Friday, December 9, 2011

Focusing on Early Childhood in the Windy City

By Reuben Jacobson, Senior Associate for Research and Strategy

Marty and I headed to Chicago this week for a convening of practitioners from schools, districts, cities, counties, states, and nonprofits to discuss what a birth through third grade system might look like. Community school leaders from Multnomah County, OR, Evansville, IN, Cincinnati, OH and Tulsa, OK spoke about the community school as the vehicle to support deeper connections between the early childhood community and schools. Strengthening the continuum of supports across the grades into early childhood continues to be a growing area of work for community school systems around the country. You can read about some of these activities on the Coalition’s Linkages to Learning page.

While we were there, we presented at the Illinois Federation for Community Schools’ Stakeholder Symposium on Linking Community Schools to Early Childhood Programs. The Federation assembled coordinators, lead partners, and early childhood representatives to learn more about how to connect community schools to early childhood opportunities in order to improve student learning. We spoke about the growing work around early childhood/community schools linkages, specifically around transitions, curriculum/pedagogy alignment, family engagement, building a continuum of services, access, expanded learning opportunity, use of data, and co-location and integration. Attendees started a great community conversation about how they can better organize to support these linkages, how to overcome barriers, and how to align instruction. Federation Associate Director Melissa Mitchell indicated to the group that the rich conversation was just the beginning. We look forward to learning and sharing more about Chicago’s efforts to support its youngest students as they continue to develop their strategies.

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