Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today in a press release that his administration is launching a a new online Early Leaning Portal. The portal, www.chicagoearlylearning.org, is an easy-to-use, interactive website that puts information about hundreds of quality early learning programs across the city all in one place. The focus is on increasing access to quality early learning programs for children across the city and emphasis on helping parents get and stay involved in their children’s education.
“Early learning programs are essential to the development and future success of a child. We are not only investing in these programs with an unprecedented level of support from this year’s City budget, but we are ensuring parents have the information they need to access these critical programs,” said Mayor Emanuel. “An engaged parent is key to a child’s success, and this interactive, easy-to-use website will help parents and families get involved and stay involved in their children’s learning, starting at an early age.”
This past August, as the Chicago City Hall Examiner reported, Mayor Emanuel announced a major investment that will expand access to early learning programming for over 5,000 children over three-years and announced an overhaul the City’s process for reviewing and allocating funding for these programs in order to ensure high-quality seats that give children in every neighborhood the best chance at success later in life.
Mayor Emanuel announced in early August that a three-year investment that will create opportunity for over 5,000 children to access early childhood education (ECE) programs across the city beginning in the 2013-2014 school year.
In addition to increasing the number of children who will have access to this critical programming, the City is also overhauling the process for reviewing and allocating funding for these programs in order to ensure high-quality seats that give children in every neighborhood the best chance at success later in life.
The new online portal will allow parents to input their address to automatically see options available to them in their neighborhood, use a map to find program options nearby, gather comprehensive information about the programs, do a side-by-side comparison of programs, and use a texting feature to get information right on their phones.
The Early Learning Portal also allows parents to access information about programs by text message, without requiring an Internet connection. Parents and families can text their zip codes to 773-886-1819 to receive information about nearby early learning sites.
“There are few choices more important than who parents entrust to provide their young children with care and education,” said Roseanna Ander, Executive Director of the Urban Education Lab. “The goal of the Chicago Early Learning Portal is to help provide Chicago’s parents with information to assist them in that choice.”
Information available about the early learning programs include: site name, address, phone number, email and website, number of classrooms, range of ages that are served by the program and programming schedule. The site also notes which programs are nationally accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children and will eventually include information about each program’s statewide rating, once the Illinois Quality Rating Improvement System is launched.
The Early Learning Portal was developed by the Mayor’s Office in collaboration with Smart Chicago Collaborative and the University of Chicago Education Lab, and development was supported by funding through the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a project of the J.B. & M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation. Funding for the initiative was first announced at the Clinton Global Initiative’s CGI America conference this past June. With the formal launch of the portal today, developers will work with Illinois Action for Children to test the portal and gather feedback from users, in an additional effort to increase parental engagement and ensure the portal is as useful as possible.
“We were happy to collaborate with the City on this interactive map, which will allow parents and families to find information about these programs easily and quickly. We’re interested in hearing from parents and caregivers on what would make the site more useful to them,” said Dan O’Neil, Executive Director of the Smart Chicago Collaborative. “We’re also releasing the code for the site as open source, so that it can be used to make similar map-based sites showing resources across the city.”
“Our focus is on making sure children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. M.K. and I share Mayor Emanuel’s strong commitment to providing high-quality early learning for infants, toddlers and their families,” said J.B. Pritzker, president of the J.B. & M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation. “Helping Chicago parents and caregivers identify the best early childhood educational opportunities in their neighborhoods is critically important. This online interactive, one-stop shop will help parents and caregivers access and better manage the challenging process of selecting a high-quality early learning program for their infants and toddlers.”
The Early Learning Portal is one recommendation developed by Mayor Emanuel’s Early Learning Task Force, which launched in July 2011 and engaged over 60 early childhood experts across the city and state with the goal of transforming early childhood education in Chicago. The Task Force included members from city agencies, early learning advocacy groups, and direct service providers.
“This web portal will help parents make critical early care and education decisions for their young children. It will help parents find and compare programs that best support their children’s early learning and development, and contribute to later school success,” said Maria Whelan, President of Illinois Action for Children.
High-quality early childhood education is a critical foundation for success both in school and later in life and effective support for these programs is essential to helping Chicago’s students excel. In Chicago, a student who attends a high-quality ECE program is 29% more likely to graduate from high school.
Currently, about 37,000 children between the ages three and four are enrolled in City-funded ECE programs across the city that vary in quality and therefore do not equally prepare students for kindergarten and continued learning. To remedy this, the City is overhauling the application and allocation process for providers of early childhood education programs.
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John is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African-American studies, published by The Elevator Group Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon. John is also a member of the Society of Midland Authors and is a book reviewer of political books for the New York Journal of Books