Early Childhood Funders Collaborative funds the Equity in Early Learning Initiative

February 8th, 2018 | by SRC

For early childhood education to be considered “high quality” in the 21st century, it cannot ignore indicators of equity – access, fairness, inclusion, and opportunity. Personal or social circumstances such as race, class, gender, language or religion, etc. must not be obstacles to any child achieving her/his educational potential. Achieving equity in early education encompasses more than interactions happening on an individual level, it also addresses organizational practices and institutional policies that prevent the success of children from marginalized backgrounds.

School Readiness Consulting launched the Equity in Early Learning Initiative (EELI) in spring 2016, convening representatives from national organizations, county and city governments, higher education, and school districts who have demonstrated a commitment to equity in early learning. The goal was to build on existing efforts and forge coalitions to develop an agenda for the work of elevating equity leadership and social justice education in early learning, at the programming, local policy and state/national advocacy levels.

The desired long-term impact of the EELI initiative is to undo historical inequities at all levels to create the conditions for every child to experience an early childhood education that leads to success in school and life.

Over the last 18 months, the EELI coalition partners defined the following objectives for the coming three years:

  • Develop best practices in early childhood leadership, teaching and learning, and family engagement around equity-focused practice;
  • Identify existing gaps and opportunities to deepen and extend current practices, policies and systems;
  • Share ongoing efforts in the DC/MD/VA area that focus on equity in early learning, birth through 3rd grade;
  • Develop a clear agenda to elevate the DC metro area as an early learning model for exemplary work in equity leadership and social justice education at the programming, local policy and state/national advocacy levels.

School Readiness Consulting, working in partnership with Wonders Early Learning in Maryland and the Campagna Center in Virginia, designed a pilot EELI implementation project consisting of the following three components:

  • A leadership community of practice (CoP) to build leadership capacity both within the programs of focus for this project (Wonders & Campagna) and related stakeholders from local school districts, Early Intervention leadership, and county early childhood officials.
  • Professional learning opportunities for early educators that will lead to the creation of demonstration classrooms for showcasing and documenting implementation of equitable practices, as well as building capacity for educators from the entire program to focus on equitable and anti-bias approaches in the classroom.
  • Family engagement resources that support families in learning about issues of race and equity, and that provide them with the supports they need to effectively engage, discuss and teach their children about these issues at a developmentally appropriate level.

The pilot project also includes an evaluation component to measure the expected near-term outcomes, including:

  • Shifts in leaders’ perspectives, practices, and preparedness to lead with an equity focus
  • Increases in teachers’ ability to integrate practices that:
    • Build children’s healthy identity
    • Encourage conversations about difference
    • Help children recognize and work against bias and injustice
    • Support dual language learners and diverse families and children
  • Expansion of families’ capacity to build their child’s healthy identity, talk openly with their child about human differences, and help their child recognize and work against bias and injustice.

Through a competitive process, The Washington Area Women’s Foundation Early Childhood Funders Collaborative has awarded a $50,000 grant to Wonders (on behalf of the partnership) toward funding this demonstration project’s 2018 activities.

We presented the keynote address and a breakout session with the project partners at the 2018 Washington Region ECE Summit, “Beyond the Classroom: Race and Culture’s Role in Improving Early Education Systems”, held on Saturday, January 20, 2018.

Want to know more? Check out our website, or contact Imani Williams to be added to our distribution list!

Written by Rebecca Weiss, School Readiness Consulting

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