2017 has been quite a year.
It’s been a year of firsts: the first Preschool Promise graduating class and the first year on the job for P-3 Coordinators.
It’s been a year of new partnerships: expanded collaborations in the health care sector, and a new movement for universal preschool in Multnomah County.
And—we also must acknowledge, despite the successes—it’s been a year of increased fear and anxiety for the communities we all serve.
Our work—building an early learning system that is free from bias—is far from done, but we are more committed than ever. In the coming years, we will continue to listen to families and rally partners to remove the barriers that stand in the way of children being successful.
Before we dig into another year, we want to take a moment to thank YOU for working with us and supporting children and families in 2017. We've accomplished a lot together in the past year and we couldn’t do this work without you.
Here are eleven reasons to celebrate of our collective work in 2017:
- The first class of Preschool Promise students in our county graduated and went on to kindergarten. This new, state-led model for affordable preschool served 193 children in our county who previously had limited access to preschool, often offering culturally specific learning opportunities. The local investment has already created a more prepared class of incoming kindergartners, and has received accolades from Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, Rep. Alyssa Keny-Guyer, Speaker Tina Kotek, and former Governor John Kitzhaber. Our thanks to each of our Preschool Promise sites for their incredible work this year.
- We fine-tuned our innovative parent governance model and shared our lessons nationally. To us, family engagement doesn’t just mean listening to families, but flipping the power dynamic to let them lead. Our Parent Accountability Council (PAC) leaders brought their insights to education leaders at national conferences in Orlando, San Francisco and Boston. Our thanks to our beloved PAC members, Latino Network, Native American Youth and Family Services (NAYA), Self Enhancement Inc. (SEI), and Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO).
- Our Parent Accountability Council (PAC) influenced statewide systems: 1) they made recommendations to 211info on how to better serve communities of color, 2) they advised the state Department of Education on a policy change to improve services for children with developmental delays, 3) and they sent letters to legislators asking for investment in early childhood programs and other supports that families need. Our thanks to our PAC members for using their voices to advocate for children and families in Multnomah County.
- P-3 (prenatal to 3rd grade) coordinators expanded family engagement practices at eight elementary schools. They strengthened relationships with culturally specific families who were previously isolated and disengaged from their local school and expanded each school’s repertoire of family engagement skills. Our thanks to the participating Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) schools and the SUN lead agencies for their collaboration in this effort.
- We kicked off the Preschool for All conversation in partnership with Portland State University and Social Venture Partners Portland. We are poised to expand the movement and build support for universal preschool in Multnomah County and beyond. Our thanks to PSU and SVP-Portland for their continued dedication to this issue.
- We pushed for policy changes to recognize the need for early childhood educators from culturally, linguistically and racially diverse communities and to increase advancement opportunities for these educators. Our thanks to all those who spoke up, including participants in the quarterly Early Learning Community Meetings and Children’s Institute, with leadership from Ron Herndon and Kali Thorne-Ladd.
- We fostered a growing partnership with the healthcare sector across the metro region in support of a centralized referral system for health care providers to better serve families with children exhibiting possible developmental delays. Our thanks to FamilyCare Health, Health Share of Oregon and OHA’s Innovator Agents.
- We supported the launch of the innovative 3 to PhD™ model at the newly redesigned Faubion School. Faubion used ELM’s Preschool Promise funding to support three classrooms worth of preschool teachers and students. Our thanks to the leaders at Faubion for envisioning a new PK-8 model that pushes beyond the classroom walls.
- We examined our vision, mission, policies and practices to ensure we are doing all we can to disrupt structural barriers that keep children of color from succeeding in school and life. Our work with the Center for Equity and Inclusion helped us create an equity plan that empowers us to change harmful policies and practices, and share insights with providers, partners and the broader early learning network. Our thanks to the folks at the Center for Equity and Inclusion for continuing to guide us on these challenging and important issues.
- More than 40 Slavic, African American and Latino family child care providers submitted Spark/QRIS portfolios thanks to culturally specific professional development through Focused Child Care Networks. Participating in the Spark rating system gives child care providers access to child care subsidy dollars and helps providers make significant improvements in the quality of child care they provide to families. Our thanks to Child Care Resource and Referral of Multnomah County for collaborating with us on this effort.
- We've banded together through a tumultuous year of threats, violence, and discriminatory policies targeting immigrants, refugees, people of color, and people of different faiths. We know our partners do the toughest work of all—offering hope and direct support to children and families most affected. Our thanks to everyone who remains committed to doing the right thing for children and families in Multnomah County and beyond.
Here we come, 2018!