CHICAGO, Dec. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Erikson Institute has selected two early childhood coalitions to participate in a pilot program to help Illinois communities measure how young children have developed across numerous fronts by the time they reach kindergarten.
The project – the first of its kind in Illinois – will utilize a validated research tool that's been reliably used for over a decade in Canada and Australia and more recently across more than 50 communities in the United States.
Information gleaned through the project will offer a unique glimpse of how nearly 1,000 children in Kankakee County and East St. Louis are faring across multiple developmental domains, with results reported not on individual children but at the population level to support advocacy efforts for more effective early childhood policies, systems, and funding.
In Kankakee County, the Success by 6 Coalition has been selected for the pilot, and in East St. Louis, the Greater East St. Louis Early Learning Partnership & Innovation Zone will participate.
Funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the pilot program gathers previously unreported information with a research tool called the Early Development Instrument, which describes how children are doing within the context of communities by looking at physical health, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development, and communication skills. No data is ever reported on individual children.
"Our hope for this work is that the accessible, actionable information generated by the EDI will better surface the specific needs of children in a particular Illinois community, and then galvanize all the child-serving entities in that community to work together to address those needs," said Cornelia Grumman, Education Program Director at the McCormick Foundation.
The McCormick Foundation is a longtime supporter of Erikson's groundbreaking early childhood work and will support expanding the pilot project to include four additional communities in the spring. Erikson will issue a second Request for Participation early next year to determine additional participants.
"The added value of looking at child development by neighborhood complements existing early childhood assessments and has the opportunity to mobilize communities and schools to wholistically address the needs of young children and build upon their strengths," said Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Director of Policy at Erikson Institute. "Our two pilot communities are poised to take advantage of the tool because of their well-established coalitions. Our hope is that the project takes their work to the next level."
The Success by 6 Coalition of Kankakee County is an early childhood initiative focused on school readiness in partnership with the United Way. The coalition lacks social, emotional, and mental health data to justify critical services and interventions, said Tiffany DeRocco, Executive Director of United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties.
"Our vision is that the survey wouldn't be an end result, but a catalyst to direct funding and form programs that will better prepare every child in our community to enter school ready to succeed, and to continue to succeed thereafter," DeRocco said.
In southwestern Illinois is Greater East St. Louis, where early childhood coalition members said the new data will complement census and program data to improve services to children and families.
"We hope the new data will help us be more effective in our early learning approaches as we strive to align policy, practice, and investments that lead to greater family and child outcomes," said Evan Krauss, East Side Aligned Director and coalition member.
The Early Development Instrument is implemented in kindergarten as a way of assessing child development before they reach school. Data is collected from a 103-question checklist completed by kindergarten teachers for all children in their classrooms. Importantly, no data is ever reported on individual children or teachers.
About Erikson Institute
Erikson Institute is the nation's premier independent institution of higher education committed to ensuring that all children have equitable opportunities to realize their potential. We uniquely prepare leaders in child development, social work, and early childhood education to improve the lives of young children and their families. We educate, create new knowledge, provide direct services, and advocate—because nothing matters more than a child's early years.
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SOURCE Erikson Institute