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Build Your Early Learning Community

Across the country, elected officials, business and civic leaders, parents and caregivers, early-learning experts and residents from all walks of life are working to shape the future of our most valuable resource - our children - by creating robust Early Learning Communities.

Start the Progress Rating Tool

What Makes an Early Learning Community?

Commitment

Early Learning Communities are places where local leaders, residents and other stakeholders are committed to ensuring all young children – not just some – reach their full potential with a strong start in life.

Services

It is a neighborhood, city or county that is working to ensure that children and families have access to the high quality services and supports they need.

Neighborhoods

It is a place that supports neighborhoods where children can grow up safe and healthy and where families can thrive.

Policy

It is where local policies create a broad framework of support for families with young children.

Commitment

Early Learning Communities are places where local leaders, residents and other stakeholders are committed to ensuring all young children – not just some – reach their full potential with a strong start in life.

Services

It is a neighborhood, city or county that is working to ensure that children and families have access to the high quality services and supports they need.

Neighborhoods

It is a place that supports neighborhoods where children can grow up safe and healthy and where families can thrive.

Policy

It is where local policies create a broad framework of support for families with young children.

The Goal of an Early Learning Community

The goal of an Early Learning Community is to ensure that all young children get a proper start, setting the foundation for life-long success and well-being. This means that children are healthy, and can learn and thrive in strong families and in safe, stable communities.

From Building Blocks to Action

Becoming an Early Learning Community requires continuous attention: both to your efforts and to the results of those efforts. The Early Learning Community Action Guide provides further guidance for city, county and other local leaders looking for ways to put their commitment to early childhood into action and achieve better outcomes for young children and their families.

As you begin your journey, these steps can help your community build a solid foundation and sustain your efforts into the future.

Assemble stakeholders with an interest in early childhood

Identify community champions for kids (that might be you!) and bring them together with system leaders, service providers and funders. Ensure that representation is equitable and inclusive of parents and other caregivers, and community members with many different backgrounds and experiences, including neighborhoods, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, abilities, races and ethnicities.

Make sure to share this Building Blocks Guide with other champions on your list

Designate a point person

This person will convene the community and stakeholders, facilitate conversations and decision-making, keep the group focused on the vision and build relationships among community stakeholders. The point person will also coordinate efforts to identify potential funding sources to support specific actions and initiatives, and for longer-term investment in early childhood.

Are you leading the work of becoming an Early Learning Community for your city, county, neighborhood, or region? One “Community Lead” can be designated for each community, with the ability to send surveys to other stakeholders, review other stakeholders’ responses, and build an action plan. If this should be you, apply to be an Early Learning Nation lead in your community.

Assess your community’s progress

This Action Guide’s Progress Rating Tool describes common elements that are present across all Early Learning Communities. But, like the elements of a playground, these elements can be assembled in many different ways. There is no one design that will fit every community. Each community will choose the actions that fit that community best.

Using the Progress Rating Tool, check how your current status reflects the experience of different population groups within the community. By reviewing data broken down by various groups, and by asking members of various population groups to share their experiences and perspectives about the community, you can focus on equity and closing gaps, and identify where additional investments or coordination are needed.

Start the Progress Rating Tool

Develop an Action Plan

The Community Lead will devise an action plan based on the results and recommendations of the Progress Rating Tool. By being as specific as possible about planned action steps, timeline, budget and who is responsible, you’ll be better positioned to advance to a higher level. As you create your Action Plan, be clear about your desired results, how you will know if you are making progress and how you’ll gauge the difference your efforts are making.

Check in with parents and other important stakeholders to find the best solutions

Engage parents, service providers and community residents in developing and reviewing plans to move your community to a higher level. Parents in the community, and especially parents in underserved communities, will be your best partners in finding and implementing solutions that work for them. They should be invited and engaged at every point along the way.

Regularly review your progress

Using the Progress Rating Tool, continue to review your community’s status as you take actions and make progress. Determine where your community wants to go next and assess what actions are needed to move to the next level.