Wendy Waithe Simmons, Ph.D.
Executive Director New Haven Children’s Ideal Learning District (NH ChILD)
NH ChILD proposes to revolutionize the early care and education landscape in New Haven, Connecticut by bringing the community together around a common vision of ideal learning for every child, ages 0-8.
Data shows that approximately 2,500 children in New Haven do not have access to quality early care and education. As a result of this need, leaders within the city came together to make a 10-year commitment to create high-quality early learning opportunities for all children and their families. The NH ChILD initiative began with the belief that strategic partnerships and city-wide systems-level change can create an equitable, high-quality continuum of care and education for all children from birth to age eight in New Haven. The initiative brings together cross-sector leaders, including public educators, center-based child care providers, and in-home child care providers to create the first “ideal learning district” in the nation. Trust for Learning provided an initial seed investment to launch this initiative and continues to support the project as one of multiple funders.
The goal of NH ChILD is to provide quality early care and education experiences for all children ages zero to eight. The initiative guides the city in this effort by focusing on two necessary and inextricably linked pathways as agents of change: access and quality. The first pathway provides access to early childhood services aligned with Ideal Learning principles beginning with children from birth to age five. NHChILD is working to create 2000 new slots for infants and toddlers and 500 for preschool-aged children over the next ten years by establishing a sustainable funding model, and an interactive, on-line system available to all families.
The second pathway bolsters quality standards in existing programs by enhancing professional learning opportunities and reciprocal cross-learning among educators and providers. With support from the Trust and Bank Street College of Education, NH ChILD offers professional learning communities for educators to hone their skills and share best practices, and is working to develop career pathways to ensure that New Haven has the personnel needed to support all children. The project also plans to support leadership training for parents to empower families to use their voice to make New Haven a city that serves all children.
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