Urban Education Institute partnership to create model for early childhood, K-12 education

The University of Chicago Urban Education Institute and the Ounce of Prevention Fund have been awarded a total of $2.45 million to support a multi-year effort to develop a model of public education for vulnerable children and families on the South Side of Chicago that begins at birth and leads to success in school, college and life. The award represents collective support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation ($1.5 million), the Robert R. McCormick Foundation ($850,000) and the Foundation for Child Development ($102,000).

“Research shows that high-quality, early-childhood education is essential, particularly for vulnerable children,” said Hulian Krenn, program officer at the Kellogg Foundation. “We also know that even children exposed to excellent early education can experience a ‘fade’ when they transition to K-12, partly due to the lack of a coherent bridge between the disparate worlds of early education and K-12. Through our support of UEI and the Ounce, we want to help bridge that gap, and as a result, drastically improve kids' readiness for school and their continued school success.”

UEI and the Ounce will improve student outcomes by establishing a coherent continuum of education and support for children during the first eight years of life. This project includes the creation and implementation of effective instructional practices and academic and social supports that are aligned across early childhood and K-12, as well as the facilitation of parents’ engagement with, and advocacy for, their children’s education through college entrance. These efforts will be documented and shared to inform the transformation of education for children throughout Chicago and the nation.

“Our work is designed to build a pipeline from birth to college for children growing up on Chicago’s South Side,” said Timothy Knowles, the John Dewey Director of UEI. “The aim is to create a useful model, something that others can learn from and apply in cities across the nation.”


“We know that the first five years of life are the first five years of learning, and that more research is needed into what helps at-risk children and families sustain academic gains made through high-quality, early-learning programs,” said Diana Rauner, president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund. “The collaboration between the Ounce and UEI affords us a unique opportunity to jointly contribute new knowledge to the field; to catalyze innovative, creative conversations; and to establish new practices for creating integrated, quality birth-to-college experiences for vulnerable children.

These efforts build on earlier work by UEI and the Ounce, documented in a case study and learning video, to create a shared vision, mission, goals, core beliefs and action plan for a birth-to-college model for public education. As a result of this partnership, the University of Chicago Charter School elementary campuses and The Ounce's Educare program have established curricular alignment and allow for children to apply to both Educare and the University of Chicago Charter School lottery, concurrently. 

Sara Slaughter, director of the Education Program at the Robert McCormick Foundation, said, “With this grant, we will begin to address a continuity problem that has long prevented Chicago’s children and its education system from reaching a higher potential. While the Ounce’s Educare centers and the UEI campuses are located close to one another, all too often students graduate from Educare but end up attending a poor performing elementary school. Likewise, UEI schools offer a quality education but too often children that enter their kindergarten do not start with fundamental skills because they have not attended a quality early learning program. With this grant, the Ounce and UEI will help the more than 700 children birth through age eight seamlessly move from early learning centers to elementary school.”

“UEI and the Ounce have demonstrated that, despite tough, longstanding divides between pre-K/early learning and K-12 education, it is possible through leadership and well-facilitated work, to create a birth-to-college public education system,” said Ruby Takanishi, president and CEO of the Foundation for Child Development. “FCD is pleased to support substantial commitments made by the Robert McCormick and W.K. Kellogg foundations to sustain what has already been achieved in forging a shared mission and common language, and by funding new work on aligned curriculum, instruction and family engagement. The case studies and videos are aimed at educators on the front lines to support their commitment to educate all our children well.”