Early Literacy

Molina Early Literacy Network Hits a New Turning Point

The Molina Early Literacy Network, representing 3,300 students, hit a new turning point on October 28 as principals representing the entire feeder pattern—all five elementary schools, the neighborhood middle school, and two high schools—came together with community and business leaders representing more than 20 organizations at Catholic Charities’ Santa Clara Regional Community Center.

The group used local data—on pre-K access, Kindergarten Readiness, early literacy, and parent needs—to identify barriers and surface potential community solutions.

Two key themes emerged from the discussion:
With data demonstrating that nearly one out of five incoming Molina 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders experienced significant summer learning loss in reading, the desire emerged to coordinate efforts for quality afterschool and summer programming
Informed by data showing that a high majority of ~2,000 Molina elementary parents surveyed indicated they would like more support in helping their children learn, the group focused on parent engagement as an area for collective action

Motivated to act, the Molina Network will move forward by identifying additional existing resources it might leverage, inviting additional stakeholders to join the group (especially neighborhood groups, faith-based organizations, businesses and parents) and convening again in January to action plan.

Thanks to the organizations below represented at the first meeting of Molina Community Partners:

All Stars Project
Big Thought
Carter Financial Management
Catch Up and Read
Catholic Charities
Children’s Medical Center
Crow Holdings
Dallas ISD
Dallas Public Library
Family Wellness Dallas
Jiv Daya Foundation
Leadership ISD
Literacy Instruction For Texas (LIFT)
Momentous Institute
Open Door Consulting
Teach For America
The Concilio
University of Dallas

To learn more and get involved, please reach out to Andy Canales, Director of Literacy Initiatives and Partnerships, at andy.canales@commit2dallas.org.

By |November 7th, 2014|Early Childhood, Early Literacy|0 Comments

Rallying Around Our Children’s Earliest Years

We need to act early to ensure our youngest children are positioned for lifelong success. James Heckman’s research finds a 7-to-1 return on early childhood investment in reduced expenses associated with remediation, unemployment and incarceration. Yet in 2013, fewer than half (49%) of Dallas County students entered Kindergarten ready to succeed, setting a ceiling on subsequent achievement that plays out irrespective of socioeconomics.

The time for action couldn’t be better. With federal, state and city attention zeroed in on children’s earliest years, diverse community members are mobilizing together to address challenges in quality, access, awareness and alignment. A recent convening on September 17 drew more than 70 actors to begin aligning in key areas of 0-5 education. Thank you to United Way Metropolitan Dallas, Zero To Five Funders Collaborative, Dallas Early Education Alliance and The School Zone for their leadership in bringing together this group. More updates to come!

Two recent accomplishments are worth highlighting:

A community awareness campaign to support early pre-K registration: Motivated by the opportunity to close the 37,000 3- and 4-year-old enrollment gap in Dallas County, more than 45 partners—ranging from healthcare providers to nonprofits to faith-based communities —mobilized across neighborhoods to distribute more 45,000 flyers encouraging families to register eligible 4-year-old children for pre-K. Supporting Dallas ISD’s own efforts leveraging utility bills, mass media and other channels, the community’s collective efforts led to a more than two-fold increase in early registration and a ~1,000 student increase in 4-year-old pre-K enrollment by the start of school. Grand Prairie ISD also innovated to increase awareness and early registration through “human billboard” campaigns, movie theater spots and activation of a ministerial alliance. A big thanks goes to Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas and the Dallas Regional Chamber for championing these recent campaign efforts. We look forward to expanding these efforts in 2015 to further close the pre-K gap and place more children on a path to academic and life success.

Multiple partner districts align behind a common multidimensional Kindergarten readiness assessment: This Fall, Dallas, Grand Prairie, Irving and Richardson ISDs will be screening a sample of more than 13,000 Kindergarteners on the multidimensional, nationally-normed Brigance readiness assessment. For the first time, common data will help provide a consistent data point on our children’s school readiness and the relation to early education, as well as support a case for directing more funding towards quality early education.

To support the work ahead, we’re delighted to announce that Jaime Hanks Meyers, formerly the Managing Director of Children At Risk North Texas, has joined the Commit! team as Director of Early Education Initiatives! You can welcome her aboard at jaime.meyers@commit2dallas.org.

By |September 19th, 2014|Early Childhood, Early Literacy|0 Comments

Early Literacy Network Adds Partners, Launches Teacher Reading Academy

Nationally, fewer than one in five children reading on grade level in 3rd grade go on to college.1 Moreover, every student who fails to complete high school costs our community ~$260K in lost taxes, earnings, and productivity.2 Given this research, last spring the Commit! Partnership began working with 14 Dallas Independent School District (DISD) elementary schools that feed into the South Oak Cliff (SOC) and Molina high schools in South and West Dallas to support student early literacy proficiency.

In 2013, 951 3rd graders (or 75%) across SOC/Molina did not achieve a college-ready reading state test score.3 With DISD and several others, the Partnership has focused on supporting these 14 elementary schools in five areas essential to early literacy:
Principal data-driven support
Literacy professional development
College-going culture
Parent engagement
Increasing access to pre-K

In 2013-2014, 8 of 14 schools closed the 3rd grade reading gap both with the District and the State.4 Yet, sparked by data showing the need to provide greater support prior to 3rd grade, principals and teachers saw an opportunity to improve further through professional development.

Launched in September, the “SOC Reading Academy” supports nearly 30 K-3rd grade teachers who have voluntarily committed to the initiative. The SOC Reading Academy is grounded on the tenets of Great Habits, Great Readers, a district resource by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, and is facilitated by Clarissa Plair, who has over 30 years of reading and leadership experience.

The sessions consist of engaging weekly sessions that involve book/video discussion, data analysis, and lesson planning. Ms. Valentin, 2nd grade teacher at Russell Elementary, has found the first two sessions very helpful: “The Habits of the Classroom and the Classroom Setup sessions helped me visualize my classroom transitions and how to maximize the classroom space.”

Usamah Rodgers, Executive Director of the SOC feeder pattern, is excited about the potential impact of the Reading Academy: “The first two sessions got off to a great start, and I am pleased we exceeded our initial goal of launching with 20 teachers. Teachers are enthusiastic about the opportunity to develop their craft. I’m excited about how they’ll grow this year through this opportunity and the impact this will have on student achievement.”

The following organizations are part of the Commit! Partnership supporting SOC/Molina elementary schools in 2013-2014 and/or 2014-15:

Dallas Independent School District
Boston Consulting Group
Teach For America
Catch Up and Read
Teen Trendsetters
Leadership ISD
Jiv Daya Foundation
Reading Partners
Momentous Institute
University of North Texas at Dallas

To learn more about this work or to get involved, please contact Andy Canales at andy.canales@commit2dallas.org.

1The Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters: A KIDS COUNT Special Report.” 2010.
2Riley and Peterson, 2008
32012-2013 and 2013-2014 publicly released Pearson 3rd grade Reading data
42012-2013 and 2013-2014 publicly released Pearson 3rd grade Reading data

By |September 17th, 2014|Early Literacy|0 Comments

Panel on Parent Engagement Hosted by The School Zone

Panelists represent AVANCE, Workforce Solutions Dallas, Dallas ISD, and The Concilio. Event will take place September 23; RSVP here. Need more content so it will take up the whole space. Need more content so it will take up the whole space. Need more content so it will take up the whole space. Need more content so it will take up the whole space.

By |August 23rd, 2014|Early Childhood, Early Literacy, Early Math|0 Comments

Introducing Our First Partner Spotlight: Jubilee Park & Community Center

The Commit! team has started a new tradition of sorts; once a month, our staff arranges a lunch-hour visit to learn more about a partner organization, neighborhood or initiative. The purpose is simple: to listen, learn and break bread together.

Thus far, we’ve been hosted by some great organizations: Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation, Dallas Urban Debate Alliance, Concord Church, Vogel Alcove and, most recently, Jubilee Park & Community Center.

It was only recently that the thought struck us: “Why don’t we share what we learn with a wider audience?” So, thanks to our friends at Jubilee Park, we offer up our first “partner spotlight” post!

We were attracted to Jubilee Park due to the significant impact they have helped achieve in their neighborhood, from their youngest to eldest residents. Through an integrated, partner-driven approach, the neighborhood has achieved a significant reduction in crime, constructed affordable senior housing units and seen nearby O.M. Roberts Elementary School go from being one of the lowest performing schools in Dallas ISD to exemplary status.

As with many similar efforts, the organization is tackling challenges related to data and youth engagement, but with implementation of a new data system, expanded capacity to serve and a new affordable housing initiative underway, Jubilee Park continues to stand tall in the community. Read on to learn more!

Partner Spotlight: Jubilee Park & Community Center

How did your organization get started?
Jubilee Park & Community Center was founded in 1997, the “jubilee year” of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church. The congregation chose to mark the occasion by making a long-term commitment to one of Dallas’ poorest and underserved neighborhoods. The congregation members canvassed the neighborhood and learned that families and children had no place to safely congregate. And so the concept for Jubilee Park & Community Center was born.
Who does your organization serve?
The organization serves the people of Jubilee Park, a 62-block neighborhood in southeast Dallas bounded by Fair Park, I-30 and East Grand Avenue, and the surrounding neighborhoods. Today, the Jubilee Park neighborhood is 65% Hispanic, 34% African American and the average family income is $14,850.
How does your organization support student success?
In response to the needs and wants of those in the community, Jubilee Park has developed a comprehensive strategy intended to strengthen those elements which create prosperity in any neighborhood: education, public health, public safety, affordable housing and economic development. Education is central, with a lifespan of services provided on the Jubilee campus: early childhood (ages 0-5), afterschool and summer enrichment programming (K-12) and adult education classes (ESL and computer literacy).
What measurable outcomes do you point to as evidence of your success?
The neighborhood has experienced a 64% reduction in crime since 2007. Nearby O.M. Roberts Elementary School has gone from being one of the lowest performing schools within DISD to Exemplary Status in ’08-’09 and ’09-’10. Its afterschool program is one of only three sites quality-certified by Dallas Afterschool. Multiple homes on Congo Street have been renovated and retrofitted, 24 affordable senior housing units have been constructed and are now occupied, and the first phase of an affordable housing initiative will result in 28 new residences by 2016.
What partnerships do you credit most to your success?
Jubilee Park’s success can be attributed to an almost countless number of long-term partnerships. Amongst them are:
Dallas ISD’s O.M. Roberts Elementary School: Volunteers, many still recruited from St. Michael’s, serve as in-school tutors with Reading Partners, and Jubilee’s afterschool program is the only one in Dallas that employs certified teachers in each of its classrooms. Jubilee staff also serve on the school’s Site Based Decision Making (SBDM) team.
Head Start of Greater Dallas: Jubilee Park provides a home for Jeanie’s Place Early Head Start Center (ages 0-3) and Davids’ Place Head Start Center (ages 3-5). Together, these centers offer programs that encompass high quality child development, health and family support.
Dallas County Community College District: Jubilee’s adult ESL courses are certified (in some cases taught by a professor) and learners are able to access on-campus resources on the El Centro campus.
City of Dallas: A Resource Center serves as a police storefront within the neighborhood and DPD surveillance cameras have been important crime reduction tools. The City has also committed to match $1 million in private dollars raised by Jubilee to build affordable, quality homes in the community.

By the Numbers:
Years in operation: 17 (founded 1997)
Geography served/location(s): 62-block neighborhood in southeast Dallas bounded by Fair Park, I-30 and East Grand Avenue
# staff: 12
# volunteers: 835
# clients served: 1,100
Annual operating budget: $1.3M

Website: JubileeCenter.org
Facebook: facebook.com/JubileeCenterDallas
Twitter: twitter.com/JubileePark
How can volunteers plug-in? Contact Allison Johnson, Development Associate and Volunteer Coordinator, at volunteer@jubileecenter.org or 214-887-1364, ext. 268.

By |August 22nd, 2014|Early Childhood, Early Literacy, Early Math|0 Comments