Monday, August 22, 2011

Smart Start & the North Carolina Partnership for Children

Today I bring you the announcement of the third and final nonprofit that BIKE NC will support. The North Carolina Partnership for Children is the organization behind Smart Start, a program that focuses on early childhood education in all 100 of North Carolina's counties. The truth is that, without support, children arrive on the first day of kindergarten already having vastly different chances at success in school. The development from birth through the early years is crucial. Everything from nutrition to how much verbal interaction kids have and whether someone has read to them impacts their readiness to learn. And devoting resources to Pre-K pays dividends in elementary school and beyond. Here's the scoop on the North Carolina Partnership for Children:

Smart Start is North Carolina’s nationally-recognized initiative to ensure that every child reaches his or her potential and is prepared to succeed in a global community. Smart Start helps working parents pay for child care, improves the quality of child care and provides health and family support services in every North Carolina county.

Smart Start measurably increases the health and well-being of young children birth to five, building the foundation for all future learning, by:
  •  Improving children’s early care and education programs so that they are safe, healthy and provide opportunities for children to learn skills they need for success in school.
  • Providing parents with tools that support them in raising healthy, happy, successful children.
  • Ensuring that children have access to preventive health care.

Smart Start was created in 1993 as an innovative solution to a problem: Children were coming to school unprepared to learn. Policymakers recognized that progress would require tapping into the same innovative spirit that inspired private sector advances, and therefore, established Smart Start as a public/private partnership. Independent, private organizations work in all 100 North Carolina counties through The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., and 77 Local Partnerships. The power of Smart Start is that it delivers outcomes by giving communities local control to determine the best approach to achieving them.

Smart Start’s nationally award-winning approach has resulted in:
  • More children succeeding in school – third-graders have higher standardized reading and math scores and lower special education placement rates in those counties that had received relatively more funding for Smart Start when these children were younger. This is according to research released in March 2011 by Duke University, which found that investments in Smart Start generate broad education benefits.
  • More children attending high quality care — from 33% to 64% since 2001, when Smart Start began tracking this data.
  • More children receiving Developmental screenings – 98% of children received recommended screenings after Smart Start launched the Assuring Better Child Health and Development (ABCD) program (compared to 81% before ABCD) in participating counties.
I think Smart Start accomplishes extraordinary things and that its model, fusing government programming and resources with a nonprofit organization's local control and insight, is the right kind of innovation. It taps the creativity and flexibility of private organizations without surrendering public responsibility and accountability for educating every child. Supporting BIKE NC helps the North Carolina Partnership for Children reach more kids with even better resources to make their early learning years great, no matter their background. I am proud to support their work.

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