November 2018

November 5, 2018

(CS3) Updates – November:


The Community Systems Statewide Supports (CS3) team is preparing for the launch of the Partner Plan Act Collaboration Institute (PPACI). We are excited to share that the inaugural PPACI cohort, working with nine early childhood collaborations throughout Illinois, will begin in January 2019. Based on the level of support requested, collaborations will be eligible to receive a combination of consultation services, coaching, and training opportunities. 

Keep an eye out for the application to be released on November 16, 2018 with applications due one month later on December 16, 2018. Collaborations interested in applying should start thinking about 3-5 existing collaboration members that may want to participate in the institute. We recommend that at least one of those members is a parent in the community.

Local Collaboration Spotlight

PreK and Kindergarten Connections: One Community’s Story

How do you start to create PreK-to-Kindergarten connections when your community includes dozens of early childhood programs and schools? This is the story of the Evanston Cradle to Career’s (EC2C) “Learning on Track” Action Team. Thanks to Carol Teske, Executive Director of the Childcare Network of Evanston and co-chair of the Action Team, and to Shelia Merry, EC2C Executive Director. 

The History

Very little was known about the early learning experiences of the 750+ incoming School District (SD) 65 (read key facts about District 65 and EC2Cs “Why Equity?” Statement) Kindergarten students in 2015 when the Action Team began its work. The need, however, was clear: little more than 50% of new Kindergartners scored as “ready” on the District’s Illinois Snapshot of Early Literacy (ISEL) test.

To learn more, the Action Team created a few, simple supplementary questions that were added to the online kindergarten registration form. Using drop-down menus on the form, parents were asked to identify PreK experiences their child had after age 3, where they were enrolled, how often/how long they attended, and whether their child had received academic instruction in a language other than English. By February 2016, these supplemental questions were piloted, and a month later they officially became part of the Kindergarten enrollment process. (Special Note: School District 65 policy requires pilot programs before officially adopting initiatives.)

Through a data-sharing agreement, specially-deputized Cradle to Career members analyzed the de-identified data and learned that percent of incoming Kindergarten students had been enrolled in early childhood programs.

The Action Team also realized that developing a common definition of Kindergarten Readiness would be a powerful collaboration tool. District instructional leaders, together with a small cohort of early childhood educators and kindergarten teachers, created the Strong Start to Kindergarten-Student Goals for Educators, released in September, 2016. The Strong Start goals focused on five priority areas (domains) based on Teaching Strategies GOLD assessment and Illinois Early Learning Standards.

In February 2017, the Action Team’s work began to accelerate, beginning with the Strong Start PreK/Kindergarten Summit. The now-annual Summit brought together 110 teachers to learn more about the Strong Start Initiative, contribute to its development, and build relationships with each other.

To foster seamless transitions between PreK and Kindergarten, the Strong Start PreK & Kindergarten Educators Partnership Pilot was created to encourage PreK and Kindergarten teachers to visit each other’s classrooms.

The Action Team also successfully piloted the Strong Start to Kindergarten Feedback Form, enabling PreK teachers to share student progress on the Strong Start priority goals and insights about their “graduating” student with his/her new Kindergarten teacher. Preschool educators submitted 75 Feedback Forms as part of this pilot!

Now… and Next

In Summer 2018, principals and Kindergarten teachers received 400 Strong Start Feedback Forms for incoming Kindergarten students (out of approximately 800). PreK teachers are eager to learn more details how their feedback helped Kindergarten teachers support their students and families.

The Strong Start Classroom Partnership—also no longer a pilot—has kicked off with a fall orientation and the first of two PreK and K classroom visits. Early childhood teachers visit their partnered Kindergarten teachers first. In the spring, the process will be reversed. All teachers go to the district office immediately afterwards to debrief the visits as a group.

What’s next for the collaboration? The 2019 PreK/K Teacher Summit is already scheduled! A new Parent Activity Guide, aligned to the Strong Start to Kindergarten Student Goals will be published soon and includes fun learning activities for families of PreK students in early learning settings and throughout the community.

The Evanston Cradle to Career’s Strong Start initiative is now well on its way, having made new and vital connections between early childhood and District 65.

Let’s cheer them on as they work towards their ambitious, collective goal of 85 percent of children being kindergarten-ready by 2025!

If you would like us to highlight your collaboration’s work, please contact us at


Kindergarten Transition Advisory Committee’s Final Report

The Kindergarten Transition Advisory Committee, co-chaired by Dr. Cynthia Tate, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development and Dr. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, Director of Policy at the Erikson Institute, released their final report at the end of September.

The report outlines high-level policy and practice recommendations covering these themes: “Aligned teaching and learning,” “aligned assessment and data,” and “strengthened cross-sector partnerships.” Critical success factors and successful examples are identified, as well as the policy levers to support implementation. Additionally, the report includes a literature review and a well-synthesized compendium of “need-to-know” background and history on transitions.

New Release:

Urban Institute Report on Increasing Access to High Quality Child Care for Priority Populations

The Urban Institute recently published a study that suggests that even though high-quality can be found across a range of early childhood settings, state efforts may have inadvertently led to a singular focus on supporting access to center-based care. As a result, families in key priority groups may face barriers to accessing child care subsidies for high-quality care.

The study provides data on these trends for all 50 states and DC, includes an in-depth discussion of the barriers to care for these families, lays out state policy strategies to increase access to/the supply of high-quality care across the full range of settings for all children, and highlights key gaps in knowledge as to how to best support access to quality for these families.

To maximize the accessibility of the research, Urban Institute has released the findings in a number of different formats:

Upcoming Trainings

KIDS Webinar Series | November 13

Illinois Action for Children, Birth-Third Grade Continuity Project and the Illinois State Board of Education KIDS team have partnered to provide a series of webinars to deepen communities’ understanding of the kindergarten assessment tool and empower local leaders to use the new data to better assess their community’s needs.

  • Understanding and Using KIDS Data to Improve Collaboration and Student Outcomes Join B-3rd Grade Continuity Project as they dive into how early childhood administrators can utilize the data on November 13 from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Do you understand how your district’s KIDS data was collected and how it might be helpful for improving student outcomes? Come learn what the KIDS data is and what it shows about your community. Understand how the data may be used in comparison with other assessments from pre-kindergarten (release of crosswalks) and beyond kindergarten. Also, learn how the data may be used outside of school districts, within communities to support early learning and improve student outcomes.
  • Register HERE!

Aligning PreK and Kindergarten Assessment and Instructional Practices and Learning | November 28

Birth to Third Grade Continuity Project is hosting the training, “Aligning PreK and Kindergarten Assessment and Instructional Practices and Learning” in Palos Hills at Moraine Valley Community College from 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m on Wednesday, November 28.

Teams of PreK and Kindergarten teachers are encouraged to attend together along with an administrator and other collaborative partners. Please bring writing samples and let us know what PreK assessments are being used.

Please register by emailing Mindy Bolin and include the date and title of session in the subject field.