In Stamford, Connecticut, the Stamford Cradle to Career Partnership (SC2C) is a model of collaborative efforts, dedicated to advancing equitable life outcomes. This Cradle to Career Network member, recently awarded the Systems Change designation along the StriveTogether Theory of Action™, has played a pivotal role in mobilizing partners, building relationships and providing essential support to catalyze change.
Nurturing foundations in early childhood
SC2C uses data to drive equitable outcomes from the earliest stages of a child’s educational journey. The team supports partners to collect and access data, and helps them use this data to make better decisions and create targeted strategies.
The 0-5 Early Childhood Community Action Network recognizes the importance of kindergarten readiness for success later in life, which led to the first annual “Kindergarten Insight Day” in 2019. This collaborative event brings together preschool and kindergarten teachers, fostering relationships and sharing insights to ensure a smooth transition for young learners.
Establishing common measures of success is crucial to building a solid data infrastructure. To determine a measure for kindergarten readiness, SC2C facilitated collaboration among child care providers. This work resulted in the adoption of the Pre-K Transition Summary assessment. The summary, shared with kindergarten teachers, includes social and developmental information on children that can help inform classroom placements and give teachers insight into their incoming class.
The partnership also promotes the use of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire through an app called Sparkler that offers developmental guidance to caregivers — including parents — and educators. Through a data-driven approach, SC2C ensures that educators can set S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals based on comprehensive insights, tailoring their strategies to meet each child’s unique needs. This approach also gives parents the information they need to be their child’s “first teacher” and begin the educational journey at home, as well as tools to advocate for their child.
The data infrastructure established by SC2C has also enabled the creation of the Greater Stamford Parenting Partnership. This group works to address staff continuity in home visitation, helping keep families connected to these crucial programs. Through tests of change, including job description revisions and formal mentoring processes for new hires, SC2C is ensuring that families receive consistent and effective support.
A holistic approach to K-12 success
SC2C’s commitment to equitable outcomes extends into K-12, with a focus on literacy and school climate. Their Early Grade Reading workgroup aims to have all children reading on grade level by third grade, and SC2C’s partnership with summer camps is key in achieving this goal. By offering literacy support onsite at summer camps, SC2C ensures that children receive continuous support, including silent reading time, buddy reading, literacy stations and read-a-thon weeks.
Out-of-school providers play an influential role in literacy efforts. SC2C hosts annual literacy training to support these community partners. These training sessions, facilitated by Stamford Public Schools, empower non-teachers with fundamental insights into how young children learn to read. The collaborative effort involves various community partners, including the Boys and Girls Club, ROSCCO and INTEMPO, highlighting a holistic and inclusive approach to literacy support.
SC2C also supports partners to improve school environments for students. SC2C ensures that school leaders can effectively use climate data to drive positive change by facilitating the district’s climate survey and providing professional development workshops. The team also helps integrate restorative practices within schools. These restorative practices, supported by community-wide trainings, have resulted in significant decreases in out-of-school suspensions and chronic absenteeism. One school saw a 69% decrease in out-of-school suspensions and 41% decrease in chronic absenteeism. Additionally, one school showed a 14% increase in the percentage of students saying that they felt “connected” to at least one adult at their school, while another school showed a 21% increase in teachers’ “sense of belonging.”
SC2C’s advocacy for universal free meals for all Stamford Public Schools students further exemplifies its dedication to addressing the broader systemic issues that affect educational outcomes. By aligning strategies, resources and community outreach efforts, SC2C, in partnership with the United Way of Coastal and Western CT, successfully advocated for free school meals for all students in the community, regardless of their socio-economic status. Though the original policy shift only lasted through the implementation of COVID-19-specific measures, the partnership was able to extend this policy for another four years, benefiting thousands of students.
Seamless transitions to postsecondary education
SC2C launched the Bridge to College (B2C) program to create seamless transitions between high school and postsecondary education. Originally targeting first-generation students intending to attend a local community college, the program has evolved to reach all graduating high schoolers through improved strategies and additional financial support.
Promising data from B2C, indicating an increase in college enrollment from 64% in 2018 to 76% in 2023 for students receiving targeted support, underscores the program’s effectiveness. Through text message reminders, individual calls, counseling and virtual workshops, SC2C ensures that all graduating high schoolers receive the support they need for successful transitions into postsecondary education.
SC2C is paving the way for positive change and improved educational opportunities for all children and youth in Stamford through collaboration, data-driven decision making and a commitment to addressing systemic challenges. Across the country, Cradle to Career Network members are using similar strategies to expand opportunities for youth and families from cradle to career. See what that work looks like in these stories from other communities.