Continuing the Journey to Build PreK-Grade 3 Alignment
Early Childhood Summit focuses on continuity from birth to age 8
For the 8th consecutive year, the Regional Early Childhood Summit brought together a diverse group of school superintendents, principals, teachers, early childhood specialists, school board members, and other community members who are invested in children achieving their full potential in school and life. A total of 200 people representing 27 northeastern Minnesota school districts took part in the April 16th learning opportunity, held at the Holiday Inn in downtown Duluth.
“One of the most valuable aspects of the Summit, I believe, is the fact that districts attend as teams,” said Lynn Haglin, Northland Foundation Vice President/KIDS PLUS Director, “providing them a rare chance to spend a day listening to high-quality presenters, building working relationships, comparing notes, and brainstorming new ideas to help young learners.”
Dr. Sharon Lynn Kagan frames PreK-Grade 3 Alignment in terms of “3 P’s”
Keynote speaker Sharon Lynn Kagan, Ed.D. knows what she is talking about when she discusses the evolution of early education and Pre-kindergarten to Grade 3 alignment. Dr. Kagan is the Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Early Childhoood and Family Policy, Co-director of the National Center for Children and Families, and Associate Dean for Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is also working with UNICEF to establish early learning standards in 10 countries abroad, including China. She is among the most well-known and respected early childhood experts in the United States.
Dr. Kagan began by giving a brief history of early education spanning the past 40 years, including different approaches taken and several landmark studies. She pointed out that, today, despite widespread consensus that the years from birth to eight are a crucial window for development and learning, this country still does not have all the pieces for PreK through Grade 3 alignment consistently in place. She explained that, while progress has been made, there is still much work ahead to build a stronger foundation for children to succeed in middle school, high school, and beyond.
The framework Dr. Kagan presented around creating alignment included three categories: Pedagogy, Programs, and Policy. She provided examples for each category and emphasized that strong efforts within all three will be necessary to successfully clear the hurdles to creating an effective, sustainable PreK-Grade 3 aligned learning experience for all young children.
Minnesota Office of Early Learning
Deputy Director of the Minnesota Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning, Bobbie Burnham, shared highlights of what has been happening at the State level. Among her key messages were the review and revisions being made to early childhood assessment to be followed by training early education providers on these new standards. Thanks to the Early Learning Challenge (federal Race-to-the-Top Grant) efforts, Burnham added that 10,000 more young children already have access to high-quality early care and education and that the option of free all-day kindergarten is becoming more available across the state.
“I want to thank you for being here and for your commitment to doing what is best for our youngest learners,” said Burnham.
Next, Kat Kempe, Senior Policy Advocate for Think Small discussed the current legislative climate. While there is no guarantee that the final state budget will fund early childhood to the extent that supporters would like, Kempe shared that statewide the momentum and collaboration around this issue is great, and that Governor Dayton has shown his willingness to put into place a strong early care and education infrastructure.
Kempe touched upon Parent Aware, the child care quality rating system and family-scholarship program rolling out in Minnesota communities. She thanked Itasca County, a Parent Aware pilot site, for their feedback which is serving to improve Parent Aware as it expands.
Finally, Kempe urged everyone to contact their legislators immediately in support of early childhood. The Take Action link in the Community Engagement section of the Think Small website is one simple route to connect with legislators.
Four northeastern Minnesota school districts offer panel discussion highlighting PreK-Grade 3 activities
After lunch, panelists from Ely, McGregor, Itasca County, and St. Louis County schools shared their experiences -- both challenges and successes -- in relation to PreK-Grade 3 alignment work in their schools and communities. Megan Devine of Ely, Carrie White and Sara Moser of McGregor, Jan Reindl of Itasca County, and DeNeil Sirjord of St. Louis County provided food for thought.
Some of the key lessons they specified include: 1) Superintendents, administrators, and school board members must be engaged in the process alongside teachers; 2) Making time to bring all parties to the table can be difficult yet is critical; and 3) Creating a written plan with accountability helps ensure follow-through. All of the panelists concurred that their efforts are ongoing and their teams continue to adjust their plan as they go.
Grant opportunity from the Northland Foundation supports communities in the region to begin or continue working on alignment goals
The Northland Foundation announced a new grant opportunity at the Summit, available only to districts and schools in attendance. Grants up to $1,000 each will be awarded to selected applicants to support their meetings, planning, and projects toward increasing PreK to Grade 3 alignment. Applications are due May 31, 2013.
The Northland Foundation has granted more than $87,400 over the past 6 years to school districts that have participated in Summits, not including the grants that will be awarded this spring. This funding has helped to underwrite kindergarten transition and alignment work in nearly two dozen northeastern Minnesota districts.
“Our Board of Trustees has been extremely supportive of approving the resources needed to make these grants each year,” said Lynn Haglin. “and we know that schools, which are unfortunately always pressed for funds, have greatly appreciated it.”
Committed core Thrive team increases infant and early childhood mental health knowledge, capacity
Funding support from Essentia Health is vital to ongoing local efforts
Since 2007, the Northland Foundation has helped develop a strong network of professionals in Duluth, Hermantown, and Proctor dedicated to improving access to infant and early childhood mental health resources and services for families. Lessons learned from Thrive have benefited rural communities across the region including the development of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Resource Directories, availability of training opportunities, and participation in special projects.
Thanks to the generous support of Essentia Health, monthly Thrive Action Team meetings and frequent educational opportunities are held, and those engaged in Thrive are able to plan and implement projects to enhance the healthy social and emotional development of young children in the Duluth-Proctor-Hermantown area. During the past year, Thrive has:
• Held monthly sessions to continue fostering a close network of professionals to share information and nurture community connections to better serve families with young children;
• Supported the growth and expansion of long-term projects including the Early Childhood Mental Health Resource Team, as well as the Reflective Practice Project and its companion initiative based on the Circles of Security Early Intervention Program model; and,
• Engaged 400 people in 16 trainings focused on current research and information on topics such as, infant and early childhood mental health, homeless children, home visiting strategies, and cultural and community support for child care.
“Close working relationships have developed among professionals across diverse sectors through their involvement with Thrive,” said Lynn Haglin. “We truly appreciate Essentia Health’s support and commitment which is helping to fund innovative approaches to promote the social and emotional wellbeing of young children in our region.”
Child Care Providers’ Appreciation & Training Seminar
6th annual event reaches out to hundreds of care providers who work with the region’s youngest children, ages birth to five
On March 2, nearly 400 child care providers from all across northeastern Minnesota came together at the DECC in Duluth to learn, network, and share ideas. The 6th annual Child Care Providers’ Appreciation and Training Seminar welcomed people from child care centers, home settings, early childhood programs, and “FFN” providers who regularly care for the children of a family member, friend, or neighbor.
The training seminar began with encouraging words from Karen Cadigan, former Director of the Minnesota Office of Early Learning. Next up were Jennifer Peterson, Region 3 Coordinator for Child Care Aware to talk about the Parent Aware Rating System. Joining her to share their experiences on becoming rated child care providers were Kim Foss, Joyce Chambers, and Larissa Goodell from Itasca County.
Returning as this year’s keynote speaker was Nichole Polifka, Manager of Learning & Impact at Minnesota Children's Museum. Nichole presented “YOU: The Intentional Provider” which took the child care providers on a guided journey toward enhancing their leadership skills and discovering what it truly means to be intentional, purposeful, and mindful in the work they do with young children every day.
Polifka got everyone on their feet (see photo, at right) with a group activity, and shared thought-provoking information as well as helpful strategies for care providers who desire to build their care model working alongside their young charges rather than from a distance.
The daylong training event also featured a presentation on dental health recommendations for children 0 to 3 years old from Julie Myrhe, Director of the Carlton, Cook, Lake and St. Louis County Community Health Board with Chris Soland, Dental Hygienist.
All those who participated in the March event received a tote bag containing a children’s book and other resources to support their professional knowledge and work. The high-energy day ended with prize drawings of dozens of games, toys, books, hotel stays, and restaurant gift certificates to help show the region’s child care providers how very much they are appreciated!
Early Childhood Coalitions regional highlights
Funding from The McKnight Foundation helps support work in the seven-county region to nurture young children and strengthen PreK-Grade 3
The Early Childhood Initiative coalitions in northeastern Minnesota continue to make important impacts in Carlton County, Hermantown/Proctor, Aitkin County, Koochiching County, Itasca Area, Mesabi East School District, Quad Cities Area, Hibbing, Two Harbors, Silver Bay, Cook County, and Ely. Coordinators at each of the coalition sites provide local leadership and guide the grassroots efforts of community members to nurture the healthy development of young children.
On a regular basis, the Northland Foundation convenes the coalition coordinators for regional learning community meetings to offer them an opportunity to give updates on activities, problem-solve any challenges, and share promising strategies with each other. This networking, say coordinators, keeps them energized, sparks innovation, and reduces the isolation they might otherwise experience living in a vast, rural region. In addition, the regional coordinator team attends semi-annual Statewide Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative Network meetings in Minneapolis with their 78 counterpart coalition coordinators from across Greater Minnesota.
In October 2012, The McKnight Foundation made a three-year grant to the Northland Foundation and the other five Minnesota Initiative Foundations to support the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative and to advance coalition work focused on strengthening the PreKindergarten to Grade 3 educational continuum in their rural communities.
“Thanks to the generous support of The Mcknight Foundation, the Early Childhood Initiative coalitions in our region are developing Prekindergarten to Grade 3 Teams focused on aligning a learning continuum from early childhood through early elementary,” stated Lynn Haglin, Vice President/KIDS PLUS Director. “Together, our region is working to ensure that young children 0-8 and their families have effective systems that support early childhood development, school readiness, and success in school and in life.”
Delta Dental of Minnesota provides funding for oral health and nutrition education in northeastern Minnesota
Delta Dental of Minesota has awarded a $10,000 grant to the Northland Foundation to support educational sessions for parents and informal child care providers (grandparents, friends, and neighbors) in northeastern Minnesota. With this new grant, the Early Childhood Coalitions will provide a series of community-based educational sessions in 2013-14 for parents and child care providers focused on oral health and nutrition of young children.
This regional initiative will build on the success of the community-based educational sessions for parents and informal child care providers provided this past year thanks to funding support from Delta Dental of Minnesota. These community-based sessions focused on social and emotional development of young children. During the 2012-13 school year, a total of 24 training sessions were held in 11 rural communities across the region. The trainings reached 340 adults caring for more than 400 young children in rural areas.
“Delta Dental of Minnesota is a valued partner in supporting the health and wellbeing of young children in our rural region,” said Lynn Haglin, Northland Foundation Vice President/KIDS PLUS Director.
© Northland Foundation 2010