We know that learning doesn’t begin when children step foot into a classroom—it begins at birth and in homes with their families. That is why we continue to invest in home visiting services as a critical pillar of high-quality early education. Our work focuses on researching and sharing best practices, providing professional development, and advocating for greater investments at all levels of government. To reach more home visitors nationwide, this year we expanded our Achieve OnDemand™ online home visiting professional development program. We offered new courses and new ways of accessing the curriculum. We also continued to serve children and families directly through our Healthy Parents & Babies doula and home visiting program and supported 31 other home visiting programs throughout Illinois. In November 2016, the Ounce continued the great tradition started by the Pew Charitable Trusts by hosting the Sixth National Summit in Quality in Home Visiting Programs, which convened researchers, practitioners, leaders and policymakers to advance the field of home visiting.
Along with home visiting, we continued to advance the quality of center-based care for children and families. Our research has shown that strong early learning programs begin with strong leaders. By equipping leaders with practical tools and skills to support more intensive classroom instruction, we see broader impact within schools. This year we published our instructional leadership perspective in our Essential Supports for Improving Early Education series. Our Lead Learn Excel™ program brings this theory to life. We completed our launch year and reached more than 300 early childhood professionals this year in Illinois alone. Nationally, we also launched the Lead Learn Excel™ online library to deliver practical, hands-on tools to leaders throughout the country.
Strong early learning programs become anchors in a community. Our Educare Chicago school in Chicago’s Grand Boulevard neighborhood serves as a focal point for education, gathering and community. The Educare Chicago Alumni Network parent group continues to forge partnerships with the community after families leave Educare. The 18 Head Start programs we support in the Chicago area and the 21 Educare schools across the country play a similar role in their communities. We joined with the Buffett Early Childhood Fund and Educare schools to strengthen the collective quality of early learning services and supports in their communities. Through a train-the-trainer approach, we are bringing best practices developed over a decade at Educare schools to early childhood community partners. We believe a rising tide lifts all boats.
We need robust early learning systems to sustain and grow gains made at the individual and local levels. We continued to advocate about the importance of investing in early learning, and we saw dividends in 2016. Thanks to the work of the First Five Years Fund, we saw increased investments in early learning at the federal level and a groundswell of continued public support, with 90% of voters agreeing on one thing: Congress and the next president should work together to make quality early childhood education more accessible and affordable to low- and middle-income families. In Illinois, we worked tirelessly to be a voice for the most vulnerable, scoring major victories with a record increase in preschool funding and a new law strengthening the state’s commitment to infants and toddlers. Our policy experts also partnered with advocates across the country to expand quality early learning at the state level.
A team of talented, experienced individuals working as one. A team like the Ounce.
We are social workers, policy wonks, early learning visionaries, early education Ph.D.s, marketers, database administrators, doulas, networking experts, grant writers, skilled researchers, expert teachers, parent coaches, budget pros, data analysts, program innovators. We blend science with research with practical application. We take our knowledge and make it accessible to the field, to policymakers and influencers, and to the public. We work directly with children, families and programs, and we tell their stories to generate more resources and awareness of the importance of this work. We bring a wealth of diverse knowledge and experience to the work we do.
And when you invest in us, you invest in the dreams of children, of families, of communities and of our nation.