Innovation and leadership aren’t always about inventing something new; sometimes they’re about adapting new ideas and best practices to fit the local context. But wherever innovation comes from, its value is measured by its impact. We focus on discovering the best programs, implementing them with fidelity, and helping to create the policy environment in which they can produce socially significant outcomes at scale.
The Ounce is proof that longevity and consistency can lead to innovation with impact. Great support from our staff, our partners and our donors allows us to make great things happen.
In 2017, every kindergarten teacher in Illinois used the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS), which will provide, for the first time, a comprehensive picture of our state’s kindergartens.
The classroom observation data collected through KIDS creates a common language among educators for the skills, knowledge and behaviors children need to develop in their early school years. That data will enable policymakers, administrators and communities to organize around the identified needs of local children and advocate for new resources. It will also help teachers better tailor classroom instruction to support individual students’ progress and help parents understand the expectations of kindergarten.
Since 2010, the Ounce has played a leadership role in developing and implementing KIDS, working with the Illinois State Board of Education, philanthropic partners, other advocacy groups, educators and researchers to develop a tool that benefits both children and schools. With KIDS now in place, every year 130,000 children in Illinois will transition more successfully to kindergarten.
Expelling very young children from programs and schools denies them the many benefits of early learning while potentially ignoring their underlying real needs. The Ounce led in the drafting of and advocacy for Illinois House Bill 2663 to prevent such expulsions. Children are better served if educators have help addressing root causes.
The bill, signed into law this year, requires programs funded and licensed by the state to first address any issues through intervention and community resources, and to document those efforts. If those efforts fail, only then, and with parental permission, does it allow providers to transfer children to other programs.
Nationwide, children in preschool are expelled at a rate three times that of their peers in grades K–12, but Illinois law now serves as a model for reform in other states.
While all families want to do what’s best for their newborn, they don’t all know how to access support, education and resources, especially if they are first-time parents. To help connect parents with systems of care, the Ounce partnered with local providers to launch a pilot of Illinois Family Connects—a universal support services program that sends licensed nurse home visitors to hospitals and then to families’ homes during the first weeks following delivery.
The nurses provide a physical examination of the newborns and also check on the physical, emotional and social well-being of the parents. The visits are coordinated with local hospitals and offer support and information that all families can benefit from, including help with feeding, sleeping, crying and early literacy, as well as referrals to more resources.
With a pilot in two Illinois counties, this program is already making strong connections between families and medical insurance, pediatric and maternal health care, mental health care, early childhood education, early intervention services and other community supports. These families can now experience coordinated wraparound services and care.