MinneMinds Sunsets As Funders Shift to New, Exciting Strategies

In 2012, over one hundred Minnesota organizations united to help tackle one of the most important issues the state was facing: one of the worst-in-the-nation early childhood opportunity gaps among our youngest children. Nearly 50% of all Minnesota children were not ready for Kindergarten, and over 40,000 children didn’t have access to high-quality early care and education. 

These organizations had specific goals when they united in 2012: to elevate awareness, urgency and priority of early childhood at the capitol in a significant way; to bring forward actionable policy solutions; and to create broad, state-wide stakeholder alignment. Their shared goals led to the creation of the statewide coalition known as MinneMinds.

MinneMinds has helped improve the lives of many of Minnesota’s youngest learners through legislative advocacy over the past seven years. Between 2012 and 2019, funding for early childhood learning grew by 250% in Minnesota (from $114 million before the 2013 legislative session to $400 million today)*. Funding for early childhood scholarships grew from $6 million serving approximately 1,000 children to $140 million serving over 15,000 children. MinneMinds was also a key partner in securing $33 million for voluntary targeted home visiting, which now serves over 13,500 families. 

In addition to legislative funding increases, MinneMinds also effectively advocated for the state-wide expansion of Parent Aware, Minnesota’s childcare and early education improvement system, to 2,800 providers. MinneMinds’ involvement helped the program gain the resources and tools needed to help even more families and children.

There have been many significant advancements to reduce Minnesota’s opportunity gaps, but there is still much more that needs to be done. Minnesota continues to have one of the largest early childhood care and education opportunity gaps in the United States. Over 33,000 children lack access to high-quality early care and education, and over 16,000 families lack access to voluntary targeted home visiting. It is now time to change our approach to closing the opportunity gap by engaging community voices to lead future policy actions and solutions.

To this end, MinneMinds funders will focus on serving the unmet needs of communities by anchoring on the voices of parents and those with lived experience to set the guideposts and vision for early childhood advocacy. The future of early childhood advocacy must be more grassroots and parent/caretaker directed with equity at the very center to ensure that people most impacted by policy are guiding the decisions. MinneMinds has helped elevate early childhood as a top legislative priority, which fostered the growth and expansion of a strong and robust landscape of advocates, including parents and caretakers. These very same advocates will continue to be strong champions of early childhood and carry the torch forward. 

Today, the MinneMinds coalition sunsets. Our coalition members remain committed to creating an equitable future for all Minnesota children through continued support and funding of the Start Early Funders Coalition, and finding new, innovative ways to influence early childhood policy that are more deeply centered in the wisdom and experience of parents and families.

Funders will remain fully committed to serving our youngest and most underserved children through early childhood advocacy. In the coming months, they will support the development of a grassroots parent/caretaker centered legislative agenda, where those with lived experience are at the center of decision making.

MinneMinds wants to thank everyone that has been part of our success over the years: members, partners and funders, legislators, state officials, parents, and children. Because of your initiative and commitment, you have helped improve the lives of thousands of children throughout the state. Special thanks to the tremendous efforts of our community members and non-profit partners who have worked closely with MinneMinds to tirelessly advocate for successful outcomes.

* Figures provided by Minnesota Management and Budget, they include: Voluntary Pre-K, Scholarships, Head Start, ECFE and Home Visiting

Some of the analysis incorporated in this communication was made in collaboration with Close Gaps by 5, the Minnesota Department of Education, The Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Coalition for Targeted Home Visiting, Wilder Research, and Rob Grunewald from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

End of Session Update — 2019

The 2019 legislative session is finally over. On Monday, May 20, the 2019 regular legislative session officially came to an end, and then the Governor called for a 22-hour special session on Friday, May 24th that lasted until 7 a.m. Saturday, May 25th, to pass the state’s final budget.

During a press conference on Sunday, May 19, Governor Walz, Speaker Hortman, and Senate Majority Leader Gazelka announced their agreed upon budget targets. The final agreement included (among other things) an Education K–12 per pupil formula increase of 2% per year, federal tax conformity with a 0.25% tax cut in the second-tier income tax bracket, no gas tax increase, and the removal of the sunset in the health care provider tax with a reduction from 2% to 1.8%.

The Education budget included $540 million for the next biennium with the per-pupil formula increase, school safety funding, additional special education funding and $46 million for a continuation of 4,000 slots for Voluntary Pre-K, among other things.

The final Health and Human Services budget was reduced by $358 million for the next biennium, but included increases in funding for mental health and other programs that positively impact children and families.

News on early childhood was largely disappointing as over 32,000 children in Minnesota will still not have access to high-quality early childhood care and education. After the final budget agreement, little was left for early childhood.

Having allocated early childhood scholarship increases earlier this session in both the House and Senate Education Finance bills, the final Education Conference Committee budget included $146 million allocated to early learning scholarships for the 2020-2021 biennium. This included $4.5 million in early learning scholarships that were not used in 2019 that will be allocated for 2020. This is a step in the right direction because under the previous policy, this money would have gone unspent, but now approximately 600 more children will have access to scholarships.

Another important change in early learning scholarships is the transfer of scholarship appropriation into a special revenue fund to ensure more early learning scholarships are awarded. This fund would allow unused dollars to be returned and given to those on the waitlist. Currently, funds may go unused if a family’s eligibility changes during the year; this fund would reduce the 1,700 child waitlist. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) estimates that this will allow about 1,000 more children to be served every year.

The agreement also included $562 thousand in funding for kindergarten readiness assessments and $3.5 million for Parent Aware for the 2020-2021 biennium. Funding for the evidence-based home visiting bill was included at $33 million for the 2020-2021 biennium, which was put into the base in 2017. However, the policy language for home visiting we were supporting was not adopted. This means the policy language remains the same as adopted in 2017.

There were other significant early childhood legislative outcomes not directly tied to the MinneMinds agenda but would impact young children and their families. One of which includes a net increase to the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). Families who use this program will earn $100 more per month—the first increase to the program in 33 years. Another significant legislative outcome was that the Community Solutions Grant Program was given $4 million in funding for over 4 years.

It is disappointing that legislators and the Governor did not use a $1 billion dollar budget surplus as an opportunity to adequately invest in an area of wide support and great need: early childhood care and education. Unfortunately, 2019 was a lost opportunity for major progress for early childhood care and education. Over the next few weeks, we will work with our partners to find what steps must be taken to make sure our most vulnerable children and families receive the support they need.

The 2019 legislative session was frustrating for early education advocates, but we know how important this issue is for our children and families. We must keep moving forward and build momentum heading into 2020.

This summer is an opportunity for MinneMinds to work with partners in the legislature, state agencies, and with other partners to develop an agenda that builds on successes, makes improvements that better reach children and families, and doesn’t jeopardize the progress we have made.

We must continue to keep early childhood care and education as a top legislative issue at the capitol. Few issues have broad, bipartisan support like investing in our youngest learners.

Letter to Conferees – 2019

Health and Human Services Conferee Letter

May 2, 2019

Dear Health and Human Services Conference Committee Members:

The MinneMinds Coalition thanks members of the House and Senate for advocating for Minnesota’s youngest and most vulnerable children. We also thank Chairs Liebling and Benson for their leadership on behalf of children. We know this work has been especially challenging with this year’s budget targets.

We must take bold action to address Minnesota’s opportunity gaps, which are among the worst in the nation. To close this gap, we need investments in early care and education from birth to 5 years old. This legislative session we have a unique opportunity to create bipartisan compromises that will significantly reduce opportunity gaps, create jobs, and contribute to the economic vitality of our state for years to come.

We would like to highlight items that the MinneMinds Coalition strongly supports from the House and Senate Omnibus bills, along with changes that we believe would improve the bills:

The House has taken the first step in providing additional funding for the Child Care Assistance (CCAP) Program. Please support the House position and build on it by funding CCAP program improvements that will allow families to access and maintain affordable, stable child care, and conform to federal requirements. Child care assistance is a critical economic development tool for Minnesota businesses to have a reliable workforce. We need structural improvements to CCAP and they must come alongside protecting and expanding child care access so that all eligible children receive services. The 30,000 children served by CCAP and the thousands more who are left on waiting lists are the reasons why we must ensure that CCAP dollars go to children and families.

We urge the committee to increase access to targeted Home Visiting. These programs provide community-led solutions that stabilize two generations of Minnesotans. Voluntary targeted home visiting equips parents with parenting and family support tools to create an environment conducive to their child’s optimal learning and development. We support language that codifies home visiting for pregnant women and families with young children, increasing flexibility in types of programs funded and expands funding.

Again, thank you for your commitment to our youngest and most vulnerable children and for your work to eliminate Minnesota’s unacceptable opportunity gaps. We hope you can find ways to incorporate our concerns so that thousands of Minnesota’s children can have access to quality year-round, all-day early childhood care and education.

Sincerely,

Acooa Ellis Co-Chair MinneMinds Coalition Senior Vice President of Community Impact, Greater Twin Cities United Way

Ann Mulholland Co-Chair MinneMinds Coalition Executive Vice President, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations

Education Conference Committee Conferee Letter

May 2, 2019

Dear Education Conference Committee Members:

The MinneMinds Coalition thanks the members of the House and Senate for advocating for Minnesota’s youngest and most vulnerable children. We also thank the Education Finance Committee Chairs, Nelson and Davnie, for their leadership on behalf of children. We know this work has been especially challenging with this year’s budget targets.

We must take bold action to address Minnesota’s opportunity gaps, which are among the worst in the nation. To close this gap, we need investments in early care and education from birth to 5 years old. This legislative session we have a unique opportunity to create bipartisan compromises that will significantly reduce opportunity gaps, create jobs, and contribute to the economic vitality of our state for years to come.

Below are highlighted items that the MinneMinds Coalition supports from the House and Senate Omnibus bills, along with changes that we believe would improve the bills:

MinneMinds appreciates the increase in funding for early learning scholarships. Increased access to scholarships is essential to closing opportunity gaps. Close to 33,000 children do not have access to much-needed quality early childhood care and education. Research shows that early investments are the most effective and provide the highest return on investment. We ask you to significantly increase this investment to serve more of our most vulnerable children.

MinneMinds supports the inclusion and flexibility offered by leveraging both parentdirected Pathway I and program-based Pathway II early learning scholarships.

○ We support the inclusion of both Pathway I and Pathway II scholarships, acknowledging the shortage of early childhood and pre-kindergarten programs across Minnesota.

○ We support the flexibility both Pathways provide but are concerned that the House bill does not include a specific allocation of funding for each Pathway. We oppose that this be solely determined at the discretion of the Commissioner.

○ We oppose any elimination of new Pathway I scholarships for 4-year-olds that meet the income requirements in the House bill. Reducing access for those that need it will negatively impact kindergarten readiness.

○ We are concerned about the continued spending limits imposed on the Pathway II scholarships in the Senate bill. We support making improvements to this program but believe these scholarships are an important option for eligible children and families. Pathway II scholarships enable high-quality, mixed delivery programs across the state to provide effective early care and education that meet local needs.

○ We oppose any elimination of new Pathway I scholarships for 4-year-olds that meet the income requirements in the House bill. Reducing access for those that need it will negatively impact kindergarten readiness.

○ We are concerned about the continued spending limits imposed on the Pathway II scholarships in the Senate bill. We support making improvements to this program but believe these scholarships are an important option for eligible children and families. Pathway II scholarships enable high-quality, mixed delivery programs across the state to provide effective early care and education that meet local needs.

MinneMinds appreciates the investments in Parent Aware and kindergarten entry assessments. Both Parent Aware and kindergarten assessments will help Minnesotans understand which programs are the most effective at preparing our youngest learners for success in kindergarten and beyond. Parent Aware supports the expansion of highquality early learning programs throughout Minnesota.

Again, thank you for your commitment to our youngest and most vulnerable children, as well as your efforts to eliminate Minnesota’s unacceptable opportunity gap. We hope you can find ways to incorporate our concerns so that thousands of Minnesota’s children can have access to quality, year-round, all-day early childhood care and education.

Sincerely,

Acooa Ellis Co-Chair, MinneMinds Coalition Senior Vice President of Community Impact, Greater Twin Cities United Way

Ann Mulholland Co-Chair, MinneMinds Coalition Executive Vice President, Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations

Parents and Early Childhood Advocates Urge Minnesota Lawmakers To Prioritize Early Childhood Funding to Address Early Childhood Care and Education Crisis

Brooklyn Park, Minnesota — On Thursday, several parents and early childhood advocates urged Minnesota lawmakers to prioritize early childhood funding and address Minnesota’s early childhood care and education crisis at New Horizon Academy. Located in Brooklyn Park, New Horizon Academy is a four-star Parent Aware institution committed to providing high-quality care.

Advocates at the event noted that Minnesota has one of the worst opportunity gaps in the nation. “More than 33,000 children lack access to quality early childhood education and over 16,000 families lack access to voluntary home visiting” said Ann Mulholland, executive vice president of the Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundations and co-chair of the MinneMinds coalition. The early childhood crisis is even more apparent in Greater Minnesota, as there has been a net loss of over 15,000 child care spaces on top of the already astronomical number of children lacking access.

Besides New Horizon Academy, Minnesota has other high-quality early childhood programs actively working towards bridging opportunity gaps, such Way to Grow. For nearly 30 years, Way to Grow has brought different communities together to support early childhood care and education in Minnesota. In 2018, they served over 2,400 clients, conducted over 11,600 home visits, and made over 2,300 resource referrals to families. But they’re not done yet: according to Carolyn Smallwood, CEO of Way to Grow, their newest learning center in Brooklyn Center aims to provide “extra support to parents through opportunities like home visiting and parent-child classes”.

For many parents, programs such as early learning scholarships are one of the few resources they have to help send their child to a quality education program due to high costs, but they are well worth it. New Horizon Academy parent Marie expressed how her child benefited from an early learning scholarship, stating: “without that scholarship…I’d constantly be worried if he’s on track or if he’s going to be behind in school. [Since] being in New Horizon, I’ve seen him at so many milestones.”  Early learning scholarships have also helped Marie by enabling her to save money for nursing school and start her career.

Many early childhood advocates, including MinneMinds co-chair Acooa Ellis, are dedicated to making a difference not only for children but for Minnesota as a whole. “We all lose when our community fails to support the growth of a child into their brilliance. “ says Ellis, who is also senior vice president of Community Impact for Greater Twin Cities United Way. “If we want to close these gaps, we must continue to prioritize investing in quality early childhood programs and make sure all of our children have access to them. This must be a bipartisan priority.”

MinneMinds, is a broad coalition of over 100 statewide organizations including foundations, nonprofits and advocacy groups, all united in prioritizing Minnesota’s youngest children as the most important investment for a stronger Minnesota. The MinneMinds agenda is supported by parents, early childhood care and education leaders, teachers, business leaders and community members united in making access to high-quality early care and education possible for every child in Minnesota.


MinneMinds Responds to Governor Walz’s Budget Proposal on Early Childhood

Last week, Governor Walz released his 2020-2021 budget recommendations that included investments to support early childhood development. MinneMinds applauds the Governor’s leadership on behalf of Minnesota’s children.

As a statewide coalition with over 100 members, MinneMinds is dedicated to equitable access to high quality, mixed delivery, accessible and culturally competent early childhood care and education. With over 90% of brain development occurring by age five, we know the needs of Minnesota’s children should be met from prenatal to age five, with multi-generational solutions.

Eliminating Minnesota’s opportunity gaps must be a top priority this session as they remain among the worst in the nation. Both Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan understand how important early childhood care and education is to Minnesota’s future, and MinneMinds strongly supports Governor Walz’s February 19, 2019 statement: “closing these opportunity gaps isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s an economic necessity as our workforce demands are ever increasing.”

MinneMinds supports many of the important early childhood investments included in the Governor’s budget. We appreciate the increased investment of $44 million in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). By increasing CCAP reimbursement rates, our most at-risk families will have increased access to early care and education options. We support the Governor’s decision to provide $1 million for grants through the Department of Employment and Economic Development for communities to address the childcare shortage. We also support the Governor’s recommendation of transferring scholarship appropriation into a special revenue fund to ensure more early learning scholarships are awarded. This fund would allow unused dollars to be returned and given to those on the waitlist. Currently, funds may go unused if a family’s eligibility changes during the year–this fund would reduce the 1,700 child waitlist.

At least 33,000 children currently do not have access to much-needed quality early childhood care and education and over 16,000 families lack access to voluntary home visiting. We hope  that the state’s final budget will increase funding for early childhood scholarships and voluntary home visiting. Scholarships support families with the greatest need and allow parents to choose the best high-quality early childhood program for their children. Home visiting empowers at-risk parents by providing invaluable family support tools that create self-sustaining, healthy families. Significant increases in investment for these programs is a critical solution to eliminating Minnesota’s opportunity gaps.  

We also believe that Governor Walz and legislative leaders should further support programs that lead to quality early care and education, including Parent Aware and Kindergarten Entry Profile (KEP). Both Parent Aware and KEP will help Minnesotans understand which programs are the most effective at preparing our youngest learners for success in kindergarten and beyond. The Governor’s budget proposal supports these programs at current levels, but we must ensure these programs are fully funded to fulfill their missions.

Our goal is to ensure that thousands of Minnesotan children have access to high-quality, culturally relevant, year-round, all-day early childhood care, education, and voluntary home visiting. We believe this budget is a positive step towards strengthening our families and the state’s future. MinneMinds is committed to working together with the Governor and Legislators to advancing these key priorities.

A MinneMinds Call to Action for Our Youngest Children

The 2019 legislative session brings a new opportunity to significantly expand access to high-quality early childhood programs. With 90% of brain development occurring by age five, investing in early childhood helps every child have an equitable opportunity to excel in their future education. It is important we take bold action this session towards closing the opportunity gap by expanding access to high-quality early care and education programs. 

MinneMinds legislative action is guided by the following core principles:

  • Expanding access to scholarships that meet the needs of low-income children from birth to five-years-old and prioritizing children with the highest needs.
  • Increasing access, flexibility and funding for targeted home visiting programs.
  • Supporting programs that lead to quality early care and education, including Parent Aware and Kindergarten Entry Profile (KEP). It is important to ensure that Parent Aware has the necessary resources to support early care and education providers and back a culturally relevant KEP via approved assessment tools.
  • Assisting efforts of our partners advocating for family and provider-friendly provisions of the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant reauthorization. We also support efforts to expand the provider pipeline and encourage workforce growth by increasing funding for grants, tax credits and policies for early childhood providers.

This year’s legislative session began with a great start in both the House and Senate. House legislators introduced House File 1 (H.F.1), or the Great Start for All Minnesota Children Act. It is a strong, comprehensive bill, upon which we can build. H.F.1 includes the following provisions that we strongly support:

  • Expand Early Learning Scholarships and CCAP (Child Care Assistance Program) to help tens of thousands of low-income Minnesota children age three and under who can’t afford quality early learning programs.
  • Enhance home visiting programs that provide coaching and customized support to parents of Minnesota’s most vulnerable children. 
  • Invest in childcare start-up grants to help address quality child care shortages.

While H.F.1 has several great provisions, we urge House members to expand access to Early Learning Scholarships for four-year-olds. Representatives should also support high-quality early childhood programs by ensuring that Parent Aware has the necessary resources for providers and by supporting a culturally relevant KEP via approved assessment tools.

The Senate is also off to a great start as Senator Carla Nelson authored bipartisan bill S.F.1306, which would increase access to early childhood scholarships for 3- and 4-year-olds. We would like to urge Senate members to include children from birth to two-years-old in expanding access to early childhood scholarships. This is crucial because 80% of brain development happens in the first three years of life, and thousands of Minnesotan families struggle with the costs of early childcare. We are also excited to see Senator Relph announce S.F.1438, a bill that would expand access and flexibility to voluntary home visiting.

These bills mark a crucial time in early childhood education in Minnesota, but we still need your help. Make your voice heard by calling on our state’s leaders to support bipartisan policies and legislation to improve long-term outcomes and success for our children. 


Contact Governor Tim Walz & Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan 
Ask them to prioritize investing in our state’s youngest, most vulnerable children! 
Call 651-201-3400 or contact the Governor’s office online


If we hope to close the opportunity gap, our state must continue to support investments that increase access to high-quality programs and ensure all of our children have access to them. We must make it clear to Minnesota lawmakers that early childhood support must continue to be a top bipartisan priority in order to reach an agreement that will benefit tens of thousands of families and our state’s future. 

Success Stories – Montessori American Indian Childcare Center

LaVon Lee – Program Director

Creating quality cultural programs using indigenous learning methods and practices is an approach making the Montessori American Indian Childcare Center (MAICC) an innovative and successful educational model. Established in 2014, MAICC’s mission is to “access the early childhood needs and academic achievement gap of American Indian children through revitalizing the language and culture.”

As a Four Star Parent Aware institution, they are committed to providing a high-quality and affordable education experience for both children and parents. One hundred percent of children (ages ranging from 33 months to six years) that leave their pre-school are Kindergarten and first grade ready, and 86 percent of children receive early learning scholarships.

One way MAICC provides high-quality education is through the Montessori method. The Montessori method aims to cultivate the child’s own natural desire to learn. In this environment, children are engaged in:

  • Exercises of Practical Life
  • Language—including Native Language
  • Sensorial Experiences
  • Direct and Indirect preparation to become strong Writers and Readers
  • Direct and Indirect preparation for Math

In addition to using the Montessori method, MAICC seeks to embed culture and language in their programs. Children will have the opportunity to:

  • To see and be cared for by American Indian staff
  • To be treated as wakanyeja (sacred little one’s in the Lakota language)
  • To hear native language and oral stories
  • To feel welcome and safe in a beautiful, culturally-reflective environment
  • To explore and experience the wonder of the world around us
  • To speak and develop their native language
  • To share and learn “we are all related”

MAICC offers a variety of opportunities for parents to be engaged with their child’s learning, such as the Parent Nest program. Through this program, parents are given the opportunity to interact with their child in their school environment, and learn about the activities and routines that help build the confidence and ability of their children.

MAICC also facilitates conversations among parents and administrators about future programming. In preparation for the 2018 and 2019 school year, parents participated in a Talking Circle—a tradition rooted in American Indian culture that allows participants to fully share their ideas without interruption. In this conversation, parents offered ideas surrounding child and parent well-being and how to strengthen community connections. The input from parents was used to plan programming for the current school year, and has empowered parents to be engaged in their community. One parent is in a leadership role representing MAICC on the Serving the Whole Child Parent Committee, a partnership of Montessori Partners and Parents.

With their dedication to creating an all-inclusive learning environment, MAICC has made an impact on American Indian families locally. Culture and education go hand-in-hand, and MAICC shows how well the two can provide an all-inclusive experience.

Success Stories – Way to Grow

Carolyn Smallwood – CEO

Megan McLaughlin – Program Director

Way to Grow was founded with one promise: to work every day to change the lives of some of our most vulnerable neighbors.

Way to Grow supports families with children from birth to age eight, and believes that every one of their neighbors is a valued member of our community, and is committed to continuing to fight for education and economic equity for all. As the late Senator Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.” After 29 years, Way to Grow has reached over 68,000 children and their families across Minneapolis. Through the hard work and dedication of staff, community partners, donors, and volunteers, they have helped stabilize families, built networks of services, and prepared children for school.

Effective early learning starts in a stable home. While Way to Grow parents are committed to helping their children succeed in life, overwhelming economic and social barriers often stand in their way. Way to Grow Family Educators get to know each family and work with them to identify their needs, and Resource Advocates work closely with clients to address the challenges they may face by connecting them to critical services. In addition, 29 students receive scholarships to attend a Way to Grow preschool.

Way to Grow’s programming includes the Dream Tracks Teen Parenting Program, which helps educate and prepare parents ages 15–21 for a successful life. Dream Tracks addresses parenting challenges, provides motivation and emotional empowerment, helps parents maintain a focus on academic success and career goals, and provides information on sexual and reproductive health. Additionally, teen parents receive regular home visits and are invited to participate in all events and activities. Not only do these youngest parents feel supported and part of a community, there are fewer repeat pregnancies.

 

These services exemplify Home Visiting at its most effective. We at MinneMinds are proud to highlight Dream Tracks among Way to Grow’s notable contributions. Last year, Way to Grow saw a number of significant accomplishments:

  • 87% of preschoolers were prepared for kindergarten
  • 100% of teen parents did not have a repeat pregnancy
  • 91% of parents attended a parent-teacher conference
  • Worked with over 100 community partners to provide basic needs and enrichment opportunities
  • Gave 2,353 referrals for basic needs and services were given
  • Family Educators reached more than 2,400 individuals, including more than 1400 children through 11,665 home visits.
  • Throughout the year Way to Grow’s team provided critical support to over 760 families.

Whether they are providing books to build a home library or making referrals to housing opportunities, they are there for families every step of the way. We at MinneMinds are proud to advocate for highly successful and effective programs like Way to Grow.

Success Stories – Listos Preschool and Childcare

Courtney Caron – Program Director
Christina Valdez – Executive Director

Having opened in the fall of 2015, Listos Preschool and Childcare is Rochester’s first dual immersion early learning program, which provides a diverse, inclusive, high-quality bilingual education. The guiding mission is apparent in the name Listos, which means both smart and ready in Spanish, the goal of a curriculum designed to prepare kids for kindergarten and the world.

Listos is the culmination of a grassroots effort to create a high-quality early learning center for children that prioritizes a global curriculum. Accepting children of all language abilities, children at Listos experience art, math, science, music, literacy and movement in both Spanish and English, and through immersion grow to be skilled speakers in each. Thanks to bilingual staff, both Spanish- and English-speaking families can communicate directly with their child’s teachers, without an interpreter.

Immersion has a major positive effect on the 36 children currently enrolled at Listos. Early language learning has positive effects on brain structure, builds a desire to learn well past preschool age, increases curiosity about the world, and builds confidence in language abilities. In an increasingly diverse community, these language skills are vital tools for success for these children now and in their future.

As a Four Star Parent Aware rated program, Listos receives coaching and evaluations ensuring the highest quality early learning environment possible, and provides supports to families to apply to receive Early Learning Scholarships. As the demand for this type of culturally-relevant program grows, scholarships will be a major resource to keep this opportunity affordable and accessible.

Currently, seven children receive support from Early Learning Scholarships, with another 11 receiving School Readiness Scholarships. This funding is crucial in helping families afford this high-quality early learning opportunity – but these scholarships cannot cover the full costs, and several families are on waiting lists. To assist families, Listos accepts tax-deductible donations  and offers internal scholarships for families most in need. Listos also seeks out grants and holds fundraisers to support programming, outreach and scholarships throughout the year.

This is not the only way that Listos helps families. They also empower families to read to their children in their home language and promote the understanding of the effectiveness of literacy skill transfer between languages. Listos also has a Community Literacy Program providing parents with opportunities, age-appropriate reading materials, resources, support and guidance for reading to their children in Spanish. Those skills give children a strong foundation to be successful readers in kindergarten.

Listos has quickly become a key member of the community and actively seeks out partners to build upon its programming. Partnerships include celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month with the Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester, activities at the Rochester International World Festival, and monthly Spanish-language storytimes at the Rochester Public Library.

Together, the curriculum and partnerships are making a strong impact for children and families. 100% of Listos graduates meet the research-based national standards of kindergarten readiness as defined in the 38 domains in Teaching Strategies Gold. It’s providers like Listos that show the positive impact that high-quality early childhood care and education make every day for Minnesota’s youngest learners.

Success Stories – Northside Achievement Zone

Sondra Samuels – President & CEO

One of Minnesota’s pioneering early childhood care and education leaders, the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) has been a positive force for children and families in Minneapolis since its beginning in 2012. A collaborative of over 40 partners, their community-focused approach has provided strong education outcomes for youth, compassionate guidance for parents, and real results for Minneapolis.

 

The Northside Achievement Zone mission is to “end generational poverty and build a culture of achievement in North Minneapolis where all low-income children of color graduate from high school college- and career-ready.” NAZ believes that all children are “scholars” reflecting their potential and inspiring the belief that children can and will go to college with coordinate systems of support from pre-natal to 18 years of age. Facing one of the worst opportunity gaps in the country for children of color, The Northside Achievement Zone is focused on improving outcomes for children with four goals:

1. Increase kindergarten readiness from 28% to 80%
2. Reading at grade-level by third grade from 16% to 70%
3. Grade-level math proficiency by eighth grade from 29% to 70%
4. Graduating on time, prepared for college from 51% to 80%

One key way NAZ is working towards achieving these outcomes is by fully incorporating parents and families into a child’s education through their family academies. These classes provide tools and strategies for parents to prepare their child for a lifetime of success. Classes are evidence-based and incorporate input from families who partner with NAZ. Additionally, families are connected with a licensed clinical social worker who meets face to face with families and works to understand their needs and to support children with behavioral health needs.

NAZ Family Achievement Coaches partner with North Minneapolis families to illuminate a path to college and bring in support along the way. Family Achievement Coaches work side by side with parents to propel NAZ scholars effectively through the NAZ solutions to college and beyond. The Family Achievement Coach builds trusting relationships, inspire a deep commitment from parents, and solidify the belief that their children will graduate from college.

Only 25% of children living in North Minneapolis start kindergarten ready to learn which is why NAZ is providing 148 state-funded scholarships in Fiscal Year 2018, to attend three- and four-star rated early childhood centers where children get the support they need. The latest data from NAZ showed that 209 children were enrolled in high-quality early learning centers in 2017.

Taken together, the results show that this access to high-quality early learning is making a big difference for these children. Participants in NAZ with early learning program and parent education classes were 2.5 times more likely to be ready for Kindergarten than their peers. These effects carry throughout a child’s education: children who participated in NAZ had higher math and reading proficiency scores though 8th grade than their peers who did not participate.

According to a report from the Wilder Research Foundation, the return on investment is $6 for every $1 spent. More than the economics, the Northside Achievement Zone is providing real results and opportunities for young learners who have been left behind. The Northside Achievement Zone is a true example of the power of early learning care and education that children and families deserve.