Seattle Chamber Makes Strides in Early Learning
The Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce knows that a good start can often lead to a good ending. In 2005, the chamber helped to form a five-year demonstration project, the Business Partnership for Early Learning (BPEL), with the aim to close school preparedness gaps among 2 and 3 year olds, so that all Seattle children enter elementary school equipped to succeed.
Funded by local business and philanthropic leaders, BPEL targets families not being served by traditional early-school programs. Many of the 400 children and parents involved with BPEL come from immigrant or minority communities; and almost two-thirds speak a language other than English at home. When entering pre-k and kindergarten, many of these children lag behind their counterparts when it comes to reading and writing, putting them at a disadvantage right from the start.
According to Bob Watt, former President & CEO of the Seattle Chamber and recently retired executive from the Boeing Company who was instrumental in creating BPEL, “It’s time to change the paradigm from ‘no child left behind’ to ‘no child starts behind’.” BPEL is proving to be a powerful way to meet the needs of those children who are least likely to succeed.
Measurements and accountability are key components of BPEL’s work. After just 2 years of closely tracking and evaluating progress, the results are far exceeding expectations:
- 95% of children improved in their ability to concentrate.
- 90% of children improved in understanding and completing activities that are developmentally appropriate.
- 85% of parents increased the frequency with which they engage their child in conversation.
- 100% of parents improved in clearly verbalizing expectations to their child.