The Texas School Ready Project began in 2003 as the Texas Early Education Model (TEEM). Since then, nearly 500,000 children and 25,000 teachers have been positively impacted by TSR.
In 2014, in partnership with the Texas Education Agency, the Children’s Learning Institute began planning and developing a cost-effective, digital delivery system that could disseminate TSR’s tools across the state at no charge to eligible programs. This system became known as CLI Engage.
During the 2014-2015 school year, the Children’s Learning Institute conducted a large-scale pilot of the TSR tools and resources on the CLI Engage platform with Houston ISD, Dallas ISD, and Fort Worth ISD. More than 2,450 teachers and 49,000 students participated and help refine the system for its statewide launch in Fall 2015.
History of Texas School Ready!
Current State of Affairs in Early Childhood
At the present time, states estimate that as many as half of their children, particularly those from low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds and/or learning English as a second language (ESL), are entering kindergarten programs without the basic cognitive foundational skills necessary for them to succeed (NAEP, 2003). Discrepancies between early skills for children from low SES versus more advantaged families are known to persist through formal schooling (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; National Center for Education Statistics Report Card on Mathematics, 2001, & Reading, 2001). Understanding how to provide young children with an early foundation in school readiness skills is becoming a primary goal of many states in order to decrease the high incidence of school failure and drop-out particularly by children from low income homes (NAEP, 2003). Legislators across the country are becoming aware of the critical nature of this problem and are looking for solutions to improve the situation as it can have a grave impact on the economic future of a state and the country.
Recent evidence from longitudinal intervention studies demonstrates that there is a long lasting positive influence of quality prekindergarten education (Campbell, Ramey, Pungello, Sparling, & Miller-Johnson, 2002; Reynolds, Ou, & Topitzes, 2004; Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart, 1993). This research further suggests that a child’s experiences during their early years influences the way the brain is developing that, in turn, establishes a trajectory for future learning (e.g., Dawson, Klinger, Panagiotides, Hill, & Spiker, 1992; DiPetro, 2000). Thus, the solution many states are seeking is how to provide children from low income backgrounds with a quality early education.
Addressing the Issue
For young children, a quality education includes teachers being skilled in the use of instructional approaches that are sensitive to the child’s developmental needs and expose them to experiences with language, emergent literacy, and math within a responsive environment that supports social-emotional development (Landry, 2005). Support of the importance of early cognitive skills for reading success comes from a newly released National Report (National Institute for Literacy, 2007). This large meta-analysis demonstrates that young children’s language skills, including vocabulary and complex language, as well as early literacy abilities, specifically phonological awareness and letter knowledge, are the most important and unique predictors of reading. Thus, in finding solutions to better preparing children for school, attention needs to be given to training teachers in instructional practices that support children’s learning of these cognitive skills.
Texas Child Population
Texas had the fastest growing child population in the US between 2000-2010. There are almost 650,000 three- and four-year-old children in Texas. Approximately 22% of Texas children under 5 years of age live in poverty. By 2040, Texas school enrollment will double.
Starting Early Equals A Substantial Cost Benefit
Investments in high quality early childhood education programs consistently and conservatively generate benefit-cost ratios exceeding 3-to-1: more than a $3 return for every $1 invested (Lynch, 2004).
Cost-Benefit to the Nation as a Whole
Including all preschoolers, the ECE investment if begun now would return $107 billion to the Gross National Product by 2050 Limited literacy skills cost businesses and taxpayers approximately $20 billion per year in lost wages, profits, and productivity (Lynch, 2004). Including all preschoolers, the ECE investment if begun now would save $155 billion as a result of lower crimes and delinquency rates by 2050. It is estimated that absenteeism caused by poor quality child care costs American business more than $3 billion a year (Lynch, 2004; Brown, 2002).
Cost-Benefit for Texas
Texas could see an increased income of $19 billion from 3- and 4-year-old children when they become future workers IF these children attend high-quality, targeted pre-k programs. The Education Policy Institute calculates these amounts to be in place by 2050. Crime-related savings in Texas would amount to $9.9 billion. Those two figures, along with the $8.9 billion generated from taxes collected- and welfare not paid - would bring a financial benefit to Texas of $37.8 billion in just 44 years (Education Policy Institute, 2007). A 2005 cost-benefit analysis of high quality prekindergarten conducted by the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University found that for every $1 invested, at least $3.50 was returned specifically to Texas communities (Bush School of Government and Public Service, 2005).
In 2003, the Children's Learning Institute was designated as the Texas State Center for Early Childhood Development (SCECD) by Governor Rick Perry. The Texas Legislature directed the SCECD under Senate Bill 76 to explore how to better integrate the delivery of early childhood education for three- and four-year-old children at risk for school failure. From this effort, a model was found to be robust enough to implement more widely and to form the basis for a statewide early childhood education program quality rating system of school readiness. Senate Bill 23 charged the SCECD with developing this system for use in determining the effectiveness of early childhood care and education programs for three- and four-year-old children at risk for school failure.
With previous results from major research grants, CLI experimentally confirmed through the TEEM program the powerful and necessary combination of key instructional components that maximize positive change for teachers and children across a wide variety of early childcare programs.
The Texas School Ready project began in 2003 as the Texas Early Education Model (TEEM).
Research Underpinnings of TEEM School Readiness
o Responsive teaching promotes social and cognitive development.
o Cognitive readiness can be achieved in ways that support the whole child.
o Early childhood is a critical period for social, emotional, language, and cognitive foundational skills known to predict later school success.
o Research-based comprehensive curricula are critical classroom tools.
o Progress monitoring that directs teaching better assures school readiness.
o “Effective” professional development for teachers is key to assuring goals are achieved.
TEEM (Texas Early Education Model) was created by Senate Bill 76, which was authored by State Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and passed with bipartisan-support by the Texas Legislature in 2003. It is an early education model project that encourages shared resources among three groups of government-funded public and private child-care programs that serve poor and at-risk preschool aged children. Funded with $10 million for a two-year implementation cycle, the programs included non-profit and for-profit childcare centers, public school districts, and Head Start.
The key elements of TEEM include:
o A working integrated partnership among early childhood education programs,
o Implementing an applied web-based teacher professional development program with mentoring designed by CIRCLE,
o Teachers utilizing hand-held PDAs to monitor the progress of their children in order to guide instruction,
o Teachers using research-based, state-approved curricula, and
o Training and site visits by CIRCLE early childhood education expert liaisons.
Designed as a research project, in the first year of TEEM 11 communities were accepted that included: Amarillo, Austin, Brownsville, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Laredo, Raymondville, San Antonio, and Wichita Falls. Based on a Request for Application, a Lead Agency within the community brought together sites that represented child care, Head Start, and Title I school district pre-kindergarten. Beginning in January 2004, classrooms were randomly assigned to be either program or control, with control classrooms receiving the program in the second year and program classrooms for both years. External standardized pre- and post-testing testing with the children was conducted as was objective observation of teachers. (link to research). The second year of TEEM continued with the 11 communities and brought four additional communities on board: Abilene, Midland, Odessa, and Tyler. Each community had 20 TEEM classrooms.
Other important initiatives that were a part of Senate Bill 76 were a parent pilot to engage children in conversation and build vocabulary, and the development of a system for determining how well early childhood education programs are preparing children for kindergarten.
Senate Bill 23, authored by Senator Zaffirini, passed during the last special session of the 79th Texas Legislature, made possible the expansion of TEEM into 20 communities and 1000 classrooms in the 2005-2006 school year. Now a scale-up rather than a research project, the successful continuation of TEEM by the Texas Legislature rests on the results of TEEM being statistically robust enough to lead to meaningful improvements for the school readiness of children.
Funded at $15 million and also selected through an RFA, the second round of TEEM communities were: Abilene, Amarillo, Austin, Brownsville, Carizzo Springs, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Bend, Fort Worth, Houston, Kilgore, Laredo, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa, Raymondville, San Angelo, San Antonio, Victoria, and Waco. Community-funded classrooms were an exciting commitment to the path of sustainability with Senate Bill 23 TEEM. New Partnerships were allowed 15 to 20 classrooms. Partnerships that were in the first cycle of TEEM were encouraged to bring back the original classrooms, bring on 15-20 new classrooms for which the State Center would fund all the components of TEEM including the salary for a Project Coordinator, and bring on sets of 15-20 “community-funded” classrooms. Community-funded classrooms are those in which the partnership funded the Key Instructional Components (research-based curriculum, eCIRCLE on-line professional development course, and PDA progress monitoring), and the State Center funded an additional mentor for each set of these classrooms. Suggestions for sources of funding included: Pre-K Expansion dollars, Texas Workforce Commission dollars, foundations, and local contributions.
In July 2006, Texas Workforce Commissioner Diane Rath made a presentation of $8.3 million to the State Center for Early Childhood Development. Together with $2 million recently gifted from the Susan and Dell Foundation, an additional 1000 classrooms received the resources, training, and other support to adopt TEEM beginning in the 2006-2007 school year. Each of the Senate Bill 23 TEEM communities were able to add classrooms and in addition, several new communities participated representing rural areas of Texas and communities with high numbers of military children. This brought the number of poverty and at-risk children now reached by TEEM to about 30,000.
Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Chair Diane Rath announced on November 10 the approval of $12 million in Quality Childcare Matching Funds to more widely expand TEEM. The new $12 million allowed a substantial increase in the number of children served in Texas beginning in the 2007-2008 school year, with a particular focus on expanding to rural communities, serving more military families, and piloting professional development for teachers of children up to five years old. This new funding provided the instructional resources and teacher professional development that has a proven track record for assuring children enter kindergarten ready to succeed.
Previously, the Children's Learning Institute operated the Texas School Readiness Certification System (SRCS), a data system that collected and stored data from preschool classrooms who were interested in being certified as "Texas School Ready" This system is no longer active and CLI no longer "certifies" classrooms as school ready. Programs currently participating in TSR are known as "TSR participants."