The beginning of a new year often brings an abundance of resolutions. You can see this in the many gyms that are bursting at the seams with new members resolving to a healthier state of being. Perhaps you have made such a resolution before and realized that you knew the outcome you were seeking, but did not quite know the exact way in which you would reach it. What you did know, though, was the importance of getting started.
Last week, the Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM), together with the Mary Black Foundation, initiated such a resolution. The Kindergarten Success Collaborative Action Network (CAN) was launched with over thirty early childhood professionals gathered to take the first, most important step. The resolution? All children enter kindergarten ready to be successful. How do we achieve it? By getting started.
Momentum from those initial first steps is already evident. As the group of early childhood professionals gathered last Tuesday, each described their feelings with words such as excited, thrilled, honored, thankful, eager, and even nervous. The Kindergarten Success CAN members have participated in an orientation session to learn more about the collective impact process, modeled after a successful initiative from Strive Together in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, providing a roadmap that will lead to children ready for success in kindergarten…a critical foundation to a process of life-long learning.
Unlike groups that have convened in the past, even those with great results and especially good intentions, the Kindergarten Success CAN offers the opportunity for early childhood professionals from public schools, community organizations, post-secondary programs for educators, child care centers, and others to come together around the common goal of ALL Spartanburg County children prepared to be successful at the very start of their education journey. The Kindergarten Success CAN is not a group collaborating on a new project, grant request, or even simply discussing the complex issue of kindergarten readiness. Instead, it is a group committed to improving their own programs and taking collective action so that the children of Spartanburg are fully supported during their earliest years.
The Kindergarten Success CAN now begins meeting regularly to finalize a charter and develop and implement a shared action plan. Using local data, the Kindergarten Success CAN will uncover ways that all programs can continuously improve their effectiveness in assuring school readiness and also identify opportunities to work together toward the common goal. Even though “collective impact” is a rather new concept for tackling complex social concerns, Kindergarten Success as the first CAN within the SAM framework is an extraordinary place to start, especially because of the leadership of the Mary Black Foundation in the area of early learning and a growing commitment and understanding of early childhood development locally, state-wide, and nationally.
Much like the resolutions made at the start of a new year, there is no one way to get to the goal immediately. What is most important is that we have begun with a determination to succeed. Soon, the picture will begin to sharpen and opportunities will emerge, and the momentum will continue to build throughout the process.
This start with the new year is energizing, not only for this particular Kindergarten Success CAN, but to the Spartanburg Academic Movement as a whole as many of these networks, each organized around key education outcomes, begin to unfold in the months ahead. Just as the name suggests, the Spartanburg Academic Movement is, in fact, a movement towards the best educated county in South Carolina. For every step we take, we are one step closer.