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Early Education Essentials Illustrations of Strong Organizational Practices in Programs Poised for Improvement

December 19, 2018

Extensive evidence demonstrates that high-quality, well-implemented early childhood education (ECE) positively impacts the learning trajectories of children, especially those from vulnerable populations. Yet many early childhood programs across the nation struggle to implement high-quality programming and, consequently, fail to sufficientlyadvance children's early learning. A growing body of research on school improvement demonstrates that strong organizational conditions will be necessary to lift stagnant levels of quality in early childhood settings. But this begs the question: What do strong organizational conditions look like in ECE settings?The Ounce of Prevention Fund, in partnership with UChicago Consortium, developed and validated the Early EducationEssentials™ surveys to provide the field with reliable and valid measurement of organizational conditions. As part of ourmeasurement work, we spent time observing and talking with leaders, teachers and families in ECE programs whosesurvey responses indicated that their essential supports were either very strong or very weak. Differences in their organizational climate and conditions were stark and unmistakable. Simply put, strongly organized programs created contexts far more supportive of teaching, learning and family engagement than the contexts created by weakly organized programs. In this paper, we describe those strong organizational contexts and how they empowered leaders, teachers and families to aspire to and realize higher-quality practices and better outcomes for young children.

Voices of Parents on Raising and Educating Their Children from Birth to College: A Teaching Case Study

November 1, 2013

This case study helps to fill the gap between the valuable assets that parents bring to their children's learning and the lack of attention given to parental voices in discourse about the current and future condition of public education for students from the earliest years through young adulthood. It presents the self-constructed narratives of twenty-oneparents about how parents, themselves, think about and work towards the development, education, and future successes of their children.

Building a Birth-to-College Model: Professional Learning Communities

December 1, 2012

The newest in a planned series of case studies on building a birth-to-college model of education released by the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute (UEI) and the Ounce of Prevention Fund this case study outlines how to create professional learning communities (PLCs) of teachers, administrators and family support staff spanning the early childhood to K-12 spectrum. The intent of the PLCs is to create environments where practitioners take the lead in collaboratively studying and piloting effective, developmentally informed practices that prepare children for college, beginning at birth.This teaching case study is intended to illustrate the evolutionary process of PLC development by UEI and the Ounce and inform the work of others interested in building similar birth-to-college systems to benefit children and families. It is based on interviews of 25 participants in the Birth-to-College Partnership, observations of PLC and other Birth to-College Partnership meetings over the six-month period between January 2012 and June 2012, and a review of Birth-to-College meeting notes and other documents dating back to June 2010.

Working Together to Build a Birth-to-College Approach to Public Education

November 1, 2010

In 2009, the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute (UEI) and the Ounce of Prevention Fund (the Ounce) embarked on an effort to form a partnership whose vision is to "...build a model of public education for children and their families that begins at birth and creates success in school, and life." UEI designed and operates four public charter school campuses offering families a pathway to college for their children that begins with prekindergarten (preK) and continues through high school. The Ounce created and operates the Educare School, which prepares at risk children from birth to age five for success in school. The partnership will initially demonstrate what it means when children begin their education early with Educare, enter UEI's charter campuses for elementary, middle and high school, advance to college, and persist to graduation. Ultimately, the partnership plans to harness and share the academic expertise and real-world experience of members of both organizations. The goal is to collaboratively and continuously align and create instructional practices, and academic and social supports, to demonstrate a new model of public education that seamlessly and successfully prepares children for college, beginning at birth. In the United States, early childhood education (ECE) is not publicly mandated. All children in the U.S. receive public schooling that generally begins with kindergarten. As a result, many children do not have access to sufficient learning opportunities early in life, and may start kindergarten at a disadvantage. Given that K-12 attempts at closing the achievement gap are costly and generally ineffective, calls are being made to prevent the achievement gap from ever occurring. This requires intervention at a very young age, since differences in achievement based on income level can be seen as young as nine months and become larger by kindergarten. Even children who have been exposed to high quality ECE can experience a "fade" of those benefits upon entering K-12, depending on the quality of elementary school. For many children, the achievement gap begins to widen once again. In the city of Chicago, high school graduation rates hover around 50 percent. Of those students who graduate, only 35 percent go on to attend four-year colleges and universities. The numbers grow even smaller for children who are African American, Latino, or low-income. The achievement gap that opens in early childhood tends to widen throughout K-12, and many children who start with a disadvantage at kindergarten never graduate from high school. If they do, they are unlikely to attend and graduate from college. Higher education levels are related to higher incomes, lower levels of unemployment, and other positive outcomes. In order to be competitive in a world where a college degree is increasingly important, the United States must ensure that children graduate high school and are prepared to graduate from college. Preventing an achievement gap and ensuring that the fade of benefits from high-quality ECE does not occur in elementary school, while at the same time raising the bar to "college for all," requires collaboration between the worlds of ECE and K-12. In the United States, however, there exists a structural divide between the two fields. Despite the fact that they share similar goals for educating children, policies, standards, and funding streams contribute to a "disconnect." The partnership's goals are to effect change in public education by creating a demonstration model of birth-to-grade 12 education that prepares students for success in college and life. In order to accomplish this, the two organizations will work together to share expertise, and align and co-create practices, to ensure the best possible chance for success for students. The partnership first needed to be established, strengthened, and trusted by key players from each organization -- this was not a simple task. UEI and the Ounce began this effort by developing a roadmap that includes a shared vision and mission, core values, and goals and activities of the partnership. We focus here on the formation of the shared vision and mission, a document that represents the goals and aspirations of the partnership between the two organizations. In the service of creating this document, a working group comprised of educators, administrators, researchers, and teacher leaders from each organization was formed. The working group used an iterative process, where they revised, questioned, and adjusted the roadmap during a series of ten three-hour meetings that took place over the course of nine months and were facilitated by a specialist. Working group members' testimonies about their experiences participating in the group are referenced in this study. We will also review iterations of the shared vision and mission as they changed over time.