Research shows that children experience a smoother transition into elementary school when there is coordination among schools, early childhood education programs, and families. Launched by the Coalition for Community Schools in 2009, the Early Childhood Community Schools Linkages Project supported three regions with a strong community school platform to improve the quality and continuity of practice across community school and early childhood settings (e.g., centers, providers) and systems (e.g., regional leadership, funding, and policy structures). With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Coalition engaged the Gardner Center to conduct a qualitative implementation study designed to yield insight into the practices and conditions that facilitate improved linkages. The researchers made multiple site visits, conducted more than 135 interviews and 100 hours of observation, and collected and analyzed hundreds of key documents. At the conclusion of three years of planning and implementation, the Linkages project had supported concrete changes in discourse and practice, elevated the importance of improved linkages, and fostered improved capacity to sustain and scale improved linkages within the project’s demonstration sites. While schools in more advanced stages of community school development embraced norms and structures that facilitated improved linkages, the findings are relevant to all who are interested in supporting vulnerable children and families to thrive in their transition to elementary school.
Geiser, K.E., Horwitz, I.M., and Gerstein, A.R. (2013) Improving the quality and continuity of practice across early childhood education and elementary community school settings. Stanford, CA: John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities.