BPI 2021 Annual Event Program 880x880 Early Learning No Text

Early learning

For two decades, BPI has helped improve the quality of public education for Chicago children, particularly those living in low-income communities. Over the years, our work has run the gamut. From waging a constitutional challenge to fix Illinois’ unfair school funding system to sponsoring forums for educational leaders and policymakers, to facilitating joint planning and cooperation between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Housing Authority, to partnering with schools and community stakeholders to ensure children in high-poverty neighborhoods receive equitable learning opportunities.

Today, BPI’s early learning efforts are focused on the community of Altgeld-Riverdale, home to Altgeld Gardens, the largest community of public housing residents in Chicago. In 2012, BPI launched the Altgeld-Riverdale Early Learning Initiative. This partnership of more than two dozen organizations focuses on building a comprehensive system to support children from birth to age eight and their families in this community.

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Altgeld-Riverdale Early Learning Initiative

The Altgeld-Riverdale Early Learning Initiative (ARELI) is a community-driven effort that creates a comprehensive and coordinated early childhood system, supporting children from pre-birth to age eight in the Altgeld-Riverdale community on Chicago’s far southeast side. The power behind this Initiative is the Altgeld-Riverdale Early Learning Coalition, a network of two dozen members including residents, community organizations, social service providers, early learning centers, and elementary schools, as well as key government agencies such as the Chicago Housing Authority, the local Chicago Park District, and the Chicago Public Library. With no mechanism in place for residents and organizations to collaborate on early childhood issues, BPI formed the Coalition as a place where partners could come to connect, share information, hear from early learning experts, and make decisions together. With BPI’s support, the Coalition works to overcome systemic barriers to equity in education and ensure that children and families are effectively supported in early learning settings.

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Altgeld-Riverdale Early Learning Initiative Programs

The Altgeld-Riverdale Early Learning Coalition continues to collaborate and provide programs and services identified as community needs. Currently, this includes: a doula/home visiting program that provides quality prenatal care and support to parents of newborns and toddlers; an early language development program, because vocabulary development during the earliest years improves reading skills and school success in general; a Pre-K enrollment program focused on enrolling three and four-year-old in high-quality Pre-K programs; a Pre-K to Kindergarten transitions program, ensuring children have a smooth transition into kindergarten and are ready for this pivotal developmental step in their education; and an after-school science enrichment program that offers a hands-on STEM experience. Free and available to the Altgeld-Riverdale community, these evidence-based initiatives promote children’s cognitive, social-emotional, and physical development and fulfill a vital role in helping to tackle community issues while reducing the opportunity gap.

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Pre-K to Kindergarten Transitions

The transition from Pre-K into kindergarten is an important developmental milestone for children, and research shows a link between effective shifts and more significant gains in academic achievement by the end of kindergarten. To help ensure that Altgeld-Riverdale children experience a smooth transition into kindergarten and are prepared to succeed cognitively, socially, and emotionally, BPI, Chicago Public Schools, and the Early Learning Coalition developed the Altgeld-Riverdale Pre-K to K Transitions program in 2015. This program brings together pre-k and kindergarten teachers from four schools and two childcare centers in Altgeld-Riverdale to create a professional learning community that focuses on aligning classroom practices across all pre-k and kindergarten classrooms. Teachers drive the implementation of a model that makes transitions a year-long effort to connect children, families, and teachers to build on children’s social, emotional, and academic competencies.

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