When you read or listen to the news, all you seem to hear about is how much people are unwilling to work together for the common good. That is not the case here in Polk County, and here is just one example of a public/private partnership that is making a difference:
The Early Learning Coalition of Polk, a primarily government funded organization, and United Way of Central Florida have partnered to offer the Nemours BrightStart! Complete Program for Early Literacy Success to 34 school readiness and voluntary Pre-Kindergarten programs for the 2012-2013 school year. This partnership is focusing on solutions to early literacy needs of Polk's children by using current research and best practices to expand vocabulary and pre-reading skills, in an effort to better prepare students for starting Kindergarten.
The Coalition initially conducted a pilot study utilizing the Nemours Brightstart! program in 2011-2012 at five participating childcare centers. Of the 90 children who were initially screened in the pilot program, 30% demonstrated delays in early literacy skills and received Brightstart! instruction. Post screening scores for those children increased 62% over their initial evaluation scores.
Because of this success, twenty-nine additional childcare centers volunteered to participate in the expanded program in 2012-2013. The Coalition realized that it could not support the teachers in the program without assistance, and reached out to the United Way of Central Florida's Master Teacher program. One Master Teacher was assigned to the project, and the workload of meeting teachers' needs was shared.
The Early Learning Coalition of Polk serves more than 12,000 students in either a school readiness or voluntary Pre-K program. The Coalition provides leadership, direction, and integrated resource management for quality services that support their vision of success for children.
The United Way of Central Florida's Master Teacher Initiative provides supervised internships for teachers in childcare centers referred by the Early Learning Coalition. Master Teachers go into class rooms to demonstrate best practices in early literacy, and to guide the childcare center's teachers in providing the best quality early learning experiences for the children. Over the past 6 years, Master Teachers have helped improve the vocabulary scores of children by 2.6 months for every one month of exposure to teachers trained by a Master Teacher.
This exciting partnership is just one more example of how United Way works to recruit the people and organizations who bring the passion, expertise, and resources needed to get things done. In this case, we're improving the pre-reading and vocabulary skills of young children so that they can enter Kindergarten ready to succeed, and we're engaged in a partnership that benefits us all.
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