This initiative integrates key components of school readiness throughout the early childhood learning network in Marshalltown, Iowa, allowing children and parents to receive additional support and development in a consistent way through messaging, information, and skill building.
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Marshalltown is a community of approximately 28,000 that has undergone tremendous change in the past 15 years. Today's Marshalltown is a microcosm of our country in the future. For example, Marshalltown Community School District (MCSD) is a majority-minority district. While Latino students are the largest of the ethnic populations, over 50 languages are spoken by students in the district. With 1,828 such students, it has the third largest number and the third largest percentage of English language learners in the state of Iowa. This population is constantly churning, with over 1,000 persons from Burma (largely families from refugee camps in Thailand) arriving in the last few years, among them an estimated 600 children under the age of 18. This particular “new” population has many ethnic clans speaking many dialects. This ever-changing population is due to recruitment by the largest employer in the community — JBS Swift & Co. — to staff a pork processing plant.
In addition, the majority of children and families in the district qualify for the free and reduced lunch program (FRL); in the 2015 – 16 school year this included 71% of all enrolled students. This is one of the highest rates in the state of Iowa; MCSD ranks 9th highest in the state of the number of children meeting FRL guidelines and 8th highest in the state in the percentage of children. MCSD reports that 90% of these FRL-qualified students meet the free lunch income guidelines, which for a family of four is less than $36,933 for a year.
Children who meet school readiness benchmarks are more likely to read proficiently by third grade, experience general school success, and graduate on schedule from high school. Just as there is an achievement gap in school performance, there is a school readiness gap that separates disadvantaged children from their more affluent peers. As early as 18 months, low-income children begin to fall behind in vocabulary development and other skills critical for school success.
The Every Child Ready initiative was made possible in part through a grant by an anonymous donor.
Marshalltown Community School District (MCSD) is MICA's data and collaboration partner. MCSD worked closely with MICA to make Rogers University and its pre-K camp a success.
Several other providers of early childhood services are needed as data partners for further strengthening and developing the activities of this grant. Potential data partners include:
In the 2013 – 14 school year, assessment scores measuring entering kindergartners’ school readiness ranged, in the six Marshalltown Community School District (MCSD) elementary buildings, from 17% to 59%. Overall, approximately 40% of the children entering MCSD kindergarten classrooms met readiness benchmarks; indicating, of course, that over half of entering students did not. It is our goal to raise the percentage of kindergarten students entering ready to learn by 5% each year, with an eventual goal of 90% of students meeting readiness benchmarks.
This outcome would be achieved by creating a community where the early childhood network is unified in its philosophy and efforts, uses its resources to reach the largest possible number of families in the most powerful way possible, jointly measures its impact on the issue, and engages in a collaborative process of continuous improvement.
Several critical audiences will benefit from the this project, including:
While Marshalltown as a whole will benefit from activities of this project, the emphasis will be on reaching families with children who meet the free and reduced lunch (FRL) income guidelines.