Magazine article Policy & Practice

A Common Agenda: A Strong Start in Life and in School

Magazine article Policy & Practice

A Common Agenda: A Strong Start in Life and in School

Article excerpt

Alexandria, VA is a place where partnerships are the norm. If there is a problem, project, or event-Alexandrians approach it as a collaborative venture. Whether responding to the opioid crisis or carrying out the neighborhood Halloween party, Alexandrians work together. So it is not surprising that when it came to focusing on the best possible outcomes for young children and their families, a wide array of individuals and organizations stepped up to face the challenge.

In 2014, the Children and Youth Master Plan adopted by the City of Alexandria called for development of an "early care and education system that prepares children to succeed in life and in school." The Early Care and Education Workgroup (ECEW)-a cross-sector workgroup comprising leaders from the school system, city agencies, funders, and the nonprofit community, and convened by the local community foundation-came together to accept this challenge and mission.

A critical step in moving forward was to understand the challenges many families in Alexandria face. While the median household income for the city is high relative to the rest of the state, the number of children living in poverty is sizable and has been growing. The number of Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) students eligible for free or reduced meals is nearly 60 percent. Families in Alexandria are also linguistically and culturally diverse: 31 percent of residents speak a language other than English at home and students enrolled in ACPS represent 134 countries and 113 native languages. These data suggested that the need in the city is significant and varied, yet, there are also valuable resources to build upon.

Organized in late 2015, ECEW undertakes a "collective impact" approach to developing the system around a common agenda, framework, and set of strategies. Successful collective impact initiatives embrace a culture of continuous learning; develop an awareness of the context, conditions, and circumstances that surround the work; strive to understand what is working and what is not; and seek opportunities for improvement. This group did that and more. With a focus on trust and shared accountability, the group tackled longstanding barriers and confronted hard truths about how things had been done in the past and how things might be different in the future. The following graphic reflects the key areas of focus in creating the Early Care and Education System. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.