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New statistics help Education alliance improve early childhood development

June 25, 2009

Reaching kids from infancy and throughout the toddler years until they reach school was a key goal at last November's Greater Waco Education Summit. The outgrowth of that summit, the Greater Waco Education Alliance, has been working with organizations to gather quantitative data to understand how to best serve the needs of children who face a variety of life situations. Stacy Allison is the director of the Waco Foundation, which commissioned a study on McLennan County. She says some initial findings will guide the community in areas to go.

The Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition--or TECEC--has spent the past 4 1/2 months gathering data to be used by the Alliance. Yesterday's roll-out was not designed to list directions for the city to go, nor was it geared to be a rundown of what the numbers mean. Rather, it was simply to give attendees, which filled the auditorium at the Chamber of Commerce building, an understanding of statistics in the area that will eventually shape the initiatives undertaken. Dr. Tom Smith of TECEC.

In his presentation, Dr. Smith noted that there are more than 20,000 county children aged 5 or younger, and in some zip codes in our community, nearly 60% of families living below the poverty line have a child falling in that age bracket. The numbers were bracketed by zip code, to give the Alliance accounts that can be neighborhood and region specific.

This was the information give to attendees yesterday, which represented all area institutions of higher learning, organizations dealing with area youth or the hungry in the community, school districts, and local business. Dr. Smith says that now that the quantitative data has been gathered, the process of qualifying that data, and figuring out how it can serve the region comes next.

That's where the community will come in, analyzing numbers that will be covered in this fall's reconvening of the summit. The study is designed to have an incalcuable impact on youth across the board, but especially in the formative years before age 5 where success in school can either be fostered or imperiled. But there's a tangible number as well. Cara Johnson, director of TECEC, cites a study that many have taken to heart.

So the city will now begin to determine how to best invest those dollars in early childhood education, a process that continued yesterday with information they hope will have an impact for years to come.

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