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Community Schools Lead the Way in Early Childhood Education Practices

07/18/12

States and communities across the country are bolstering their early childhood education programs largely due to an emergence of new research on the importance of development in the first years of life. They recognize, for example, that improving early learning opportunities is critical to reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade.
 
Systems of community schools and their partners are in the best position to lead the way in connecting the k-12 and early childhood fields. They are lowering chronic absenteeism rates amongst young students, providing smoother transitions from pre-K to primary grades, and better aligning early education instructional standards through the community school strategy.  
 
As a result of the groundbreaking early childhood practices being implemented at many community schools, three more community school networks were added to the Mind in the Making-Community Schools  Project that the Coalition is co-sponsoring.
 
Evansville (Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation), Hartford (Hartford Community Schools), and Providence (a federal Full Service Community School grantee) joined Multnomah County, OR, Children’s Aid Society-managed community schools in New York City,  and Tulsa, OK in the project funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.  
 
Mind in the Making (MITM) and Community Schools: Crossing Boundaries and Creating Strong Linkages for Children Birth Through Eight and their Families is the formal name of the endevourThe MITM-CS Project is designed to use Ellen Galinsky’s book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs,as a focal point for building bridges between early childhood systems and community schools. The project promotes educational innovation in community schools, and serve as a model for all educators and families throughout the country. The Family and Works Institute works in partnership with the Coalition for Community Schools at the Institute for Educational Leadership on the W.K. Kellogg-funded project.  
 
The MITM approach and resources will be key to cultivating communities of engaged, lifelong learners across the 0-8 continuum by providing deeper understanding of the science of children’s learning and support for trying out how to apply this research to parenting and teaching practices. Using a ‘training of trainers’ capacity-building model, each community will identify members of key constituencies to serve as Mind in the Making "Learning Facilitators". MITM collaborators will work with these Learning Facilitators to bring Mind in the Making to parents, teachers, principals and other school staff. These learning communities and resources will be available to programs that might not otherwise have access to early childhood professional development opportunities (e.g. home-based child care, home visiting programs and other parent support programs).
 
The Kellogg Foundation is also supporting the Coalition’s Early Childhood and Community Schools Linkages Project. The Coalition works with partners at the National Center for Community Schools at the Children’s Aid Society and the Garner Center for Youth and their Communities to address the lack of collaboration and continuity across early childhood education programs/institutions and elementary schools by linking early childhood programs with community schools.
 
The Tulsa Area Community Schools Initiative in Tulsa, OK. and SUN Community Schools in Multnomah County are also a part of the Linkages project along with Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Each site was tasked to promote linkages to local and state agencies and community leaders, partner community schools with ECE programs, communities and families, share and collaborate on governance, and engage in shared professional learning.
 
While the framework and objectives are essentially the same across the board, implementation looks different at each site. Multnomah instituted a pilot Kindergarten Transition Program held in the summer prior to a student entering elementary school. The program is targeted to help both students and parents with the transition into primary grades.  
 
Both Tulsa and Albuquerque have established strong partnerships with public and private early childhood providers through its work in the Linkages project. Eventually, the MITM skillset principles will be merged into the Linkages work. )

These sites provide blueprints to sustainable 0-8 education systems thanks to the shared vision/ownership, linked curricula, family resources, continuity of support, and aligned partnerships that are at the core of the community school strategy.
 
The Coalition is rolling out a new Early Childhood Education web portal, as well as additional toolkits, materials, and information on the Mind in the Making project and other early-childhood education resources in the coming months. Keep checking the Coalition website in the meantime as we keep the field updated with this cutting-edge research project.
 
For more information about community schools and early childhood education, contact S. Kwesi Rollins at rollinsk@iel.org.
 
More Resources:
Marijata Daniel-Echols from the Families and Work Institute and Lois Vermilya at the University of New Mexico led a workshop on Mind the Making during the 2012 Community Schools National Forum (Materials from their presentation: Mind in the Making Summary, Workshop Overview, Leadership Framework, Executive Summary, Where Who What Why)

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