On the south side of Columbus, in a low-income neighborhood, is an early education and child care program that this year celebrates its 100th anniversary. But the work being done within its walls has little to do with the traditional 4-year-old nursery school model. Quite the contrary. The work being done in recent years at South Side Early Learning is on the cutting edge of an early-child education revolution.
And it starts when children are just six weeks old.
“We get babies ready for life,” said SSEL CEO Colin Page McGinnis. “About 93 percent of brain development happens before age 3. That’s the sweet spot where we need to focus.”
“We only have 2,000 days to do this work. The model is broken, and really hasn’t been innovated since the last 1960s. It needs to be whole-family, intentional and it needs to start as early as possible, it needs to start at six weeks.”
Based on the SSEL’s innovative approach, outstanding results and Colin’s leadership, The Connor Group Kids & Community Partners is investing $2.2 million over five years to help grow the program’s impact in its current location and beyond.
SSEL’s model is based on early-intervention, data-backed decision making, family support, brain-development science and high-quality teacher development. As a result, 100 percent of the program’s students graduates are kindergarten-ready – an increasingly critical predictor to long-term educational and quality-of-life outcomes. For comparison’s sake, only 28 percent of neighborhood kids not enrolled in the program are kindergarten ready.
Kids & Community Partners’ investment will be strategically used on three impactful initiatives:
- Improved training and retention of teachers
- More diversified and sustainable funding
- Expanded reach within Columbus, the state and the region
As part of the agreement, SSEL will expand to six Ohio locations and one out-of-state location by 2026.