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Early Works Update, Winter 2015-16


earlyworks logoEarl Boyles Elementary:
Preschool: The Richard C. Alexander Early Learning Wing serves some 3-year-olds and all 4-year-olds in the Earl Boyles catchment (90 children). We worked with the preschool partners, including the David Douglas School District, Mt. Hood Community College Head Start, and the Multnomah Early Childhood Program, to develop the high-quality preschool, and continue to support improvements.

Neighborhood Center: The Earl Boyles Neighborhood Center includes a lending library, meeting rooms for partner agencies and families, an adult learning classroom, and an infant-toddler room. The lending library collection was donated by the Multnomah County Library Foundation and is used by more than 70% of families in the school. After completing a community health assessment in 2014, partners, providers and parents came together to analyze the results. The group developed an operations plan to guide services at the neighborhood center and has hired a Family Resource Navigator to connect families in the area with needed services.

Parent Leadership: Parents United/Padres Unidos, the parent leadership group, is fully facilitated, managed and promoted by parent leaders. The group also reviews and takes action on Early Works evaluation data and numerous parents are now advocates for early learning, giving speeches and providing testimony across the state. In addition, parents were trained by Multnomah County Library to organize the lending library collection and run the space.


Yoncalla Elementary:
A Cultural Shift: Early Works has taken root in Yoncalla. Families feel more welcome than ever at the school, and teachers now understand the importance and value of engaging and empowering families early and often.

Family Engagement: The Family Room hosted play groups of increased quality and frequency over the past year. The local Family Relief Nursery now facilitates a parent education series each year, and the Yoncalla public library hosts story time for young families. In the summer, Yoncalla hosted its first Early Kindergarten Transitions program to help kindergartners and their families prepare for school.

Diving into Health: We are getting ready to conduct a community health assessment in Yoncalla and the larger north Douglas County region. The results will inform future programming and foster continuing regional collaboration.

Early Works Blogs

  • Partnership strengthens preschool in Yoncalla

    It’s late morning on a sunny Wednesday in Yoncalla, Oregon and 14 preschoolers are gathered on a colorful alphabet rug. Most are cross-legged, but several are wiggling, struggling to contain their excitement. All eyes are on Jill Cunningham, the Yoncalla library’s branch manager, who has come to visit their classroom at Yoncalla Elementary. They are singing This Old Man together, complete with hand motions.

    “What rhymes with three?” Cunningham asks, holding three fingers high.

    “Tree!” A girl in pink shouts.

    “I like it,” says Cunningham.

    “He played knick-knack on his tree,” they sing.

    Cunningham is a frequent visitor to the preschool class, which is taught and operated by lifelong Yoncalla resident Cassie Reigard. Reigard is operating the preschool that was started decades ago by her grandmother – who just recently passed away. Reigard’s mother ran the preschool after her grandmother, and Cassie took over when her mother retired.

    The Yoncalla school district provides space at the elementary school for Reigard to operate the program. And this year, the partners that are part of the Early Works initiative at Yoncalla have supported Reigard to receive professional development and assistance that will help her students be ready to succeed in kindergarten. Teaching preschool is in Reigard’s blood and she is a great person for Early Works to support. After all, she has dedicated her career to Yoncalla’s young children.

    Preschool teacher Cassie Reigard replenishes paint as her students create.“I love the kids. I love watching them learn; I love teaching them,” Reigard says.

    The professional development and help that the Yoncalla School District and other Early Works partners have provided Reigard has resulted in a new opportunity for her to serve more kids from low-income Yoncalla-area families. The South-Central Oregon Early Learning Hub – its service area includes Yoncalla – was one of nine early learning hubs in Oregon that last month was awarded some of the new state funding to support high-quality preschool for children from low-income Oregon families. Some of that funding now will be going to help kids in Yoncalla. 

    The Children’s Institute has worked closely with the state to ensure the passage and develop the program, called Preschool Promise. The program will support high-quality preschools in a mix of settings, including public schools, Head Start and private, community-based programs.

    Jan Zarate, Yoncalla School District superintendent, said Reigard and the school district submitted a joint application for the Preschool Promise funding; the South Central early learning hub plans to fund their effort. “We are going to get the opportunity to pull more partners to the table and do more braiding of funds” says Jan Zarate, Yoncalla School District superintendent.

    When she heard the news, Reigard says, she was ecstatic. “I feel very excited for the children in our community and the opportunities this will provide for them,” she says.

    Zarate says that while the support from the school district and other Early Works partners was important in helping to secure the Preschool Promise funding, so was Reigard’s experience and foundation in the Yoncalla community.

    “Cassie’s capacity to build relationships with people and make them comfortable is amazing. Parents trust her,” says Zarate. “There are also areas to grow and there is a personal commitment on Cassie’s part to know more and be even better prepared.”

    Reigard says the Early Works support for her professional development is very helpful. “I’m always open to improving anything that I can,” she says.

    A preschooler stops mid-stroke to grin for the camera.At a recent conference at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, she learned some new strategies to help her students understand the reasons behind their feelings. “I’ve struggled with some students in class that don’t know how to handle their feelings and so I’ve really been able to take them aside and talk about their feelings and really just work on supporting them emotionally,” she says.

    A very important new tool was added to Reigard’s teaching arsenal this spring: the Ages & Stages Questionnaire, or ASQ. A developmental screening survey that is simple for parents to complete, the ASQ pinpoints developmental progress in children up to age five, allowing teachers, caregivers, and service providers to understand what individual supports a child might need to be healthy and ready for school.

    Almost all of the preschool parents agreed to participate, and Reigard loved conducting the screening survey. “It was one of the best things I could have done to develop a more personal relationship with parents and to understand their children better,” she says.

    A preschooler reads a book while she waits for her classmates to finish washing their hands.In addition to relationship-building, the screening survey helped Reigard tailor her instruction to her students’ needs and interests. “Not only did it show what I need to work on in specific areas with the students, but it clarified reasons why some students were more behind than others, not just academically.”

    Finally, the screening survey led to Reigard being able to refer several students to additional programs and services that will help the students in their learning.

    In the future, Reigard plans to conduct the ASQ screening in the fall, ideally even before school starts, to inform her teaching from the beginning. “My goal is to connect with families and work together with them to help prepare their children for kindergarten,” she says.

    Early Works is focused on supporting Reigard, and other teachers and service providers in Yoncalla, to learn and hone new strategies to help students succeed. At the same time, the Children’s Institute is working hard at the state level to help advocate and secure funding for programs like Preschool Promise.

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  • Three rural communities come together to create a vision for health

    Andy ScottDr. Beth Green, the researcher who leads the Portland State University team entrusted with the evaluation of the Early Works initiative, is walking down the street in rural Drain, Oregon when she is greeted by a stranger's voice:

    "Hey! Are you with that Ford Family project?"

    Beth turns toward the voice; Dave Praeger gets out of his truck and introduces himself. They get to talking. In the back of his car, Dave has a large book named Yoncalla Yesterday. The book traces the history and genealogy of the small town which is the home of the Yoncalla Early Works initiative. Dave encourages Beth to keep the book, saying, "I know you’ll get it back to me somehow. And when you do, my number’s right inside."

    Beth recounts the story with a smile on her face – only here! Welcome to rural Oregon.

    Fast forward one day to February 26th. Dave sat in the front row of the Drain Community Center, where the communities of Yoncalla, Drain, and Elkton came together to celebrate the kick-off of the region's community health assessment. Over plates of lasagna, 50 community members reflected on what is known about the health of young children and their families in the region and to discuss can be done to improve the community's health. The community health assessment is a first step to help the region understand it's strengths, needs, resources and challenges when it comes to children's health.

    Conducting a community health assessment is a long-standing best practice in public health because it brings the voice of the community into visioning and planning. "Our goal is that the assessment findings will support the community to articulate a collective vision for health in the region," says Elena Rivera, Children's Institute's Health Policy and Program Advisor. Along with members of the Yoncalla Early Works leadership team and researchers from Portland State University, Rivera is supporting the community health assessment process. "We know from research that the health of young children and their families has a huge impact on educational achievement," she says, adding, "when a child grows up in a stable home and is connected to high quality health services, starting prenatally, they will be ready for success in school and life." From this assessment, the Children's Institute hopes to learn about the barriers communities face in meeting the health needs of families in rural communities. Our participation will inform our work with the legislature to strengthen the connection between early learning and health.

    Erin Helgren, the Early Works Site Liaison in Yoncalla, opened the meeting by describing the tight-knit nature of the communities, and the common values that bind them together. "We are a community that holds children close to our hearts," she said.

    Although Drain, Elkton, and Yoncalla are in close proximity to each other geographically – and although they have a combined population of 5,000 – the three communities, as Yoncalla School District Superintendent Jan Zarate noted, "have never collaborated on something of this magnitude. A community health assessment to tell us about the wellness of our families is unprecedented."


    Indeed, the attendance at the kick-off was broadly reflective of this new sense of collaboration. The room was filled with parents and family members, the three mayors of the communities, educational leaders from all three districts, and representatives from: North Douglas Family Relief Nursery, North Douglas Community Health Alliance, WIC, Healthy Families Oregon, Early Head Start, DHS Self-Sufficiency, South Central Early Learning Hub, and the Douglas County District Attorney's office.

    Representatives from the local school districts set the tone by emphasizing the connection between health in early childhood and later school success: "Finding kids sooner, capitalizing on what they need, and wrapping that service around them helps them succeed," said Andy Boe, Elkton School District Superintendent.

    Health quiltAs the meeting progressed, Callie Lambarth, a research associate for the Center for Improvement of Child & Family Services at PSU, underscored that the decision to undertake a community needs assessment will be just that – community-based. To this end, Callie led community members through a series of questions like, "Why do you care about the health of children 0-8 and their families in North Douglas County?" and "What does a healthy community look like to you?" As the table groups discussed these questions, they were encouraged to share their answers with the larger group and, in one exercise, were asked to visualize community health by drawing a picture on a square of paper. These squares were then placed together on a board to create a community health "quilt." Themes that emerged included access to healthy food, health care, housing, safe outdoor spaces, and a caring, welcoming, and collaborative community.

    The meeting ended with an interactive exploration (via bingo) of some existing health data for the region, and the identification of potential "gaps" in the data. Interested community members were then invited to participate in the design of a community health assessment – whether as a Steering Committee member, community meeting attendee, or simply to stay connected via email updates.

    Following the community health assessment kick-off, Children's Institute and PSU staff will reach out to community members who expressed an interest in serving on the community health assessment's Steering Committee. The Steering Committee will then convene bi-monthly to determine the focus of the community health assessment. Members will review existing community health data, identify needs and gaps, determine research questions, and outline a research methodology and design. The second phase of the community health assessment will involve primary data collection conducted by community members to inform future health programming for the community.

    No matter how community members choose to participate in the process moving forward, everyone who attended the February 26th kick off meeting left with a greater knowledge of health in the region, a budding vision for what a regional health collaboration could look like and – of course –a to-go box of full of delicious lasagna to share with their families.

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  • Family Resource Navigator at Earl Boyles is model for schools

    "I brought some pictures," Josette Herrera says, handing her cell phone to Josué Peña-Juárez. He grimaces as he looks at the black mold that just keeps coming back around the windows in Herrera's apartment. The two have talked about it before, but Herrera has had trouble getting her landlord to address the problem.

    "I'm worried about my kids," Herrera says. One of her sons had pneumonia this year and she fears the mold is impacting her family's health.

    As the new Family Resource Navigator at Earl Boyles Elementary School, Peña-Juárez has many meetings like this – with families who need advice, support, or access to a wide variety of services. From housing support to counseling, from legal help to clothing and food, Peña-Juárez helps families find whatever it is they need. "I never say, 'you can't ask me about that,'"; he says.

    The Family Resource Navigator position, which Peña-Juárez was hired to fill in November, is the only position of its kind at a public school in Multnomah County. Funded by the county and staffed by SUN (which is operated at Earl Boyles by Metropolitan Family Service), the Family Resource Navigator role is an innovative demonstration of what can happen when an elementary school also serves as a neighborhood hub. The role was created as part of the Early Works initiative at Earl Boyles because academic success for young children is dependent on a wide variety of factors that go well beyond what schools traditionally support.

    "The family and community contexts are incredibly important to ensure kids reach academic benchmarks," says Dana Hepper, Children's Institute's Director of Policy and Program. "We worked with our partners to pilot the Family Resource Navigator role because integrating health and family support with education is so much more effective than having three separate siloes."

    Peña-Juárez has been on the job for just three months, but the impact is clear already. "Folks are coming forward and saying, 'I need this support,'" he says. "That means that they already trust. They understand that someone is here and responsive."

    As a parent at the school, Herrera is very glad that Peña-Juárez is there. After a previous meeting with him, she went to a local workshop and learned about how to document her mold problem and submit the documentation to her landlord. This time around, she and Peña-Juárez discuss drafting a letter and going to the post office together to send it using certified mail.

    "There are a lot of resources out there that a lot of people don't know [about]," Herrera says. The workshop to empower renters is just one example.

    Peña-Juárez's goal is not just to help Earl Boyles families in need. "I want more families to be engaged with the school," he says.

    He sees that many parents have ideas and strengths to share, and trust and communication are key to tapping these strengths.

    Earl Boyles SUN Site Manager Youn Han is Peña-Juárez's supervisor. "He's been able to provide a lot of capacity around family stabilization," she says. "He does intensive work and builds meaningful connections with families."

    Everyone involved is hopeful that other schools in other communities will learn from the demonstration. The Children's Institute is working closely with Peña-Juárez to track how he spends his time and how his work complements and builds on other Early Works strategies.

    This gives us information we can share with others around the state at multiple levels. We are not just learning what a Family Resource Navigator position looks like on the ground; we are also evaluating what impact this strategy has in driving towards key Early Works outcomes.

    "I hope that eventually there will be a team of [Family Resource Navigators] at other school sites so that we would meet and coordinate our resources," he says.

    He also hopes to train people within the community to take over the role in the long-term. "They're from here. They've invested time and energy in the community. We can support them in getting some skills and then have them in positions like this one," Peña-Juárez says.

    Josue enewsPeña-Juárez's most important advice for other schools looking to create a Family Resource Navigator position is to hire someone who can speak the language and understand the culture of the families in the community. At Earl Boyles, where a large number of families speak Spanish at home, Peña-Juárez's bilingual skills and cultural background are critical.

    Han agrees that it's very important to hire the right person. "The Family Resource Navigator position is really dependent on families trusting that person," she says. "Choose someone trustworthy, a good communicator, and preferably someone who is already familiar with or part of the community."

    Herrera also agrees. "Having [Peña-Juárez] here has helped a lot, especially him being bilingual," she says. "He understands and he's not judgmental."

    Both Peña-Juárez and Han emphasized that the role must be part of a larger school culture that is open and compassionate.

    "Earl Boyles is such a great school because everyone from the administration and principal to the teachers and staff supports making communication as open as possible," Han says.

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  • My teacher comes to visit: how home visiting engages families, improves child learning

    Like most November days in the Pacific Northwest, it is raining. Deb McGowan, a second grade teacher at east Portland’s Earl Boyles Elementary, and Andreina Velasco, Early Works site liaison at Earl Boyles, make their way through the wind and rain to visit the home of Maria Espino, mother of second grader Jose Martinez, who’s a student in McGowan’s class.  Although McGowan and Maria have known each other for years – Maria’s older son Mario also had Deb as a teacher – this is the first time Deb has visited Maria’s home. There is excitement in the air, and a few nerves too.

    Once coats and hats are removed, and shoes are wiped off, McGowan and Maria – with a little help from translator Velasco – sit down to share their hopes and dreams for Jose. At the dinner table, Jose sits nearby, while Maria holds her younger daughter on her lap. During the course of the visit, McGowan learns that Maria’s children are primarily speaking English in the home (Maria’s first language is Spanish). McGowan gives a pair of books to Jose and Maria with side-by-side translations. The books will allow Jose to practice his English reading while Maria follows along in Spanish. As they read to one another, they begin to smile.

    Since the inception of its preschool program associated with the Early Works initiative in 2012, Earl Boyles has been gradually expanding and formalizing its home visiting program. Preschool teachers at Earl Boyles have been practicing voluntary home visits for at least three years. Currently, preschool teachers are expected to visit all of their Head Start families twice a year, and are encouraged to visit their non-Head Start families at least once a year. Now Earl Boyles teachers in grades K-5 are following suit. In June of this year the Sacramento-based Parent Teacher Home Visit Project conducted a training at Earl Boyles. In total, 45 teachers and school staff attended – including 15 from neighboring schools in the David Douglas School District. Although some teachers (Deb McGowan among them) had done informal home visiting on their own, the formal training established best practices and helped teachers understand how to smoothly implement the visits with their own students and families.

    The Parent Teacher Home Visit Project emphasizes home visiting’s role as bringing teachers and families together as equal partners “to build trust and form a relationship where they can take the time to share dreams, expectations, experiences, and tools regarding the child’s academic success.” Home visiting occurs only with families who are open to the visits. It is a familiar concept to those working in early childhood education, but the clear benefits of open communication between families and teachers are convincing more and more schools to adopt the practice. “When teachers visit families in their homes, teachers and families can build closer relationships that improve communication about a child’s progress,” says Dana Hepper, the Children’s Institute’s director of policy & program. “This strategy has the potential to ensure parents and teachers are true partners in their child’s education – which we know is a key factor in the success of children.”

    Indeed, teacher home visiting is a key example of a strategy that is perfectly suited to statewide expansion. Home visits are evidenced-based and relatively easy to replicate in different settings. Home visiting also aligns with Oregon Head Start standards and practices. As Oregon’s preschool system broadens and deepens its scope, home visiting could be a key strategy bridging the early years of a child’s life with his or her experience in a K-12 setting. Partnerships (some burgeoning, some new) between nonprofits, county government, and school districts are producing more opportunities for teachers to get trained in the practice. Indeed, teachers at Yoncalla Elementary, the Earl Works initiative’s rural site, have recently received home visiting training and intend to kick off their home visits in January.

    home-visit-12.3Currently, Earl Boyles teachers are encouraged to do the three home visits each year – but Deb McGowan has set the ambitious goal of reaching the families of every single one of her students. In fact, McGowan is so committed to home visits, and was so encouraged by the June training, that she and Espino, along with CI’s Velasco, attended a Parent Teacher Home Visit Project conference in Boston in October.

    In Boston, Espino says, she learned that “the teacher doesn’t do a visit because the student has a problem at school, but rather to make a connection between the home and the school. During the visit the teachers listen to parents about the future that they want for their child and about the child’s interests at school and at home.”  

    McGowan and Espino were so moved by the goal of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project to build trust and understanding between schools and families that they wanted to take what they had learned from the conference, implement it, and share it with other parents and teachers to encourage their participation in the program.

    Indeed, it may not take too much convincing. McGowan says of the other teachers at Earl Boyles: “The teachers that went to the (Parent Teacher Home Visit Project) training are all really excited – very supportive. Everyone is really supportive of the teacher-parent relationship because it is all about the child. We are one big, happy community – whatever it takes to make that child succeed, we all want that to happen. We’ll go with different avenues to do that. (Doing so) gives the parents the confidence that we are not only there to support their child, but them as well.”

    Espino agrees. “The home visits give me the confidence to become involved, as the mother of the household, in the education of my children,” she says.

    But, in all this talk about home visits, dreams, and parent-teacher-child connections, we have forgotten one main question: What is Jose’s dream?

    And the answer? Jose smiles bashfully when asked. His mother says his older brother wants to be a police officer someday. Jose smiles again. “Same thing,” he says.

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  • Connecting with the community: Earl Boyles hires parents as preschool assistants

    “It’s playing, my whole day is playing. That’s what it feels like to me,” says preschool assistant Andrea Lopez Thorsnes. She’s smiling from ear to ear. Moments before, she was in a preschool classroom at southeast Portland’s Earl Boyles Elementary School, site of the Early Works initiative. Since September, Lopez Thorsnes has worked there as an assistant teacher. She is an Earl Boyles parent and one of three long-time community members who were hired to be preschool assistants this fall.

    Meri Cullins is also an Earl Boyles parent and new preschool assistant. She finds it very fulfilling work, to play with the students and see them learn new things each day. “I love watching something click, when they know it and they own it,” Cullins says.

    What looks and feels like play for Cullins and Lopez Thorsnes means much more for the children they work with. All day long they guide and support them as they learn, grow and try new things.

    ALT-slide-webFor example, during recess time Lopez Thorsnes interacted with a little boy who wanted to play on the slide. He touched the slide, then looked up at her and said, “It’s hot!”

    Lopez Thorsnes felt the slide too. “It is a little warm from the sun,” she said. “Shall we try it together?”

    The little boy nodded. They slid down together. A few minutes later, he was happily sliding on his own.

    Hiring for positions like the preschool assistant from within the community helps the Earl Boyles teaching staff better reflect the student and neighborhood population. It’s also one way that the school supports families. Along with building a partnership to provide preschool for 90 three- and four-year-olds in the school's catchment area, the Early Works initiative has helped Earl Boyles successfully take on a range of challenges and changes to become a more welcoming environment that really helps children and families succeed. This includes a very active parent bilingual parent group, a lending library open to families of all ages, and including parent leaders in strategy and decision-making groups.

    Hiring, supporting, and adequately compensating an early learning workforce that reflects the culture and community of the children enrolled in preschool is a statewide and national challenge. Earl Boyles and Early Works leaders have started to tackle this problem head on because they know it is vital in creating the highest quality learning environment for children and families.

     “Having parents as part of the teaching team is invaluable,” says Andreina Velasco, the Children’s Institute’s Early Works Site Liaison at Earl Boyles. “Parents bring the perspective of families into their classroom teaching practice, including their use of students’ home language and connections with the neighborhood and other family members. At the school and district levels, they are powerful role models of how family and community engagement can change the staff and culture to more accurately reflect the student body.”

    MC-beanbags-webCullins, Earl Boyles parent and new preschool assistant, adds: “For the neighborhood, school jobs mean economic stability and social mobility, which ultimately make it a better place for students and families”

    Cullins grew up in the area, and specifically chose the Earl Boyles catchment area as where she wanted to live and raise her kids. She was drawn to “the passion the teachers have and everything Earl Boyles does to support the community,” she says. “Not just the kids, but the whole family unit.” Her youngest son is three and attends the Earl Boyles preschool.

    The preschool assistants are learning through their training and work with the teachers about how to help children take ownership over their actions. Rather than commanding, the teachers and assistants help guide children to identify what they should be doing and self-correct. It’s about giving the student the power to make his or her own choice. “It takes a lot longer,” Cullins says. “But it’s important to take the time for the child to realize something for himself.”

    Cullins also says that these techniques have come in handy at home with her preschool-aged son. “He is full of energy and impulsive, so talking about choices and giving him choices really works,” she says. “Preschool is also helping him because he sees the expectations are the same for him across the board.”

    The preschool teachers at Earl Boyles are thrilled to have such great support from the new assistants. Preschool teacher Natalie Stemler says she has never before had the quality of support she has now at Earl Boyles in her eleven years of teaching preschool. She says her assistants “independently run small groups, redirect behavior during large group time, and demonstrate the confidence and ability to run the classroom.”

    Stemler says Cullins, who works in her classroom, “demonstrates a strong set of skills to work with children with special needs, which is essential to the functioning of our classroom.”

    Early Works and Earl Boyles will continue the efforts to engage and support families to succeed. With partners at Metropolitan Family Service’s SUN program and funding from Multnomah County, the school has recently hired a family resource navigator to help families in the school's catchment area identify and access the social service and other resources they need. At the same time, the partners will continue to expand programming for families and children of all ages in Earl Boyles’ neighborhood center.

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  • Report highlights David Douglas district’s success with dual language learners

    Voice-For-All.New-America-cover“David Douglas is dreaming big – and implementing well – when it comes to helping dual language learners succeed.”

    So says a new report from the New America Foundation’s Dual Language Learner National Work Group that is all about lifting up lessons learned at the David Douglas School District in southeast Portland.

    The number of students who speak a language other than English at home – or dual language learners – in districts across the country is increasing rapidly, prompting the need for new and better models to serve these students. In the David Douglas School District, where students speak more than 70 different languages, this need was especially pronounced. The district developed and implemented a unique instructional model – instead of pulling dual language learners out of class to work on English-language skills, the district’s model, called English Language Development, ensures that all students, dual language learners or not, receive 30 minutes of English language instruction each day.

    The model has been extremely successful. In fact, last year David Douglas was one of only eight districts in Oregon to meet state and federal expectations for dual language learners’ progress and proficiency in language development.

    Conor P. Williams, director of the Dual Language Learner National Work Group and one of the report’s authors, says New America chose to write about David Douglas because it wanted to share a model from a district successfully serving a multi-lingual population.

    Maria Adams is the language development specialist at Earl Boyles, a David Douglas elementary school featured in the report and one of the sites of the Early Works initiative. She explains how the district arrived at its dual language learner – or DLL – model.

    “There were too many different languages spoken here to do the usual DLL model of pulling kids out of class,” she says. “Our option was to teach all students the language skills they need to be successful socially and academically.”

    Williams says that what David Douglas and Earl Boyles can teach other education leaders goes beyond a good model or well-thought-out strategies.

    “They’re not just exploring lots of different ways to help these kids; they’re extraordinary implementers,” he says. “They’re trying to do things that are a challenge for teachers. Not impossible, but large enough to really have impact for the kids.”

    This impact is clear to Earl Boyles principal Ericka Guynes, who oversees the implementation of the English Language Development model at her school. Earl Boyles also has preschool for three- and four-year-olds and a robust family engagement strategy through the Early Works initiative, adding to the impact. “Kids in kindergarten are coming in at higher levels of language skill because of early vocabulary exposure,” she says. “Even non-dual language learners are increasing their entering language level.”

    Last week, Guynes and Adams traveled to Minnesota with the Children’s Institute’s Early Works Site Liaison Andreina Velasco to share their strategies at a meeting of the Dual Language Learner National Work Group. Specifically, they shared how effective the David Douglas model has been because it mainstreams language development.

    “It’s something that all of our students need, even the small percentage that don’t fall into the dual language learner or poverty categories,” says Adams.

    An important lesson of the Early Works initiative at Earl Boyles has been the impact that preschool and engaging early with families have for dual language learners.

    “It’s the instruction and the family engagement components together,” says Velasco. “Especially if the family speaks a language other than English, we can meet them where they’re at from the beginning.”

    Check out the report to learn more about the David Douglas model, its implementation at Earl Boyles, and the lessons for other school districts grappling with how best to serve dual language learners. You can also take a look at EdWeek’s coverage of the report and two others published alongside it about serving dual language learners in San Antonio and Washington, D.C.

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  • A Voice For All

    Voice-For-All.New-America-cover For nearly two decades, the number of dual language learners – students who speak a language other than English at home – enrolled in Oregon schools has steadily increased, now to more than ten percent of all Oregon students. State leaders are working on a plan to ensure those students gain the language and academic skills they need to graduate from high school and go on to college and career success.

    A new report from New America's Dual Language Learner National Work Group suggests Oregon leaders have a great model for success right in their own backyard – at Portland's David Douglas School District. The New America report highlights the great work that David Douglas district schools are doing with dual language learners, work based on a model of ensuring that dual language students learn alongside their peers instead of being pulled out of class.

    The New America Foundation's report also features David Douglas' Earl Boyles Elementary School, one of the sites of the Early Works initiative, as a snapshot of the model in action. At Earl Boyles, the program is coupled with early childhood education and family engagement strategies to support all children, including dual language learners, to develop the language skills they need socially and academically before kindergarten.

    Read report

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  • Feds to study successes at Earl Boyles, Early Works

    low 2014-09-12 011Earl Boyles Elementary, home to the Early Works initiative for the past four years, will be one of five sites in the nation that federal researchers will be studying to learn more about how schools are successfully sustaining the positive effects of preschool through third grade.

    Representatives with the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services informed David Douglas School District and Early Works leaders of the study in a letter to them earlier this month. “We are interested in learning more about the Early Works Initiative at Earl Boyles School and how it incorporates PK-3 alignment strategies, family supports and technology as support strategies through grade 3,” the federal officials wrote. “We also want to better understand the theoretical or practical background of the program, how it is implemented, how it is sustained and resourced, and the program’s outcomes.”

    The Early Works initiative – with sites at Earl Boyles and in Yoncalla – focuses on implementing effective early childhood services that are integrated and aligned with elementary schools. Its goal is to bring parents, educators and the community together to help ensure students are ready for kindergarten and for success in third grade and beyond.

    The work has brought positive results for Earl Boyles students, in the school’s preschool and its early grades.

    “"Hopefully, what this study does is confirm the results and the benefits that we're seeing at Earl Boyles," says David Douglas Superintendent Don Grotting. "We know we’ve got to get to these kids when they're young, to lift them up and eliminate the achievement gap before it has a chance to open. We think the benefits of early childhood education ripple all the way through K-12, diminishing the need to intervene with kids after it's almost too late.

    "If studies like this can really show those benefits, it might just loosen up more funding on the state and federal level to expand early learning, especially for families in poverty and the underserved."

    Earl Boyles Elementary Principal Ericka Guynes says she and the school’s staff are honored Earl Boyles was selected for the study. She adds: “My hope is that the study will identify practices that eliminate barriers for our youngest learners and families so all students can reach their highest potential for learning.”

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  • A busy September at Yoncalla Early Works

    9.2015-blogThere are muffins and goldfish crackers and juice boxes. There are infant mats on the floor, along with toys and books. Plenty of books.

    And in the Family Room at Yoncalla Elementary School every morning this week, there have also been Yoncalla families – parents of infants and toddlers – getting their introduction to what the Yoncalla Family Room and the Early Works initiative is all about.

    Yoncalla Early Works is an initiative of the Ford Family Foundation, the Children’s Institute, the Yoncalla school district and other local partners. Its mission: to bring parents, the school and the community together to meet the needs of children – prenatally to age eight – and to ensure every child is prepared for kindergarten and school success.

    “A vital component in fulfilling that mission is to engage families – to ensure the school building is a welcoming place for families and that parents and educators are partners in supporting children’s learning and development,” says Dana Hepper, the Children’s Institute’s director of policy and program.

    As the school year has begun again at Yoncalla Elementary, coordinators of the Family Room – located on one wing of the elementary school – are working to be as engaging for families as possible.

    The North Douglas County Family Relief Nursery has been coordinating activities in the Yoncalla Family Room for the past several months. Erin Helgren, program director for the relief nursery, is helping to host this week’s open houses at the Family Room – through tomorrow (Sept. 17). Beginning next week, the Family Room will host a weekly infant/caregiver class for families with young children. And beginning next Wednesday, the  Family Room will begin hosting weekly “Mommy and me” mixed-age playgroups for children and parents.

    Helgren said she hopes these gatherings will be only the start – that Yoncalla families will make other suggestions for services the Family Room and Yoncalla Early Works might be able to offer throughout this school year.

     “Our underlying intention is to have conversations with families to help identify services they’re interested in seeing, and at times that are convenient for them,” Helgren says. “We’re really trying to create a schedule driven by the community and families. We’d rather do a play group at a time when it’s most convenient for families to participate.”

    This is the third year for Yoncalla Early Works and will be the first full school year in which North Douglas County Family Relief Nursery is overseeing the Family Room. Helgren said she’s noticing that more Yoncalla families are wanting to learn more about Early Works and get involved. She says Yoncalla families with infants seem especially interested in participating.

    Helgren says the Family Room will build on past work while creating new programs that can help families, and guide them in helping their children develop and learn.

    “I think it’s a really exciting time for Yoncalla Early Works,” Helgren says. “Families are starting to trust Early Works is going to be here for them.”

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  • Earl Boyles parent represents community at national family engagement conference

    Andreina-AdrianaEarl Boyles Elementary School parent Adriana Govea had never been on an airplane before last week. But on June 22, she and Andreina Velasco, the Children’s Institute’s Early Works site liaison at Earl Boyles, boarded a plane to Chicago for the Institute for Educational Leadership’s 2015 National Family and Community Engagement Conference, “Shaping Our Future by Leading Together.”

    Adriana readily faced her trepidation about her first flight – and soon learned that flying was kind of fun – in order to represent the Earl Boyles community at the institute’s second annual conference, which brought together 1,200 participants from all sectors of the educational community to talk about the importance of family engagement in children’s learning. Adriana, a member and former co-facilitator of Parents United, an Earl Boyles parents group, plays an active role in the parent engagement activities happening at Earl Boyles, including planning for the school’s neighborhood center. Adriana’s son, Matthew, just finished third grade at Earl Boyles.

    But Adriana and Andreina were not just conference attendees. They were also asked to conduct a workshop, “From Showing Up to Leading the Way: Building a Continuum for Family Engagement.” The workshop was an important opportunity for them and for the Children’s Institute to share some lessons learned from the Early Works initiative at Earl Boyles with a group of national experts. It also gave Andreina and Adriana a chance to learn from the other communities that are part of the growing national movement for family engagement.

    The presentation highlighted the array of possible family engagement activities and programs – from attendance to parent leadership – and helped to start a discussion about how others are undertaking similar work.  Although Adriana started off her presentation a bit shy, by the end she said she felt secure and confident. “I feel very important because I am someone who hasn’t been to college, and I am here speaking to all of these people who have,” she says.

    Andreina Velasco says she was “blown away” by the conference. “It was the best conference I have ever been to,” she says.

    She says a standout moment was a speech by parent Rosazlia Grillier, co-chair of POWER-PAC, a parent-led cross-cultural organization of low-income parents from Chicago. “Rosazlia is a testament to what can happen when parents are organized,” Andreina says.

    Rosazilia demonstrated that the most authentic way to build success is by having families interact with families, Andreina says. The point was underscored by Ralph Smith, senior vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, an initiative working to ensure more children in low-income families are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Smith emphasized that schools must set up opportunities to get out of the way – to create spaces and processes that give parents the opportunity to lead and succeed.

    Adriana says she has similar opinions about why it is important to give parents a voice – and why she feels thankful to be a part of the parent engagement work at Earl Boyles. “It is very important to demonstrate the power of the parents, and also important that the schools - or whoever is in charge of the system - aren’t judging parents but helping and supporting them,” she says. “It is important that they see the love that parents have for their children, and that we all leave fear behind for the love of our kids, so that anything is possible.”

    Adriana and Andreina both believe that schools must encourage the vital partnership between schools and parents in children’s education.

    Adriana’s enthusiasm for professional development around family engagement has only increased since the conference, and her new ambition is to make sure more Earl Boyles parents have the opportunity to participate in family engagement conferences and programs in the future. “They have the potential,” she says. “I would like to share more, and give them the opportunity.”

    And so, of course, would the Children’s Institute.

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  • Earl Boyles Elementary wins support from Multnomah County

    commissioner-site-visit2The Early Works initiative and the community around Earl Boyles Elementary School had a big victory this week – one that will lead to more comprehensive services for children and families in the larger community around the school in Southeast Portland.

    On June 18, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners passed a budget that included $94,000 for the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods program at Earl Boyles. As part of its involvement in the Early Works initiative, the school already has added a new early learning wing and neighborhood center; the new services will be delivered at the neighborhood center.

    Specifically, the SUN program will use the funding to help families access housing programs and work with a family navigator to understand and access public services available to them. Those two resources were prioritized by community leaders from a list of services community members had indicated in a home-to-home survey they would like to see provided at the neighborhood center.

    “This money will help us really reach our families at the level they need to be reached at,” said Earl Boyles SUN site manager Meghan Zook, who attended the June 18 hearing and who said she was tremendously excited about the new reach her program would now have at Earl Boyles. “It will really allow us to focus on community needs.” Families in the Earl Boyles catchment area have high rates of poverty, with 85 percent of students at the school eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

    The expanded SUN program was one of several that the Multnomah County commissioners agreed to fund as part of the broader county budget. The commissioners emphasized their intention was to fund programs that reach the most vulnerable citizens in the county.

    In fact, as part of the Early Works initiative, the neighborhood center work has the potential to have impact well beyond Earl Boyles and even Multnomah County. By assessing the Early Works project through an on-going evaluation and then sharing lessons learned through a strategic communication plan, leaders involved in the Early Works initiative aim to help others learn from their effort.

    “This initiative is an effort to empower the community and to help improve health and outcomes for children and families through a dual generation approach,” said Swati Adarkar, President and CEO of the Children’s Institute, which helped to initiate the Early Works project. “We’re thrilled that the Multnomah County commissioners are partnering with the Early Works initiative to help serve children and families and to support children to achieve success in school and beyond.”

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  • How Four Oregon Communities Tackle Summer Learning Loss

    Happy National Summer Learning Day! June 19th is the National Summer Learning Association’s official kick-off of a summer full of learning and fun for children.

    Programs are taking place across the country and Oregon is no exception. For example, Building Healthy Families, a nonprofit based in Enterprise, recently hosted a summer learning fair with educational activities for kids and resources for parents to engage their kids all summer long.

    The resources for families are the most important part, according to Maria Weer, Building Healthy Families’ executive director. “It makes it easy for families to commit to turn off the TV and go do something fun,” she says.

    The National Summer Learning Association hosts Summer Learning Day to build awareness about how summer learning loss widens the achievement gap and how to fight it. This year the organization created a national map of hundreds of activities going on around the country.

    Research shows that low-income students lose skills in math and reading each summer. In the fall, they return to school having fallen behind their peers who had access to camps, family vacations and other learning-rich activities during the summer. These losses are cumulative – year after year, the achievement gap grows.

    “I was a teacher, and it’s clear which kids are actively engaging their minds over the summer,” says Weer. “It’s so important to spread the word about summer activities.”

    Summer learning opportunities that are accessible for all children are the best way to combat this loss. That’s why the NSLA is recognizing these activities on its map. So far, 634 activities are listed and organizations around the country have pledged to serve more than 680,000 children.

    GLR-OR-mapSummer learning is also one of the key strategies of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The campaign is a national collaboration of communities focused on helping children stay on track for reading success by third grade. There are four member communities in Oregon, including the Early Works sites at Earl Boyles Elementary in Portland and Yoncalla Elementary in Yoncalla. All four communities have learning activities planned for the summer. Here’s what’s going on:


    Lane County

    • Kids in Transition to Kindergarten – The Kids in Transition to Kindergarten program is 16 weeks of school readiness activities for incoming kindergartners during the summer and fall. It also includes workshops for their parents and caregivers.
    • Summer Reading Spots – All summer long, volunteers organized by the United Way of Lane County will lead storytime at sites around the county. Storytimes immediately follow Food for Lane County’s Summer Lunch Program and all kids who attend will receive a book to take home.
    • Little Free Libraries – Ten new Little Free Libraries will be installed throughout the county in areas without access to a public library.

    Wallowa County

    • Summer Learning Fair – This week, Building Healthy Families and its partners hosted a fair to encourage summer learning. Activities for kids included making Lego cars move with rubber bands and creating works of art with solar art paper.
    • Event Sharing – The fair also had information for families about a host of other activities happening all summer long. Families that take a photo when they take part in a summer learning activity can bring it to Building Healthy Families to receive a prize.

    Earl Boyles Elementary

    • Kindergarten Counts – Kindergarten Counts is a two-week transition to school program for incoming kindergartners and their parents and caregivers.
    • Summer SUN – Operated at Earl Boyles by Metropolitan Family Service, the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods program this summer includes a four-week academic and sports camp as well as the Book Worm reading club, a four-week intensive reading skills camp. The Book Worm reading club is offered in partnership with Reading Results, SMART, and the Children's Book Bank.

    Yoncalla Elementary

    • Early Kindergarten Transition program – For the first time, Yoncalla Elementary school is offering a two-week program for incoming kindergartners and their parents and caregivers. The program is modeled on Multnomah County’s Kindergarten Counts program.
    • Summer Reading – The Yoncalla Library is hosted a superhero-themed summer reading program.

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  • Governor Brown, parents testify in support of preschool bill

    leg-preschool-hearing.6.15Gov. Kate Brown told an Oregon legislative subcommittee today that Oregon must do more to support early learning programs in Oregon and should do everything it can to support and fund a preschool bill that the Children’s Institute and dozens of other Oregon organizations are advocating for.

    “Supporting the stability and health of families, beginning prenatally and at birth, and providing access to high quality affordable child care and preschool is critical to ensure that all Oregon children thrive,” Brown told the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Education Subcommittee. “Unfortunately, these critical services and learning opportunities still only reach a fraction of the children and families who need them.”

    Brown told the committee that’s why she is supporting HB 3380, which would provide a blueprint to make quality pre-school available to more children from low-income families.

    “I think we have an opportunity this legislative session to build on our investments in early learning in Oregon and create a very strong foundation for Oregon children and their families,” she told the committee. “Investing early will have a positive ripple effect on our education system, our social services sector, our economy and Oregon’s future. Moreover, it’s the right thing to do.”

    The bill would allow for a mix of organizations – school districts, Head Starts programs and community preschools -- to receive state funding to provide the high quality preschool programs. About three-quarters of children from low-income Oregon families currently don’t have access to preschool.

    The Children’s Institute, the Oregon Head Start Association and a number of other partners have built a strong coalition of supporters for the proposal. A companion bill, which the Ways and Means Education Subcommittee is also considering, would provide $30 million to fund the program for the 2015-2017 biennium.

    Two parents from the David Douglas School District’s Earl Boyles Elementary in southeast Portland also testified in support of the bill. Earl Boyles offers public preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds in its catchment area.

    Each talked about how their children’s experiences in preschool made them better learners and ready to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

    Nidia Perez said her four-year-old son, David, learned colors and letters very early because of his participation in the Earl Boyles preschool.

    Krista Dennis said her son, John, who has just finished first grade at Earl Boyles, was diagnosed on the autism spectrum and was mostly non-verbal when he entered private preschool at 3 years old. He attended one year of that preschool and a second year of preschool at Earl Boyles. “Going to the Earl Boyles program, he did amazing,” she said. “He learned all his letters, all his shapes, and he learned to cope so well it just sparked his learning."

    By kindergarten, he had qualified for the school’s talented and gifted program, Dennis said.

    Representatives from the Oregon Head Start Association also testified in support of the policy bill and the funding bill. If approved, the bills would provide money for Head Start programs to serve more eligible families. Head Start programs have long waiting lists of families who are eligible but can’t access services because the of the program’s limited funding.

    The Oregon House of Representatives’ Education Committee had unanimously approved HB 3380 in April, moving it on to the Ways and Means Committee.

    The Ways and Means Education Subcommittee is expected to vote on the bill in the next two weeks; the full Ways and Means committee will consider it after that.

    We’ll keep you updated, of course, as the bill makes its way through the Legislature.  You can read about our entire legislative agenda .

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  • Earl Boyles expands home visiting with school-wide training

     Kim Kalapus Graham and Linda Long, Earl Boyles teachers, take part in a group discussion about what schools can do to engage families that also supports academic success for students.

    Carrie Rose, executive director of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, said just one thing Wednesday to get a cafeteria full of elementary school teachers and staff members at southeast Portland’s Earl Boyles Elementary School nodding in agreement: “Home visiting really grounds you in why you became a teacher to begin with.”

    Everyone in the room was hooked from that moment. After all, they work with kids because they care about them. Home visiting is an effective strategy that helps teachers and families support children to succeed in school – and life.

    Along with her colleague, founder of the project and mother of six Yesenia Gonzalez, Rose co-conducted the teacher home visit training session at Earl Boyles Wednesday. Forty-five teachers and other school staff members from schools throughout the district attended. After Multnomah County brought the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project to Oregon to train 150 of the county’s kindergarten teachers last month, the Children’s Institute helped Earl Boyles Principal Ericka Guynes bring the trainers back as part of the Early Works initiative. Family engagement has been a key strategy from the beginning. Earl Boyles kindergarten teachers have been conducting home visits for three years, and preschool teachers for two years through our partnership with Mt. Hood Community College Head Start.  Wednesday’s training will allow teachers and staff at all grade levels to conduct home visits.

    People who work in early childhood are familiar with home visiting, which began as an evidence-based strategy focused on very young children and their families from birth to three, as well as expecting parents. Home visitors support families who qualify and volunteer for the services to develop parenting skills and access resources.

    More recently, this common and effective practice in early childhood is gaining steam in K-12 education. Teacher home visiting has been shown to be effective as a strategy for increasing K-12 student success and building relationships with families.

    The Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, based out of Sacramento, California, has developed an effective, replicable and inexpensive model for K-12 schools to take on home visiting. The project provides training for teachers that walks them step-by-step through the model, spends time focused on barriers they may encounter in meeting with families and helps address possible fears and anxieties.

    The model developed by the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project includes two home visits for each family that chooses to participate, and teachers and staff visit homes in pairs. During the first home visit, the teachers bring nothing with them.

    “The first visit is all about building relationships, to start building trust and to share hopes and dreams,” says Gonzalez, training coordinator and a parent founder of the project, in a recent interview with Calvin Dorsey, creator of the Schoolproof Network training program that focuses on community collaboration.

    During the second visit, parents and teachers discuss academic progress and work together to set goals and come up with strategies tailored to the student’s needs and strengths.

    Rose says in the Schoolproof Network interview that family engagement is most effective when it’s relational, builds capacity of both teachers and parents, and links back to learning. “Home visits are all three,” she says.

    Schools that conduct home visits see excellent results, including increased student academic success, improved student attendance and behavior, and increased family involvement with the school.

    Guynes says it was important to her that Earl Boyles teachers at all grade levels had the opportunity to participate in the training. “You work with parents, no matter the child’s age,” she says. “We want to effectively engage them as partners.”

    While Earl Boyles’ three kindergarten teachers have been conducting home visits with incoming students for the past three years, home visiting is new to teachers in other grades. Guynes is excited to open up the opportunity to all her teachers, who have expressed a lot of interest. She recently conducted a year-end survey of her teachers and found that 96 percent want to better engage families as partners in their children’s education.

    Overall, Guynes says, she was excited for the Children’s Institute to bring the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project to Earl Boyles because she believes in the impact home visits have for teachers and their practice. “Instead of making assumptions about children, you can discover the reasons for their actions at school – good or bad. You learn how each child is unique.”

    Home visiting has already had an impact at the kindergarten level at Earl Boyles. Kindergarten teacher Cynthia Casteel has conducted many home visits over the past three years. “The most positive impact is the students’ comfort level when arriving to school on the first day,” Casteel says. Students shed fewer tears and parents have less anxiety when a relationship has already been built.

    Before attending the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project training, Casteel had not been formally trained. She was eager to attend and refine her approach. Her biggest takeaway? New ways to help more families feel comfortable with the idea of a home visit. Home visiting is entirely voluntary for both teachers and families. “But the trainers showed ways to encourage and reassure families about our intentions with a home visit,” Casteel says. She says she looks forward to putting the new strategies to use in the fall of this year, Casteel says.

    Preschool assistant and bus monitor Tina Kiang says she was thrilled to take part in the training Wednesday, even though she isn’t a classroom teacher. “I think this could be great for my relationship with families too,” she says. “I pick kids up and drive them home, and I need to build trust with them.”

    Next year, the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project model will be put in action across all grade levels at Earl Boyles. For the first time, it won’t be just incoming kindergartners and preschoolers who get to welcome their teachers into their homes. Guynes has put together a combination of Title I federal funding and district-funded parent communication workdays to ensure teachers have the time and support needed to conduct visits.

    “I’m really hoping to see better understanding for teachers and families in how to best support each other,” she says.

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  • Parents ask Multnomah County to help fund programs for children and families at Earl Boyles Elementary

    Megan Gorecki, Earl Boyles parent, testifies before the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.

    They came to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners budget hearing Wednesday night asking for something that was partly about dollars and cents. It was a request for about $95,000 in support from the county to help expand the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods program at Earl Boyles Elementary School in Portland's David Douglas School District.

    But when David Douglas Superintendent Don Grotting and parents with children at Earl Boyles talked about their hopes for the expanded SUN services the money could support, it was about much more than dollars and cents.

    "That $95,000 will have the opportunity to impact over 13,000 students and over 20,000 parents and these are your neediest kids in the county – by coordinating mental health services, education services, workforce development services and other social services that these families need," Grotting told the board, while also thanking the board for support the county has already given the program. "Your money is being put to work well, and it's making a difference in the lives of children and families."

    A speaker who closely followed Grotting said her family was a living testimony to his words.

    "If it wasn't for this program, there are nights my children wouldn't have had food on their plates," said a tearful Megan Gorecki, whose son just finished second grade at Earl Boyles. "If it wasn't for this program, there are days when we wouldn't have power. They gave me the resources to pay my power bill.... If it wasn't for this program, my children and family wouldn't be where they are now. This program means so much to my family."

    The families and leaders from Earl Boyles came together at the hearing to use their individual stories and collective voice to ask for the county's support for coordinated social services that can reach children and families earlier and even more comprehensively than the current SUN program does. With 85 percent of students at Earl Boyles Elementary qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, the school and community has many at-risk students and high levels of poverty.

    The SUN program partners with schools across the county to provide resources to children and families; SUN schools become hubs within their neighborhood, where students and their families can access services that include educational support and parenting classes. At Earl Boyles, a request for an additional $94,265 would help the SUN program expand and provide more comprehensive services.

    Specifically, the increased funding would help families access housing programs and work with family navigators to understand and access public services available to them – two resources which were prioritized by community leaders from a list of many types of services the community would like to see provided in the neighborhood center.

    The parents' testimony and request to Multnomah County for this expanded funding took place in one evening, but it was the product of years of hard work on behalf of many community members and partners who live and work in the neighborhoods surrounding Earl Boyles.

    In 2012, residents of the David Douglas School District made the decision to tax themselves and construct a new early learning wing at Earl Boyles through the passage of a general obligation bond.

    Motivated by the research linking quality early learning experiences to improved education outcomes, the district had become part of an initiative called Early Works, a collaboration of community partners working together to provide early learning services to families before their children reached kindergarten. The new early learning wing, which opened in the fall of the 2014, is the home of this initiative and SUN Schools is a key community partner.

    Since its inception, a community-owned and driven approach has guided the Early Works team. In 2014, using community volunteers, the team conducted a door-to-door data collection effort to learn more about the specific needs of the community. These assessments were collected over a period of weeks in more than a half- dozen languages, and the results showed that community members were especially interested in high-quality early learning programs, parent education classes, and community gathering spaces.

    By providing additional funding for the coordinated social services, Multnomah County can help the Earl Boyles community realize the vision they have for their community and help to reach children with important supports when they need it most, said Grotting.

    The added money, together with the support the county has already given the program, can continue to change lives, Grotting said.

    "You have provided hope and inspiration to not only the children but these families," he said. "You are going to end some generational poverty by providing these children with the education necessary to go out and maneuver in our world."

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  • Preschool Boosts Reading Skills Later

    Class of 2025 OPBIn its Class of 2025 series, this week OPB discusses about the preschool at Earl Boyles Elementary and its positive impact on students.

    "Kids who are in high-quality preschool — particularly low-income kids — are far more likely to graduate from high school,” said Swati Adarkar of the Portland-based Children’s Institute. “They’re far more likely to go on to college, they’re far more likely not to need special education as they go on in the elementary grades. These are all huge game-changers."

    Listen in

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  • Effective school practice requires relationships with families, says expert

    MIYB 2015At the Children's Institute's seventh annual Make It Your Business event on Friday, Dr. Karen Mapp of Harvard's Graduate School of Education spoke about the importance of building partnerships among families, schools and communities. Mapp emphasized that family engagement is about more than just parent groups and fundraising – it's about collaboration.

    "Our families aren't our clients; they're our partners, our co-producers, our co-creators," Mapp said. She noted that partnering with families is different in each community, depending on community and school culture and priorities. However, there are guidelines schools can build on, Mapp said.

    Last year, Mapp worked with the U.S. Department of Education to develop a framework for the development of family-school partnerships. The framework succinctly lists conditions that must be in place to build effective family-school partnerships. For example, engagement opportunities must be interactive and linked to learning. Family engagement must also be systemic at a school or in a district; it must be prioritized by all teachers and staff to be effective.

    Another key component is that these programs have to be intentional about relationship-building, Mapp said. "A lot of times," Mapp said, "educators go into communities and say: 'We got this. Our parents are poor, they don't speak English. We're there to save them, to help them.' No. They have funds of knowledge that we need to do our job."

    Ultimately, Mapp said, family engagement isn't just about grades and test scores. It's about getting the community engaged so that they can participate in the decision-making and leadership process. The Oregonian covered Mapp's speech and the event. Click here to see a video of Mapp's presentation.

    Mapp's presentation was the keynote address in an event program all about family engagement. Children's Institute President and CEO Swati Adarkar opened the program to applause when she said, "I am energized by the growing support and understanding of the importance of early childhood development. It's about time. The evidence and research is abundantly clear. Supporting a child's education and success requires a true partnership with parents."

    The rest of the event program took a deeper look at effective family engagement practices here in Oregon. The third annual Alexander Award was presented to Sue Miller, co-founder of the Family Building Blocks Relief Nursery, which serves at-risk young children and their families in Marion and Polk counties.

    The annual video slide presentation featured two Oregon families the Children's Institute has come to know through its Early Works initiative at Earl Boyles Elementary in Portland's David Douglas School District and Yoncalla Elementary in Yoncalla. Through the initiative, the families have become engaged with their elementary schools. "They're continuing to fight and win, on behalf of their children, against challenges that can seem daunting," said Chris Tebben, master of ceremonies for the event and Children's Institute board chair. "It's so inspiring to see the hard work that parents do every day to help their children succeed."

    VideoPremiere WebRes AW-52Adriana Larraga of Padres Unidos/Parents United, a parent leadership group at Earl Boyles Elementary, kicked off the fundraising appeal by telling the audience about the difference engaging with Earl Boyles has made in her life and the lives of her children. She spoke eloquently about her fears when she first approached the school and her subsequent sense of feeling welcomed and empowered by the teachers, staff, other parents, and partners like the Children's Institute. She urged everyone in the room to visit the school and see "the little stars, who are the future important people of Oregon."

    About 400 business, community and education leaders attended the event to support the work of the Children's Institute. The event's presenting sponsor was the Cambia Health Foundation. Twenty-four other individuals, corporations and non-profits also helped sponsor the event. Everyone's support is truly appreciated, says Tebben. Community support helps the Children's Institute "invest in early education and change outcomes for Oregon's most vulnerable children."

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  • Earl Boyles kindergartners shine on Oregon Kindergarten Assessment

    EB-kinder-indicators-4.7.15Recently released results from this year’s Oregon Kindergarten Assessment demonstrate a promising upward trend for kindergartners at Earl Boyles Elementary in Portland’s David Douglas School District. Overall, Earl Boyles’ entering kindergartners outperformed their peers in the David Douglas School District and across the state on most dimensions of the kindergarten assessment. The assessment scores were even higher for students who had attended the Earl Boyles preschool program the year prior to kindergarten entry.

    This year was the second year that the kindergarten assessment was administered statewide, and it has its challenges and critics. It is not a comprehensive measure of all skills that we know children need to thrive, and state leaders, the Children’s Institute and others are working to improve it.

    But the assessment does provide the state and districts a consistent tool to identify entering kindergartners’ skills in specific areas of development that can help predict later academic success. Those areas include: early literacy, early numeracy, interpersonal skills, and self-regulation. Prior to the implementation of the kindergarten assessment, the state did not have a tool that could be used to identify opportunity gaps in children’s exposure to rich early learning experiences. Nor did it have a tool that measured progress over time.

    The results of the kindergarten assessment this year at Earl Boyles indicate that the school’s preschool is showing some initial success in preparing children for kindergarten, one of the intended outcomes of the Children’s Institute’s Early Works initiative.

    And positive results are coming from evaluations beyond the kindergarten assessment. We also are seeing positive findings from the external evaluation of Early Works that Portland State University’s Center for the Improvement of Child and Family Services is conducting. Those findings align with dozens of rigorous studies of other early education programs that show that a year or two of center-based early childhood education for 3- and 4-year-olds – provided in a developmentally appropriate program – improve children’s early language, literacy, and mathematics skills.

    Research shows that access to high-quality preschool is particularly beneficial for low-income children and children of color, who often start kindergarten behind their peers. That was a primary reason the Children’s Institute selected Earl Boyles as the first Early Works site. Eighty-five percent of Earl Boyles students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches and the school is one of the most diverse in the state with its students speaking 17 different languages. Ultimately, the goal of the Early Works initiative is to close the achievement gap for these young students.

    “Kindergarten teachers are reporting that the incoming kindergartners this year are more socially and academically ready than ever before,” says Ericka Guynes, Earl Boyles principal. “This year the teachers have been able to move through the kindergarten curriculum at a much faster pace and are getting to academic areas earlier in the year that they typically don’t reach until the very end.”

    The progress is showing up in this year’s assessment data; it’s not just anecdotal, Guynes says.

    “Our kindergarten benchmark data is at the highest level it has ever been,” she says.

    By winter, 73 percent of the Earl Boyles kindergarten students were meeting benchmarks. In previous years, this number had been closer to 40 percent. Eighty percent is the target.

    Despite the room for growth, it is incredibly positive and heartening to see that the preschool does appear to be moving Earl Boyles students in the right direction and setting these children on the path toward future success. We look forward to seeing what the numbers look like next year when virtually all of the incoming Earl Boyles kindergartners will have had this rich early learning experience.

    These data further support the Children’s Institute’s 2015 legislative agenda. We are actively advocating for an additional $30 million investment in high-quality preschool programs over the next two years to serve an additional 1,500 low-income Oregon children each year. Our legislative agenda is driven by the evidence. We know that high-quality preschool works and we want more children from under-served communities statewide to have the opportunities that Earl Boyles students have had.

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  • A Cat in the Hat … and 1,750 books on the shelf

    Dr. Seuss night at Yoncalla ElementaryIn its continuing effort to improve family engagement and promote literacy in the community, Yoncalla Elementary hosted its third annual Dr. Seuss Night on March 5. The event has grown exponentially and Yoncalla families look forward to a fun night for kids and adults.

    The night is a perfect example of the family and community connections that Early Works at Yoncalla Elementary is trying to foster. The people and organizations who are part of the Early Works initiative – the Children's Institute, the Ford Family Foundation and Yoncalla school and school district leaders – all understand that children do better in school when their parents, and their community, are engaged in their learning.

    This year there was an extra reason to celebrate at Dr. Seuss Night. Yoncalla Elementary, along with the B-4 School Community Center (located at the school), participated in a reading challenge during the month leading up to Dr. Seuss Night. Yoncalla Elementary students were challenged to read books or book chapters and parents with children in early childhood programs at the B-4 School Community Center were challenged to read books to their children.

    Reading was tracked on forms that were turned in to Yoncalla's Title I teacher, Shawna Bradley. All totaled, 1,750 books or book chapters were read, far surpassing the last reading challenge total of 1,380. As promised, two special guests were in attendance at Dr. Seuss Night to help celebrate this wonderful accomplishment. Matt Templeman, the news anchor for KEZI-TV in Eugene, along with Olaf, the snowman from the Disney movie Frozen, participated in the evening's festivities.

    Families were treated to games, goodies and arts and crafts. Each classroom in the building was decorated and had activities around specific books by Dr. Seuss. In the school's Early Works Family Room, The Foot Book was the theme and attendees participated in a 'book walk.' Yoncalla Mayor Jerry Cross read several Dr. Seuss stories to a captivated audience.

    Additionally, several social service and family-oriented community providers hosted activities and gave information about resources to families in attendance. In an area where families often report feeling isolated, connecting families to services has become one of the important goals of the evening, and of Early Works in general.

    The Cat in the Hat (also known as Yoncalla Schools Superintendent Jan Zarate) floated through each of the buildings. Meanwhile, Thing One and Thing Two (Yoncalla High School special education teacher Jerry Fauci and Matt Templeman) led bingo, passed out popcorn and posed for pictures. This small town knows how to celebrate reading in a big way! And the Children's Institute loves being a part of it every year.

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  • Coming Together: the report from Yoncalla

    Yoncalla  cover-webIn Coming Togetherwe report on our work at our Early Works site in Yoncalla, Oregon. The report details how the community and school district in Yoncalla, along with the Ford Family Foundation and the Children's Institute, have come together to build a new pathway for the community's children — from birth through kindergarten and beyond.

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