Implementation Process

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IMPACT OF FOCAL AREA

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Alongside CIZ grantees, OCDEL had a significant role in the ongoing process of implementing the grant program. In addition to the resources provided directly to communities to engage in work focused on strengthening P–3 alignment, family engagement, and community organization coordination, OCDEL was responsible for designing and employing a system-level infrastructure that would offer targeted support and enhanced technical assistance to the 50 communities participating in this grant opportunity. Throughout the grant term, OCDEL worked to ensure grantees were able to receive the most effective support through providing individualized resources informed by local community need and engaging in continuous cycles of reflection and improvement.

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“I attended a collaboration meeting that was through the state, and that was a really great resource. It was peer-to-peer. It wasn’t really so much the team from OCDEL sharing these things. It was more hearing from others who are in the trenches, in the work, saying, ‘Hey, here are some things that I use that are really great, and here’s what I do with them.’”


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LOCAL STRATEGIES

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In contributing to the success of this initiative, OCDEL provided resources to grantees for implementing the CIZ program. Key strategies to support grant implementation took various forms, including facilitating collaboration with other grantees; providing individualized technical assistance; coordinating professional development opportunities; fostering an intentional focus on equity; and promoting data-driven decision making and sustainability.

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Collaboration With Other Grantees

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Individualized Technical Assistance

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Professional Development Opportunities

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Focus On Equity

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Data-Driven Decision Making and Sustainability

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COLLABORATION WITH OTHER GRANTEES

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OCDEL provided opportunities for grantees to network and support one another as they implemented their local CIZ initiatives. These opportunities included statewide networking meetings and conferences, regional grantee meetings, and support from OCDEL staff in connecting grantees working on similar issues or ideas. Grantees benefited from hearing from one another about different strategies for implementing the initiatives, and the strengths and challenges of those strategies. Some grantees established ongoing working partnerships or communities of practice in their region, meeting regularly as they implemented their initiatives. Grantees also shared materials and resources with one another. Grantees reported that this peer support led to new ideas, created efficiencies, and offered opportunities to combine efforts across communities. OCDEL staff also observed the benefits of cross-pollination and information sharing among grantees.

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Implementation Story

OCDEL coordinated the first P–3 Networking Meeting in November 2016 for CIZ grantees to learn from one another and continue to sustain themselves through the cycles and discontinuities of funded and unfunded periods through creative collaborations and stakeholder engagement. Grantees stepped into their roles as meeting designers, refined their skills in convening and designing networking meetings, and shared early learning practices. This design allowed participants to learn from one another, make connections, and explore creative collaborative processes.


“The P-3 Networking Meeting helped to create new connections that will impact the regions, cities, families, and children in a positive and long-lasting way.”



“Bring anyone possibly to the table—nonprofit or for-profit—doesn’t matter. You will find you are able to pull anything—ideas, funding, etc. More minds are better than one."



“We just wanted to share with you that the strategies we used REALLY WORKED. We had a great meeting with lots of sharing. We just wanted to send along our thanks for giving us the opportunity to learn these valuable tools."



“Through my position as a CIZ specialist, I experienced a prodigious amount of growth as an educator and leader. I learned that there are community supports available when requested in a timely manner and with a positive, collaborative approach. The power of numbers is evident in teamwork."


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INDIVIDUALIZED TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

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Each Community Innovation Zone grantee was provided a CIZ specialist, a go-to person not only for grant oversight, but as a support for their grant activities. CIZ specialists addressed specific questions, providing support and feedback to their grantees. Experiences were unique to the CIZ grantee the specialist oversaw.

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Implementation Story

The following are testimonies of CIZ specialists reflecting on their experiences engaging with grantees—both successes and lessons learned—on behalf of children and families across the state.


“Our [CIZ specialist] has been wonderful. Any questions we have, at the drop of a hat—we’re sitting there working on budgets or thinking about, can we do that?—he’s right there to answer the questions. We can call him or shoot an email, and he shoots it back to us.”


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Professional Development Opportunities

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OCDEL continued to provide professional development support to Community Innovation Zones grantees throughout their grant terms. Learning from P–3 collaborations, engaging partners, advocating for quality early learning programs and practices, and focusing collaboratively on preparing and transitioning children in P–3 settings, at both the state and local levels, OCDEL recognized the need to provide grantees with tools and strategies focused on building and sustaining efforts. Three key examples were the Prenatal through Grade 3 (P–3) Governor’s Institute, the P–3 Blended Course via Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership (PIL) Program, and the annual Family Engagement Conference.

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Implementation Story

The P–3 Governor’s Institutes were planned building on previous successes with early education and instructional Governor’s Institutes held between 2007 and 2009 by OCDEL in collaboration with the Office of School Planning and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. These week-long professional development Institutes were designed to bring early learning professionals together in a collaborative setting.

The goals of the P–3 Governor’s Institute are for participants to strengthen partnerships between community and school district early childhood programs; build collaboration between community and school district early childhood programs within the community; apply a P–3 Framework to early childhood settings; participate in the P–3 Early Learning Community on Pennsylvania’s Standards Aligned System; and engage in continuous improvement via implementation and sharing of strategies and programs that will enhance student achievement.


"It’s so beneficial to all be at the same table looking forward together and it really will make future communications and work so much easier now that we’ve spent this time together ... "


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FOCUS ON EQUITY

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School Readiness Consulting’s equity work with OCDEL arose from their PA CIZ Research Grant partnership. Interim findings from year one of the grant identified the need for grantees to incorporate a strengths-based approach to relationship building, with families as partners. SRC’s ongoing Equity in Early Learning Initiative, EELI—an initiative addressing institutional, organizational, and individual policies and practices perpetuating disparities in early educational settings—uniquely positioned SRC to support OCDEL initiatives for improvements in the cultural responsiveness of grantees when serving children and families. Dialogue between SRC and OCDEL resulted in a two-day session created and facilitated by SRC for the Pennsylvania Governor’s Institute Special Session on Racial Equity and Anti-bias.

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Implementation Story

Developing the Special Session included acknowledging and working with participants’ varying levels of knowledge and comfort around issues of race and equity. Due to the size of the Special Session (170 participants) SRC designated five facilitators to create and implement a strengths-based approach to tackling issues of equity in relation to serving children and families. The main objectives for the session were as follows:

  • Participants were to analyze how historical and societal inequities impact families, and how those inequities potentially create barriers for building relationships.
  • Participants were to develop an understanding of the importance of families’ funds of knowledge.
  • Participants were to be able to define “cultural responsiveness” and understand the role of power in building responsive and inclusive relationships with families.
  • Participants were to identify meaningful, strengths-based strategies for family engagement.

Throughout the Special Session, participant interviews were conducted to better make sense of its impact. Participants were also provided with many poignant moments in which they were able to reflect on their positions in society as well as their work with children and families. Interviews revealed that, no matter the participant’s background, whether they were administrators, teachers, or parents, most individuals felt they had a stake, large or small, in tackling issues of oppression. Findings from the trainings and interviews also indicated a ripe opportunity for OCDEL to build on the momentum gained through the sessions. Many participants expressed gratitude for being provided a professional setting explicitly designated by the state to acknowledge the gravity of the issues discussed. One participant expressed appreciation in seeing that “… the state recognize[d] this need and invested time and money in this type of programming.” 


"When early learning settings are developed and delivered with attention to quality and are intentionally aligned to one another, all children benefit."


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DATA-DRIVEN DECISION MAKING AND SUSTAINABILITY

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OCDEL provided grantees with guidance, resources, and technical assistance to strategically utilize data-driven decision making to ensure efforts were having their desired impact in the local communities, as well as fostering approaches to acquire funding and sustain this work after the RTT-ELC grant had ended.

Data-Driven Decision Making
Each CIZ grant was unique in both the content and structure of innovations; therefore, the data collected and tracked was locally dependent upon the strategies implemented. To determine whether the strategies implemented resulted in better conditions for those participating in the program, OCDEL provided the following prompts to guide data collection:

  • Describe the target population explaining how and why this population was chosen.
  • Identify the ways in which the innovation will help to reduce the achievement gap for this population.
  • Explain the current or proposed mechanisms to collect, analyze, and utilize outcomes data related to the innovation.
  • Discuss how the data can be used as an inquiry tool to enhance the targeted outcomes.
  • Consider why this data was chosen and how information about the target population will be collected and used to support the effectiveness of the innovation.

Sustainability
Over the course of the grant, CIZ grantees found a great need for this work in their communities and expressed enthusiasm about continuing their efforts moving forward. Most grantees expected to sustain their work in some capacity after the CIZ grant program ends. As a result, OCDEL identified a significant need to provide support and curate resources to offer guidance to CIZ grantees in achieving long-term sustainability for their efforts.

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Implementation Story

OCDEL actions to further support grantees in their efforts include the leveraging of family voices and personal stories to highlight efforts in at-risk communities through the development of the storytelling toolkit and traveling museum. The storytelling toolkit is a template intended to support CIZ grantees in sharing stories of success and lessons learned while implementing CIZ initiatives, particularly family engagement activities. Through partnership with School Readiness Consulting, grantees received technical assistance in identifying and telling stories of impact to be used as a way to build collaborations and garner funding. Grantees developed videos and podcasts, and used social media strategies to share successes in their communities. CIZ grantees received targeted technical assistance in developing stories, creating stories, and using those stories on social media and in their communities. School Readiness Consulting developed and delivered webinars, conducted phone calls, and created the toolkit to help gather stories generally, as well as offering more specific strategies to gather stories from families. About one-third of grantees took advantage of this opportunity. Through this effort, grantees spent time working with their partners to develop stories that relayed the journey and outcomes of the CIZ work in their communities.

The traveling museum was designed to engage stakeholders, including early learning professionals and families, as part of OCDEL’s commitment to supporting grantees in strategic communication. The ultimate goal of this work has been to facilitate story collection and also to create an interactive and engaging space for grantees to continue sharing their stories of impact and success. The museum, a web page displayed on large-screen smart board, features an interactive map of Pennsylvania’s CIZs. Visitors are able to read stories linked to a CIZ activity, watch a video, and access additional information about the CIZ organization and related community resources. The traveling museum was hosted at the OCDEL 10th Anniversary ECE summit, Pennsylvania 2017 SAS Institute, and the 2017 Annual Family Engagement Summit. The platform allowed for broad access and ongoing sharing and updating of stories. It also included a social media feed and alerts to boost posts.

The grantees’ participation in the family engagement study and storytelling initiative helped to capture the innovative and successful strategies that grantees implemented in their respective communities to support family engagement in early education. Exploration of what family engagement is, and how successful family engagement happens, along with stories of community impact, are shared in the “Family Engagement Zine.” The creation of the magazine is an effort to go beyond the typical offerings of a toolkit or handbook. It was developed as a robust resource for early childhood professionals to build and strengthen their partnerships with families of young children. The “zine” aims to explore new family engagement approaches—specifically to identify what strategies in the field are considered effective and how to do this work in the most impactful way so that it can be replicated in local communities. Learn more at www.cizstories.com/tell-your-story.

Toolkit
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