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Education Center Continues Work to Transform New Haven’s Early Care and Education Landscape

Two kids smiling in libraryThis January, the Bank Street Education Center released a strategic plan titled “Implementing NH ChILD: A Comprehensive Approach to Professional Learning to Reach All New Haven Early Childhood Educators.” The publication is the first document to be released in a series of plans following the April 2017 NH ChILD white paper titled “Making the Case: Establishing the New Haven Children’s Ideal Learning District.”

The plan was developed in partnership with the advisory group of New Haven Children’s Ideal Learning District (NH ChILD), a local initiative co-founded by Bank Street to expand access to high-quality care and education for children from birth to age eight in New Haven, CT. It includes an action plan to support citywide in-service professional learning supports for all early childhood educators across all settings.

“To meaningfully impact the quality of early learning experiences for all young children across the city, we must co-create and implement a comprehensive, cohesive plan that provides high-quality, ongoing cycles of professional learning for all in-service early childhood educators,” said Emily Sharrock, Associate Vice President of Strategy and New Program Design of the Bank Street Education Center. “We look forward to working together with stakeholders across New Haven to realize a common vision of Ideal Learning for the city’s educators and young children.”

NH ChILD envisions a city where all 14,800 children from birth to age eight living in New Haven have access to high-quality early learning experiences. To help support this objective, NH ChILD will focus on thoughtfully constructed professional learning opportunities for early childhood educators grounded in strengths-based and culturally responsive practices. According to the report, meaningful professional learning opportunities for educators will translate into positive outcomes for children, including improved social-emotional and language development. The report provides information on the implementation of essential professional learning opportunities, including orientation sessions on Ideal Learning, coaching sessions, the creation of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), and sustained leadership support.

During the first two years of implementation, NH ChILD will host a series of orientation sessions led by expert coaches to introduce early childhood educators throughout the community to the organization’s mission and common vision of Ideal Learning. This child-centered philosophy supports children in all aspects of their development and reflects a commitment to developmentally meaningful, play-based, and trauma-informed care.

“To ensure success, the plan for professional learning must be anchored in a locally adopted, common vision of quality learning experiences. These orientation sessions will include an introduction to the Principles of Ideal Learning as well as discussions about how the principles can be adapted to fit the New Haven community,” explained Allyx Schiavone, GSE ’94, Executive Director of the Friends Center for Children. “We are working both to strengthen the quality of existing programs by integrating these principles into their teaching and learning practices and to increase the number of spaces for children in high-quality early care and education programs.”

NH ChILD estimates a total of 15 orientation sessions per year designed for center-based providers, public school educators, and family care providers for the first two years.

To further support the project’s mission, NH ChILD has developed a coaching model for adult learning. Within the next three years, every early childhood educator in New Haven will have the opportunity to participate in at least one cycle of professional learning. Led by expert coaches, the program will include attendance at professional development workshops and up to four visits of follow-up, job-embedded support connected to at least one locally adapted Principle of Ideal Learning. A portion of coaches will be fluent in Spanish.

“NH ChILD’s coaching efforts will coordinate, build upon, and supplement—not supplant—the examples of excellent coaching currently happening across the community,” said Davia Brown-Franklyn, GSE ’97, Senior Director of Partnerships at the Bank Street Education Center and lead on the 2016 early childhood review project of New Haven Public Schools. “We are interested in collaboratively developing our coaching program in partnership with successful models and strategically filling any gaps in support and coordinating efforts across the city to ensure that all educators can access high-quality learning opportunities.”

Plans to create PLCs featuring monthly meetings for educators to collaboratively engage in an investigation of one topic or problem have also been planned. Funding for the PLCs includes a $46,000 donation from the Trust for Learning.

Beginning in the Fall of 2020, NH ChILD will launch the Leadership Support Model, providing every early childhood educator in the city with a mentor or supervisor who has a deep understanding of early childhood education and the Principles of Ideal Learning. Mentors and supervisors will consist of approximately 100 school/program administrators and principals. A leadership certificate program is also planned for the second or third year of implementation.

“The new report provides a roadmap of ideas for how to realize our commitment to providing high-quality early education experiences for local children so we can dramatically change the early education narrative in New Haven. We are excited about this important work and New Haven’s commitment to investing in early education and the future of the city’s children,” said Sharrock.

Launched in April 2017, NH ChILD brings together the resources of three leading early childhood organizations: the Bank Street Education Center, a leader in influencing positive learning outcomes for students and educators through strengths-based, learner-centered, and equitable education practices; the Trust for Learning, a coalition of grant makers dedicated to spreading Ideal Learning programs across local communities; and the Friends Center for Children, a New Haven-based early childhood education center to help revolutionize New Haven’s early care and education landscape. Funding for the NH ChILD initiative includes $625,000 in in-kind and local donations and a $1 million pledge from A Stone’s Throw, a local New Haven family foundation.

The new report was written by Emily Sharrock, Associate Vice President of Strategy and New Program Design at the Bank Street Education Center, and Courtney Parkerson, NH ChILD Project Director, with guidance from the advisory board of NH ChILD. To read the new report, please visit bit.ly/nhchild. To learn more about NH ChILD, please visit newhavenchild.org.