Category: Education Accomplishments

Play To Learn: Filling Gaps in the Digital Divide

United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) is committed to developing innovative programs that enable low income families to have access to quality educational tools for their Pre-K3 children. Since 2011, UWATX’s Success By 6 program has been partnering with several community organizations (such as Austin Travis County Integral Care’s First Steps program, Austin Public Library Camp Fire Central Texas, KLRU and the YMCA of Austin) to offer Play To Learn (PTL) in some of the higher-need areas of greater Austin. This year alone, PTL served approximately 240 families through 15 partner locations and plans to partner with additional host sites in 2017. Play To Learn Technology By introducing tablet technology to the children and parents, PTL has been helping to decrease the “digital divide” that exists between lower-income families and their higher-income peers. Throughout the 10-week curriculum, parents learn skills to help their young children prepare for success in school. Additionally, PTL programming extends past the 10-week curriculum. Parents who attend at least eight sessions receive a tablet loaded with children’s books, songs, apps, PBS videos and bookmarked websites with helpful parenting resources to further aid and foster their children’s social and cognitive development. Program Impact Since the program’s inception, hundreds of parents in Austin have learned how to better connect and engage with their children. Likewise, PTL children are gaining the confidence and social skills to better participate in learning and with each other. Post-testing of families who completed PTL in 2016 showed great success: 99% of parents reported […]

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AISD Doubles Capacity For Pre-K3 Next Year

(Via Austin ISD Press Release) Austin ISD will nearly double its capacity to teach prekindergarten for three-year-olds (Pre-K3) next year, thanks to funding from local donors. View photos from the press conference at Pleasant Hill Elementary on May 5th. “When students have a strong start, they have a strong future,” Superintendent Paul Cruz said. “We want make sure all students are given a path to success. Starting early improves the chance that students graduate college-, career- and life-ready.” AISD will be able to add Pre-K3 to 13 more schools: Barrington, Casey, Harris, Houston, Jordan, Kocurek, Metz, Ortega, Palm, Perez, Read, Sanchez and Widen elementary schools. Three years ago, AISD offered the Pre-K3 program to 42 three-year-old students at two pilot schools. This year, the program expanded to provide Pre-K3 for 550 three-year-old students funded by United Way for Greater Austin and its major donors. Next year, there will be space for more than 1,000 students thanks to the latest expansion. The partners who made this expansion possible: Buena Vista Foundation, Cullen Family Charitable Foundation, the Gottesman Family, Tapestry Foundation and Eric Stumberg with support from United Way for Greater Austin. AISD Early Childhood Director, Jacquie Porter, emphasized the strong foundation students build in Pre-K. “Prekindergarten is more than just shapes and colors. It’s about getting students ready for life,” Porter said. “In prekindergarten, students learn socializing, social and emotional learning, and how to work with others.” Registration for Pre-K is open through the beginning of the school year. However, capacity at some schools […]

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Success By 6, Local Leaders Give Updates to Stakeholders

UWATX held a breakfast briefing event at Google Fiber on February 5th to update business and philanthropic leaders and stakeholders on how far the Success By 6 program has come–and how many more children still remain unserved. Speakers included Dr. Leah Newkirk Meunier, UWATX Vice President of Mission Advancement; Mayor Steve Adler; Dr. Paul Cruz, Superintendent of Austin ISD; Elizabeth Sobel-Blum, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Catherine Morse, UWATX Board Chair; and Mollie Duckworth, WLC Member. Speaker Highlights: –Elizabeth Sobel-Blum noted four numbers to remember: 700 = In the first few years of a child’s life, 700 new neural connections are formed every second. 18 = Differences in the size of a child’s vocabulary first appear at 18 months of age, based on whether they were born into a family with high education and income, or a family with low education and income levels. 2:1 = By age three, children with college-educated parents or primary caregivers had vocabularies 2 to 3x larger than those whose parents had not completed high school. 3:1 = Adults who recall having seven or eight highly stressful experiences in childhood are 3x more likely to have cardiovascular disease. –Dr. Leah Meunier gave an update on the Success By 6 program. There are 6,344 low-income three-year-olds in Travis County. 2,036 are served through Head Start, childcare subsidies or their local school district; 4,308 remain unserved. –Mayor Adler noted that the city has increased its funding for preschool by 25% and sees it as a highly important […]

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Math and Literacy Results Show Huge Strides For At-Risk Kids

One thing that sets United Way for Greater Austin apart from other non-profits is that all of our programs are research-based and results-driven. We are happy to announce the latest set of data showing our Success By 6 program is making a measurable, positive impact on local children. Between August of 2014 and July 2015, five AmeriCorps members were placed at seven Early Learning and Child Development Centers (five of which we work with through our Center Project, two that are family-serving agencies with early literacy programs). The members provided intensive math and literacy interventions to children for seven months. The AmeriCorps members engaged in both small group and one-on-one instruction with the children using research-based curriculum. Results from this project are extraordinary and broken down in three ways: gains made in language development, gains made in math skills and gains made on any assessment. 100% of children who received the intervention made gains in either their math or vocabulary levels, if not both. First, we looked whether children participating in the intervention showed improvement on either their language or math skills. Language skills were assessed by the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) or its Spanish equivalent, Test de Vocabulario en Imágenes Peabody (TVIP). These assessments look at a child’s ability to understand specific words that are said to them, which is called receptive language ability. The math assessment was developed by UWATX’s Success By 6 staff and was based on the High Scope Numbers Plus curriculum. It measures a […]

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UWATX Unveils the SRAP 2015-2018

SRAP 2012-2015 In 2012, UWATX unveiled the first phase of the School Readiness Action Plan (SRAP), an ambitious three-year plan to increase the percentage of children who enter Kindergarten school ready. This plan is made possible by a large community coalition made up of caring community leaders, advocates, parents, service providers and educators, all dedicated to improving life for Austin’s children. The 2012-2015 Action Plan included strategies to leverage public funding, engage public officials and business leaders and target existing services more strategically. It also proposed increasing per capita spending on early childhood by 20 percent and targeting existing programs to focus on younger children. The results we’ve seen from the first phase of this plan are clear and positive: it is creating real change in the lives of young children and families in Central Texas. Since the plan went into effect in 2012: The percentage of children who entered kindergarten “school ready” increased by 5 percent, from 49 percent to 54 percent last year. The number of vulnerable families receiving home visiting services in our county nearly tripled, improving health outcomes for the children and dramatically reducing the likelihood of child abuse in these homes. The City of Austin increased their Health and Human Services funding for early childhood by nearly $1 million over the three year period. The Austin Public Library more than doubled the number of bilingual storytimes in low-income communities as a response to community advocacy. View all results from the 2012-2015 Action Plan. This plan […]

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Principal Alejandro Góngora Wins OST Award

The end of the school year is a time to stop and celebrate successes, and that’s especially true for Austin’s Out-of-School Time (OST) community who works tirelessly year-round. Each year, the Central Texas Afterschool Network (CTAN) bring students, families, providers and funders together for the Breakfast of Champions event, to recognize excellence and the important work these collaborators do. Educators and afterschool professionals submitted more than 100 nominations this year to nominate OST champions in 12 award categories. The winners are chosen by a nominations committee, made up of volunteer OST leaders and staff. This year, it’s a privilege for UWATX and the Target Graduation team to join the larger community in applauding one of our key partners, Principal Alejandro Góngora, who received the award for “Best OST Collaborator.” Principal Góngora of Decker Middle School in Manor ISD has been a tireless collaborator with United Way through a variety of channels related to our Middle School Matters program. This award is a testament to his responsiveness, creativity and commitment – especially after the loss of federally funded afterschool programming last year. OST staff from Camp Fire and our Volunteer Project Leadership (VPL) programs are quick to commend Principal Góngora for his willingness to collaborate on events, participate alongside students in the classroom and assist with everything from communication to translation of materials. We’re grateful to Principal Góngora for embracing collaboration before, during and after the school day. This award is a reflection of his leadership and the hard work of […]

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UWATX Wins Common Good Award

United Way for Greater Austin received a 2015 United Way Common Good Award for our work in early childhood development. The award comes from United Way Worldwide, the umbrella organization that guides nearly 1,800 local United Ways around the world. UWATX is one of only three United Way chapters worldwide to be honored by United Way Worldwide as a 2015 recipient for strengthening communities by advancing the common good through innovative practices that are making a measurable impact in education, income and health.  United Way Common Good Awards recognize promising and effective practices from communities around the world that are applying a range of solutions to community challenges along the impact continuum. This year, the award recognizes excellence and effectiveness in the areas of Program Solutions, Impact Initiatives and Community Solutions. UWATX earned the Common Good Award for Impact Initiatives in recognition of the School Readiness Action Plan. The first School Readiness Action Plan was published in 2012 to address the needs of all children in achieving the cognitive, physical, social, emotional and language skills needed to thrive in an educational setting. Currently, only half of children living in Central Texas enter kindergarten prepared for school success. Research indicates a strong correlation between high-quality early education and overall school success. To address these needs, UWATX formed a coalition of early childhood advocates, experts, parents, service providers and business leaders to ensure school readiness is a priority in Austin/Travis County.  “It is a tremendous honor to be recognized as a role model […]

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School Readiness Action Plan Three-Year Update

SRAP (2012-2015)  United Way for Greater Austin is the leader of a large community coalition dedicated to ensuring that all children in Travis County enter kindergarten prepared for success. Currently, only half of our community’s children enter kindergarten prepared for school success – and children of low-income families are especially at-risk for poor school achievement. We know that children who start behind tend to stay behind – and supporting healthy brain development in the early years is far more effective than treating problems at a later age. Over the past three years, United Way has led a strong coalition of early childhood advocates, experts, parents, service providers and business leaders to put together an ambitious plan to fundamentally change the landscape of care for our youngest community members. It is our hope that this plan will inspire and guide community leaders, advocates, parents, service providers and educators to participate in a movement that will allow Travis County to be the best place to prosper and raise a family for decades to come. Three-Year Highlights The first phase of the SRAP (2012- 2015) wrapped up this year, and we are proud to share the results. Read the full SRAP Year Three Update here! Thanks to the School Readiness Action Plan, more than 5,000 families now receive information through free videos, text messages and printed guides about how to help their children become school-ready. The Austin Public Library more than doubled the number of bilingual storytimes in low-income communities as a response to community advocacy. […]

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AISD Grant Will Provide Pre-K For Nearly 500 Low-Income Kids

There a strong correlation between high-quality early childhood education and overall academic success. This trend is even more important for children from low-income families, many of whom cannot afford quality pre-K or childcare, and therefore have a higher chance of entering kindergarten behind their peers. We held a press conference on April 2 at Lucy Read Pre-Kindergarten School to announce that we are providing a $215,000 grant to Austin Independent School District to open more Pre-K classrooms for low-income three-year-olds next year. [youtube id=SVCFoRHv9PE] Currently, AISD serves 64 income-eligible children in a Pre-K 3 pilot program in two high-need elementary campuses in East Austin. AISD’s Pre-K 3 program currently provides half-day instruction to children who have not participated in formal early education. The $215,000 grant will allow for the opening of 15 additional AISD Pre-K 3 classrooms—four classrooms will provide full-day instruction—serving an additional 480 students. “We have piloted the Pre-K 3 program this year with great success and are grateful to United Way for Greater Austin for this generous donation to expand this important program to more students and schools in our district next school year,” Dr. Paul Cruz, AISD superintendent, said. “We work to give our students the best possible foundation, and it begins with early childhood education.” The grant is made possible by donations from three generous Austin families: Eric and Keri Stumberg, Sandy and Lisa Gottesman, and John Cullen. Donations from the Gottesmans and John Cullen were made in honor of John’s wife, Sue Cullen, who passed away in 2010. The funds will be used for the […]

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Meet Principal Alejandro Góngora

“On Time, On Task and On a Mission.” These are the words that are displayed in the Decker Middle School hallway and echoed through the leadership practices of Principal Alejandro Góngora. Decker Middle School is located in the Manor area in Austin, Far East on 290. This campus is considered low-SES and more than 80 percent of Decker students receive free or reduced lunch Góngora, originally from Flushing Queens, New York, has worked in education for 15 years. He earned his undergraduate degree from The University of Texas at Austin and is currently part of the cooperative superintendent program there. Principal Góngora previously taught at Oak Meadows Elementary, which feeds into Decker Middle School. Coincidentally, he has had dozens of the same students for many years. “I’ve known some of these kids since they were in kindergarten, so they know I’m invested. I do feel that the majority of my students understand that I do care about them and love them.” When asked about his leadership style, Góngora said, “I make [emotional] deposits with my students… I talk to them. I work with them. When tough moments arise, I help. When they are ready, we talk. I’ve known some of these kids since they were in kindergarten, so they know I’m invested. I do feel that the majority of my students understand that I do care about them and love them.” Principal Góngora is a native Spanish speaker and is able to effectively communicate with many ESL students and parents. […]

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