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TECEC study aims to give complete picture of child resources

April 29, 2010

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Eighteen months ago, the first Greater Waco Education Summit was held at the convention center, bringing together leaders from a number of stakeholder groups in the community to discuss how they could help promote the educational welfare of children in Waco. An excited Mayor Virginia DuPuy said afterwards that people would begin to see results in that coming year.

Fast forward to last summer. The Waco Foundation, a part of the Greater Waco Education Alliance, commissioned a study to look at the quality of life for young children in the community, with early childhood development being a major focus for community educators and leaders. The Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition began the process of putting together a broad study that would provide real numbers and key themes for stakeholders to ponder. Dr. Donald Smith of the Coalition, known as TECEC.

The quantitive data was wrapped up during the summer months, and followed by a qualitative study. TECEC interviewed dozens of educators, health care professionals, child care workers, and more, to determine whether or not community perceptions and realities matched up with what the Texas Early Childhood Education Coalition found in a number of areas.

The result is the 300-plus report that was released at www.kwbu.org/childstudy. It's designed to look at the quality of life for children aged zero to five in every county zip code. One of those children is Amarie, a four year old in East Waco who we met in our prior report. With her mother in prison, she's being raised by her grandmother Vicki Calhoun, who had to balance her work and MCC class load with the newness of having a young child in her home once again.

The small details consume Vicki's time as she adjusts, but there's a number of big issues with which to deal. Vicki cooks more, as she said, ensuring that Amarie receives healthier food that she might. But there's other questions that can be confusing. Where is the best place to send her for child care? Where does someone who hasn't thought about the public school system in a while go to ensure that her granddaughter is making the most of her class time? This report doesn't necessarily answer all of those questions. But it does examine the access to resources that someone like Vicki Calhoun can expect to receive in her zip code, and across the region.

Once the report is digested, Dr. Donald Smith of TECEC says it's up to the community to determine how to move forward to best serve people like Vicki and Amarie.

In our next report, we'll hear about some of the areas that will be targeted specifically, determined by city leaders to be the areas of greatest need. You can find the entire report, as well as our prior stories at www.kwbu.org/childstudy, with reports continuing in the upcoming days. For KWBU news, I'm Derek Smith.

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