June 20, 2016
Establishing consistent and high-quality teaching standards that raise the bar for early learning classrooms is the focus of a $1.4 million grant awarded to the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. The grant will fund the implementation and expansion of the “Y Essentials Quality Initiative” to drive quality improvement in critical early learning education programs for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The Y’s focus is on serving children across the Chicago area, particularly those from low-income families in neighborhoods with higher rates of crime and violence.
“The YMCA has designed an ambitious professional development system that will allow them to more reliably deliver high-quality early childhood programs to impoverished communities,” said David Hiller, President and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. “We’re confident they have the right leadership, expertise and appetite in place to pull it off and, ultimately, significantly improve educational outcomes among vulnerable children.”
Teacher quality has been identified as the single most important school-based factor influencing student achievement. According to Nobel laureate James Heckman, the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, investing in quality early childhood programs for disadvantaged children from birth through age 5 helps prevents achievement deficits and produces better education, health, social and economic outcomes over the lifespan. In fact, every dollar invested in early childhood development produces a 7 to 10 percent return per year, per child.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Robert R. McCormick Foundation to continually strengthen the quality and accessibility of early learning programming in our communities,” said Richard Malone, President and CEO at the YMCA of Metro Chicago. “Together, we’ll create a model the Y and other large-scale providers can use to bring best practices and consistency to more programs throughout our region, and beyond.”
“The YMCA has set new, high expectations for all its early childhood teachers and leaders, and it created an innovative professional learning system to help them exceed that higher bar,” said Cornelia Grumman, Director of the Education Program at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation. “To sit in on the Y’s intensive, regular workshops and watch these teachers develop from good to great has been nothing short of inspiring. Y leaders have incorporated all that we know about effectively developing early childhood educators, and likely will be contributing many new and important lessons.”
“The Y places a high priority on empowering teachers. Only when you invest in teachers’ professional learning can we expect children to be better prepared for school, both cognitively and social-emotionally,” said Christina Krasov, Vice President of Learning and Evaluation at the YMCA of Metro Chicago.
The Y is the largest nonprofit Head Start provider in Chicago, operating 24 early learning programs serving approximately 1,000 birth to five-year-old children across the region.
The McCormick Foundation had donated more than $10 million to support YMCA programs in healthy living, college readiness, violence prevention, community schools and various fundraising campaigns.