Early Works: An Initiative of the Children's Institute
The Children’s Institute’s vision is for all children to arrive at kindergarten prepared and on track to succeed in third grade. We focus on these outcomes because they are key predictors for high school graduation and lifelong success. For children to succeed and for schools and communities to narrow the achievement gap, there must be greater access to high-quality early learning experiences and greater alignment between the early years and the early grades.
To achieve this vision, we launched Early Works, an initiative that brings parents, schools and communities together to meet the needs of children from birth to age 8 to identify best practices that can be translated into policy at local, regional, state, and federal levels.
Early Works has two demonstration sites, one at Earl Boyles Elementary School in Southeast Portland and the other at Yoncalla Elementary School in Douglas County. These sites serve as learning laboratories for school districts, policy-makers, and communities statewide working to meaningfully connect early learning with the primary grades. The Children’s Institute will evaluate, document and share lessons learned.
Earl Boyles Elementary School
Earl Boyles Elementary School and the surrounding neighborhood, all within the David Douglas School District, became the first site of our community-centered initiative in 2011. The children attending Earl Boyles face a host of risk factors related to the achievement gap, most notably poverty, language barriers and a lack of high-quality early educational experiences. As a result, test scores through fifth grade lag behind state standards.
The staff at Earl Boyles and David Douglas, led by Principal Ericka Guynes and Superintendent Don Grotting, shows great strength and resourcefulness. Earl Boyles has demonstrated a strong approach to school behavioral management through programs such as Positive Behavior Supports. It is also a SUN Community School, offering after school programing, a food pantry and other services for families and children. Earl Boyles is an ideal home for the initiative, a place where motivation and collaboration are in place to address the challenges facing the community.
Yoncalla Elementary School
Yoncalla Elementary School is located in Douglas County’s rural Yoncalla, Oregon. Families living in Yoncalla face many risk factors, including high unemployment and poverty rates and a shortage of livable-wage jobs and health care. Test scores show that 80 percent of the district’s kindergarteners score below or well below entry level benchmarks, and only 41 percent of the district’s graduates pursue higher education. The existing early learning programs have narrow eligibility requirements and limited reach, so it is easy for children and families in Yoncalla to fall through the cracks.
Several key players in the community are lending their support and enthusiasm to the implementation of Early Works at Yoncalla Elementary. These include Yoncalla School District Superintendent Jan Zarate, teacher Jerry Fauci and several members of the Yoncalla School Board. Our partnership with Yoncalla Elementary School also includes the Roseburg-based Ford Family Foundation. Early Childhood Development Program Officer Christy Cox is serving as a member of the leadership team.
Because Yoncalla is a rural area, it offers an opportunity for Early Works to compare and contrast the strategies needed to support learning there with those we are putting into practice at Earl Boyles, our urban site.