Developing a Shared Vision for Educational Alignment Beyond the Classroom

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This post was written by Tonja Rucker, Principal Associate for Early Childhood at NLC. The post also appears on the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s blog.

Ft. Worth mom and son reading

Historically, education and human service systems have developed independently from each other despite sharing a common purpose.  Insufficient communication and coordination among systems and programs for young children can make transitions difficult and lead to missed educational opportunities.

Researchers, practitioners and policymakers increasingly believe that a more seamless pipeline that addresses a range of academic, behavioral, health and family issues can serve young children more effectively.  City officials are working on alignment efforts on behalf of young children from birth to eight that go well beyond the classroom to include strengthening connections within their communities and linking families to a broad range of supports and opportunities that help them thrive.

Through the National League of Cities’ Educational Alignment initiative six cities – Austin and Fort Worth, Texas; Longmont, Colorado; Hartford, Connecticut; Rochester, New York; and Richmond, Virginia – are receiving technical assistance to help city leaders ensure the healthy development and education of children and increase the likelihood that children will achieve educational success by the end of third grade. In several of these cities, leaders are working with or coordinating the Grade-Level Reading coalitions.

To address challenges, municipal leaders are bringing together key stakeholders to improve early education and strengthen local schools, provide better alignment between preschool and school-based learning, and improve transitions as children move from one level to the next.

Key elements of this technical assistance from NLC include:

  • Helping six cities develop a shared vision for educational alignment and cultivate partnerships among city leaders, school boards, superintendents, principals, early educators, youth development professionals and the larger community;
  • Providing on-site guidance through carefully designed site visits, a cross-site meeting and monthly webinars/conference calls to help the six cities share challenges, discuss strategies, connect to national experts, and develop new approaches for educational alignment;
  • Developing a robust peer network of local leaders in 6 states to deepen their understanding of the core elements of a well-aligned system, cultivate local champions, identify effective strategies, and facilitate cross-city learning; and
  • Conduct statewide summits in four of the cities to facilitate intergovernmental partnerships on early learning among city, state and federal officials. The statewide  mayoral summits will be designed to help local and state leaders learn about each other’s perspectives, initiatives and policies.

Tonja Rucker headshotAbout the Author: Tonja Rucker is a Principle Associate for Early Childhood in the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families at NLC.