Anne Henderson: High Impact Strategies to Engage Families and Community in Early Childhood Programs



ADF's Executive Director Writes to the Editor of The Advocate in Baton Rouge

Quality early education has proven economic benefit for community

Letter to the Editor of The Advocate:

We read more and more about “the Jindal administration’s highly touted overhaul of Louisiana’s fractured prekindergarten system” and Superintendent Bernard Taylor’s priority, prekindergarten in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system. After hearing these lofty visions for our youngest citizens, elected officials then ask, “How are we going to get the money for prekindergarten?” and “How can we implement higher standards without the necessary funds?”

Delaying answers also delays real work needed to create sufficient quality and intensity in program delivery for prekindergarten.

Education advocates, scholars, and economists continue to report substantial economic benefits from high-quality early education. The results show long-term payoffs including higher graduation rates, reduced need for special education and reduced violent crime and arrests. A few of the many long-term economic returns include increased parental employment with overall increased earned income and increased human capital and productivity (Dr. Steven Barnett, Rutgers Graduate School of Education, 2014). These public gains align closely with longitudinal research by Perry Preschool Education, National Institute for Early Education Research, Abecedarian (30-year study), and Chicago Longitudinal Study. Many of the prekindergarten children in these studies mirror those in EBR public schools — at risk and on free or reduced school food programs. The evidence is clear: Investing in high-quality prekindergarten pays good return on investment. Today’s research shows every dollar invested in high-quality prekindergarten returns an average of $7 to $8. If a stock broker brought this kind of return, few would turn it down.

Yet, educators and elected officials still say, “We can’t afford this.” It is obvious, we can’t afford not to do it. In addition to state and local funding, investments from the private sector would help complete the funding pie for prekindergarten. Such public-private partnerships would achieve high-quality prekindergarten with better trained teachers, excellent school facilities and world-class curriculum materials.

Corporate Baton Rouge and nonprofit organizations, such as ExxonMobil and the Academic Distinction Fund, invest in prekindergarten. ExxonMobil is funding math and science and supports ADF’s distinguished presentations by national speakers.

It is time for other corporations to join state and local efforts to match the vision of high-quality prekindergarten with adequate funding and the expectation of a good return on investment.

It takes several villages to raise a child. Today, it takes the private sector partnering with public entities so our youngest citizens start school healthy and ready to learn.

Dr. Martis Jones

Executive Director

Academic Distinction Fund

Baton Rouge


National Expert to Speak on the Relationship of Parental Involvement to Student Achievement 

BATON ROUGE – Academic Distinction Fund (ADF) will host a nationally recognized expert on engaging families and the community in early childhood programs in Baton Rouge at its upcoming Distinguished Speaker Series on Thursday, April 3. The free community event will feature Anne Henderson, author, facilitator, and highly recognized leader in parental and community involvement in education, speaking on the relationship between families and schools and the impact that relationship has on a student’s success in school and throughout life.

The lecture is open to teachers, parents, grandparents, child care educators, administrators, and others interested in the economic and personal benefits of early childcare education. "If you want children to succeed, Henderson knows the answers," said ADF Board Chair Matt Saurage.

The event will be held on from 4 to 6 p.m. at the L’Auberge Casino Hotel Baton Rouge, 777 L’Auberge Avenue. The presentation, “High Impact Strategies to Improve Student Achievement: Engaging Families and the Community in Early Childhood Programs” has been created from Henderson’s extensive work in the field of parental engagement.

Since 1981, Henderson has steadily tracked how research and effective practices in the engagement of families in a student’s life can improve student achievement, especially in diverse and low-income communities. Over the past 25 years, Henderson has authored and co-authored several articles, reports, handouts and books. Her best-selling book, Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships, was written in partnership with Karen Mapp (a previous ADF Distinguished Speaker), Vivian Johnson and Don Davies.

Henderson is a senior consultant with the Community Organizing and Engagement Program at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

ADF is a major collaborator among schools, businesses and the community and acts as a catalyst for private sector leadership in advancing public education in East Baton Rouge Public School System (EBRPSS).

The ADF Distinguished Speaker Series offers research-based presentations by early childhood experts, providing critical information on the latest early childhood development research and best practices.  The first of its kind in East Baton Rouge Parish, the series addresses what it takes for children to be successful in kindergarten and first grade, regardless of their socio-economic and racial backgrounds.  The series is directed to education stakeholders, non-profit organizations, public officials, East Baton Rouge Parish teachers, pre-K providers and administrators, parents and families, and corporate leaders who ultimately impact all young children in Louisiana.

Funding for ADF Distinguished Speaker Series comes from ADF and ExxonMobil. Additional sponsors include Louisiana Children’s Trust Fund, Louisiana Public Facilities Authority, Credit Bureau of Baton Rouge Foundation and Turner Industries. Planning partners include East Baton Rouge Parish School System, Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, School Aids, Family Behavioral Health Center, Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge, Louisiana Department of Education, Kleinpeter Farms Dairy, Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the EBRPSS Title I Parental Involvement Office.

The program is free and open to the public. Check-in is from 4 to 4:30 p.m. and the presentation is from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Pre-registration is highly recommended. Please email info@adfbr.orgcall 225.293.3345  or vist our pre-registration website here to register for the free community education event.


Advocates: Pre-K overhaul faces funding threat in Louisiana

The Advocate in Baton Rouge recently published an article regarding funding threats to Pre-K programs in Louisiana. The article is posted below. ADF thanks The Advocate and Will Sentell for bringing this issue to light.


A lack of money is threatening the Jindal administration’s highly touted overhaul of Louisiana’s fractured prekindergarten system, child care advocates say.

“If you are not funding at a level to provide quality, then how are you going to get it?” asked Melanie Bronfin, director of the Policy Institute with the Louisiana Partnership for Children & Families in New Orleans.

Charmaine Caccioppi, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana, said the law passed to overhaul the system includes excellent goals.

“But we just can’t implement higher standards without understanding that there is a cost associated with that,” said Caccioppi, whose organization covers Orleans, St. Tammany and five other parishes.

State Superintendent of Education John White said improvements are possible even without a major infusion of new dollars.

The plan under scrutiny is the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Act, which was part of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s sweeping education agenda that won approval from the Legislature two years ago.

The law is aimed at repairing a publicly funded system beset with uneven quality, standards and availability.

Nearly half of students who start kindergarten in Louisiana require intensive literacy help, officials said.

The state has nearly 212,000 children — from infants to 4-year-olds from impoverished backgrounds, according to state figures.

While 87 percent of those 4-year-olds are in publicly funded classes about 38,000 children — there are huge differences in quality and standards.

About 150,000 at-risk children are not getting publicly funded child care or education services.

The measure, called Act 3, required the state to set up an early childhood network that encompasses child care, Head Start, pre-K classes in public schools and private schools that get public funds for pre-K classes.

The state will establish early-learning performance guidelines for children from infants to age 3 and academic standards for 3- and 4-year-olds.

However, critics say the money problem is twofold. First, the law did not include dollars to improve the state’s pre-K system, which is one reason the measure breezed through the Legislature.

In addition, critics say the state’s push for improvements is being hindered by a 58 percent funding cut in the Child Care Assistance Program, which helps low-income families pay for pre-K and child care while they are at school, working or undergoing training.

The money, which is overseen by the state Department of Children and Family Services, comes from a federal grant with state discretion on how it is spent.

Suzy Sonnier, secretary for the agency, said in a brief interview and a prepared statement that the drop in Child Care Assistance Program money stems mostly from a reduction in federal aid. Because of the 2012 law, the system is being streamlined to improve quality for parents and children, Sonnier said.


John Warner Smith, chief executive officer of Louisiana’s Next Horizon, said the 2012 state law was a positive step.

“We have reformed this system,” Smith said. “But we agree with the partnership that it will all be for naught if we don’t increase funding, particularly those drastic cuts in the Child Care Assistance Program in the past five years.”

Those reductions in spending mean that the list of children served is down by more than 50 percent over five years, according to Bronfin’s group.

She said that will make it harder for families to pay for the improved, and likely more expensive, child care and pre-K classes.

Tuition is expected to rise because pre-K and child care centers will have to boost spending to meet the new standards, including teacher training.

Those centers will then be subject to state scrutiny, including report cards to aid parents shopping for the best option.

But Bronfin and others, who have been heavily involved in the initial rollout of the new rules, say it is unrealistic to expect better-trained teachers, better facilities and more oversight without additional spending.

“Our fear is the result will be that, due to Act 3, high-quality early care and education options will be less available because it will cause the costs per child to rise, but the public funding per child is not increasing for child care assistance,” she said in an email.

Alan Young, president of the Child Care Association of Louisiana, said overhauling the state’s pre-K setup will take time, including addressing disparities in funding levels and other issues.

“If we get going too fast, we could create some unintended problems in the process,” Young said. “But we all agree there needs to be more money.”

State officials said in 2012 that spending totaled $346 million for seven state and federal pre-K programs.

Aid for 4-year-olds ranges from $1,750 to $5,610, depending on the program, according to Bronfin’s group.

Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans said in a prepared statement that, while Act 3 addresses quality child care and kindergarten readiness, “it does not address the inequities of funding across the programs.”

White said funding for early childhood education programs is generally up to the Legislature.

“We can make better use of the dollars that we have today in order to provide higher levels of quality service,” he said.

Pilot projects on how the new pre-K landscape will work are underway in the current school year in Orleans, Ascension, West Baton Rouge and 12 other parishes. About 15 more are set to join the list this year.

The revamped pre-K system takes effect statewide for the 2015-16 school year.


Economist in Early Childhood Education to Speak at 2014 Academic Distinction Fund Distinguished Speaker Series on Thursday, January 23

BATON ROUGE – Academic Distinction Fund (ADF) will host a nationally-recognized expert on the economics of early childhood education in Baton Rouge at its upcoming Distinguished Speaker Series. The free community event will feature Steven Barnett, Ph.D. speaking about the benefits of quality early childhood education.

The lecture is open to teachers, parents and grandparents, child care educators, administrators, and others interested in the economic benefits of early childcare education.

The event will be held on Thursday, January 23, 2014, at the Renaissance Baton Rouge Hotel, 7000 Bluebonnet Blvd. The presentation, “Securing the Economic Benefits from Early Education” is supported by Barnett’s extensive research in the areas of economics of early care and education, the effects of preschool programs on children’s learning and development, and the distribution of educational opportunities.

Barnett is the Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University and a Board of Governors Professor. He has authored or co-authored more than 180 publications.

Research demonstrates that preschool education can produce large improvements in child development that yield substantial economic returns.  Barnett’s presentation will focus on the quality of early childhood education, including how quality is necessary to obtain results, how even advantaged children don’t attend quality programs, and how we can and should offer effective early education to all children.

Barnett’s research interests include the economics of human development and practical policies for translating research findings into effective public investments.  His best known works include: the series of State Preschool Yearbooks providing annual state-by-state analyses of progress in public pre-K; reviews of the research on long-term effects; and benefit-cost analyses of the Perry Preschool and Abecedarian programs.

The program is free and open to the public. Check-in is from 4 to 4:30 p.m. and the presentation is from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Pre-registration is highly recommended. Please email or call 225.293.3345 to register for the free community education event.

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