Early & Expanded Learning Opportunities for Student Success

Promising/Transformational Practices

Many examples of transformational practices exist across the country and in Oklahoma. This committee found transformational practices in the areas of early education, outside of school time, high school opportunities and parent and community education. Several of these are highlighted in the following examples.

Transitioning from Early Education Opportunities into Schools

Harlem Children’s Zone Project [HCZ]

HCZ provides an enriching environment of college-oriented peers and supportive adults, beginning with The Baby College, a series of workshops for parents of children ages zero to three. An increase in frequency of reading to their children was shown by 86 percent of attendees. Harlem Gems is an all-day pre-kindergarten program for kindergarten readiness. The results show that participating students increased their school readiness. Learn more.


This national network of early childhood schools provides full-day, year-round schools for at-risk children from birth to five years. It ensures school readiness for at-risk children through early education practices. Three centers in Tulsa and one in Oklahoma City serve at-risk children. Learn more here and here.

Smart Start Central Oklahoma

Smart Start Central Oklahoma’s mission is the mobilization of the community to build an early childhood system that supports young children and their families in the most effective and efficient way possible. They provide free programming and/or resources to fill the gap in school-readiness services for young children and their families. Their goal is to increase positive outcomes for children and families in the areas of family support, early care and education, physical and mental health, and public awareness and engagement. There are 18 Smart Start communities that are implementing strategies to support young children from birth to age six and their families across Oklahoma. Learn more.

Oklahoma Community-based Family Resource and Support Program

This program was developed by rural county health departments to improve maternal and child health and development. Its program meets the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for being evidence based. Learn more.

Providing Before-, After-school, and Summer Learning Opportunities

Oklahoma Afterschool Network [OKAN]

The Oklahoma Afterschool Network [OKAN] is part of the National Network of Statewide Afterschool Network funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The OKAN mission is to ensure that all children and youth in Oklahoma have access to safe, enriching learning opportunities during their out-of-school time. Recently, OKAN developed quality standards for after-school programs in Oklahoma. See the standards at http://www.okafterschool.org/quality-standards. These standards can be used to assess after-school program strength and opportunities for improvement. Learn more.

New York State Afterschool Network: Maximizing Website Impact

This website for after-school programs serves as a strategy to inform policy and practice by sharing consensus-based documents and tools. Many of these tools can help others advance connections between expanded learning opportunities and education. Learn more.

Expanding Learning for Career and College Success

Harlem Children’s Zone Project [HCZ]

Although starting with an early childhood initiative, HCZ includes best-practice programs for children of every age through college. The network includes in-school, afterschool, social service, health and community-building programs. The purpose of HCZ is to help kids in a sustained way and to create a critical mass of adults to help them be successful. Learn more.

The Literacy Lab

In Washington, D.C., a nonprofit is working to close the literacy gap by providing low-income children with direct reading instruction. The nonprofit partners with Target and Minnesota Reading Corps in launching the Metro DC Reading Corps. The Reading Corps replicates Minnesota’s highly effective literacy intervention program for children ages three to grade three. Through literacy lab, identified students receive daily literacy interventions by full-time, trained tutors and have shown a 1.5-grade level increase in reading. Learn more.

Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection (HW-SC)

This innovative program intervenes early with seventh-grade students who meet the criteria for being at risk of academic failure and connects these students to supports within their community. The identified students are matched with a professional, school-based Youth Advocate serving as a long-term mentor who also assists with finding specific resources needed by the student. Learn more.

Virtual Job Shadow

The website VirtualJobShadow.com was launched in 2003 with the goal of preparing students for the 21st Century economy. The website provides individual accounts for all students in the district, allowing each student to login to their “locker,” which contains information about what they have viewed, their saved “favorites,” and saved documents/quizzes. Currently, initiatives include the creation of a résumé builder for students. OKC Public Schools has helped thousands of Oklahoma City teens explore careers in national, regional, and local career options, providing interactive video interviews from real-world people in various careers, information pertaining to the educational background and experience necessary to attain the desired position, and tracking services for teachers and program coordinators to monitor student activity. Learn more.

Engaging Parents and Communities

Families and Schools Together [FAST]

FAST is a nonprofit agency that focuses on family strengthening and parent-involvement programs to help kids succeed in school and in life. FAST uses evidence-based parental involvement programs and prevention/intervention programs to empower parents and their children to meet the many challenges they face. Using a collaborative framework of local support, the mission of FAST is to help the community create a strong family-accountability infrastructure and reduce the amount of risks children face. FAST programs have been tested clinically and refined in the marketplace of schools and service facilities and have received longstanding support from Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin Center for Educational Research (WCER). Learn more.

Strengthening the Families 10-14

Parents and youth attend separate skill-building sessions. Evaluation results show a decrease in substance use and behavior problems and an increase in resistance of peer pressure with an increase of support, affection, and effectiveness for parents. This curriculum is supported by Iowa State University and is a seven-week curriculum-based program that can be implemented in ones’ community following training. Effective results have been shown in Caucasian, African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Hispanic families, for both girls and boys, and in rural, urban and suburban settings. Learn more.

Schools of the 21st Century

The School of the 21st Century (21C) is a model for school-based child care and family support services including a year-round, multi-service center providing high-quality, accessible services from early morning to early evening that supports parents as their child’s first teacher and establishes a nurturing environment for pre-school and school-age children during non-school hours. Learn more.

Tulsa Area Community Schools Initiative [TACSI]

In Tulsa, schools and community leaders partnered to create Tulsa Area Community Schools Initiative [TACSI]. They built a collaborative leadership structure to share responsibility for meeting their goals. Together, the school districts, city, community agencies, OU-Tulsa, and other community partners operate 31 community schools. Research shows that students in high-implementing community schools outperformed non-community schools in math by 32 points and reading by 19 points. Learn more.

Owsley Elementary, Booneville, Kentucky; Molly Stark School, Bennington, Vermont; and Noble High School, North Berwick, Maine

These three schools provide examples of effective rural community schools. These three low-resource rural communities responded to their students’ academic needs as well as the adults’ needs to improve student learning. Learn more.

Broader, Bolder Communities

Communities across the country have embraced a range of comprehensive strategies to improve educational opportunities to increase student learning. Communities such as Tangelo Park, Fla., Douglas and Sarpy County, Neb., and Humble, Texas, have benefitted from the community-wide initiatives. Learn more.

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