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Educare DC Revamps Early Childhood Education

The following post was written by Monica Bandy, summer intern for the Alliance for Children and Families and United Neighborhood Centers of America's Public Policy Office. She is a graduate student and a former Head Start teacher, who has been closely monitoring proposed early childhood education reform this summer.
The Alliance and UNCA public policy office had the chance to visit Educare D.C. this week, a partner of UNCA member organization, DCPNI. The Educare model has received wide acclaim for its blending of public and private funding, and for its record of successful student outcomes beyond third grade. Educare D.C. offers early learning opportunities for eligible children ages 6 weeks to 5 years in D.C. Wards 5,7, and 8. According to an Educare implementation study conducted at Educare Chicago, 74% of students who attended Educare met or exceeded state standards in math, and 67% met or exceeded state standards in reading at grade 3, higher rates than students who did not attend Educare.
Educare D.C. has a beautiful facility with lots of natural light and outdoor space for children to learn, play, and grow. It is a full day, full year preschool, with low student to staff ratios. The minimum amount of experience required to be a teacher aide at Educare D.C. is 5 years, with an emphasis placed on employment longevity. Educare D.C. hires experienced teachers who will stay with the program to provide “continuity of care” in which teachers progress from classroom to classroom with their students. Children have the same teacher from ages 0-3 and from ages 3-5. Each classroom has a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree, and there are several master teachers on site, who have master’s degrees in early childhood education. Several support staff ranging from an eligibility specialist to mental health consultants are on site to serve children and their families.
Educare D.C. is also strategically placed within the community, next to Thomas Elementary School. The strategic placement ensures that it is accessible to families in the community. Additionally, the strategic location helps parents and children prepare for the transition to Elementary school. Pre-school is a child’s first encounter with school, but it is also a parent’s first brush with the school system in the parental role. Educare D.C. keeps this in mind and offers resources to parents so that they can become the best possible advocates for their child. Home visiting is also done on a monthly basis. Parents have access to computers to search for employment and housing, as well as a family engagement specialist who can help parents navigate the Educare system, and facilitate positive relationships between parents and teachers.
Educare D.C. is a unique public/private model that highlights the importance of the first 5 years on a child’s growth and development, and provides quality comprehensive early childhood education to an underserved neighborhood. Early signs indicate models such as Educare, with strategic neighborhood placement, parent engagement, teacher supports, and classroom continuity, may go far in closing the achievement gap among lower-income students. Educare empowers neighborhoods to build on the biggest strength of any community-its children.

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Blog | by Dr. Radut