What a week! This Update is coming to you live from Chicago, IL, where I've been attending the Educare Learning Network annual meeting this week. Hundreds of practitioners, stakeholders, funders, researchers, and policy experts came together to celebrate incredible accomplishments at Educare's 21 schools across the country.* The take-aways were big, and can be summed up like this: longitudinal research over 9 years has yielded consistent findings that Educare schools prepare early learners for success with strong classroom quality.**
Walking into an Educare school is like no other experience: the building serves as a wrapper to highest-quality practice, but what a wrapper it is. Today was my first time in Educare West DuPage; while it shared some characteristics of Educare Arizona, it was in a completely suburban neighbourhood. It was stunning. Yet it underscored that poverty exists even where we don't see it, even where we don't expect it. It's up to us to listen, look, and support all members of our community. Doing so enriches all of our neighbors, big and small.
In light of everything happening right now in Baltimore, it's worth remembering that Educare started in large part in response to the heavy violence of Chicago's southside Robert Taylor Homes in the '90's. There, amidst regular gun deaths, hundreds of infants, toddlers and preschoolers needed a quality preschool to address the many risk factors for their success -- including a safe, violence-free zone in which to learn. In fact, an interior courtyard -- that exists today -- provided the only reliably safe outside play area in the community. When we designed Educare Arizona, we included our courtyard to pay hommage to the rich history of Educare's beginnings.
For the past eight years, our annual Steve Nash Foundation Showdown has supported Educare Arizona, and the kids and families served there. This year, we're inviting someone to join Steve and his NBA and professional soccer friends on the pitch with us on June 24th -- check out prizeo.com/SteveNash for your chance to win a trip for two to New York City, some one-on-one time with our favorite NBA MVP, and the chance to play with some of the world's best athletes in a soccer game you'll never forget!
As the Steve Nash Foundation celebrates 10 years of assists for kids, we appreciate all those that have been with us on the journey -- through GlobalGiving, you've helped build Educare Arizona into a place that reaches deep into the beginnings of the early childhood education movement, and looks forward to excellence and access for all kids. Thank you for helping us to grow health in kids!
With hopes for a peaceful spring,
*How many?? The Educare Learning Network is coast to coast, with schools in Seattle, Phoenix, Denver, Milwaukee, Chicago, West DuPage (our hosts this week), Kansas City, Tulsa (three schools), Winnebago, Oklahoma City, Omaha (two schools), New Orleans, Atlanta, Lincoln, Miami, Central Maine, and Washington, D.C., and Educare of Silicon Valley slated to open later this year. Want to visit your local school, or travel to see another? Visit educareschools.org for contact info and more . . . .
** You can read the research here.
As the calendar year comes to a close, we want to thank you all for your continued support of Educare Arizona! As parents of early learners ourselves, Steve and I know firsthand the importance of high-quality interactions for children's growing brains; these first five years comprise more neurological development than occurs at any other time in life. Having age-appropriate and high-quality services, curriculum, activities, nutrition, and healthcare makes all the difference.
What makes the Educare model so special is that it takes the most up-to-date science and puts it back into the classroom for kids. Using the work of leading researchers - including Educare's own national longitudinal study, which incorporates data gathered at each of Educare's twenty-one sites across the country under the leadership of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill - Educare constantly reports back to teachers, administrators, and executives as to how children are experiencing Educare and uses that feedback to adjust and improve upon the experience for each child. Parents aren't left out of the process: as we learn how Educare is impacting parenting and parents' time with their children, that information, too, is put to work, through our highly-trained Family Support Specialists on site.
The exceptional work at Educare sites hasn't gone unnoticed: two weeks ago, eleven of our schools - including Educare Arizona - were recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families with grants to provide training and resources to their child care partners to radiate out the quality of their programs (see article below). Educare is recognized as the premiere model in early learning, and we couldn't be more proud.
But the situation in Arizona remains dire: at the beginning of 2014, more than 6,300 children were awaiting child care assistance. That's enough children to fill some hockey arenas. Even with the small increase in funding that opened up the waitlist for the first time since 2011, there are still thousands of families who qualify for services but aren’t receiving them. And Arizona is one of only two states still paying child care centers and homes at the year 2000 market rates, ranking us last in the nation.
So we still need your assist. The programming and services available through Educare are proven to provide the support that ensure that at-risk babies, toddlers and preschoolers thrive. Until funding is restored by the state, private dollars are needed to help these children grow up healthy, strong, and ready to contribute to the workforce and our community well-being. We hope you'll consider staying involved in what we're doing in Arizona; while we know exactly the impacts and metrics of each dollar invested in Educare Arizona, your support is appreciated beyond measure.
With hopes for the most peaceful of winters, and a happy, healthy start to 2015!
Jenny, Steve and the Steve Nash Foundation
Election season has turned up the volume on the early learning conversation -- more and more studies are pointing to the connection between quality early ed opportunities and high performing school districts and communities. Educare Arizona is a perfect showroom for the impact on development -- as always, we'd love to have you visit! If you can't get to Phoenix, remember that there are 20 operational schools in the Educare Learning Network (here's a map!), and all of them are proud to show you what they're up to.
This fall marks the beginning of our 4th school year at Educare Arizona, and we're fully enrolled at 191 infants, toddlers and preschoolers gracing us everyday with their attitudes of inquiry and indomitable energy. For the first time, we have two full infant rooms, and our older children couldn't be more taken with these brand-new learners - a full continuum of ages at play, work, and wonder.
The adults at Educare Arizona are just as remarkable: through our partnership with Arizona State University, Educare is providing training and mentoring in the field of early childhood for new teachers about to enter the field. This year, 28-30 degree canditates will be on-site, where four previous ASU students are now employed as teachers!
Educare Arizona's wonderful programmatic partner, Southwest Human Development, works closely on our Child Development Associate program which provides Early Head Start and Head Start parents training in early childhood education, to afford them career opportunities in the field. Since beginning in the 2012/2013 school year, 46 candidates have completed the program, with 37 now employed with a SWHD Head Start/Early Head Start program (including 17 right here at Educare Arizona!). This year, another 40 candidates are registered, and we can't wait to see where it takes them.
At the Steve Nash Foundation, we've raised over $2million for Educare Arizona, which we think is among the most critical of resources available to children and families. Educare Arizona thrives with community support from people like you, and we are so proud to count you among those investing in children and communities with us. Thank you for your continued assist . . . and don't forget to vote for kids this autumn!
Educare Arizona entered its third full school year this past autumn, with 183 students - 16 (thriving) infants, 48 toddlers, and 119 preschool children. With the generous support of donors like you, we've added a Math & Science Big Building Area in the Birth to Five Courtyard. The area is used daily, for the kind of integrated science and learning that high-quality early learning offers — through creative free play and structured lessons, the blocks, arches, wheelbarrows, and chutes provide opportunities for our students to explore the ups and downs and ins and outs of their physical world. The items purchased for the permanent installation are beautifully crafted, adding natural elements to the outdoor space that is such a focus of the school.Inside and out, Educare Arizona has continued to develop and respond to community needs. Last month, we welcomed new CEO John Scola to Educare Arizona, and are excited that he shares our passion for early childhood’s role in community building — a passion that has significant legs to stand on. A major national commission sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently announced their recommendations for building a healthier America — and investing more in high-quality early childhood is their first priority. What's more, the commission spotlighted the great work Educare is doing on this front: multiple references to Educare in the Commission's executive summary and full report can be found in the right-hand column of the page linked here: http://www.rwjf.org/en/research-publications/find-rwjf-research/2014/01/recommendations-from-the-rwjf-commission-to-build-a-healthier-am.html. In addition, a quick, 2-minute video the Commission produced features Educare Washington DC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9A0VuPnMf-Y. Educare’s national leadership on early childhood education has also lead to the Educare Learning Network (ELN) being asked to contribute our learning on the impact of expanding Early Head Start to promote improvement of community healthcare to meet the needs of vulnerable children (and the communities in which they live). ELN’s sedulous attention to data collection, analysis and implementation has also lead Head Start and the Department of Health and Human Services to reach out to ELN to host workshops on data utilization, to contribute to improvement of practice nationally. All of this is a testament to all of the good work being done, at Educare Arizona, and, together, throughout the coast-to-coast network of Educare schools, and it couldn’t happen without supporters like you - thank you!
"Educare Arizona is an opportunity to really grow our children into healthy, strong, confident, intelligent students that can then go on and thrive and follow their dreams and therefore improve our workforce, our economy and our communities." - Steve Nash, President, the Steve Nash Foundation, Two-Time NBA MVP
Steve sums it up well! Since opening its doors in 2011, Educare Arizona has been a growing voice in the early childhood education discussion: more than a high-quality preschool for 191 children in Arizona, Educare Arizona provides critical teacher training, policy advocacy, and expertise in a field recognized for its vital role in community and economic growth.
Among the latest developments at Educare Arizona:
Come in for a tour of Educare Arizona, and you'll be immediately struck by the beautiful learning environment - some photos of our building are included here, but Educare Arizona is more than its wrapper. It's the voices of kids as they come into their own, nurtured by highest-quality programs, guidance, and instruction; it's the sight of their creativity - whether in song, paint or play; it's the growing engagement of parents as they get the resources they need to foster learning and development with their kids; it's a catalyst for change. Educare Arizona is changing the way we perceive of the first five years of life and learning.
We so appreciate your support, and hope you'll continue to grow health in kids with us -- you'll be glad you did!
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