Early Childhood Education

National Investment in SAM launches new Collaborative Action Network

April, 2017

Spartanburg, SC — The Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) is one of five national partnerships selected this year to receive coaching and funding to accelerate its county-wide academic achievement goals through an Accelerator Fund Award. The award will speed the rate at which SAM’s efforts positively impact educational outcomes for children in Spartanburg County. SAM is part of the seventy member national StriveTogether learning network that provides support for implementing effective change across the cradle-to-career educational continuum.

“Our goal as an organization is to prove that we can achieve consistent and sustained improvements in student outcomes at scale,” StriveTogether Managing Director Jeff Edmondson said. “The Accelerator Fund is designed to help communities reach educational goals faster while building the strength of the partnership to accelerate their progress over the long term. We believe these five communities will identify and spread practices that achieve results, particularly for the most vulnerable children, and capture lessons that will advance other collective impact partnerships across the country.”

SAM, along with partnerships in Seattle, Milwaukee, and Washington, D.C. and Redwing/Northfield (Minnesota) were selected for their proven ability to impact outcomes for students. They join 2015 awardees from Dallas, Portland, Tacoma, Racine, Memphis and the two-state partnership in Cincinnati/North Kentucky. These now lead an exclusive Accelerator Fund “community,” a network of schools, business partners, community support agencies, government, and faith agencies committed to work together to improve educational effectiveness.

Accelerator status came after a competitive application process during which SAM outlined its current success strategies and support for increasing its impact for Spartanburg County students. The Accelerator Fund was created to increase the rate at which StriveTogether partners implement the nationally recognized collective impact approach known as the Theory of Action. Accelerator Fund investors include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, the Metlife Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and others. The award will allow a group of five Spartanburg County leaders to receive intensive training in the StriveTogether strategies including continuous improvement methods, data use, and results-based leadership. This Collaborative Action Network (CAN) team will focus their efforts to impact Early Grades Reading achievement.  

Collaborative Action Network director Beth Thompson leads the new Early Grades Reading CAN in a Data and Strategy dive before they head to their first intensive work session in Charlotte, NC. Throughout the year, the team will work with groups across the country to define, implement, and assess impact strategies to improve student outcomes.

Collaborative Action Network director Beth Thompson leads the new Early Grades Reading CAN in a Data and Strategy dive before they head to their first intensive work session in Charlotte, NC. Throughout the year, the team will work with groups across the country to define, implement, and assess impact strategies to improve student outcomes.

Engagement: the new C.A.N. activates

SAM staff members Dr. John Stockwell, Executive Director and Dr. Glen Carson, Director of Data Management were joined by: Argyl Brewton, Principal of Woodruff Elementary School; Marquice Clark, Assistant Principal of the Cleveland Leadership Academy; and Heather Witt, Vice President of Community Impact for the United Way of the Piedmont for the launch of the Early Grades Reading focus.   The team brings many decades of experience to their focus area along with passion for impacting the success of students across Spartanburg.

Argyl Brewton, Principal, Woodruff Elementary School

Argyl Brewton, Principal, Woodruff Elementary School

         Argyl Brewton is the data-driven and purpose driven principal of Woodruff Elementary School. Having a mind for results and having been embedded in a single community for many years, she adds a perspective of how a community changes over time to the team’s work.

Marquice Clark, Assistant Principal, Cleveland Academy of Leadership 

Marquice Clark, Assistant Principal, Cleveland Academy of Leadership 

·         Marquice Clark brings experience in addressing learning disparities to the effort, putting his experience as a teacher and assistant principal at Cleveland Academy of Leadership to the group’s effort to improve early literacy across the County. He has experience in identifying barrier-breaking strategies, having recently received the 2017 Call Me MISTER Trailblazer award. The program seeks to increase the diversity in professional educators focusing on “Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models.”

Heather Witt, Vice President for Community Impact, United Way of the Piedmont

Heather Witt, Vice President for Community Impact, United Way of the Piedmont

Heather Witt has led the charge for building community collaboration through her work with as vice president for community impact with United Way of the Piedmont.  She brings a capacity to  draw the county’s non-profit resources together to impact early grades reading.

“The Spartanburg Academic Movement and Spartanburg County are fortunate to have individuals who are qualified, able and ready to impact change,” SAM Executive Director Dr. Stockwell said. “We have undertaken significant work on both ends of the cradle to career spectrum and are well poised to begin our work on the collective community concern around Early Grades Literacy.”   With the support of the Accelerator Fund, we will be able to make strategic decisions contributing to the success of all Spartanburg County students.

Brewton, Clark, Witt, Stockwell, and Carson begin the Strive Together Leadership Program in Charlotte, NC on April 12. They will continue the program with intensive training taking place over the coming year in San Francisco, Austin, Nashville, and Miami, bringing strategies home to involve others in implementing and impacting Spartanburg County students.  In addition, their work will serve as a model for other communities seeking to improve their early grades reading achievement.

“This represents a major step forward for our work here at SAM, but more importantly for our Spartanburg County students. We are jumping into the middle of a county-wide collective effort to make sure all our children are reading well by third grade,” Stockwell said at the team’s first local meeting where excitement set the tone for the hard work to come.

Read, Rattle, and Roll

On October 29th the Spartanburg Academic Movement will host “Read, Rattle, and Roll” in partnership with Help Me Grow South Carolina and the Bridge at Green Street.  “Read, Rattle, and Roll” is a free developmental screening event for families in Spartanburg with young children ages 2 months – 5 years. The event will take place at the Bridge at Green Street located at 446 Brawley Street in Spartanburg’s Northside community.

What is developmental screening?  

Early childhood developmental screening is the process of detecting delays in reaching typical developmental milestones, referring children for additional assessments, and initiating early intervention services.  According to the South Carolina Developmental Screening Landscape Survey, the most widely used screening tool is the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ-3).

The ASQ-3 is a standardized screening tool completed by family members and others who are familiar with a child’s common skills and behaviors.  Developmental screening is a non-invasive process that considers the age of the child, the typical milestones for the age range, and parent/caregiver responses on the child’s current abilities relative to the typical milestones.

Developmental screening does not provide a diagnosis of any kind, but can be extremely helpful in identifying children that should seek further evaluation and referrals to early intervention services.  Some concerns that may be revealed through a developmental screen include potential speech/communication delays and gross/fine motor delays.

Why focus on developmental screening?

As highlighted in the article, early detection and interventions can have profound impacts on child outcomes.  In the article, “Justin” is described as a third grader who is meeting all of his grade-level expectations and gets along well with others, even though he is on the autism spectrum.  His story is very positive because his parents were able to detect early signs of autism and have him screened at 18 months old – providing for years of early intervention therapies that have allowed him to meet or exceed many benchmarks thought to be impossible.

Developmental screening allows for the early detection of concerns, further assessment, and the provision of early intervention services as soon as possible.  Those early intervention services provide can be successful in addressing the needs of a child and reduce the likelihood for further special education services.  

Many children, however, have not had a developmental screening and may be experiencing developmental delays that go undetected until they enter kindergarten.  At this point, students are at a disadvantage in their ability to learn and the schools incur the tremendous responsibility of providing many therapy services in school.  Of course, therapies will always need to be provided in a school setting, but for many children, the same therapies provided much earlier than kindergarten can be successful in addressing the delay and reducing the need for services later on. 

A recent article from the Institute for Child Success, “Early Childhood Developmental Screening in South Carolina:  Common Practices, Opportunities, and Challenges” highlights the importance of and impact that early childhood developmental screening can have for a community, including economic and social benefits for students, families, schools, and states.

It is SAM’s desire that through events like “Read, Rattle, and Roll” and the collective focus of partners like our child care community there will be a tremendous increase in the number of children in Spartanburg County that have access to free developmental screenings and the connection to early intervention services so that more and more of our children get the very best start on their journey to lifelong success.

Share this event with your friends and neighbors and encourage young families to attend on October 29th.  

Significance of Starting Early and Starting Well

This month, Dr. Nur Tanyel, Assistant Professor at University of South Carolina Upstate, shares about the importance of early childhood education and a new program available in Spartanburg to support it. 


Research in early childhood education consistently indicates that high quality early childhood programs provide significant benefits to children, to families and to society as a whole. Children who participate in high quality programs are less likely to repeat a grade, perform better on assessments of language, cognitive, social and emotional domains, require less special education, and are less likely to engage in criminal activities. Essentially, higher quality programs are the predictor of higher level academic, language, and memory skills as well as larger gains in cognitive and academic outcomes. Improvements in the quality of childcare programs are needed for long term benefits because these children are more likely to enter the work force and have higher incomes accompanied with taxes that they will pay back to the society.   In return, high quality programs benefits government budgets by saving on child welfare and criminal justice.

Sharon Kagan, a professor of early childhood and family policy at Columbia University, states that:

“This is a missed opportunity as early education can help ensure that all children get a strong start in life, especially those from low-income or disadvantaged homes.  Three strands of research combine to support the importance of the early years.  From neuro-scientific research we understand the vitality of early brain development; from social science research, we know that high quality programs improve children’s readiness for school and for life; and from economic research we know that high quality programs save society significant amounts of money overtime. Early childhood contributes to creating the kinds of workforce that are going to be needed in this century”. 

Quality early childhood programs and responsive professionals can fulfill the developmental needs of young children. Teachers who are more likely to receive specialized training provide more language stimulation, which in turn stimulate language and concept development as well as the development of cognition in young children preparing for school success.

In support of Spartanburg Achievement Movement and quality in early childhood programs USC Upstate School of Education launched Bachelor of Arts in Child Development and Family Studies Program beginning fall 2014.  This non-certification track program prepares students for professional work with young children ages between birth to six and families from diverse cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.