The Greenwich United Way launched its “Drive to 425” campaign to raise $425,000 each year for three years to directly fund the Early Childhood Achievement Gap Solutions (ECAGS) program, first introduced two years ago. ECAGS works in conjunction with local impact partners – Family Centers, Greenwich Alliance for Education, Building One Community, Department of Human Services, Department of Health and Greenwich Public Schools (GPS). The program takes a research-based approach to narrow the achievement gap through home visitations and intensive pre-school instructional coaching. Since its inception in May 2018, ECAGS has worked with 40 families as part of Greenwich Parents as Teachers (GPAT), delivered by Family Centers, and approximately 200 students in the Pre-School Instructional Coach (PSIC) programs. Six families are currently on the waitlist for GPAT.
Achievement gaps occur when one group of students outperforms another and the difference in average scores for the two groups is statistically significant. National research shows that 60 percent to 70 percent of the achievement gap is evident by age 5. Significant contributing factors early in a child’s life may include toxic stress, which can impair cognitive development, and lack of access to high-quality pre-school, which can impair kindergarten readiness. Greenwich, even with its well-funded and distinguished public school system, has inequities between expensive, high-quality childcare programs and those that serve children and families from low-income and multi-factor high-needs populations. ECAGS was developed to combat the major systemic problems in early childhood education – lack of adequate funding, an underpaid workforce, and the complex misalignment between expectations of early childhood practitioners and the resources provided to meet those expectations – that deprive many of the youngest and most precious learners of a chance for long-term academic success.
“With the data-driven approach we took from the onset, we are now able to see the success of our efforts and adapt and pivot programming that needed refinement. We are on track to decrease the achievement gap in town, but we have a long way to go. Many additional families and young students need our support, now more than ever,” said David Rabin, CEO of GUW. “The evidence is alarmingly clear, per a recent McKinsey study, that the shutdowns caused by COVID-19 exacerbated the existing achievement gap and we need to work harder and go broader to successfully minimize that gap.”
“GPS has been excited to see the data showing that ECAGS is closing the achievement gap for our youngest learners in Greenwich. The impact going forward is truly life changing for the children,” said Dr. Toni Jones, Superintendent for Greenwich Public Schools.
“Drive to 425” will directly fund the next three years of the ECAGS program to narrow the achievement gap in Greenwich and expand programming with the existing 40 families in GPAT and nearly 200 in the PSIC programs. Once the Greenwich United Way has the data and impact of the full ECAGS program with participating students – three years via GPAT and two years via PSIC – GUW will expand the program to more families in a continued effort to narrow the achievement gap in Greenwich.
GUW is committed to continuing to raise awareness, educate and bring together key stakeholders and community members to explore and solve the Town of Greenwich achievement gap. It will build on successes this year and identify new community impact partners that support the ECAGS approach. GUW expects to receive additional achievement gap data from partners and track participating students in GPS in order to see the outcomes of the early childhood programming later in the students’ academic careers.
For more information or to support ECAGS and the “Drive to 425” campaign, visit https://greenwichunitedway.org/drive-to-425/.