In recent decades, the gap in educational success between high- and lower-income students in our region has grown substantially, leaving our most vulnerable children at the highest risk for a lifetime of lost potential.
The Hartford Foundation's long-standing focus on education aims to enable all students, especially those who face the greatest opportunity gaps, to enter kindergarten ready to learn and graduate from high school prepared to succeed.
The range of needs that must be addressed goes far beyond education–and therefore, so must the range of partners involved. This requires a fundamental shift in the way that educators, families and communities work together. All partners must build considerable trust, dialogue, capacity and collaboration in order to make the best decisions, establish sound policies, fairly allocate resources and deliver quality services. Working together, families, schools and community partners have the potential to establish approaches that will help ensure every child has a fair chance to succeed in school and life.
Our approach to education, from early childhood through high school, focuses on three key elements: systems building, partnership and a focus on equity and opportunity.
Each of these is important in supporting student success; addressing them together increases impact and promotes sustainability.
A "systems" approach ensures that all children, no matter where they live or what early childhood program or school they attend, get the services and supports they need to become ready to learn and prepared to succeed. This work takes a cross-cutting approach that seeks to ensure children's and families' needs are met more efficiently and effectively by better aligning various services and supports.
A partnership approach recognizes that neither the Foundation nor any other single actor can achieve broad and sustained education impact alone. We look to share resources, knowledge, networks and learning across organizations and sectors so that our individual work leads to greater collective benefit.
Using an equity and opportunity lens means that if all children in the region are to have the opportunity to thrive, we must recognize that some children and families will require additional supports to help remove their barriers to success. This requires better linkages to be made not only among early childhood and education providers, but a wide variety of sectors that touch the lives of children and families to create systemic changes at the local, state and national levels.
How We Are Monitoring Our Progress
The Foundation's education team has been working with consultants from the Center for Policy and Assessment Development (CAPD) to develop outcomes that will help us monitor and report on our progress. This evaluation will assist the Foundation in better understanding whether the approaches we are using are effective in helping our community partners ensure positive outcomes for our region's children and families.
Outcomes we are looking to measure through CAPD's work include:
- Partnership Capacities – key stakeholders sharing a common vision and commitment to aligned action
- Partner Collaborative Actions – key stakeholders working together to develop, commit to and implement action plans
- Infrastructure and Policy – changes in relationships within and across organizations, as well as in structures, policies and resource allocation
- Improved Practices – effective, high-quality, culturally competent services and practices are readily available and responsive to individual needs
- Improved Experiences for Children and Families – children and their families benefit from services and supports
All of these outcomes occur at different levels: municipal, regional and state government, as well as at the child and family, provider, organizational and institutional levels. They are interdependent and influence each other over time.
The change that we are aiming for will take considerable time, investment and commitment, but if successful, will have an enduring effect on our children and the future of Greater Hartford.