Buffet Early Childhood Fund, New America Foundation, Stranahan Foundation, and Trust for Learning will engage in a collaborative national effort to advance the high quality early childhood sector. While there are some funder collaboratives working on policy and other efforts critical to the field, the Project Partners will be focused on sound practice and implementation. The purpose of this initiative is to elevate the national conversation - amongst both providers and funders - regarding what quality practice looks like and to connect existing networks of providers into a collective effort towards significantly expanding access to what works and what achieves the best outcomes for children. To that end, this commitment will:
1. Convene some of the 'best in class' providers and networks of ECE to establish a larger 'community of practice' in the sector that connects existing networks to leverage even greater reach and impact for all of those they intend to serve. Partners will host a minimum of two convenings with the Community of Practice where between 20-50 experts from the field will explore common challenges and identify initial areas of focus, which may include:
- showcasing best practices to scale existing evidence-based models
- building networks to increase instructional support focusing on improving adult-child interactions
- building universal ECE teacher competencies and professionalizing the workforce
- validating, codifying, and disseminating tools and practices that are scalable and effective
- sharing messages outwardly around agreed upon outcomes for children
The meetings will be facilitated by an award-winning and highly capable facilitation team from Washington DC, Randel Associates, and will be designed in a variety of formats, including roundtable discussions, 'fishbowl' knowledge-sharing circles, panel discussions and working action/strategy sessions.
2. Provide the ECE network with technical assistance (such as high level facilitation and strategic planning which could lead to future program development) to build the capacity of quality early childhood providers to, individually and collectively:
- Articulate, document and share (from theory to implementation) effective models;
- Discover commonalities and work collaboratively to leverage unified messages, best practices and implementation principles and strategies;
- Develop an understanding of how to expand existing quality programming to reach more children; and,
- Help other providers elevate the quality of practice in order to increase both choice and access to high quality early childhood experiences, particularly for the children from low-income families
3. Explore opportunities for collaboration and alignment of ECE funder collaboratives. Based on the findings of a recently executed landscape analysis of existing EC funder collaboratives, each of whom are working on a variety of different and often unaligned issues in the early childhood space, the funder collaborative will:
- share those findings, via written and digital 'white paper' dissemination; sharing with related stakeholders through collaborative conference presentations.
- explore opportunities to combine forces
The collaborative recognizes the potential for funding substantial future actions that result from this process.
1. Joint Provider/Funder Convenings June 2014 - June 2015: The Partners will host a minimum of two meetings (fall 2014 and winter 2014) with high quality ECE practitioners and funders. This group will help answer key questions posed by stakeholders and will design a plan for meaningful action.
During summer/fall 2014, the Providers will meet to reach agreement on the initial area(s) of focus and to develop a plan for addressing those focus areas. It is anticipated that a plan for collective action will emerge from this session. That plan will provide our roadmap for 2015 onward.
2. Explore Opportunities for Collaboration and Alignment of ECE Funder Collaboratives, September - December 2014
3. Linking Policy and Practice September 2014 - June 2015: As Federal and State funding streams become more available for ECE, the Partners will support this ECE 'community of practice' as the 'voice on the ground,' linking policy and practice by reinforcing and supporting efforts being undertaken by existing groups that focus on policy. The group will showcase what works with children birth-8, and be promoted as a best practice community of scalable options for underserved children.
There is broad consensus and indisputable evidence that early childhood education (ECE) is critical to children's later success in school and life. Recent findings published by the Society for Research and Child Development and the Foundation for Child Development indicate that in large-scale studies of public prekindergarten, 'only a minority of programs are observed to provide excellent quality and a comparable minority of programs are observed to provide poor quality.'? Many families, particularly those from the most underserved communities, often only have access to mediocre early education experiences for their children.?In addition, funding for early childhood education continues to be fragmented and limited in scope. There is little in the way of formal, seamless infrastructure within the sector and there is an urgent need to professionalize the field of early childhood teaching and improve teacher education.
Furthermore, there is a critical need to connect the minority of exemplar early childhood providers who are committed to high quality early childhood education and who are successfully offering the richest possible learning experience for the children they serve. These providers are often working solely within their own model-specific networks and in isolation from one another and are serving relatively few children. No one of these providers can provide population-scale access, but collectively, by creating a larger 'network of networks' and by providing them with the right strategic financial and technical assistance, they may reach many more underserved children in this country with the best of early childhood education programming.
This effort seeks partnerships between foundations already invested in, or interested in, the ECE sector. The reason for this is twofold: 1. The project's success is hinged on identifying and including the "best in class" providers, many of whom have been supported by small to large foundations and many of whom may not have widespread influence or reach at this point. The funders have a unique perspective on the provider landscape and can use their convening authority to invite the right providers to the process. 2. In an effort to coordinate and align efforts within a proliferating ECE field, and in order to consider population-level scale of high quality ECE, this may later require substantial financial backing. The Partners are also seeking media support in publicizing this effort, with an eye to the sharing of best practices and implementing policy levers, both at the State and Federal levels.
The Partners can offer evidence-based, best-practice information on ways to build and deliver high-quality ECE programming. Additionally, the partners can come to a deeper understanding of the most pressing funding needs of provider groups and translate those needs into fundable requests.