Early Childhood Data Tool Helps Support Young Learners in Hartford and West Hartford Neighborhoods

Long before a child steps into a Kindergarten classroom, they are getting ready for school. Families and caregivers are the first teachers— and homes and neighborhoods are the first learning environments. In partnership with the public school districts and municipal leadership of Hartford and West Hartford, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is piloting the use of the Early Development Instrument (EDI) to gauge the learning readiness of incoming Kindergarteners from different neighborhoods. The EDI is an assessment that provides population-level data by neighborhood on school readiness, and has been used in over 40 communities in the United States and extensively internationally.

“Positive relationships and supportive environments guide a young child’s development and provide the foundation for future learning and well-being,” said Richard Sussman, director of Early Childhood Investments at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. “While the EDI provides important data, the most impactful aspect of this project is the collective action strategy which encourages parents, residents, and communities to use data to make positive changes to support young children and families in their neighborhoods.”

Last year, after students had been in class for at least three months, Kindergarten teachers in Hartford, West Hartford, and Jumoke Academy filled out a comprehensive questionnaire regarding the social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive skills; physical health and well-being; and communication skills of each of their students.  EDI looks at the whole population of children in a neighborhood; it is not a diagnostic tool for individual children or a means to evaluate individual teachers or programs.

Residents, parents, teachers, and other community stakeholders can use this information to examine and build conditions that support children as they gain the skills and knowledge to prepare them for school.

In West Hartford, the Hartford Foundation has partnered with Great by 8 to conduct community seminars on the EDI. One such event, being led by Dr. Jessica Goldstein, is open to all West Hartford residents on Monday, April 20th from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Noah Webster Library.

“It is our hope that these seminars will not only be an opportunity to share the EDI data with parents and community members, but also for them our community to provide feedback to help us better serve young children in our community said Goldstein, an Assistant Professor in Residence in the Measurement, Evaluation, and Assessment program at the University of Connecticut and is an active member of Great by 8.

The Foundation has trained community residents and community-based organizations in Hartford to interpret the EDI data and lead discussions in Hartford neighborhood. Several parent-led “community cafés” focused on analyzing neighborhood data have already taken place with a half dozen additional  cafés and follow-up meetings scheduled, to take closer looks at specific data and steps to improve outcomes for young children.  On Thursday, April 23rd from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. a café will be held at the Institute for the Hispanic Family.  Officials from the Hartford Department of Families, Children, Youth and Recreation will lead the discussion, with a focus on increasing recreational opportunities in Hartford neighborhoods.

“The community cafés provide an awareness of how children are doing in the school, the community and at home,” said Joseph Morrell, a father and resident in the Asylum Hill neighborhood in Hartford. “It is a platform to better understand the child and his or her needs. It is also a chance to see how others are viewing the community that we live in and how those conditions affect our children’s education.”

Suheilly Hernández hosted one of the community cafés in the Frog Hollow neighborhood.

“(Quote translated from Spanish) Leading the café helped me gain confidence in my skills. As the café progressed, I felt more and more convinced of its importance and the power of parents. This café was the first step to address concerning results and to move forward looking for action and better outcomes.”

The Hartford Foundation has developed a brochure in English and Spanish for local residents that explains the background, purpose and methodology of the Early Development Instrument. This brochure can be downloaded from our website. The Hartford Foundation worked in partnership with Trinity College’s Cities and Suburbs and Schools Project, the Connecticut Data Collaborative, and the University of Connecticut’s Mapping and Geographic Information Center (MAGIC) to analyze and visualize the data to help communities examine outcomes in the context of neighborhoods, socioeconomic and community resources. This information can be accessed by logging on to edi.ctdata.org.

It is hoped that this work will be shared broadly with key stakeholders in the community including local municipal officials to create dialogue that focuses on using limited resources more effectively to support young children and families.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. In 2015, the Foundation celebrates ninety years of grantmaking in the Greater Hartford region, made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations. It has awarded grants of more than $620 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.