Start Early. Start well.

Superintendents' Early Childhood Plan

The Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan provides the blueprint for a comprehensive approach to serving vulnerable young children, birth through Grade 3, in the 11 school districts of the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties.
The goal is to reduce or eliminate learning and achievement gaps, with a focus on children growing up in poverty or other conditions of high stress and familial challenge. Nearly 45 percent of K-12 students in Douglas and Sarpy Counties were eligible for free or reduced-price lunches during the 2013-14 school year.

History

The Superintendents’ Plan is made possible through strong collaborative efforts. The plan was mandated by the Nebraska Legislature (LB 585), funded through the Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties, developed by the superintendents and district representatives in conjunction with the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, and endorsed unanimously by all 11 superintendents. The Buffett Institute continues to provide leadership for the implementation of the plan.

SIX BIG IDEAS

The plan reflects what research tells us about young children’s development and learning. Our work revolves around six evidence-based ideas:

Birth Through Grade 3

Although intervention at any point during the first eight years of life is helpful for children placed at risk, research teaches us that we must go beyond a single year of PreK, or even birth – 3 or birth – 5 programs, for the benefits of intervention to endure. The foundations for building children’s brain architecture, language and skill acquisition, and relationships with others are established early on but take time to reach their full potential. If we can maintain continuity through the end of third grade, children are more likely to achieve lasting success in school and beyond.

School as Hub

At the core of our plan is the idea that schools can serve as the “pivot” or center for complex learning systems, connecting children and families to resources within and beyond school walls. Schools have the potential to span conventional silos, overcome traditional barriers, and become connectors across communities and different age groupings. They can help families navigate and access early education services and community resources and become a source of long-term continuity for children and families.

Developmental Change

We are committed to helping children negotiate the ongoing biological, neurological, psychological, and social pathways of development, through which they evolve from a newborn infant to a competent and confident third grader. Sustained learning doesn’t occur in isolated fragments. Only when skills and emerging capabilities are followed up, supported, and extended is it likely that new skills and new capacities will be acquired and become reliably present over time.

Parent and Family Support

Parents and families are key to children’s success and our most powerful allies in supporting and enhancing their children’s strengths and abilities. But families know too well the personal stress and toxicity that can accompany poverty and social inequality. Whether in home-visiting, preschool, or K – Grade 3, active family engagement and support are central to our work and to children’s growth.

Professional Growth and Support

Enhancing the skills of teachers and caregivers and those supervising and directing them is crucial. Educators equipped with research-based knowledge about children’s development and early learning can maximize effectiveness of educational experiences for children with diverse learning needs. When the ability of caregivers, teachers, and administrators to translate development research into practice is enhanced, children thrive. 

Persistence 

Evidence assures us that the earlier we begin working with children and families placed at risk, and the more persistent, consistent, and well-designed our efforts are, the more likely it is that children will be launched on a path toward life success. It’s a long-term commitment, and one that can lead to a lifetime of accomplishment and fulfillment. Persistence of effort yields persistence of effect.

Three Levels of Participation

The plan provides three interrelated opportunities for early childhood programming and capacity-building by school districts and their community partners:

Child

Professional Development for All. A connected series of professional development institutes open to all school leaders, teachers, early childhood professionals, and caregivers who work with young children from birth through Grade 3 in the Omaha metro area. "PD for All" introduces leading-edge research and innovative practices to those who work with young children and families and gives early childhood professionals the opportunity to come together and learn from one another.

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Classroom

Customized Assistance. Eight school districts are receiving intensive assistance and consultation tailored to specific needs. This professional development addresses such topics as social-emotional development, family engagement, and assessment and accountability. Technical assistance provides districts with access to state and national consultation as they engage in strategic planning and improvement efforts that will impact system-wide early childhood education and services.

Child

Full Implementation of Birth – Grade 3 Approach. Twelve elementary schools, all with more than half of their students eligible for Free or Reduced Lunch, serve as hubs that connect young children and their families with high-quality, comprehensive, and continuous early childhood education and services. The birth through Grade 3 continuum includes three integrated components: weekly home visiting for children birth to age 3, high-quality preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, and aligned Kindergarten through Grade 3 curriculum, instruction, and assessment for 5- through 8-year-olds.

By the numbers

Six school districts are participating in full implementation, with 10 sites serving 12 elementary schools. Additionally, four districts are engaged in customized professional development, and three are receiving technical assistance, consultation, and planning around early childhood services. School and district participation impacts thousands of children and teachers:

150 

Children, birth to age 3, who will receive home visiting.

3,500+

Children and families across PreK – third grade at the 12 full implementation schools.

500+

PreK – third grade educators at the 12 full implementation schools.

15,000+

Children across PreK – third grade in districts with administrators and/or teachers participating in the sustained, customized professional development, technical assistance around early childhood programs and services.

EVALUATION

The Superintendents' Early Childhood Plan evaluation focuses on the full implementation of the birth to Grade 3 approach. The evaluation has two purposes. First, the evaluation will provide information about the usefulness of the core components of the plan and areas for improvement. Second, it will provide data about the impact of the plan on children, families, teachers/classrooms, and schools.

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