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Tackle Summer Slide Program Results Show Over Half of Students Gained Two Months’ Reading Ability

Nationally, low-income students experience an average summer learning loss in reading achievement of more than two months every year. This summer, Istation initiated its 3rd annual Tackle Summer Slide program. The program is an effort to reverse summer reading loss by providing children with access to online curriculum, instruction from trained reading specialists, and learning incentives. Istation is an interactive computer-delivered program that provides every student with the individualized instruction she or he needs for continual success. Educators and parents can access online reports that track student progress and provide links to supplemental lessons. The collaborative effort between Dallas ISD, Dallas Afterschool, IStation, Dallas City of Learning, and The Commit! Partnership included 411 kindergarten through 3rd grade Dallas ISD students at eight community sites across the city. More than 30 literacy specialists worked with these students to prevent the trend of low-income students losing two months of reading achievement every summer. The results have been incredible. 72% of the students experienced no summer slide at all (up 8% from last summer), and 53% of students increased their literacy by two months. This significantly exceeds results from last year. Additionally, costs were cut in half this year by leveraging existing resources, such as sharing literacy specialists across sites. For the Tackle Summer Slide program’s fourth year, the involved organizations have already begun putting more supports and resources in place to hopefully help even more students overcome summer reading loss in 2018.

What Did HB4 Mean for Dallas County Schools?

When House Bill 4 was passed by the 84th Texas legislature in 2015, it was simultaneously applauded and criticized. The author of the bill, state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, said he wanted “to make sure that we do the right thing for our little kids.” Governor Greg Abbott heralded the bill as a move toward advancing quality Pre-K education. Lawmakers championed the bill as a way to boost quality Pre-K programs. It did not seek to expand Pre-K to serve children who are not eligible under federal guidelines. The bill, they said, was to make sure quality Pre-K was offered, and provided $118 million in grants for school districts and charter schools that adopted new standards for Pre-K curriculum and teacher qualifications, as well as improving parental engagement and progress monitoring measures. Almost two years later - and with the Texas legislature heading into its 85th session - the grant is up for renewal, and without action by the legislature in the upcoming session, the funding will disappear, leaving districts across the state scrambling to maintain quality Pre-K programs with fewer resources. With this in mind, The Commit! Partnership (as part of a statewide effort commissioned by Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, and in partnership with Texans Care for Children) took a deep dive into the data generated since the grant was funded. Specifically, Commit! analyzed HB4 participation and implementation in six districts in Dallas County - Dallas, DeSoto, Duncanville, Irving, Richardson and Mesquite ISDs - and one district in Collin County, McKinney ISD. These districts represent 321,053 students, 64 percent of Dallas County students (not including the students from McKinney ISD), and make up 6 percent of Texas students. Many of the schools participating said they applied for funding for a range of goals meant to enrich their existing Pre-K programs, including enhancing supports for their teachers and aides, strengthening their family engagement programs to equip parents with the ability to engage in learning with their child, and expand their programs to include some full-day options. But a program with an expiration date also caused districts to proceed with some caution. Districts expressed reluctance to use the funds to invest in long-term goals like program expansion or additional teachers for fear that later - if the legislature opted to let the program die either by vote or neglect - they would have to dial back those plans and reduce staffing later. For those same reasons, many did not use the grant funds to expand to a full-day program. In fact, one district (Duncanville ISD) even opted to decline the funds completely because of the insufficient funding for full-day Pre-K, and several opted to only add full-day programs in a few select schools. Make no mistake: high-quality Pre-K is absolutely imperative for Dallas County, and the legislature renewing HB4 will help school districts sustain new quality measures that have been implemented. This will also give additional time to measure the impact of the program in terms of student performance. The [...]

Early Pre-K Registration Campaign

Dallas County is off to a great start to the school year with an increase of 1,348 more children registered for Pre-K! Congratulations to all those involved in our countywide Early Pre-K Registration Campaign! This marks the second consecutive year of increase and a notable step toward our collective goal to ensure at least 80% of children are kindergarten ready by 2025. This year’s Early Pre-K Registration campaign featured the combined efforts of nine local districts — Cedar Hill ISD, Coppell ISD, Dallas ISD, DeSoto ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Irving ISD, Lancaster ISD, Mesquite ISD, and Richardson ISD — making it the largest district-level effort to date. The commitment of four additional districts, collaborative planning efforts and assorted outreach strategies greatly expanded the reach well beyond that of the 2015 campaign. Registration and outreach efforts were also greatly supported by community partners and stakeholders. Over 140 organizations, businesses and individuals were equipped with 105,000 flyers! Libraries, community centers, food pantries, clinics, churches, local nonprofits and other stakeholders have championed the importance of early learning to families across Dallas. Thank you to Workforce Solutions of Greater Dallas for making this possible! And thank you to all of the partners that continue to prove the power of our collective action. If you’d like to be involved with the 2017 Pre-K Registration effort, please contact Kim Manns at Kimberly.Manns@commit2dallas.org. Articles featuring this year's Early Pre-K Registration Campaign: Dallas ISD's pre-K enrollment hits 11,000 for the first time, Dallas Morning News, September 8, 2016 When should workforce training start? As early as pre-K, Dallas coalition says, Dallas Morning News, September 9, 2016

Early Matters Dallas Update

Joint Policy Update The Early Matters Dallas and Houston Policy and Legislative Committees held a joint meeting in May to prepare for the upcoming 2017 Legislative Session by developing a policy agenda aligned to the core principles of both communities. During the meeting the committees agreed to advocate for the following: Sustaining HB4 high-quality Pre-K grant funding at $118 million per year and ideally, expand funding to incorporate full day Pre-K via formula funding for those districts that choose to offer it. Authorizing the Dallas County Community College District to offer a 4 year B.A. early childhood teaching degree to address the shortage of high quality early childhood teachers in the region. Coordinating data sharing between Texas Workforce Commission and Texas Education Agency to ensure that policymakers, school districts, and the public have access to transparent data on children transitioning from subsidized child care programs to public Pre-K. Increased data reporting and transparency for the Texas Rising Star Program to provide parents, policymakers, educators and other stakeholders with clearer information about the quality of child care paid for by state and federal funds. Additional policies continue to be considered, and four separate working groups were established with members from both policy committees to gather additional research, further develop policy specifics and encourage others to act in the crucial months leading up to the 85th Texas Legislative Session. These working groups will explore HB4, TWC policies that could strengthen quality of childcare providers, an EC teacher certification, and an EC provider registry, among others. Mark Your Calendars! On November 1st, Early Matters Dallas will be hosting a summit in conjunction with the University of Dallas McDermott Lecture Series, featuring General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.). The summit will take place from 8:00 - 9:00 pm at the Meyerson Symphony Center. Early Matters Dallas Alignment Council Meetings for the remainder of 2016 will be held from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas on August 18, October 12 and December 7.

By |May 1st, 2016|Early Childhood, Newsletter|Comments Off on Early Matters Dallas Update

“For Oak Cliff” Back to School Festival

Organized by Taylor Toynes, Community Impact Associate, the 2nd annual For Oak Cliff Back to School Festival will take place on August 13, 2016 at Glendale Park in South Oak Cliff. With the support of partners United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Texas Instruments, Dallas Parks and Rec and Celanese, the goal is to impact over 2,000 children and families within the Oak Cliff community. Last year’s inaugural Festival impacted over 1,000 students by providing them lunch, school supplies, uniforms, and raffle prizes. This community-wide event will again jump start a fantastic 2016-17 school year by empowering and supporting community members through voter registration, a job fair, a college fair, and early childhood and Pre-K registration. In addition to family-friendly activities, entertainment and food, 2,000 students will receive the school supplies they need for the upcoming school year. Organized by students from Zumwalt Middle School, South Oak Cliff High School and TAG at Townview, a peace march will start at 8:00 am from Zumwalt proceeding to Glendale Park, where the Festival will kick off at 9:00 am. You can help make the For Oak Cliff Back to School Festival a yearly tradition that brings together family, friends, and the Oak Cliff community. For more information and opportunities to donate or volunteer, please visit our website www.foroakcliff.org or contact Taylor Toynes at taylor.toynes@commit2dallas.org.

By |May 1st, 2016|College Access, Early Childhood, Newsletter|Comments Off on “For Oak Cliff” Back to School Festival

Community Rallying Around 0-3 Brain Building

Aristotle once theorized that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is how the notion of synergy was created; it also forms the basis of collective impact and the priorities of The Commit! Partnership: by working together, we are able to achieve greater outcomes than we would as individuals in isolation. Funders are an active part of this formula. This past year, 100 foundations and funders supported 40 cross-sector partners as they engaged over 2,800 parents and 4,500 children in brain building activities. This synergy around the importance of and investment in early childhood education pays dividends today and down the road: children who start school kindergarten-ready, a key pillar on the cradle-to-career continuum, are much more likely to graduate from high school and earn $10,000 more annually than their peers who do not. These successes and potential for continued impact motivate us to expand the ecosystem by growing our impact, strengthening and innovating current partnerships, and engaging new partners in innovative ways all in an effort to optimize impact on the life trajectories for more and more Dallas County kids. More and more partners and funders from all sectors are recognizing the sound investment of time and money in brain building activities and equipping parents as their child’s first teacher: in its second year, the Early Childhood Family Engagement Action Network will empower 65 partners to engage 4,500 families and 7,200 children in brain building activities. This synergy, this collective impact—powered by community partners giving both time and money—is ultimately leading to a sea change in thinking around early childhood education and resultant life-changing benefits to the children of Dallas County who need us most.

By |May 1st, 2016|Early Childhood, Newsletter|Comments Off on Community Rallying Around 0-3 Brain Building

Dallas County Pre-K Registration Campaign

This year’s Early Pre-K Registration campaign featured the combined efforts of nine local districts—Cedar Hill ISD, Coppell ISD, Dallas ISD, DeSoto ISD, Grand Prairie ISD, Irving ISD, Lancaster ISD, Mesquite ISD, and Richardson ISD—making it the largest district-level effort to date. The commitment of four additional districts, collaborative planning efforts and assorted outreach strategies greatly expanded the reach well beyond that of the 2015 campaign. In order to achieve a goal of 14,500 early Pre-K registrants across the County, districts aligned on a common registration week of April 4th. To share why early childhood education is important and how to register for Pre-K districts hosted Pre-K awareness events, launched social media campaigns, posted billboards, sent flyers home with students, provided immunization services to families, and much more. Registration and outreach efforts were also greatly supported by community partners and stakeholders. Over 100 organizations, businesses and individuals were equipped with 105,000 flyers! Libraries, community centers, food pantries, clinics, churches, local nonprofits and other stakeholders have championed the importance of early learning to families across Dallas. Thank you to Workforce Solutions of Greater Dallas for making this possible! To learn more about the campaign and registration efforts, check out Pre-K mentions in the media: "Editorial: Pre-K works, register your kids April 4-9" - Dallas Morning News "North Texas School Districts Push To Enroll More Children In Pre-K" - KERA News "Editorial: Pre-k es crucial para el desarrollo académico de los niños" - Al Dia Dallas Be on the lookout for official updates and campaign results in our Bright Spots Blog post toward the end of April. For more information about Pre-K and quality early childhood programs around the County, please visit Commit2Dallas.org/PreK2016. If you have any feedback or questions, please email Whitney Holman at Whitney.Holman@commit2dallas.org

By |January 1st, 2016|Early Childhood, Newsletter|Comments Off on Dallas County Pre-K Registration Campaign

Early Matters Dallas

Early Matters Dallas (EMD) is a broad-based coalition dedicated to working together to raise awareness about the importance of quality early education, coordinate advocacy efforts, and increase funding for quality early learning to ultimately ensure a strong workforce of tomorrow. The goal of EMD is to increase Kindergarten Readiness to 80% by 2025 (from 57% in 2014) and 3rd grade literacy to 60% by 2025 (from 34% in 2015) across Dallas County. To reach these goals EMD has developed an action plan, with the input of more than 70 early childhood experts, to guide efforts across the County from birth to 3rd grade. Furthermore, contributing indicators will be tracked annually to measure progress. The Early Matters Dallas Policy Group provided substantial input to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on the rules implementing the HB4 high quality Pre-K grant. This group is beginning to prioritize legislative initiatives and will have a joint meeting with the Early Matters Houston policy group in May to begin aligning on legislative priorities for the 2017 session. Early Matters Dallas and Early Matters Houston will jointly represent 1 in 4 students in Texas this legislative session. In addition to aligning advocacy agendas, a key priority for EMD moving forward is to develop an online mapping tool to serve as central platform for data on and services for young children and their families. This will be released in Q2 2016. To learn more about why early childhood matters, check out the recently released infographics or read this editorial in the Dallas Morning News written by EMD Governing Board members Peter Beck and Clint McDonnough. If you’d like to get involved with Early Matters Dallas, please sign up here or email questions to info@earlymattersdallas.org.

By |January 1st, 2016|Early Childhood, Newsletter|Comments Off on Early Matters Dallas

Vroom Mobile App Gives Young Brains A Head Start

Since the start of the Dallas County Vroom pilot this past summer, over 35 organizations have committed to sharing the Vroom app, it’s resources, and the science behind early brain development with families. The latest research tells us that our brains develop more rapidly during the first five years of life than any other time. Vroom provides actionable tips that help children to develop positive adult-child relationships, communication skills, and executive function life skills like goal setting and critical thinking. Before the pilot began over 1,600 parents were surveyed and 1 in 5 parents did not believe “babies begin learning the moment they are born,” which indicates there is an awareness issue. Vroom informs parents that it is never too early to start building a child’s brain. In collaboration with the great work of partner organizations, is building awareness and adoption of brain building activities for young children. Read more about the reach of the Vroom Pilot in Dallas by visiting this Dallas Morning News article. Join our efforts in helping equip and empower caregivers to become brain builders for children around the County today! Visit joinvroom.org, download the "Daily Vroom" app, and share the importance of brain building activities with families! To learn more about the pilot please visit the Early Childhood Family Empowerment Action Network (ECFEAN) or email whitney.holman@commit2dallas.org.

Introducing Vroom: The Brain-Building App

In the Fall of 2014, only 55% of Kindergarteners entered school ready. Dedicated to improving Kindergarten Readiness rates across the county, members of the Early Childhood Family Empowerment Action Network (ECFEAN) joined together last Fall to equip and empower Dallas County families, parents, and guardians of children ages 0 to 5 as their child’s first teacher. To increase awareness surrounding early brain development and the immense learning that occurs in a child’s first five years of life, more than twenty five members are now coordinating a pilot to share Vroom, a free mobile app, with families. Vroom uses easily digestible tips to help caregivers turn everyday interactions with young children into brain building moments. Vroom’s initial pilot in Seattle, Washington demonstrated a 12 point increase in caregiver awareness of brain building behaviors and an increase in caregiver engagement with children. This year, Dallas County joins Seattle and 3 other geographies (Los Angeles, and the states of Colorado and Oregon) as a part of a national effort to increase awareness and application of brain building behaviors. Incorporating key learnings from Seattle, the Dallas Pilot is sharing Vroom through a surround sound approach—ensuring that parents hear about Vroom multiple times and from multiple sources. By utilizing trusted messengers who are already doing great work in the community and sharing Vroom in the communities where families shop, worship, play and live, we hope to measure a 15 point increase in parent adoption. Pilot partners range from school districts, child care centers, health clinics, libraries, community centers and even home visiting services. A media campaign including ads on DART, Facebook and Google will reinforce messaging shared by partners. In order to gain insight into the level of adoption and implementation of brain building activities in the home, partner organizations have collected over 1,500 pre-pilot surveys from families. These pre-pilot surveys, which collect data about families’ beliefs about the importance of early learning and the daily interactions they have with their children, will be compared with post-pilot surveys to be collected in February. If you would like to learn how you can share Vroom with families or participate in the Early Childhood Family Empowerment Action Network please email Jaime.meyers@commit2dallas.org

By |August 10th, 2015|Early Childhood, Newsletter|Comments Off on Introducing Vroom: The Brain-Building App