TSR and Child Care Associates: Ten Years of Collaborative Partnerships
For the last ten years, Child Care Associates (CCA) has been the Texas School Ready! Lead Agency for the Fort Worth area. In fact, CCA was one of the original pioneering organizations to participate in the foundational research that produced the Texas Early Education Model (TEEM)—TSR’s precursor—as a prototype for the state of Texas. Today the TSR project in Fort Worth continues to be led by Colleen M. Schiebold and her team, Mildred Bautista and Carolyn Middleton. They are providing both face-to-face and remote coaching to 82 teachers in 51 centers throughout north central Texas!
TSR and a collaborative model
When asked what successes Colleen has been most proud of during her team’s tenure, she pointed to the TSR project’s innovation and leadership with collaborative models in particular. From its beginning, she says, TSR and CCA “led the way in the integration of partner agencies.” Fort Worth truly stands out as a model of preschool mixed delivery and collaboration among organizations. This effort includes the teamwork and coordination of facilities, staff, curricula, and daily schedules of three diverse early childhood sectors—public schools, Head Start, and child care programs. Colleen adds that “by using shared facilities, service capacity grows while utilizing minimal additional resources.”
The teachers in these partnerships work with the same population of at-risk children; however, each partner capitalizes on the other’s strengths to provide a seamless, holistic education for every child in the program.
CCA collaborative efforts not only increase learning opportunities for children, but also allow TSR teachers to bring evidence-based principles into the partnership. Additionally, parents’ needs for child care are met, while their children gain important language and literacy skills. Over the years, participation in two early research CIRCLE grants, five TEEM/TSR grants, and the current cycle of a TSR-granted project has enabled CCA to grow integration efforts to relationships with 10 of the 18 school districts in the county! Ten years later, classrooms that were part of the original TEEM project continue with integrated services.
How collaboration works
Over time, CCA has supported 11 different types of collaborative partnerships, each model serving the uniqueness of its partners’ needs. For example, partnerships have included ISD teachers placed in child care centers who travel to different centers for morning and afternoon classes. Other partnerships have included ISD teachers placed in Head Start centers who work with 3-year-olds in the morning and 4-year-olds in the afternoon. Regardless of the setting, each partnership addressed the particular needs of the local school district served.
All children are dually enrolled in the collaborating programs, thereby allowing each partner to draw funds from their respective funding sources. Funding for child care centers is extremely tight; dual enrollment ensures that funding per child continues for the child care centers even though collaborations are in place. In the Fort Worth community project, Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County, the local workforce development board, has also supported implementation through a financial assistance program for qualifying parents known as Child Care Management Services (CCMS). Many child care centers rely on CCMS-funded children to assure that they can make ends meet. Participation in TSR has qualified these centers for a higher reimbursement rate.
To formalize the partnerships, a letter of agreement is developed in conjunction with child care licensing, public health, and other governing agencies to establish requirements for pre-K ISD teachers working in satellite settings such as a Head Start or child care center. Teachers from each partnership are titled co-teachers to recognize their joint efforts. Schedules reflect three hours of cognitive development during the time the ISD teacher works in tandem with a child care or Head Start teacher. The child care or Head Start teacher supplements the lesson plans during the time when the ISD teacher has moved to a different classroom.
The toughest part of integration is the daily schedule and ensuring that both partners meet their respective requirements. Colleen emphasized that “sometimes, adjusting the schedule just five minutes is all that is necessary to make the model work. Planning time may be accomplished on a daily, or if necessary, weekly basis.”
Joint planning time is critical so that teachers achieve consistent incorporation of purposeful and engaging activities in the classroom. Shared assessments help teachers plan small group instruction for children identified with emerging skills. Co-teachers can offer additional and more frequent small group instruction with teacher assistants in the classroom. Team building and training to explore identified roles and responsibilities occurs every year. Teachers are also trained on each other’s policies, standards, and regulations. Lastly, Head Start and child care centers adopt a curriculum from the state list so that both teachers know and understand classroom approaches. This curriculum alignment also provides for an easier transition as children enter public school.
Setting high standards of quality
Early in the project, a TEEM council was created with representatives from the Head Start, child care, and ISD organizations in the partnership. The goal of the council was to strengthen existing partnerships, cement new relationships, and establish an exemplary model of collaboration. This included seeking ways to develop a thorough, systematic approach to planning, decision making, and program improvement for future sustainability. The council met regularly and solved minor problems before they became major issues.
A vital component to cementing relationships is the frequent and ongoing scheduling of site-based partner meetings. Lead by Colleen, and with the support of CCA, these meetings are intended to be proactive and address creative ideas for improvements in the integration model. These meetings also ensure the continuity of communications between partners so that parents fully understand the pedagogic approaches and learning experiences utilized with their children. A local administrators’ partner meeting was recently held this past November, which featured Dr. April Crawford, TSR State Director, leading a discussion on how to interpret and use data for classroom and program-wide improvement.
The greatest success of this unique multi-agency collaboration is certainly the increased number of classrooms available for children to receive consistent school readiness instruction. Over the past ten years, well over 9,000 Fort Worth-area children received the benefits of TSR through participation in a partnered classroom.
Fort Worth ISD (FWISD) has committed to continuing and expanding collaborative partnerships with Head Start and child care partners. This commitment includes providing classroom space on ISD campuses where additional children can receive higher quality services and early literacy education opportunities in a concentrated effort. FWISD is also committed to continuing funding for certified teachers to support the integration of child care and Head Start “satellite campuses.” Birdville, Hurst Euless Bedford, and White Settlement ISDs also continue successfully integrated classrooms with this collaborative approach.
Today Fort Worth ISD continues to implement a full integration model in partnership with CCA and YMCA/ YWCA. FWISD incorporated CIRCLE approaches into their online curriculum framework for access by all FWISD pre-kindergarten teachers. They welcome the opportunity to be further involved in TSR research and to explore the innovative professional development delivery models being instituted, such as coaching through the use of video exchange. Dr. Patricia Rangel, Executive Director of Early Academic Success and Acceleration, stated, “Our involvement in TEEM and hence TSR helped create for the district a framework modeled after CIRCLE in which all teachers could reference standard best practices for lesson planning and consistent instructional delivery. We are always seeking ways to hone our professional development.”
CCA has also created some sustainability of the project through in-house mentors that support augmentation of the TSR project. Environmental features of CIRCLE, as well as correlated and aligned learning objectives, are expectations for all CCA-operated centers.
Most importantly, Colleen says, parents are able to seek services that meet their own needs for child care and development while being assured their child is receiving evidenced-based practices in language and literacy skills that lead to student success in kindergarten.