Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children
Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Early education programs have many community partners. Among the key players are housing authorities. And when education and housing officials join forces, children and families stand to benefit.

“From Massachusetts to California and Florida to Washington State, housing authorities are joining a nationwide movement to promote early reading and put young children on the path to success,” according to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s (GLR) website.

“More than 1,000,000 children from birth to age 8 are housed in the nation’s 3,200 housing authorities, many attending local public schools that are severely underperforming. These children often start school with such a reading deficit that they have little hope of attaining grade-level proficiency by the end of third grade, a key predictor of high school graduation.

“By embracing grade-level reading as an important goal of the supportive services they provide, housing authorities are demonstrating that they can break the cycle of hopelessness.

“Today, more than 20 housing authorities are part of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and its Network of 152 local coalitions, gaining access to a wide network of experts, policymakers and peers across the country working to support low-income children from birth through age 8. The GLR Campaign’s approach holds schools accountable for teaching students to read, but recognizes that schools can’t do it alone.”

Last year, we blogged about some of these partnership opportunities, touching on ways they can address student mobility.


National Housing Partnerships

“Getting to preschool is a breeze for young students at Pine Ridge Prep in Topeka, Kansas,” according to a GLR blog post. “The free public school program is located in the public housing complex where most of the students live, thanks to an unusual partnership including the Topeka Housing Authority.”

“‘This is beyond what the typical housing authority does,’ says Kim Ribelin, at United Way of Greater Topeka, a member of Pine Ridge Partnership, which includes Topeka Public Schools, residents, businesses and many volunteers.”

“The Partnership’s award-winning work aims to improve the outcomes of children living in the complex and surrounding high-poverty neighborhood of Shawnee County, where 55 percent of new kindergartners do not have necessary pre-literacy skills to succeed.”

And around the country: “The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles is opening satellite libraries at residential complexes to expose preschool children to reading. The Tacoma Housing Authority is providing rental support to 50 previously homeless families, stabilizing their lives in exchange for a commitment to keep their kids enrolled at a specific elementary school. The Oakland Housing Authority has launched a special effort to combat chronic absenteeism.”


Partnerships in Massachusetts

For the Springfield Housing Authority (SHA), “the work starts with giving parents and caregivers the knowledge to build young vocabularies and manage any behavioral or mental health problems. It includes providing space for early learning programs and after-school tutoring. It also provides quality summer learning programs, which were unavailable for 80 percent of SHA children at the program’s inception,” according to a GLR publication.

And in New Bedford, children participated in “a kindergarten readiness program at the Presidential Heights Housing Development as part of a new partnership between New Bedford Public Schools and the Housing Authority,” a New Bedford Standard Times story says. The program, “Learning in Action,” helps children who live in public housing and have not attended pre-kindergarten to prepare for their first year in school.

New Bedford’s schools and housing authority are also expanding a “summer learning program by creating an after-school literacy program that will continue throughout the school year. It will encompass on-site tutoring, access to computers and the Internet, and instructional materials that are in sync with what the children are learning in school,” a second New Bedford Standard Times story explains.

“The New Bedford Housing Authority is no longer simply a bricks and mortar organization and as such has made education an intrinsic part of our long-term organizational goals,” Steven Beauregard, the housing authority’s executive director told the Standard Times. “If we don’t find ways to reduce the cycle of poverty and show kids there is a way out of poverty, we’ll be having these discussions 20 years from now.”


Moving Forward

“These housing authorities are demonstrating that they can make a world of difference,” notes Ralph Smith, managing director of the GLR Campaign and a senior vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “They understand their localities and recognize that they serve a core group of poor children who are falling behind. When they partner up and take action, good things happen.”

Indeed, through these partnerships housing authorities can make significant investments in children by providing experiences that help these children achieve lifelong success.