Nationally recognized as a leader in early learning equity, Jumpstart has spent nearly 30 years working toward a singular goal: ensure that every child in America enters kindergarten prepared to succeed. Their strategy? To leverage the power of caring adults within highly impacted communities so that every preschool child has the opportunity to experience ongoing, high quality learning support.
With programs in place across 14 states and the District of Columbia, Jumpstart reaches students in partnership with higher education institutions, community organizations, Head Start programs, community-based preschools, and school districts.
Jumpstart provides these organizations with volunteer college students who receive training and coaching in order to deliver a high quality early learning curriculum to preschool students. Through large group, small group, and independent learning opportunities in classroom settings, Jumpstart volunteers increase the amount of dedicated learning moments that children from highly impacted communities receive before entering kindergarten.
And it was this shared belief in the value of high-quality learning moments, delivered by caring adults, which created a natural partnership when Ready4K first launched in 2016.
“Given Jumpstart’s unparalleled 25-year track record of promoting kindergarten readiness through preschool classrooms across the country, we were honored when Jumpstart’s leadership approached us about extending the organization’s impact at home with Ready4K,” said Ben York, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Ready4K. “This pioneering partnership, which pairs the Jumpstart model with our highly accessible, evidence-based family engagement curriculum has enabled us to expand the impact of each program in important ways.”
As a national organization that serves families through partnerships, Jumpstart knew they needed an easy way for families to enroll without making it “one more thing” on their plate. So they integrated a Ready4K opt-in choice to their Jumpstart consent form. This simple, elegant strategy has led to over 8000 family enrollments without significant additional work by the Jumpstart team.
Embracing the Dual Capacity Approach
Like Ready4K, Jumpstart supports The Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships. Developed by Dr. Karen Mapp, the Framework establishes a structure for redirecting family engagement programs so that they lead to “effective partnerships that support student and school improvement.” “We want to move from involvement to partnership. We want parents to tell us what they need, to give us feedback. So we look for ways to empower parents as partners.”
While the primary focus of the Jumpstart model is to increase volunteer-led engagement, Jumpstart believes that it’s important to recognize that parents are the child’s first teacher. “We want to support families in any way that we can,” says Cassandra Silvas, Senior Manager, Research and Family Engagement. “The classroom is just a part of the child’s day. We want to empower parents so that even without a teacher’s credentials or background, they can be part of the learning team.”
And it’s that learning partner approach that Jumpstart appreciates about their Ready4K program. With a diverse community of parents, flexibility is important. “One of my favorite things about Ready4K is that any family can immediately adapt the tip and continue to do so with the next one,” says Maria Monarrez, Senior Director of Alumni Relations and Development.
“Ready4K is consistent. I get the tips so I can see what messages Jumpstart sends out,” says Silvas. “The consistency is nice and they’re not long. It’s a quick read, a quick tip. Yes, this makes a lot of sense and I can start doing this with my child.”
Jessica Lazzara, Vice President of Education & Research reiterated the importance of family engagement to Jumpstart. “We recently engaged with a group of outside researchers to review our curriculum. One recommendation was to increase family voice in our program. That will be something we’re exploring and thinking about, from an organization and curriculum level. At the site and national level.”
Which is why the Jumpstart team was excited to leverage the Ready4K surveying tools this year. With their distributed leadership model, and nation-wide reach, gathering data from the diversity of Jumpstart families can be a significant challenge. “While Jumpstart sites across the country communicate with families through family newsletters and during pick-up, Ready4K is our primary way to communicate with families nationally,” says Christine Patton, Associate Vice President of Research and Evaluation.
The arrival of the pandemic only made this challenge harder. So as Jumpstart looks to increase the role of family feedback for continuous improvement, leveraging the Ready4K platform to hear directly from families was not just a nice-to-have. It was essential to achieving their goals.
Gathering Jumpstart Family Feedback
In June 2021, the Jumpstart team collaborated with Ready4K to create a survey that would answer the questions central to the Jumpstart mission. “What’s been beneficial in this year and a half plus has been our partnership & the opportunity to provide us with data we wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Patton.
“This last year in particular we had the opportunity to craft the questions that went to our families. That gave us valuable information we wouldn’t have otherwise. That family feedback, combined with information we were able to get from children and volunteers directly, gave us the data we needed for our reports.”
With their focus on language and literacy skills, as well as SEL skills, the Jumpstart team wanted to ensure that their Ready4K program was meeting families’ needs and expectations. “We weren’t necessarily surprised, but we were happy to see the positive results in a year when we didn’t have our own results.”
“We’re honored to work with Jumpstart to shed much-needed light on the increased impact that can be achieved by providing families with multiple layers of support,” said Dr. York. “For example, we found that adding Ready4K to Jumpstart helped children express and manage their feelings and led to stronger parent-child relationships.”
Maintaining a clear picture of the breadth of their impact is critical to the Jumpstart team. “From my perspective, the Ready4K dashboard has been helpful in getting a quick snapshot on which families are in the program,” says Patton. “For someone who’s interested in numbers and data, the dashboard lets us know how many messages have gone out. And the ability to send out the custom messages and surveys, in partnership with Ready4K, is important to our partnership.”
Jumpstart Family Survey Results
Percent of families who agreed that doing the activities in Ready4K messages
Parent insights included:
- She has gotten better with explaining what she learned in more detail, or better able to give you more information about a story by just looking at the pictures
- He has learned to hold a conversation more, read or try reading harder words , it gave us time to focus on each other and keeping in mind learning is fun
- He has grown to ask more questions, talk about his day, tell how he’s feeling and so much more!
Offering Resources, Seeing What Works
Providing resources through the Ready4K custom messaging system “was another way to reach out to families when we couldn’t do meet and greets or talk in person. We could still reach out to families through this program and give them activities they could do at home.”
The click data available on the Ready4K dashboard has also been helpful to the Jumpstart team. “I know that the most clicks came on the first resources, about sustainability. Seeing the activity is helpful because I can see which videos are getting the most clicks,” said Silvas.
“The read-alouds get more clicks than the songs or dances I send along. Being able to see that feedback consistently helps me to decide what to send. The more data we have, the more we can improve.”
Ongoing feedback into family needs is a high priority for Jumpstart. “I would like to know what resources families need,” says Silvas. “The pandemic is still happening. I’d like to know what resources outside of the classroom would be useful, so we can point them in the right direction. Because there have to be companies out there continuing to offer free resources to families that need them.”
Like most mission-driven organizations, the Jumpstart team always has more to do than time to do it. Which makes scheduling messages in advance really helpful. “The fact that we can schedule messages is really great,” says Silvas. “I have a text that will go out even during our break, because we’re able to schedule that post. And so nobody has to work during their holiday break.”