The Springfield Bto3rd project, funded for four years by the Department of Early Education and Care through the Race To The Top Early Learning Challenge, brought together school administrators and teachers in both public and community-based early learning environments to begin to implement an alignment of best practices to support optimal development and learning for Springfield’s children from birth to grade 3.
Although funding for the initiative has ended, community partners continue to work towards a shared understanding of a child's developmental continuum by planning appropriate learning expectations, strategies to support parents and families as the child's first teacher and best teaching practices for children from birth to age 8.
A team of public school and private preschool providers worked with Dr. Nonie Lesaux and Stephanie Jones of Harvard Graduate School of Education to select a Pre-K curriculum. The "Big Day" early learning and literacy curriculum was piloted in the 2014-2015 academic school year in the Springfield Public Schools and selected community-based preschools to promote reading proficiency by grade 3.
The curriculum will be implemented in additional public school and private provider classrooms in 2016, the result of a grant from the Funder Collaborative for Reading Success.
The project was a coalescence of existing Springfield community-enhanced student achievement and community-based literacy programs already working in support of children, families, and the community to promote excellent outcomes along the lifespan from birth to grade 3.
Closely following Kristie Kauerz’ Framework for Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating, PreK-3rd Grade Approaches, the initiative captured all categories under three assets: aligned academic curriculum and assessment, building teacher and adult caregiver quality and capacity, and using data sets and strategic planning to inform instruction and build student supports.
The initiative implemented:
- Shared professional development among citywide practitioners that allowed educators to develop the skills needed to support children to achieve kindergarten school readiness; to use formative assessment to inform teaching and improve learning outcomes; and to promote grade-level reading and proficiency by the end of 3rd grade.
- The sharing of information on early childhood struggles by Behavioral Health Network, Inc. which enabled educators to promote childhood resiliency.
- Activities including the identification of academic standards across public and private settings, including common developmental domains as contained in Teaching Strategies Gold and shared social-emotional standards.
- Monthly Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) of community-based and public preschool and kindergarten teachers that participated in shared professional development and conduct cross-site classroom observations. The main focus is communicating and training on transition to kindergarten practices and following a universally-adopted kindergarten Readiness tool to inform parents and practitioners alike.
Particular areas of focus include:
- identifying and promoting a common set of developmental domains to align teaching and assessment across educational settings, birth-grade three;
- developing a common understanding of kindergarten readiness across the partnership;
- selecting an early education curriculum for use by both Springfield schools and community programs;
- expanding the teacher-to-teacher exchanges of our PLC model, across Pre-K and kindergarten levels;
- providing professional development for teachers and administrators on the key developmental domains;
- providing professional development for teachers and administrators on the use of formative assessment data to inform instruction;
- expanding family engagement through teacher home-visit programs; and
- use of Teaching Strategies Gold as a unifying assessment tool across Pre-K and elementary school settings.
Theory of Change Principles in our System of Thought
If: We can universally provide for...
- Common language
- Common training to improve teacher and adult capacity and environmental quality
- Common teaching practices and assessments
- Common Core curriculum learning alignment
- Common data use and
- Strategic planning across multiple settings
- Professional development
- Professional Learning Communities
- Leadership across public and community settings
- Resources and advocacy delivered through a citywide Early Childhood Coalition
- Data share across settings from Pre-K to K; and then from kindergarten through grade three (horizontally and vertically) across multiple settings
Then: We can...
Provide for intentionally aligned educational practices across multiple settings for administrators, teachers, families and students from birth to preschool, from preschool to kindergarten, and from kindergarten through grade three in contribution to citywide advocacy for grade-level reading and reading success by fourth grade because reading proficiency is the fundamental core of lifelong learning.