For the first time, five districts and 100+ community organizations aligned efforts to increase the number of families registering for pre-K. Watch the video above to learn more!
With just a computer and an Internet connection, 40 tutors from six companies contributed over 275 hours of free tutoring to 47 1st and 2nd graders across three Dallas ISD schools in the Molina feeder pattern. Since December 2014, these tutors called their students once a week for 30 minutes. During these sessions, tutors and their students read stories, reviewed vocabulary, and practiced matching letters with sounds. At Cochran, Cowart, and Soto Elementary, the 2014-15 school year ended on an exciting note: Tutors from Haynes and Boones, Intuit, UPS, Thomson Reuters, Comerica Bank, Nielsen and Dallas ISD visited the 1st and 2nd grade students they’ve been tutoring since December 2014. During the visits, the tutors distributed books to all students and read stories with them. Casondra Wallace, a first grade teacher at Cochran, said the tutoring helped: “I have a girl who came in [reading at a] pre-k level and as of this week, she’s reading at a first grade level, which is amazing.” Other teachers observed students’ confidence in reading and excitement about class increased as students look forward to getting their calls every week. Dallas became the 14th city this year to launch TutorMate with the help of the Commit Partnership and Dallas ISD. To learn more about this work and how you can get involved, contact Andy Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to access the KERA story.
For 24 Kindergarten – 3rd grade teachers in Dallas ISD’s South Oak Cliff (SOC) feeder pattern, the school year ended with many causes for celebration, including successfully completing the 2014-15 SOC Reading Academy and helping nearly 200 Kindergarten-3rd grade students end the year reading on grade level. Seeing that only 1 in 4 Kindergarten – 3rd graders were reading on grade level in 2013-14, Dallas ISD and the Commit! Partnership launched the SOC Reading Academy. The purpose: to support early grades teachers with data and professional development so they could help more students grow in their reading proficiency. Dr. Clarissa Plair, who has over 30 years of reading and leadership experience, facilitated the Reading Academy. Throughout the 2014-15 school year, 24 teachers voluntarily attended sessions covering best practices in reading and writing instruction. Through the Reading Academy, participating teachers collectively received 500 hours of professional development with 100% of them indicating this opportunity helped them improve their classroom instruction for years to come. Using the lessons from the Reading Academy to differentiate instruction is where teachers saw the magic happen: “My favorite moment of the year was when I was working with a small group on guided reading using principles that I had learned in the Reading Academy. One of my first graders said, ‘I’m learning!’ It was the most fulfilling moment of my day and year,” shared one first grade teacher. With support from the Boone Family Foundation and individual community members, the SOC Reading Academy also provided teachers with the opportunity to request essential classroom literacy resources via the DonorsChoose.org website. Nearly $7,000 worth of classroom supplies were donated to participating teachers. What about the impact on students? The majority of teachers had more students performing on grade level or growing in their reading proficiency compared to students from other classes in similar grades. Given the positive feedback from teachers and principals, the SOC Reading Academy will continue next school year with a more targeted focus on Kindergarten-2nd grade while serving as a learning laboratory for Dallas ISD. To learn more about this work or to get involved, please contact Andy Canales, Director of Literacy Initiatives and Partnerships, at email@example.com.
“Children don’t drop out of school when they are 15, they do so in Kindergarten and wait 10 years to make it official.” -- Bob Keeshan, Early Education Pioneer Susan Hoff, Chief Strategy and Operating Officer of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, shares this belief and strongly outlines the value of a quality early childhood education for our children and the community. Each dollar that we invest in high quality early childhood education programs returns approximately seven times that through better grade progression and achievement, higher levels in employment, less dependence on public assistance, and less involvement in the justice system. While the research is clear and many bright spots exist across the County, Dallas has room to grow as just over half (55%) of our children enter Kindergarten school ready. “Making sure that our children are ready for school and ready for life is everyone’s business. The stakes are just too high to do nothing.” Our community is responding to this call to action and rallying to increase the number of children entering school ready by: Ensuring more children enroll in quality early childhood education programs: 5 districts and more than 100 community organizations rallied together to raise awareness about pre-K registration in 2015 resulting in more than 11,000 children registering for pre-K. Equipping and empowering parents as their child’s first teacher: more than 50 organizations have committed to raising awareness about the importance of the early years, 20 organizations are launching Vroom (a free mobile application) that helps parents turn everyday interactions into brain building moments, and a new website is in development to provide families and service providers with access to current information on early childhood services and resources. Providing high quality professional development for early childhood professionals: the Dallas County Community College system is creating an Early Childhood Institute charged with the development of a robust teacher preparation program specifically designed for early childhood educators for the age 0 to 5 space. Sharing and scaling effective practices: collaborative networks are facilitating work to increase school readiness through home visiting, child care, school districts, and by addressing community level needs. While many bright spots exist and momentum is growing around early childhood, there is a need for greater investment and engagement across the County. If you would like to get involved or learn more please reach out to Jaime Meyers, Director of Early Education Initiatives, at Jaime.Meyers@commit2dallas.org.
Throughout Dallas County, educators and community members are working tirelessly to ensure that every child has the opportunity to access a quality education. On Wednesday, February 18th, almost 70 of these dedicated advocates gathered to discuss the upcoming work to support our youngest members of society here in Dallas. The Dallas Early Education Alliance, Commit! Partnership, The School Zone, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Zero To Five Funders Collaborative and Texas Home Visiting Program Coalition hosted the Dallas County Early Childhood Joint 0-5 Convening, in which attendees learned of various updates within early education here in Dallas.
Most of us may not remember our first experiences of education. We may feel connected with our most recent educational institution, whether that is high school, college, or graduate school. Yet our paths toward high school and higher education are largely determined in our earliest years, through our very first educational experiences, even before kindergarten. In 2013, only 49% of Dallas County students entered kindergarten ready to succeed (Commit! Partnership, as reported by 10 district partners, 2013 – click here to read more about the importance of Pre-K). It’s been proven that children who enter school behind tend to stay behind; by 3rd grade, only 35% of Dallas County students read at grade level (Commit! Partnership, 2013). Our children deserve better opportunities in life, and it takes a village to innovate toward solutions. At the Angelika Film Center on Thursday, January 22, “The Raising of America” documentary confronted the topic of disparities within early education. 170 local community members and educators gathered to join the conversation about the importance of early childhood development for all students, while a post-screening panel offered an opportunity to hear from advocates who are at the forefront of this urgent discussion.
On November 13th more than 50 individuals gathered for the Dallas County Early Childhood Joint 0-5 Coalition with the common intention of improving Kindergarten readiness. Currently only 49% of our students enter Kindergarten ready, so there is a great opportunity for the impact we can have working collectively. While there are many factors that influence a child entering Kindergarten school ready, this Coalition is focused primarily on increasing access to quality early childhood education, increasing parent and family awareness of the importance of the early years, and aligning measurement and practice. During this meeting the awareness working group shared the progress they are making to establish an awareness effort targeting parents with children age 0-5 to reinforce the importance of quality early education and educational interactions at home. We also broke into three small groups to plan for the upcoming spring pre-K registration efforts.
Of the many factors that influence a child’s Kindergarten Readiness, parents play a crucial role. As 92% of a child’s brain develops before age 5 we know increasing positive parent-child interactions at home stimulates brain development and better prepares a child for school and life. Recently the Bezos Family Foundation from Seattle introduced to more than 30 community members a tool called Vroom, which is designed to empower and inspire parents to turn everyday moments into brain building moments with their children.
Vroom has over 500 daily activities available via the Daily Vroom mobile app, and each activity is paired with a “Brainy Background” sharing why this activity promotes brain development and executive function skills. Vroom is building out more tips with the help of parents, partners and website submissions. The activities are designed to not require additional time, cost or resources, but rather be seamlessly integrated into their current daily activities with their child. To see how parents respond to this tool you can watch a video here (also available in Spanish). These tools are available for free download on Apple and Android devices or you can download a subset of their daily activities here. It is important to note that the activities and content were developed with guidance from over 15 advisors, based on what research shows increases brain development, and with meaningful input from parents.
It was impossible not to notice the buzz in the hallway as we met our greeting party at the Bonham Early Education Center serving approximately 300 pre-K students in Grand Prairie ISD. The walls were invitingly decorated with construction paper, numbers, and exploratory letters. Signs proclaimed that the language of the day was English! It would be Spanish tomorrow as Bonham is a two-way dual language school where a large percentage of students are Spanish language learners.
Our tour of the Bonham Early Education Center and conversations with staff and administrators highlighted their innovative and successful practices in serving the early education needs of the community. Bonham’s instructional practices adapt to students’ diverse learning styles, using developmentally appropriate programs and curriculum to accommodate student needs. Bonham offers a variety of classroom settings, notably including fully implemented dual language programs and programs for children with disabilities and special medical needs.
And Bonham’s data shows success…
We need to act early to ensure our youngest children are positioned for lifelong success. James Heckman’s research finds a 7-to-1 return on early childhood investment in reduced expenses associated with remediation, unemployment and incarceration. Yet in 2013, fewer than half (49%) of Dallas County students entered Kindergarten ready to succeed, setting a ceiling on subsequent achievement that plays out irrespective of socioeconomics.
The time for action couldn’t be better. With federal, state and city attention zeroed in on children’s earliest years, diverse community members are mobilizing together to address challenges in quality, access, awareness and alignment. A recent convening on September 17 drew more than 70 actors to begin aligning in key areas of 0-5 education. Thank you to United Way Metropolitan Dallas, Zero To Five Funders Collaborative, Dallas Early Education Alliance and The School Zone for their leadership in bringing together this group. More updates to come!