. In particular, SPARK examines what it takes at the beginning of the education pipeline to link early learning to the early grades. The goal is to make sure that children are ready for school and that schools are ready for them — a formula critical for a lifetime of successful learning.SPARK efforts are deeply anchored in the community and are designed to assure that children are successful both before and after they enter school. The strategy of working with schools, early care and education providers, families and community partners has yielded a set of proven ways to align local systems of education — approaches that have been tested in diverse rural and urban communities in Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington, D.C. What SPARK community-based sites have done to create connections across local systems of learning stands to influence larger school reform issues and state policy discussions about what is needed to create a more holistic learning experience for children — one that results in academic success at grade three and beyond.

Linking Ready Kids to Ready Schools: A View from Connecticut

September 22, 2008

It's called "Ready by 5, Fine by 9," and it has two critical goals. Connecticut's children must start kindergarten armed with the skills they'll need to succeed, and they must be top-notch readers by the time they finish third grade.To make those things happen, Connecticut has to ensure that children experience a smooth transition from pre-school to kindergarten, says Governor M. Jodi Rell.Rell is one of five governors nationwide who has been working with the Kellogg Foundation and the Education Commission of the States to convene one-day forums that explore the links between early childhood education and elementary school. The Governors' Forums: Linking Ready Kids to Ready Schools, bring together educators, education experts, and policymakers to review and accelerate strategies to help children move seamlessly from the early years to elementary school and beyond.

Using Survey Research to Evaluate Communications Campaigns

November 4, 2004

The use of survey research is perhaps the best example of the need to plan for communications evaluation because it is costly and highly sensitive to three elements of campaign design: your audience, your goal, and your campaign's communications budget.This paper will outline the questions you need to ask in the design stages of a communications campaign to maximize your chances of using survey research only when you need it, as well as explain the different types of survey methodologies for evaluation and their advantages and disadvantages.

Writing a Media Analysis

October 5, 2004

Non-profit organizations and foundations need to understand the media landscape in order to gain a thorough understanding of how to present their positions on critical issues. Media analyses can be used to identify messages, examine how those messages are framed, and see how existing coverage of an issue could be improved. These analyses entail systematically taking a "slice" of media coverage from a set time-frame, often in the top daily newspapers, magazines and broadcast news outlets. The coverage can be classified and analyzed to identify communication opportunities for nonprofits and foundations, and strategic recommendations can be drawn to help them effectively disseminate their messages.

Strategic Communications Audits

October 5, 2004

Nonprofit organizations are now continuously being challenged to be more strategic in their communications efforts. Communications activities must add up to more than a series of isolated events such as the dissemination of an occasional publication or press release. Being strategic requires that nonprofits be more deliberate, innovative, savvy, and less reactive in their communications practice. Nonprofits are encouraged to regard communications as essential to their overall success and integrate it throughout their organizations.1As a result of this movement, an array of new tools, resources, and trainings have been developed to help organizations better understand the concept of strategic communications, develop their own communications strategies, and evaluate them for both accountability and learning purposes. But while nonprofits are learning how to develop strategies and are gaining a better understanding of their importance, questions remain about their actual follow through in practice and nonprofits' overall capacity to implement their strategies given their relative inexperience in this field and the many priorities, including communications, that often compete for scarce organizational resources.

Guidelines for Evaluating Nonprofit Communications Efforts

April 1, 2004

The evaluation of public communications is a developing field. This working paper is designed help advance that field. It offers a set of guidelines that foundations and nonprofit organizations can use when designing evaluations to learn about both their investments in communications strategies and the impacts of those investments.


June 11, 2003

Builds on the findings of the first and second papers. It examines specifically how campaigns with different purposes (individual behavior change and policy change) have been evaluated, and how evaluators have tackled some of the associated evaluation challenges that the first three papers raised as important to address. It features fi ve brief case studies in which the main unit of analysis is not the campaign, but the campaign's evaluation. The case studies provide a brief snapshot of the real experiences of campaign evaluations. The paper also features cross-case lessons that highlight important findings and themes.

Mobilizing Public Will For Social Change

June 11, 2003

Examines the theory and strategies of "public will" campaigns and offers tangible criteria for their evaluation. It provides a rich inventory of strategies for use in mobilizing the public will through an integration of models of agenda building, social problem construction, issues management, social movements, media advocacy, and social capital. In addition, the paper provides cases and examples of public will campaigns directed at various social problems, along with criteria for evaluating these campaigns at various stages of a social problem's life cycle.

Voices for Change: A Taxonomy of Public Communications Campaigns and Their Evaluation Challenges

November 2, 2002

Makes the case that communications campaigns cover a broad range of different types and characteristics, and can be differentiated along the axes of purpose, scope, and maturity. Examines what communications campaigns that fall on different areas of these three axes look like, and how where they fall may affect the evaluation approach used and lead to distinct evaluation challenges and needs.