Need for change
Q: What is an Early Learning Hub?
A: An Early Learning Hub is a coordinating body that pulls together resources focused on children and families in its defined service area,focused on outcomes for children and their families.
Under the Early Learning Hub model, all of the sectors that touch early childhood education – health care, early childhood educators, human and social services, K-12 school districts, and the private sector – have a common place to focus their efforts, resources, and strategies with a shared purpose.
Q: Why are we changing?
A: Oregon is home to 285,698 children under six, and while there are heroic efforts taking place across the state to support these children and their families, the lack of a cohesive early childhood education system is preventing us from successfully preparing all of our children – especially our most vulnerable – for kindergarten. Despite spending $1.7 billion dollars on programs for children and families – across early education, health care, and human/social services – 40% of our children show up at kindergarten unprepared for academic success.
We’re changing the current system because a more coordinated approach that works across systems and silos, toward an aligned goal is necessary to reach improved outcomes for our children and families, and a better return on tax payer investment overall for Oregon’s future.
Q: How many Early Learning Hubs will there be and where will they be located?
A: In 2013 up to seven Early Learning Hubs were permitted by legislation, and by July 1, 2014 there will be up to 16 Early Learning Hubs statewide. There is no pre-determined map for where Early Learning Hubs will be located. Instead, communities across Oregon will come together and propose service areas and strategies to the Early Learning Council for approval. The only “requirement” is that we cannot have more than 16 Hubs total, and we have to ensure statewide coverage of all children within that scope of “up to 16.”
Q: Is the Hub process competitive? How will the current good will, collaborations, partnerships and good intentions in communities survive a competitive process?
A: Because the Early Learning Council has a limit, set in Oregon statute, on the number of Hubs it can certify – and because certification is going to be based on readiness – the application process is competitive by necessity. However, the Council has faith in the people who make up the early childhood community across the state – we encourage all potential advocates to talk, share strategies, remember the common vision and keep our mutually shared goals for children at the forefront of all discussions. We’re competing to ensure the best strategies to improve the lives of Oregon’s youngest children and their families.
Q: How can years of institutional knowledge best be used as the development of Hubs moves forward? Can current service delivery people and stakeholders engage and provide input?
A: The goal is to fully build on existing knowledge and expertise in each community – with the significant change including coordinating across sectors and focusing on a commonly shared set of outcomes. The ELC strongly encourages service providers and stakeholders – especially parents – to get involved with the local Early Learning Hub conversations in communities around the state, offering their thoughts, input, and expertise.
Q: What about communities where there is a conflict between [community entity X] and where [community entity X] doesn’t work so well with other community partners? What about communities where there isn’t existing collaboration?
A: Again, the ELC has faith in the early childhood community across the state to work through disagreements so that we can shift the focus to transformative results for children and families. Early Learning Hubs create an opportunity for new collaboration and to work through past challenges. The goal is to support vulnerable children, and when we keep that focus, it’s easier to work through tough conversations.
If necessary ELC staff can recommend neutral skilled facilitators and mediators to support communities in achieving common ground.
Q: What is the definition of an early learning service?
A: An early learning service is any that is provided to a child and/or their family that supports their growth and development. Definitions of all terms related to Early Learning Hubs will be made available as part of the Early Learning Hub Request for Application process for any and all interested parties.
Q: How does a community determine what current strategies or services to sustain in this kind of transition?
A: Part of a successful transformation to community-led Early Learning Hubs is for the Early Learning Council to avoid “prescribing” a one-size-fits-all model. The real power comes from communities taking stock of their strengths and assets and deciding what to build on, as well as where to bring in potentially new supports. The Council will release an optional Community Readiness Assessment as part of the RFA process to support this effort, and will also offer an optional webinar on conducting a community assessment for people who haven’t done this work before.
As a filter for what services to keep and build upon, communities should think through the core characteristics of Early Learning Hubs. They are:
- Family focused.
- Focused on reaching the highest risk children.
- Responsible for coordinating and budgeting across different pots of money.
- Accountable for outcomes.
- Flexible in strategies.
Program Model and Operational Questions
Q: Can there be multiple options for a Family Support Manager role or does it have to be an actual position? Especially in communities where families are commuting and accessing services in multiple counties? And what about communities where the current case management approach is working?
A: In 2012, the Early Learning Council conducted research on the variety of people and roles that currently support families to access services and found that this role is defined in many different ways across the state. We believe it’s important to have someone playing that family support role connected to the Hub, but it will be up to Hub applicants to define that role. There is not a unique or new funding stream dedicated to the Family Support Manager role.
Q: Will there be a structure for Hubs to interact and learn from each other?
A: Yes! Absolutely. Upon implementation, the Early Learning Council envisions both formal and informal learning communities.
Q: In a regional model, where does local fit in?
A: It will be up to each applicant community to clearly define how to pull all important local concerns and assets into its Early Learning Hub strategy. The ELC cannot recommend a specific program or governance model, however, it is important for applicants to keep in mind the importance of integrating efforts across multiple sectors and developing meaningful relationships with those served by the Hub.
Q: What if we just broke it into two hubs: Urban & Rural?
A: The ELC is not going to comment on what specific “maps” could look like because we want communities to define their service areas and come to us with ideas specific and unique to their areas. We can say that the ELC will consider all applications submitted through the RFA process, and will keep an eye on both efficiency/scale, and the ability to deliver meaningful supports for the target population within the proposed service area. We encourage communities to work together and share with each other. While the urban and rural parts of the state have obvious differences, we suspect that each community around the state has something unique to offer to the conversation.
Q: I’m confused. Should Hubs direct service providers in any way?
A: Hubs are designed to coordinate existing community services in a more direct, effective, and family centric way. Hubs are not intended to become direct service providers themselves.
Q: What happens if businesses are not involved in this process?
A: Business is clearly called out in both legislative statute and in Early Learning Council policy documents as one of the core “five sectors” whose collaboration is necessary for Early Learning Hubs to succeed. The other sectors are K-12 education, health, social and human services, and early childhood education. Any Early Learning Hub application that does not demonstrate a comprehensive strategy for working across these five sectors will be missing a critical readiness component.
Q: How are Hubs like CCO’s?
A: Early Learning Hubs and Coordinated Care Organizations share some common characteristics – especially around a commitment to outcomes and regionalizing services. Hubs and CCOs will likely work closely together around ensuring health in early childhood and prospective Hub applicants are encouraged to bring local CCO leadership into the conversation.
Additionally, at the state level, there is a joint Early Learning Council/Health Policy Board subcommittee focused on integrating health care and early learning policies, sharing resources, and aligning goals.
Q: Will there be sufficient technical support and training so we can be successful?
A: The Early Learning Council is deeply committed to providing an appropriate amount of formal technical support and training for new Early Learning Hubs once certification is complete. We will be looking to strike a balance between empower and support vs. prescribing a program model.
After the RFA goes “live” the Early Learning Council will conduct four regional “bidders conferences” for interested applicants to receive support on technical (not content) questions that pertain to the RFA.
Following the certification process, the first wave of Early Learning Hubs will have the opportunity to get together in person with ELC staff and functional experts for support in building out their year-1 operational plan. Our goal is to set communities up for success every step of the way.
Q: How is community education and collaboration going to work without a person staffed in each county?
A: As part of the RFA process, each Early Learning Hub applicant will need to articulate its proposed governance model, and how it proposes to handle the “Family Resource Manager.” Community education, support, and collaboration will happen through each Hub’s governing body and potentially also through the lead agency that steps forward as its fiscal agent. Early Learning Council staff will work with each certified Hub to determine the right local model for ongoing communication.
Q: Is Oregon a lone pioneer in this work (like in in the CCO/Healthcare transformation world) or can we better understand the road and opportunity ahead by learning from another state/s?
A: Oregon is part of a small group of states working to change their approach to early childhood services through this community model.
- Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, and Iowa all use a “regional council” model similar to the Early Learning Hub model.
- The organization STRIVE has used a similar theory of change (Collective Impact) to drive improvements throughout Cincinnati’s education system – from early childhood all the way through high school.
- In Alaska, Dr. Sarah Redding started work similar to ours, which has now spread to Ohio.
- Closer to home, the Systems of Care Institute at Portland State University has done extensive work with many communities across the state in thinking about a comprehensive approach to care for children and their families.
The Early Learning Council is actively thinking about/open to suggestions for bringing expertise from other locations to bear in Oregon, so please let us know if you have ideas.
Managing the transition
Q: How can we access where people already are working and accessing services?
A: Understanding where the community of parents and children who need access to services are is a critical element of success. Early Learning Council staff are currently partnering with other state agencies to develop data sets that will identify where children under six live, map out where children under six living in poverty are, and then overlay that with service areas for CCOs, DHS field offices, school districts, child care providers, Head Start facilities, etc.
With these data sets, communities should have a strong foundation for mapping out where their constituents are currently and come up with innovative strategies for reaching them and increasing access. This data will be released to all via the Early Learning Hub web site upon release of the RFA.
Q: Under this new model, what are the access points? How do families access the system?
A: Part of what is so exciting about Early Learning Hubs is that it gives us the opportunity to look at how families do (or don’t) currently access the system and come up with new ways for them to. A strong Early Learning Hub will be able to demonstrate how families currently access the system and how those access points can become even more clear and efficient, so that families who need help experience “no wrong door” in their efforts to get support.
Q: How will the statute-directed transition from the Commission system ensure a seamless transition of services?
A: The Early Learning Council recognizes there will be a gap felt between the sun-setting of the local Commission on Children and Families model, and the scaling up of Early Learning Hubs to statewide coverage. To minimize this effect, we proposed several strategies in statute:
- Provide funding that used to go through the commission system directly to Healthy Start programs and to Relief Nurseries.
- Create flexible funds (former basic capacity) for county commissions to use to continue work, prior to the covered service area folding into an Early Learning Hub.
Each county has signed an intergovernmental agreement with the Early Learning Council to support this transition.
Q: What’s the amount of actual funding?
A: $4.6 million has been appropriated for Early Learning Hub launch.
However, when communities are thinking about the total amount of funding available to pull into a local strategy, they should take into consideration all of the funding streams available locally, through other state programs (like SNAP, TANF, WIC, etc), and through private philanthropy. The funds provided directly via the Early Learning Council should be viewed as the floor, not the ceiling.
Q: How will the information set forth in the Comprehensive Children’s Budget Sept report move forward in ELC work?
A: Communities should use the Comprehensive Children’s Budget to create similar comprehensive budget of the funds that go toward supporting young children and their families within a proposed Early Learning Hub service area. That comprehensive understanding is critical for developing coordinated strategies.
Q: How can we better leverage dollars?
A: In general, we would like to see a reduction in duplication of services. Regionalizing our service delivery model to go bigger/broader than county boundaries will also maximize the return on our limited state dollars. Beyond those broad strokes, we are looking to Hub applicants to propose strategies to maximize all dollars – state, local, federal and private – available to them.
Q: Is there an expectation that if you want to be funded with state resources that you must be a part of a Hub?
A: Yes. Coordination of funds is critical to supporting shared outcomes, so if you are funded with a state dollar and part of that funding is a responsibility for vulnerable children and families you must be at the table.
Q: What amount of funds that come into a community are governed by federal regulations? How can compliance and accountability be maintained at the same time that coordination is achieved?
A: As a first step we would like communities to propose which federal funds they could see coordinating as part of a shared Early Learning Hub strategy, and then the state will provide technical assistance and support to determine if this is possible within the federal framework for compliance and reporting.
Early Childhood Stakeholders
Q: How are the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative Hubs going to be used as collaborative resources advancing ELC goals?
A: The OPEC Hubs – led by a four-foundation collaborative (The Ford Family Foundation, The Oregon Community Foundation, The Collins Foundation, the Meyer Memorial Trust) and Oregon State University – are an incredible resource for communities, and we hope that as potential Early Learning Hub applicants explore best practices and community assets, that they are actively bringing OPEC leaders to the table. There are many lessons to learn from this work around program model, collaborative work and problem solving, and, of course, effective models for improving family engagement and participation.
Q: What will be done to encourage communication between preschool and kindergarten teachers, so there is a continuum of kindergarten readiness?
A: At the state level we are working on building this bridge in several specific ways through our Head Start collaboration work, through the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, and through the Early Learning Council moving into the Department of Education where we can work even more closely with our colleagues in the K-12 system.
In addition to thinking about and acting on collaboration at the state level, successful Early Learning Hub applicants will be able to demonstrate specific strategies for connecting kindergarten teachers and early childhood/preschool providers within their proposed service area.
Q: Public librarians nation-wide have been trained on early literacy skills, and Oregon is recognized as a leader in promoting early literacy at library story times. How do you see librarians being involved in the new direction of education?
A: We believe libraries can play an extremely important role as experts on early childhood literacy. We would love to see local libraries involved in the creation of Early Learning Hub RFAs, and we would also love to have local libraries think about how to link and coordinate their early literacy funding and strategies to the strategies communities will propose through the application process.
Q: How will children’s social and emotional development be addressed by the ELC? What plans are being made to address these needs?
A: A child’s social and emotional development is a core element of kindergarten readiness. In fact, social/emotional development is one of the five domains for development and readiness specifically called out by the Early Learning Council. Early Learning Hubs will be asked to articulate strategies not only for kindergarten readiness, but also for ensuring children grow up in stable and attached families. Both of these big picture outcomes lend themselves concretely to developing strategies for social and emotional well-being. Without these strategies in place, we will never meet our goals.
Q: How can Early Head Start and Early Intervention be at the base of an approach?
A: While the ELC isn’t mandating a specific approach, we strongly encourage both Early Head Start and Early Intervention providers to bring their expertise to the table as local Early Learning Hub models and applications are being developed. The statute that defines Early Learning Hubs specifically calls out the need for participation by the early education community, and we hope that all members take advantage of this opportunity.
Q: What is going to happen to Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education?
A: Nothing – these critical supports will continue to support children and families as they have in the past. With an increased and more coordinated focus on early childhood screening, we hope that more families who need Early Intervention services are found and linked to this critical support system via their local Early Learning Hub.
Accountability/Clarity of Expectations
Q: How do you evaluate if a child is ready to learn? And if they are/aren’t, who gets the credit/critique?
A: Oregon will evaluate kindergarten readiness using the Kindergarten Assessment adopted by the state. It is our hope that this assessment is used to help us all understand what strategies are working, and where we need to reflect on, adjust, and improve our practice. If children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn, all the members of the community who helped get them there get to share in that victory. When children show up unprepared, all members of the community responsible for supporting young children should take a moment to reflect on changes to improve the outcome.
Ideally this is an environment of continuous improvement in service of the goal of healthy, prepared, children, rather than a competition for credit or blame.
Q: How prescriptive IS the implementation of a Hub?
A: The ELC is not prescribing a specific program model or approach for how a community chooses to get results for its children. The strategies it tests, the way it coordinates and deploys resources, the way it governs itself and communicates with the broader community – all of these operational decisions are up to the Early Learning Hub applicants. That said, there are some component parts of Early Learning Hubs that are consistent across the board:
- A focus on outcomes, and on a shared set of outcomes. Progress metrics and targets will be set to locally appropriate levels, but we will all be moving toward the same global outcomes.
- A focus on improving results for the highest risk children.
- A focus on families and meaningful relationships with the people we serve.
- A focus on integration across the five sectors: K-12 education, health, social/human services, early childhood education, and business.
- A focus on data use for continuous improvement.
- A focus on coordinating effective systems and funds.
The strategies for each component will vary based on community strengths, needs and assets.
Q: What are the expectations regarding roles and responsibilities from the state?
A: Since this is a new model, this will emerge over time, but Early Learning Council staff are building a Hub implementation support team that will focus on helping new Hubs operationalize their strategies for improving outcomes with a focus on building up the program and governance model, spending funds strategically, and using data to inform and adjust direction. Staff will not mandate approaches to local Hubs, but will be there to help.
Q: What are the expectations for reporting, monitoring, data collection?
A: Hubs will be expected to collect and report consistent data sets, with support from state staff. We will review data and trends collectively on a regular basis with an eye toward drawing out practice that works, and adjusting when strategies are not bearing fruit.
Q: What kind of high level outcomes do you think will ultimately emerge from this process?
A: The ELC’s goal is to keep our outcomes as simple and meaningful as possible. Our ultimate three outcomes are:
- Children ready for kindergarten.
- Children raised in stable and attached families.
- Systems that are integrated and aligned into one early learning system.
Letters of Interest
Q: Could you provide what is referenced in the Community Readiness Assessment as “Oregon Laws Chapter 37, Section 12?” Also, HB 2013 in Section 16 references section 77 (3),(4), and (5) of Chapter 37.
A: Absolutely. OR Laws Chapter 37 is the statutory definition of at risk created by the legislature.
Here’s that definition:
(3) As used in this section:
(a) “At-risk child” means a child who is at risk of not entering school ready to learn due to factors, including but not limited to:
(A) Living in a household that is at or near poverty, as determined under federal poverty
(B) Living in inadequate or unsafe housing;
(C) Having inadequate nutrition;
(D) Living in a household where there is significant or documented domestic conflict, disruption or violence;
(E) Having a parent who suffers from mental illness, who engages in substance abuse or who experiences a developmental disability or an intellectual disability;
(F) Living in circumstances under which there is neglectful or abusive care-giving;
(G) Having unmet health care and medical treatment needs; and
(H) Having a racial or ethnic minority status that is historically consistent with disproportionate overrepresentation in academic achievement gaps or in the systems of child welfare, foster care or juvenile or adult corrections.
The OR Law Chapter 37 is basically HB 4165 put into law form – and HB 2013 references it since it set the initial structure for Hubs. You can find it at this link – it’s been helpful to print out to have side-by-side with HB 2013 for reference.
Q: I am assuming you are anticipating one Community Readiness Assessment completed by the board/organization coordinating the community collaboration? The Applicant could be the collaboration of organizations (and hence have many assessments) but I am assuming you are anticipating a single Assessment?
A: That’s right – we are thinking one readiness assessment per applicant and that the “applicant” is really the leadership team of the collaborative of organizations that have come together. The provider assessment is for that same team to use with providers they are thinking about coordinating/contracting with. Both are meant to be used simply as tools that support thinking about strengths/gaps/strategies.
Q: Are the readiness assessments being submitted? If yes, assessments are turned in as a part of the RFA and not attached with the Letter of Community Interest?
A: They will be submitted with the RFA, and not the letter.