The School Readiness Collaborative: Helping to meet the needs of young children in Old North Dayton

In 2010, a one-year planning grant was awarded by the Better Way Foundation to address school readiness needs of children and families in the Old North Dayton neighborhood.   Dr. Roberta Weaver, Cindy Currell, Dr. Shauna Adams, and Susan Ferguson collaborated to initiate activities that would bring together schools and community partners interested in strengthening relationships between families, teachers, administrators, university personnel and social agencies for purposes of establishing ready communities, schools and families.

Additional funding was granted by the Better Way Foundation to implement community building activities deemed necessary for improving school readiness.  Now in its third year, the School Readiness Collaborative of Old North Dayton has realized success on many levels.  The creation and implementation of Family Cafés, which are parent support groups, have touched numerous families throughout the community and continue to flourish.  Another success has been the proliferation of a framework for instructional decision-making that supports intentional teaching, integrated curriculum, and inquiry known as ACCESS Curriculum Framework.  ACCESS is being utilized by a growing number of early childhood educators.  ACCESS training sessions have been conducted for the past two summers and three online training modules are currently being developed.  The Bombeck Professional Learning Community is very active and reaches participants through meetings, professional learning activities, and their website.

Further accomplishments include a sense of UD’s mission in the community – to learn, lead and serve- by providing support to families in realistic ways.  With families responding on a reciprocal level, respect is gained among those who have come together for the good of children and families and support has grown for new working relationships that have developed.  UD students are provided an opportunity to volunteer in situations that allow them to experience families, be a part of collaboration in action, reflect on their experiences, and contribute feedback.  And, of course, young children treasure their time with college students.

Members of the Collaborative presented their work to a diverse group of educators from across the country and beyond at the 2012 Catholic Education Summit hosted by the University of Dayton Center for Catholic Education.  Their interactive presentation about the successful development of a collaborative partnership in action to improve early childhood quality for school readiness and parent empowerment in urban neighborhoods built relationships among those in attendance and fostered new connections.  According to Cindy Currell, “Several people came to us and were interested in having partnerships with UD or have already worked with UD and want to take it further”.

The School Readiness Collaborative has been invited to seek a third round of funding and will find out in December if grant monies will be awarded.  So what does it hope to accomplish if the grant is approved?   One goal is to increase community capacity to engage families in optimizing school readiness and school success by developing a multidisciplinary community-based family engagement collaborative and bring together a number of new and established approaches, strategies, and tools for family engagement through a family engagement clearinghouse.  A second goal is to implement Family Cafés with additional neighborhood school centers, additional Catholic and public schools, and with Head Start families.