Better Communities: Clayton Early Learning

A major proving ground for all things early childhood, Clayton Early Learning is Colorado’s leading catalyst in providing and collaborating with others to improve early care and education to ensure optimal development during the critical prenatal-to-5 period for all children, especially those of limited opportunity.  Their unique approach has proved successful in closing achievement gaps for disadvantaged children so they are poised for success in school and life.

Rebound Solutions spoke with Charlotte Brantley, President and CEO of Clayton Early Learning, to learn more about this incredible work.

1. What does Clayton Early Learning do, and how?

Clayton Early Learning, through the power of quality early care and education, supports the school readiness of thousands of Colorado children every year. We directly teach about 500 children, birth to age five years, in our two schools and home-based programs, and more than 100 additional very young children in six Play and Learn Groups throughout Denver. While we enroll children of many income levels in our programs, our primary emphasis is children with limited opportunity to access programs that will assure they have the skills, knowledge and confidence to enter school ready for success. Strong parent and family engagement is a foundation of our approach. In addition, we offer training and coaching in effective early learning practice to several hundred early childhood professionals in communities across Colorado.

Our work is evidence-based and built upon the research findings of our own investigations, those of our partner organizations, and other early childhood researchers. In 2005 we joined the national Educare Learning Network as the 5th School among now 21 Educare Schools across the country. The Educare Model, built upon and further enhancing Head Start and Early Head Start performance criteria, includes emphasis on high quality teaching and learning environments, well-prepared staff, advocacy for effective policy change and family engagement. As a member of this network, Clayton Early Learning also provides national leadership on policy and programmatic issues related to early childhood education. In 2010 we were named one of 10 National Centers of Excellence in Early Childhood by the federal Office of Head Start, from among approximately 1,700 grantees.

2. What transformation has Clayton Early Learning achieved so far, and what does Clayton Early Learning see for the future?

We believe that high quality early learning changes lives, and we see evidence of this every day in our work with young children and their families. We track our students’ progress toward school readiness from the moment they enter our programs, as young as six weeks of age, until the day they leave us and enter kindergarten. We also work with families to support them in both setting and achieving their own goals. Our data tell us that we are closing, and in many cases preventing, achievement gaps for children in our programs. We believe it is our obligation to share what we learn about effective and promising practices in early childhood care and education with other practitioners and providers, with funders and with policy makers. To that end, we have been heavily engaged in many public/private initiatives to change the early childhood programming landscape in Colorado. We work closely with state government agencies and legislators, and provide leadership on commissions, task forces and other working groups. Over the past three to five years our leadership along with that of many colleagues has been instrumental in Colorado establishing a highly visible presence for quality early childhood programs and services, supported by smart policies and increased funding. As the local, state and national dialogue on ensuring a strong start for every child continues to ramp up, we believe it will be crucial for high performing practioners such as Clayton Early Learning to be at every table to guide the thinking about how to reach this goal in the most positive, efficient and productive manner.

3. How can I support Clayton Early Learning?

We could not do what we do every day for Colorado children and their families and teachers without the support of many individuals, corporations, foundations and public funding streams. We welcome volunteers as well as individuals that may want to provide financial support to our programs and efforts. An upcoming event, Moonbeam Harvest 2014, on September 11th is an easy and fun way to support us. Guests at this event will sample fabulous dishes prepared by some of Denver’s top local chefs, enjoy beverages from local distillers and brewers, listen (or dance!) to live music, and learn more about our programming, all while having the chance to see the beautiful and historic Clayton Campus at Martin Luther King Blvd and Colorado Blvd. Tickets and sponsorships can be purchased here. We hope to see you there!