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Birth-to-College Collaborative Releases New Case Study, Highlights Professional Learning Communities' Role in Developing Standards and Practices for Birth-to-College Education

University of Chicago Urban Education Institute and Ounce of Prevention Fund Demonstrate Model for Practitioners and Policymakers Interested in Bridging Divide Between Early Education and K-12 to Close Achievement Gap

December 10, 2012 – The newest in a planned series of case studies on building a Birth-to-College Model of Education released by the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute (UEI) and the Ounce of Prevention Fund outlines how to create Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) of teachers, administrators and family support staff spanning the early childhood to K-12 spectrum. The intent of the PLCs is to create environments where practitioners take the lead in collaboratively studying and piloting effective, developmentally informed practices that prepare children for college, beginning at birth.

The partnership launched PLCs of teachers and family support staff from three participating locations: the Ounce’s Educare School (serving children ages 6 weeks to 5 years) and the University of Chicago Charter School Donoghue and North Kenwood/Oakland Campuses (preschool-5th grade). Members represent expertise in teaching or supporting families at each developmental or grade level from infancy to grade three. The case study illustrates the evolutionary process of PLC development and how it impacted the relationships, mindset and practice of the educators involved.

“Our birth-to-college model is anchored by teachers and leaders who share their work and best practices, use common tools, and collaborate to create a tightly aligned educational experience for children and the families they serve,” said Tim Knowles, the John Dewey Director of the Urban Education Institute. “The fundamental promise of this work is to make education a much more powerful antidote to school failure for the children and families who depend on it the most.”

“Professional Learning Communities have been essential to closing the divides between policies in the early education and K-12 worlds,” said Diana Rauner, president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund. “As staff from Educare and the University of Chicago Charter School shared their expertise and learned from each other, they began to see the differences and similarities in their work. That foundational knowledge the learning communities established was essential to moving the partnership forward and implementing new plans that will better serve our children and families.”

A preliminary analysis of the responses by Professional Learning Community participants to an online survey issued in late May 2012 shows that 82 percent of the members who responded to the survey indicated that their PLC involvement had impacted their thinking about their practices in the classroom and with families. 45 percent said they had changed their practices. Virtually all believed that children and families would benefit far into the future due to the PLC work.

The Birth-to-College Collaborative, formalized in 2010 and supported by grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and the Foundation for Child Development, strives to develop a model of public education for vulnerable children and families on the South Side of Chicago that begins at birth and leads to success in school, college and life. It is hoped that this model can be replicated nationwide to help bridge the divide that often exists between early education and K-12 so that education systems can further the goal of closing the achievement gap for underserved children.

“Research is unambiguous about the value of high-quality early childhood education in preparing young children for later school success,” Rauner said. “It is exciting to see how our ambitious vision for a seamless education experience from birth to third grade to high school and beyond will accelerate children’s development and learning.”

”We are convinced that we can significantly extend the value of quality early learning and quality K-12 education by creating a coherent pathway that circulates between these two systems,” Knowles said.

This case study was funded by the Foundation for Child Development. View the partnership’s case studies, teaching notes and learning videos.


About the Birth-to-College Collaborative:
The Birth-to-College Collaborative is a partnership between the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute and the Ounce of Prevention Fund with the vision of building a model of public education that begins at birth and creates success in school, college and life. To achieve this vision, the Ounce and UEI developed the shared mission to align and co-create instructional approaches—as well as academic and social supports—to accelerate student learning, while honoring and building upon the strengths of the families served. The partnership spans three locations: UEI’s University of Chicago Charter School Donoghue and North Kenwood/Oakland Campuses and the Ounce’s Educare School. Through the independent, yet coordinated, admissions policies of Educare and the University of Chicago Charter School, families have the opportunity for their children to be admitted simultaneously to Educare's program for 3-year-olds and in advance, to kindergarten at the University of Chicago Charter School three years later.
In 2010, the partnership released its first case study and learning video documenting the road to a shared vision, mission, goals and action plan for the model.

About the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute:
The mission of UEI is to create knowledge to produce reliably excellent urban schooling for children. The organization prepares outstanding urban teachers and leaders through the Urban Teacher Education Program; conducts rigorous research to improve policy and practice, anchored by the Consortium on Chicago School Research; operates four campuses of the University of Chicago Charter School, serving students across the South Side of Chicago; and provides tools, analytics and training to improve schools nationwide through UChicago Impact. For more information, please visit

About the Ounce of Prevention Fund: The Ounce of Prevention Fund gives children in poverty the best chance for success in school and in life by advocating for and providing the highest quality care and education from birth to age five. Educare, the Ounce's birth-to-five school on Chicago's South Side, has become a national model for narrowing the academic achievement gap for low-income children. The Ounce also advocates for programs and policies that benefit young children and families; provides training to early childhood professionals in Illinois; and engages in rigorous research and evaluation projects that contribute to best practices throughout the early childhood field. For more information, please visit

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