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Who’s ready for kindergarten?

Posted by Mark Holloway

The Ready for Kindergarten Collaborative, part of the All Hands Raised Partnership, was created to bring together stakeholders in the early learning space and give them a platform for working together collaboratively on the issues they were all addressing individually. Having schools, nonprofits,  government agencies and more all in the room at the same time may sound exciting or crazy-making depending on your perspective.  In our case, it created an energy and alignment that can actually lead to bigger impact.

In the midst of the Collaborative’s work, the state created a structure for Early Learning Hubs.  In many ways, these hubs around the state were modeled on the collaboration already happening in Multnomah County. The hubs were intended to be a framework for collective action. With the development of a formal state-chartered hub in Multnomah County, named Early Learning Multnomah (or ELM), it made sense this April for the Collaborative’s efforts to be absorbed by the new state-supported structure.

All of that is background to the momentum around specific strategies to support early childhood development and learning. SVP is continuing to support the development and implementation of the Community Education Worker and  Kindergarten Transition strategies.  Read on to learn more!

Community Education Worker program pilot

Recognizing that a child’s first teachers are the parents/caregivers and that people often learn behaviors and attitudes from peers, the Community Education Worker (CEW) program pilot creates an innovative structure for support of parenting, early learning and community empowerment.  It builds on the globally and locally successful Community Health Worker model where individuals with existing relationships in priority communities receive training to coach and advocate with peer families about early childhood development and building their family “protective factors” that safeguard children from trauma.

Created and nurtured by members of the Ready for Kindergarten Collaborative, the program pilot was just awarded $225,000 from the state’s Kindergarten Partnership & Innovation Fund to help kick off the two-year pilot in its first two school “demonstration site” communities in east Multnomah County.  A number of well-regarded community-based organizations that have strong relationships in the priority communities have lead the design of the model and will be key to its implementation. These nonprofits include Latino Network, Urban League, and the Native American Youth & Family Center. SVP will work with the CEW pilot Steering Committee to help raise funds, support the work teams’ efforts to link with broader systems efforts, and add our value wherever possible.

Read the press release from the Governor’s office describing these early learning grants.

Kindergarten Transitions

The spring and summer before kindergarten begins is a key transition point to ensure success for new students and families in September, October and beyond.  The work of this transition involves many members of the community — parents, preschools, family service nonprofits and schools — and created the perfect collective impact strategy for the R4K Collaborative.  Over the past two years, collaborative members brought together research and best practices in our schools to develop a timeline of activities that begins six months prior to kindergarten through 90 days into the school year.  This “arch” of transition offers many touch points for children and families to connect with their new schools and receive added support.  In addition to developing the timeline the participating schools and nonprofits created a “toolkit” that offers turnkey programs for the schools.

We have been particularly proud to support one of the activities over the past several years. The Early Kindergarten Transition program provides multi-week kindergarten orientations/experiences to incoming families in August.  This added support is especially helpful to children and families who haven’t had formal preschool/classroom experiences.

In the last three years this program has expanded from 3 schools to 32 schools in Multnomah County, with SVP’s support.  Having developed a strong reputation for quality and benefit to children and schools, Multnomah County and the six school districts in the County have made financial support available to scale up this program.

We are also supporting and piloting other transition activities to measure what’s most effective and scale what works.  See the Kindergarten Transitions Data Plan visual developed by the Collaborative.

 

These two strategies should see measurable outcomes for young children in our County. Regardless of the structure changes and jargon, collaboration is a good thing for a thriving Portland.

 

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