And we're back -- our fifth school year at Educare Arizona is underway!
Before the students -- ranging in age from months old to five years -- returned, Educare Arizona had the opportunity to host long-time friend of the Steve Nash Foundation (and great child welfare innovator and advocate) Kathy Pidgeon, along with First Lady of Arizona, Angela Ducey. They joined Educare Arizona board members (including Balsz School Superintendent Dr. Jeff Smith) and staff for a site tour and an engaged discussion of the enormous potential for high-quality early education to impact our communities. We are already looking forward to our next time together, and to supporting the strong policy advocacy that Kathy and Angela will bring to benefit children across the state.
Soon thereafter, Educare Arizona also welcomed Vicki Mayo of the Department of Economic Security. The tie between job creation, workforce development, and strong starts to life and learning couldn't be more clear -- as articulated in study after study*, access to quality early childhood education is a game changer. Children that enroll in Educare schools have language and school readiness scores far exceeding mean achievement levels for children living in low-income households; children who spend more time in Educare -- who enroll at a younger age -- see even stronger benefits and outcomes. And those outcomes hold, representing new trajectories for populations of children too often marginalized and underserved by ineffective (or non-existant) interventions. Educare provides not only hope, but real world change.
In two months, the Phoenix Suns will retire #13, and welcome Steve into their Ring of Honor. When he steps onto the court, he'll walk on with a lot of basketball to be proud of -- the two NBA MVP awards he won as a Sun, all-time NBA records, and teams that resulted in friendships and many, many wins -- but also a place in the Phoenix community. On 48th and McDowell, Steve's helped to build a legacy of success, of championing the real MVPs among us, of assists that put the starting five years of childhood into play. At the Steve Nash Foundation, we are so proud to be part of Educare Arizona, and of the nation-wide Educare Learning Network, and hope you'll continue to support our early learning efforts with your own assists.
If you're in Arizona (or near any of the twenty-one operating Educare sites across the country) and want to see up close what we're talking about, please don't hesitate to reach out to schedule a tour or ask any questions -- visit educarearizona.org or stevenash.org , and follow us on twitter and Instagram at @stevenashfdn to learn more -- and please know that your support matters.
Thanks for reading,
* A little of that research is here.
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