Page 1

All children will enter school healthy and ready to learn

Since 2003, we’ve been investing in school readiness


eady to Learn Providence, a program of The Providence Plan, is a school-readiness initiative that was founded in 2003 with the vision that all children in Providence will enter school healthy and ready to learn. With public and private funds, it initially targeted the capital city’s eight most distressed neighborhoods, but later expanded into the neighboring cities of Central Falls and Pawtucket. With its growing expertise and capacity in the urban core, it is now bringing some of its services statewide. Since its inception, R2LP has invested heavily in the existing early-care and education system to improve the outcomes of children, largely by offering professional development to home- and center-based providers. In fact, R2LP has delivered college-level courses and other trainings in early childhood development – in English and in Spanish – to more than 2,000 early-care educators. These multi-session courses are often coupled with intensive on-site mentoring. All of R2LP’s professional development programs are based on the most current research in early childhood development.

As a result, R2LP has won some of the nation’s most competitive federal grants over the past decade. Most of these programs have included an extensive evaluation component. While much of our professional development focuses on early-literacy instruction,

R2LP also trains providers in

the emotional and cognitive development of young children. It was the first in the state to offer Mind in the Making, a nationally acclaimed program developed by the Families and Work Institute.


Through our work, we have developed the largest constituency in the state devoted to school readiness. We partner extensively with libraries and schools, and with state and local agencies that share our vision. Hundreds of parents, providers and child-care centers are now active members of the R2LP community. Since 2005, R2LP has operated the state’s largest AmeriCorps program. After nearly a month of intensive training, our 35 members work to enhance the quality of early learning programs at libraries, child-care centers and home childcare sites, and the well-being of young children at pediatric clinics and WIC, a nutritional program for women, infants and children. R2LP reaches the families of young children through its Ready Families projects, including the popular six-session Fun Family Activities for Preschoolers course. This training, aligned with the Rhode Island Early Learning Standards, helps parents and other family members develop pleasurable activities at home to strengthen the school readiness of their children. Other family initiatives have included literacy events at libraries, and question-and-answer sessions with doctors from Hasbro Children’s Hospital. R2LP operates a pre-kindergarten classroom, which is one of seven sites in the state’s Pre-Kindergarten Demonstration Project. This classroom represents our commitment to showing the powerful outcomes that strong early-childhood programs can produce. The classroom, located on the Liston Campus of the Community College of Rhode Island, serves 18 children from Providence using the best research-based early education practices. In 2010, BrightStars, the state’s quality rating and improvement system, awarded the program its highest ranking, five stars. In 2010, R2LP became the Rhode Island home of T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood®, a national project that increases access to higher education for early-care educators by providing them with scholarships. Funded with public and private dollars, T.E.A.C.H. RI awards scholarships to homeand center-based educators who are pursuing degrees in early childhood education. Data and research guide all of our programs. With its extensive in-house data capacity, R2LP has conducted rigorous

evaluations, including a full-scale randomized control trial. It also conducts studies and releases reports on issues affecting the well-being of children, families and the early-care ­community. All of these programs work together to push us closer and closer to realizing our goal, that all children will enter school healthy and ready to learn. Please take a few minutes to look through the following pages to see the impact this work is having on our community and young children.


We are changing outcomes for children


he research is clear: Children who start kindergarten with the necessary cognitive, emotional and developmental skills are far more likely to succeed – not just in their first year of school, but throughout their academic careers. For decades the gap in school readiness between low-income students and their more affluent peers has been a persistent reality, but research confirms that high-quality early care and education can close that gap considerably. Since 2003, Ready to Learn Providence has invested heavily in the professional development of home- and center-based educators in Providence’s most distressed neighborhoods, as well as in the nearby cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls. Between 2005 and 2009, R2LP’s two largest professional development programs – Early Reading First and Early Childhood Educator Professional Development – reached more than 300 teachers and 3,000 children.

Figure 1

PPSD Kindergartners Meeting DIBELS Literacy Benchmarks, 2007-2009 Average

With data provided by the Providence Public School Department, R2LP has demonstrated that children who participated in one or more of these programs outperformed their peers on the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) when they entered kindergarten. Figure 1 shows that R2LP children were more likely to exhibit grade-level early-literacy skills than non-R2LP children. These data present an average across three years of kindergarten assessments – given in October of 2007, 2008 and 2009 – and provide compelling evidence of R2LP’s impact on the early-literacy skills of kindergartners.

Sources: PPSD, R2LP

Figure 2

PPSD Kindergartners Requiring Intensive Early Literacy Support, 2007-2009 Average

Figure 2 shows that within the same cohorts of students, R2LP children were much less likely to need intensive earlyliteracy support in their kindergarten year than their nonR2LP peers.

Sources: PPSD, R2LP


…by closing the early learning gap R2LP’s professional development initiatives began in 2003. By October 2005, improvements in the early-literacy skills of Providence’s kindergartners suggested that our efforts were having a positive impact. Between 2003 and 2006, the district saw an increase of 24% in the percentage of children meeting benchmarks for early literacy when they entered kindergarten. A small subset of the kindergartners in October 2006 included children who had been enrolled in an earlycare setting supported by R2LP’s first Early Reading First program. Those children outperformed their peers, with 75% meeting early-literacy benchmarks. The testing instrument used for Figure 3 was the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening-Kindergarten (PALS-K). DIBELS, the measurement used in Figures 1 and 2, replaced PALS in 2007.

Figure 3

PPSD Kindergartners Meeting PALS-K Literacy Benchmarks, 2003-2006

Sources: PPSD, R2LP

It is important to note that there is no established comparability between the DIBELS and PALS-K.


Classrooms take on a new look and feel


ooks are within reach of the children and are integrated in centers throughout the classroom. Written labels help children organize their materials. A writing center encourages children to become authors of their own books. In a literacy-rich classroom, this is some of what you expect to see. Reading, writing and language development are tied seamlessly into every activity that takes place. After participating in our professional development programs, classroom teachers tell us their rooms will never look the same. “I used to keep our books in the closet and bring them out as I needed them,” says a teacher from our Early Childhood Educator Professional Development (ECEPD) program, which ended in 2009. “Now there are tons of books all over the room. I thought the kids would destroy them, but they’ve learned how to care for books and they look at them all the time.” Teachers also say their interactions with children have changed, as have many of their teaching strategies. “I definitely see the impact in the classroom,” says a teacher in our

third Early Reading First program. “It has enriched my interactions with the children. You pay closer attention to them because you want to document what they are learning.” The Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation assessment (ELLCO) measures literacy elements such as the language environment, reading and writing opportunities, curriculum and classroom structure. Evaluators found that the participants in our ECEPD program made statistically significant gains on critical components. Although participants received the intervention for just one year, Figures 1 and 2 show that the 2007-2008 educators maintained their scores for the year following their participation.

Figure 4

Average Pre-Post Scores on ELLCO Classroom Observation Figure 4 shows the statistically significant growth made by participants in our ECEPD program on the ELLCO Classroom Observation tool, which measures literacy practices in the classroom. ECEPD participants received two college-level courses in early literacy coupled with six on-site sessions with mentors over the course of one year. (Source: R2LP)


“Books and writing are now part of every center and every activity. I see a big difference in the oral language of the children – and their parents do too.” — A center-based teacher in one of R2LP’s professional development programs

Figure 5

Average Pre-Post Scores on ELLCO Literacy Environment Checklist Figure 5 shows the statistically significant gains ECEPD participants made on the ELLCO Literacy Environment Checklist, which helps inventory literacy-related items in the classroom, such as the variety and placement of books and writing materials. (Source: R2LP)


‘I see myself as a true educator’


any young children in the inner city are enrolled in licensed home child-care programs. For this reason, R2LP has invested heavily in the professional development of these providers.

Since 2003, some 850 home child-care providers in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls have enrolled in one or more of our early childhood trainings – all of which are offered in both English and Spanish. About 230 Spanish-speaking home providers who have taken courses at R2LP maintain their relationship with us and each other through El Club de Proveedoras de Cuidado Infantil de Rhode Island. This club’s monthly workshops give members a chance to strengthen their skills and earn hours toward the renewal of their licensing. Equally important, participants say, is the professional camaraderie they find at these meetings. In its work with BrightStars, the state’s quality rating and improvement system, R2LP has brought 40 home-based providers into the network and has helped them address identified weaknesses. And with funds raised through

its T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® initiative, R2LP is able to offer scholarships to home-care providers so that they can pursue college degrees. AmeriCorps members further enhance home-based programs by supplying providers with books and other resources from the local libraries.

Using the Child/Home Early Language and Literacy Observation assessment, evaluators of our family provider homes found statistically significant gains on critical measures of early literacy. Books and writing

“The parents of my children view me as much more than a babysitter; they can see I’m a real professional.”

materials were more readily available to children and providers became more adept at developing literacy skills in their daily activities

– Home child-care provider who participated in our ECEPD program


and interest centers.

We’re a critical ‘first door’ to higher education


s the state seeks to increase the credentials of early-care providers, it’s increasingly important that these educators have an affordable and accessible pathway to higher education. Earning relatively low wages and working long hours, many providers view college as out of reach.

With partnerships with the Community College of Rhode Island and the University of Rhode Island, R2LP is able to offer college credits for its professional development courses. Since 2005, more than 600 providers and AmeriCorps members have earned 1,869 credits. For many of them, it was their first experience with college-level coursework. R2LP offers its courses at no cost to participants. Classes are available in English and Spanish, and are given at times that accommodate a provider’s schedule. R2LP is now offering several of its college-level, credit-bearing courses through the R.I. Child Care Resource Center, which will ultimately function as the epicenter for early-care professional development in the state. With a number of credits under their belts, many providers say they’ve gained the confidence and motivation to pursue a

Figure 6

College Credits Earned in R2LP Courses Since 2005

degree in early childhood at a state college. As the Rhode Island home of T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood®, R2LP has been able to offer assistance in that initiative as well. T.E.A.C.H., a national program with projects in nearly two dozen states, increases access to college for early-care educators by providing them with scholarship funds. R2LP launched T.E.A.C.H. RI in December 2010 and began awarding scholarships to home- and center-based providers the following month. These scholarships cover 80 percent of tuition and 90 percent of book costs. They are designed to decrease staff turnover and increase compensation. Source: R2LP


Mentors guide people from knowledge to practice


tudies have demonstrated the value of college credentials in the early-care field, but taking a course makes a difference only if the content gets implemented. This is why mentors have played such a crucial role in R2LP’s professional development training.

By working with providers in their own classrooms, mentors bring college coursework to life in a real setting with real children. “The idea is to pass on new strategies and habits of minds that the teacher can continue to rely on when we’re not there anymore,” explained a mentor from one of our Early Reading First programs. “We start with teachers who are already doing a good job and just try to help them do even better.” Mentors work with providers in various ways. Sometimes they’ll conduct an activity with children to demonstrate best

practices. At other times they’ll meet one-on-one with a provider to discuss documentation, objectives, curriculum, the classroom environment and the many other ingredients that go into creating a high-quality early-care setting. Mentors and providers typically develop a close working relationship during this process, one that is based on mutual respect. “We reinforce the idea that teaching is an intentional activity and that has been empowering,” said a mentor in our Early Childhood Educator Professional Development program. “We help providers see themselves as the true professionals they are.”

— 10 —

“Mentors help teachers see just how much children can do. We’ve helped raise expectations… Once I establish a relationship with a teacher, she sees that I’m on her side and working toward the same goal – children’s learning.” – R2LP mentor

Mentoring Support Plays a Big Role in Changing Outcomes In reviewing the data from our professional development work, we’ve found compelling evidence for the inclusion of a strong mentoring component in programs designed to change the outcomes of providers and children. Two of our largest federal programs – Early Reading First and Early Childhood Educator Professional Development – both included mentoring support, but the amount varied considerably. ECEPD participants received six on-site visits from mentors over the course of one year, while ERF participants received weekly visits over a three-year period. Children participating in both programs outperformed their peers when entering kindergarten in Providence public schools, but those who participated in the program with intensive mentoring support were most likely to meet benchmark status as measured by the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. (See Figure 7.) Figure 8 shows that within the same cohorts of students, ERF children were far less likely to need intensive early-literacy support in their kindergarten year than their peers. (Sources for Figures 7 and 8: PPSD and R2LP.) Figure 7

Figure 8

Kindergartners Meeting Benchmark Status

Kindergartners Requiring Intensive Support

— 11 —

We help providers reach for the stars


n 2009, the state launched BrightStars, a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) managed by the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children. QRIS initiatives, which exist in many states across the country, rate the quality of a child-care program, identify areas for improvement, inform families about levels of quality, and target quality improvement resources. Participation in the network is voluntary. Having established strong and trusting relationships with the early-care community in Providence and beyond, R2LP has successfully recruited dozens of centers and home-care settings to participate in BrightStars. And with funds from local foundations, we have provided these participants with individualized assistance to help them develop a quality improvement plan and advance to a higher rating.

…and we put theories into practice


2LP operates a classroom for fouryear-olds on the Liston Campus of the Community College of Rhode Island that has been one of seven sites in the state’s Pre-Kindergarten Demonstration Project. Rhode Island initiated this project in 2009 to demonstrate the impact of high-quality early-care education on a child’s future academic achievements. The 18 children in the classroom are chosen by lottery. Using the best of research-based early education practices, the setting also serves as a demonstration site to train the next generation of early-care educators. In 2010, BrightStars awarded the R2LP classroom its highest ranking – five stars.

— 12 —

We support a child’s first teacher


o one plays a more instrumental role in preparing a youngster for school than a child’s family. No job is more important – or more difficult.

In 2006 we worked with the R.I. Department of Education to develop a course for parents aligned with the Rhode Island Early Learning Standards, which are guidelines for what children should be able to do when they enter kindergarten. Fun Family Activities for Preschoolers is a six-session program that covers the eight learning domains outlined in the Standards, and also gives families dozens of ideas for enjoyable and affordable activities they can do at home to strengthen their child’s school readiness skills. Some 250 parents (as well as grandparents and other guardians) have taken this course in English or Spanish since we first offered it in 2007. In 2009 we began offering the course to mothers who are at the Adult Correctional Institute and in 2010 we brought it to soon-to-be-released fathers there. The Child Information Sheet, developed in 2007 by our Transition to Kindergarten Committee, provides kindergarten teachers with valuable information from early-care providers on the abilities and skills of incoming students. It also provides a useful tool for parents. In reviewing the completed forms with a child’s preschool provider, parents learn specific skills and activities they can focus on at home to prepare their child for kindergarten. At pediatric clinics in Hasbro Children’s and St. Joseph’s hospitals, bilingual AmeriCorps members assigned to Project LAUNCH help parents complete developmental forms on their children, and often serve as translators for parents and the medical staff.

AmeriCorps members assigned to the libraries work closely with parents and their young children in early-literacy programs, such as Cradle to Crayons. These members, many of whom speak Spanish, enourage parents to get library cards and select appealing, high-quality books for their children.

“I had never realized how much I could teach my child on a simple walk around our neighborhood or with materials we have at home.” – Parent who participated in an R2LP course for families — 13 —

‘They are our legs, heart and soul’


e’ve always said our AmeriCorps members are our legs in the community,” says R2LP Director Leslie Gell. “But they’re so much more than that. They are our heart and soul.”

Since 2005 when our first AmeriCorps team joined us, our members have performed well over 250,000 hours of service in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls. In those hours, they read thousands of books to young children, assisted in hundreds of library programs, and delivered scores of literacy kits to home child-care providers. The R2LP AmeriCorps program has 35 members annually. After nearly a month of intensive training in August, they receive their assignments for the remainder of the year. Most work at child-care centers and libraries, but some are assigned to R2LP where they assist staff in different functions. Since 2009, several members have been assigned to Project

LAUNCH, working at pediatric clinics in Hasbro Children’s and St. Joseph’s hospitals. There they help parents complete assessments on their child’s development, and serve as translators with the medical staff. Nearly half of our AmeriCorps members say they want to pursue careers in the early-care field. With the experience and training they receive during their one or two years of service, many receive job offers soon after leaving us. R2LP also offers AmeriCorps members a seminar in assembling the extensive portfolio and application required for the Child Development Associate credential, a significant first rung on the career ladder for early-care education.

“I had never once in my life thought about teaching. I didn’t think I had the skills or ability, but my year in AmeriCorps changed that. Seeing all the knowledge the children obtained from different things I’ve taught them is amazing. It has inspired me to look into early education as a career.” – Former R2LP AmeriCorps member

— 14 —

— 15 —

A stronger workforce leads to a stronger economy


hrough our many initiatives, residents of Providence and surrounding communities are strengthening their earning potential, becoming more marketable, and moving up the early-care career ladder.

Some AmeriCorps members, for example, come to us with no higher education and a limited professional résumé. With the college-level courses they receive as part of their training, and the work experience they acquire in child-care settings, they complete their AmeriCorps service well positioned for employment in the early-care field. Many, in fact, have job offers in hand by the end of their year or two of service. Some are well on their way toward earning their Child Development Associate credential. T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® RI, an R2LP project that awards college scholarships to earlycare providers, is yet another initiative that improves the earning capacity and job security of the early-care workforce. It strengthens the early-care system not only by increasing the credentials of child-care providers, but also by tying that education with increased compensation. Better wages translate into higher teacher retention, which is good for children – and the economy. We have long recognized that home child-care providers are, in fact, the owners of small businesses. Training in our El Club de Proveedoras includes the often complicated financial and regulatory information they need to run successful businesses. These providers contribute significantly to the local economy and their neighborhoods. They pay taxes, purchase goods, and, in many cases, create additional jobs. By offering convenient, affordable, high-quality child care, they also make it possible for parents in their neighborhoods to hold full-time jobs. Studies show that investing in early-care education has long-term economic implications as well. “On productivity grounds alone,” says the Nobel Prize winning economist James J. Heckman, “it appears to make sound business sense to invest in young children from disadvantaged environments. An accumulating body of evidence suggests that early childhood interventions are much more effective than remedies that attempt to compensate later in life for early neglect.”

— 16 —

We’ve built the state’s largest early-care community


n launching R2LP, stakeholders made a conscious decision to invest in the state’s existing early education system rather than create new direct-service programming. This approach has allowed R2LP to build a grassroots community of 3,000 members – the largest constituency in the state devoted to the issue of school readiness. In addition to 800 family child-care providers, 70 child-care centers, dozens of Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms, and hundreds of families, R2LP’s partners include:

• Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls School ­Departments • State agencies, including the Rhode Island Departments of Education, Human Services, Health, Corrections, and Children, Youth and Families • The Providence Public Library, the Providence Com­ munity Library and the Providence Children’s Museum • Health-care organizations, such as Hasbro Children’s Hospital and Providence Community Health Centers • Institutions of higher education, including Wheelock College, the Community College of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island •

Dozens of community-based organizations, from Genesis Center to Dorcas Place

• Advocacy and policy groups, from BrightStars to R.I. Kids Count

With its vast early-care network, which now

• El Club de Proveedoras Infantial de RI, an R2LP-based professional organization for family child-care providers

convene committees with key stakeholders

extends across the state, R2LP is able to

to address issues of concern to the field. Its Professional Development Committee, for

R2LP funders have included: U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Corporation for National & Community Service/Serve Rhode Island; Brown Rudnick Charitable Foundation; The Ocean State Job Lot Charitable Foundation; The United Way of Rhode Island; The Urban Institute; Dexter Donation Fund; IBM Corporation; the R.I. General Assembly; The Rhode Island Foundation; Bank of America; the R.I. Department of Education; and the Providence School Department. — 17 —

example, gathers representatives from state colleges and agencies as well as those who play an instrumental role in early care and education. In recent years this group, which meets monthly, has tackled the challenges surrounding the state’s efforts to increase the credentials of early-care providers.

Our community is growing


hile our initial efforts focused on the most distressed neighborhoods in Providence, several programs in recent years have taken us well beyond the city’s borders.

In 2007 we expanded into the neighboring cities of Pawtucket and Central Falls, which share many of the same challenges as Providence. Our T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Rhode Island project, which we launched in 2010, provides scholarships for providers across the state. And in 2011, we began providing training and mentoring support to Early Head Start programs on the East Bay. Representatives from across the state participate on our active committees. Our geography is indeed expanding, but our goal and focus remain unchanged: All children will enter school healthy and ready to learn. Participants in R2LP’s Initiatives by Community of Residence and/or Work

— 18 —

There’s no better investment


tudy after study tells us that few investments yield as many dividends as those made in early care and education. Children who start kindergarten behind their peers are far more likely to struggle throughout school. Even with expensive remedial support, they are at much higher risk of dropping out of high school in their teens. In this publication we have demonstrated that with high-quality intervention, early-care providers can become more effective teachers, and that poverty need not prevent a child from starting school healthy and ready to learn. We have accomplished a great deal in the years since our inception in 2003, but none of it would have been possible without support from our community, including the policymakers, legislators, foundations and private-sector funders who have provided us with the necessary resources. Our work is far from done. In fact, in this challenging economic environment we could argue that it has never been more important. With your support we will continue to change the outcomes of today’s young children – and tomorrow’s adults.

— 19 —

945 Westminster St. Providence, RI 02903 401.490.9960 www.r2lp.org

Ready to Learn Providence 945 Westminster Street Providence, RI 02903 401.490.9960 www.r2lp.org

All children will enter school healthy and ready to learn

Profile for Ready to Learn Providence

About Ready to Learn Providence  

An overview of what Ready to Learn Providence does to further the goal that all children will enter school healthy and ready to learn.

About Ready to Learn Providence  

An overview of what Ready to Learn Providence does to further the goal that all children will enter school healthy and ready to learn.

Profile for r2lp