USC Upstate

Spartanburg Selected for National Early Childhood Impact Intiative



Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) Selected for Impact and Improvement Network Focused on Child Development from Birth to 3 along with select group of 5 organizations across the U.S.

L-R (top):  Keisha Gray, Mary Black Foundation Early Childhood Program Specialist; Dr. Nur Tanyel, Director of Early Childhood and Family Studies Program, USC Upstate; Barbara Manoski, Quality Counts Director, Spartanburg County First Steps  (bottom) Lisa Soenen, Program Coordinator for Help Me Grow, Greenville Health System, Child Advocacy; Ida Thompson, Program Manager, Spartanburg Academic Movement

L-R (top):  Keisha Gray, Mary Black Foundation Early Childhood Program Specialist; Dr. Nur Tanyel, Director of Early Childhood and Family Studies Program, USC Upstate; Barbara Manoski, Quality Counts Director, Spartanburg County First Steps

(bottom) Lisa Soenen, Program Coordinator for Help Me Grow, Greenville Health System, Child Advocacy; Ida Thompson, Program Manager, Spartanburg Academic Movement


Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM) joins five other communities selected from across the country to participate in the Prenatal to Age 3 Impact and Improvement Network being led by StriveTogether, a national nonprofit working to improve education for every child. Launched in partnership with the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ), this special initiative will improve kindergarten readiness by focusing on child development from birth to age 3.

"SAM is honored to be selected among this highly competitive national field to participate in the "Prenatal to 3 Impact and Improvement Network."  Research makes clear that brain development leading to kindergarten readiness has begun at birth.  SAM's selection for Network inclusion will position us to provide developmental screenings for all pre-K children county-wide, thus increasing the probability that those exhibiting developmental delays can be connected with early intervention services.  Engaging with the Pritzker Institute for Children, the National Institute for Child Health Quality, and StriveTogether will push us closer to our county-wide goal of ensuring that all children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed," said Dr. John Stockwell, SAM's Executive Director. 

Kindergarten readiness is one of the seven key educational outcomes tracked by StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network communities. The StriveTogether Prenatal to Age 3 Impact and Improvement Network will increase the number of children meeting critical early milestones by promoting targeted, evidence-based strategies and building the capacity of local leaders and practitioners.

Over 16 months, this network will help the six communities improve kindergarten readiness and accelerate progress for local students through an approach that combines leadership development, continuous improvement tools, peer-to-peer learning, design thinking and data use training. Participating communities include Albuquerque, New Mexico (Mission: Graduate); Memphis, Tenn. (Seeding Success); Norwalk, Conn. (Norwalk Acts); Salt Lake City, Utah (Promise Partnerships of Salt Lake); and Tucson, Ariz. (Cradle to Career Partnership).

“The first few years of a child’s life are critical in determining future success,” StriveTogether CEO and President Jennifer Blatz said. “It’s our obligation as Americans to provide every child with opportunity through a quality education, but each year an estimated 3 million children in the U.S. are at risk of being woefully unprepared for kindergarten. By partnering with NICHQ, we will help to drive policies and investments in core services proven to improve educational, economic, health and social outcomes for children and families.”

“Improving the health and development of infants and toddlers has long-term benefits for children, families and our society. It also sets the stage for the way kids learn throughout their lives,” said Dr. Jill Sells, clinical director of Early Childhood Initiatives at NICHQ and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We are thrilled to partner with StriveTogether and these six communities, whose focus on this age group makes them pioneers in testing strategies for kindergarten readiness.”

The Prenatal to Age 3 Impact and Improvement Network is part of an effort with three other organizations — the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities and the Center for the Study of Social Policy — to improve the lives of infants, toddlers and families. The partner organizations will equip communities with tools and resources to build strong early childhood systems and share best practices with other cities, counties and states. This critical work is being funded by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a project of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation.

This is StriveTogether’s third national Impact and Improvement Network. The StriveTogether Postsecondary Enrollment Impact and Improvement Network boosted completions for federal student aid applications through a data-driven, collaborative model derived from the health care field. Participants supported nearly 31,000 students to complete applications in 2015-16. Five of the six communities increased their yearly completion rates at the school level, four increased district-level completions and three tallied school-level gains of 10 percent or more.


StriveTogether leads a national movement of nearly 70 communities to get better results in every child’s life. We coach and connect partners across the country to close gaps by using local data, especially for children of color and low-income children. Communities using our proven approach have seen measurable gains in kindergarten readiness, academic achievement and postsecondary success. The StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network reaches 10.4 million students, involves 10,800 organizations and has partners in 30 states and Washington, D.C.

The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) is a mission-driven nonprofit dedicated to driving sustainable improvements in the complex issues facing children’s health. We provide deep expertise in developing the pathways and partnerships for catalyzing change to achieve better outcomes for children and families. Learn more at


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.