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Early Childhood Academy Opens!

On February 10, 2016, Porter-Leath officially opened the Early Childhood Academy. The Academy is the place where Porter-Leath will bring together the very best people, programming, and partners to improve the lives of children and their families at Porter-Leath and throughout Shelby County. It is a state-of-the-art preschool for 224 Head Start and Early Head Start children ages six weeks to age five in South Memphis. Programming will involve children and their families in the highest-quality preschool setting, using evidence-based Head Start models while families receive ongoing supporting wrap-around services and training. The Early Childhood Academy will serve as a model for excellence for the education of young children and improves the quality of early childhood staff throughout and beyond Shelby County. 

The nicest early childhood education facility in the nation, it will house Porter-Leath's new Teacher Excellence Program, led by VP of Teacher Excellence, Rafel Hart. The Teacher Excellence Program creates a continuum of professional development and embedded training for early childhood educators across Shelby County. The program will utilize the design feature of the Academy - training center, observation bays, A/V technology - and highly skilled staff to provide high-quality professional development and motivation for Porter-Leath's Preschool teachers, as well as for teachers throughout Shelby County, including Shelby County Schools, Achievement Schools District, charter providers, and day home/care operators. 

The Teacher Excellence Program uses a vibrant team of twelve relief teachers and six instructional coaches so that classroom teachers may leave their students under the instruction of well-prepared staff and receive training from the absolute best early childhood educators. By embedding professional development and continual training, early childhood educators across Shelby County will continue Porter-Leath's work in increasing kindergarten readiness, particularly those in poverty. Children who enter kindergarten ready to learn are solidly on a path to be reading on grade level by third grade, which means they will graduate high school at least 90% of the time. 

"The Early Childhood Academy is our next step towards revitalizing the Shelby County early childhood education system,” said Sean Lee, President of Porter-Leath. “In the last two years, our dedicated educators have more than doubled the kindergarten readiness rate for children in poverty. The Early Childhood Academy will continue that work as we progress to ensuring every child enters school ready to learn. We look forward to making a meaningful and lasting impact on children and families in the Mid-South."

Quick facts:

  • Name: Porter-Leath Early Childhood Academy
  • Address: 628 Alice Ave - 38106
  • Classrooms: 16 - 8 Head Start/8 Early Head Start
  • Children: 224 - 160 Head Start/64 Early Head Start
  • Builder: Flintco   Tim Weatherford - Vice President
  • Architect: RDG Planning & Design from Omaha, NE     Ed Buglewicz - Architect
  • Ground Broken: March 15, 2016   
  • Completion: January 23, 2017

A special thanks to the many who have helped share the great news of the Early Childhood Academy:

Memphis Business Journal

Chalkbeat

Inside Memphis Business

WREG

The Tri-State Defender

Front door of Porter-Leath's Early Childhood Academy

 

 

 

Posted by Rob Hughes at Friday, February 10, 2017 | 0 comments

Porter-Leath’s Early Childhood Academy Hosts Grand Opening Celebration

MEMPHIS, Tennessee –Porter-Leath recently announced the Grand Opening Celebration and ribbon cutting for its Early Childhood Academy, to be held at 628 Alice Avenue on Friday, February 10 at 1:00 p.m. The Academy is a state-of-the-art preschool and teacher training institute that will provide comprehensive early childhood education and support services for 224 students as well as professional training and development for preschool teachers and educators across the early childhood landscape in Memphis.

The Early Childhood Academy

Designed by national early learning facility specialist RDG Planning and Design, the 16-classroom, 32,000-square-foot facility weaves local culture, history and geography into safe, inviting spaces that encourage play and exploration. Its child-friendly architecture utilizes natural light, lush landscapes and bright colors that enrich learning opportunities. The facility will serve 224 students and their families combined between Early Head Start and Head Start components.

The Teacher Excellence Program

In addition to the Preschool, The Academy will also include a laboratory teacher training center to equip early childhood educators with valuable skills that enhance teacher effectiveness, increase student achievement, and maximize classroom and family engagement. Developed in partnership with Shelby County Schools, the Teacher Excellence Program utilizes instructional coaches to provide continual professional development opportunities for early childhood educators.

Executive Leadership

Rafel Hart joined Porter-Leath in July 2016 as the Vice President of its Teacher Excellence Program, where he and partners have administered the program's design, implementation and evaluation. Hart will supervise the program’s launch and continued development.

"The Early Childhood Academy is our next step towards revitalizing the Shelby County early childhood education system,” said Sean Lee, President of Porter-Leath. “In the last two years, our dedicated educators have more than doubled the kindergarten readiness rate for children in poverty. The Early Childhood Academy will continue that work as we progress to ensuring every child enters school ready to learn. We look forward to making a meaningful and lasting impact on children and families in the Mid-South."

About Porter-Leath

For over 160 years, Porter-Leath has been the primary resource for Memphis' at-risk children and families. By focusing on the essential building blocks of healthy development, Porter-Leath not only gives them access to the tools they need, but also a sense of hope. Porter-Leath helps build stronger children, stronger families and a stronger Memphis through the mission of empowering children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal and independent lifestyle. For more information, visit or contact at 901-577-2500 or rhughes@porterleath.org. 

Porter-Leath Continues to Stress Attendance

Did you know that chronic absenteeism in kindergarten and even pre-K can predict low academic performance trends in later grades? According to a 2008 study conducted by the National Center for Children in Poverty, 1 in 10 children in kindergarten are chronically absent, missing one month per school year; and in some schools, it’s as high as 1 in 4. This study goes further to show that 2 in 10 children in poverty miss too much school, preventing young children from grasping fundamental reading and math skills critical to scaffolding instruction beyond the third grade.  Even the opportunity to build the basic habit of good attendance into college and career is missed. In Shelby County, over 28% of children district-wide are chronically absent, missing 28 days or more during the school year.  

Porter-Leath helps children overcome this challenge through early intervention in its Preschool program.  National studies have shown that Early Head Start and Head Start children are least likely to fall into chronic absenteeism.  They also have a low rate of receiving failing grades or failing an entire school year.

There are four key areas that attendanceworks.org identifies as the best solutions in preventing chronic absenteeism: engaging families, fixing transportation, addressing health needs and tracking the right data. The Porter-Leath Preschool program has positive results in each:

  1. Porter-Leath engages families in the earliest stages of education to build a culture of attendance through invention, community outreach, volunteerism, and incentives.  Porter-Leath works one-on-one with 5900 families to instill the habit of attendance for not only their children but also for themselves by engaging them to volunteer inside their child’s classroom or site, participate in monthly parent engagement activities, and to welcome home visits from teachers or family service workers at least four times during the school year.
  1. Porter-Leath prevents transportation issues by giving priority classroom assignments to students that live within the same zip code as the parent’s home address. Porter-Leath has Early Head Start, Head Start and/or Pre-K classrooms in 100% of all poverty-stricken zip codes in Shelby County. These zip codes were identified with families having annual incomes that fall below the Federal Poverty Level set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 2016 income threshold is $24,300 for a family of four.
  1. Health needs are among the leading reasons students miss school in early grades.  Medical challenges such as asthma and dental problems are two of the leading medical reasons preschool children are chronically absent. Porter-Leath Preschool works with medical professionals throughout Shelby County such as Le Bonheur LEAD and Asthmas Champs programs, Christ Community, and Watkins Family Dentistry while maintaining an internal medical action plan or profile for each child.
  1. Porter-Leath proactively oversees chronic absence patterns by tracking data through ChildPlus. This system goes beyond tracking average attendance or unexcused absences. Porter-Leath is able to breakdown attendance trends by child, classroom, site and program. Porter-Leath’s Performance and Quality reports monthly totals to all site managers to proactively address patterns of chronic absenteeism. Attendance goals for Early Head Start are 85% and 90% for Head Start and Pre-K. 

2016 Fall semester attendance data

With these effective systems in place, Porter-Leath is able to report successful outcomes like these:

  1. Cottonwood Head Start achieved a 91% attendance record in August with 180 preschoolers!
  1. Several classrooms at our American Way Head Start and Early Head Start preschoolers celebrated great attendance records during the first month of the school year with classrooms A, B, E, G, H, I and J achieving 95% or higher attendance, including Classroom H with 98% attendance!
  1. In our Connections program, Rayland H., a 5 year old kindergartener and foster-care child, has perfect attendance so far this year. He was only checked out once for a dental appointment, but he was at school on time even on that day. This is an awesome feat considering the difficulty of foster care children to achieve perfect attendance because so often, they have to leave school for court and doctor appointments. This success can be credited to dedicated foster care parents that were trained directly by Porter-Leath Connections staff and also, parental and child engagement through Tajuana Toliver, Rayland’s Porter-Leath case manager.
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Porter-Leath Welcomes Rafel Hart as Vice President of its Teacher Excellence Program

Porter-Leath recently welcomed Rafel Hart as the Vice President of its Teacher Excellence Program, located at the new Early Childhood Academy opening in 2017.  The Academy is a state-of-the-art preschool that will provide comprehensive early childhood education and support services for 224 students in 16 classrooms. The Teacher Excellence Program is an early childhood teacher training program that provides professional development for Preschool teachers in partnership with Shelby County Schools. The Program teaches valuable skills that enhance teacher effectiveness, increase student achievement, and maximize classroom and family engagement.

As Vice President, Rafel will supervise the design, implementation and evaluation of the Academy’s Teacher Excellence Program. In the 6 months ahead of the Academy’s Grand Opening, he will be planning class curriculum, staffing the program’s leadership and support positions and developing evaluation criteria. Before joining Porter-Leath, Rafel worked as the School Director of Educare New Orleans in partnership with Kingsley House, Inc. where he helped co-develop of the Gulf Coast Teacher Training Academy, a training and professional development program for early childhood education teachers in the Southern Louisiana. Rafel also worked with the of Educare New Orleans’ Local Evaluation & Assessment Team to lead the collaborative Research Program Partnership to improve learning and development outcomes for the children, goal development and self-sufficiency strategies for the families and workplace conditions for program staff. Rafel has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Southern University and A&M College and a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from the Erikson Institute.

"Rafel’s extensive experience and proven performance in early childhood education will serve as a tremendous asset in preparing Porter-Leath Preschool children and their families for school and life success,” said Sean Lee, President of Porter-Leath. “We look forward to promoting, defining and achieving excellence at the Academy together."

Porter-Leath provides a high quality education for 6,000 low income children in Shelby County preschools, free of charge. The organization's early childhood goal is to prepare children for long-term learning success through high quality teachers, effective teaching practices and safe learning environments.  In addition to supporting children’s developmental growth, Porter-Leath provides health screenings, nutritious meals, disability services, parenting training and mental health support to build their school readiness.

Porter-Leath Welcomes Peter Abell as Vice President of Development

Porter-Leath recently welcomed Peter Abell as its new Vice President of Development, where he will build and strengthen community partnerships, donor support and stakeholder relationships that help fulfill the organization’s mission. Abell brings 15 years of non-profit and fundraising experience to his role at Porter-Leath and will succeed Mike Warr, Executive Vice President for Development and New Business, who will continue as President of the Porter-Leath Early Childhood Foundation. According to Warr, the dramatic growth of Porter-Leath’s Early Childhood programs necessitates the enhancement of both operational and strategic fundraising activities.  

Abell has most recently served as the Executive Director of Shelby County Books from Birth, where local enrollment in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library increased nearly 30% under his leadership. Prior to joining Books form Birth, Abell worked as Assistant Director at Youth Villages and Senior District Executive of the Chickasaw Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He brings skills and relationships that are directly related Porter-Leath’s early childhood goals in his new role as Vice President of Development.

A graduate of White Station High School, Abell has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Master of Public Administration in Nonprofit Administration from the University of Memphis, a subject he has also taught at the University.  

“Peter’s professional success with some of Memphis’ leading social service organizations demonstrates his capability for working towards our goal of building stronger children, families and communities” said Sean Lee, President of Porter-Leath. “We are excited to welcome him to our team.”

Porter-Leath meets the needs of 12,000+ local children and families at all stages of life through education, nutrition, mentoring and child placement services. The core of the organization’s operations support a high quality education for 6,000 low income children in Shelby County preschools.  Porter-Leath’s mission is to empower children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal and independent lifestyles.

Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service Celebrates Memphis Volunteers

Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, joined Mayor Jim Strickland to celebrate Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service on April 6 at First Baptist Church. Mayor and County Recognition Day spotlights the key role national service volunteers play in meeting a wide range of community challenges. The event will also include a volunteer showcase for local elected officials illustrating the local impact of national service programs. Porter-Leath is home to two CNCS programs, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps

 AmeriCorps places young adults in organizations to solve community problems and mobilize volunteers to action. Over the past year, 20 AmeriCorps members served 28,733 hours in Porter-Leath Preschool classrooms, working directly with 67 children to develop individualized education plans, improve assessment results, and coordinate early learning enrichment activities. AmeriCorps members recruited 229 community volunteers who provided additional support to the classrooms throughout the year, while students scored 16% higher in assessments from mid to end year. 

Senior Corps connects adults 55+ to organizations that help them become mentors, coaches, or companions to people in need; Porter-Leath offers Senior Corps’ Foster Grandparent and RSVP programs. Over the past year, Foster Grandparents provided educational activities to 154 children ages 5-14, with 132 children showing increased improvement in reading and literacy skills. Foster grandparents also provided preschool educational activities to 169 children ages 1-5, with 169 children demonstrating improvement in emotional and cognitive skills. RSVP volunteers mentored 120 children ages 3-5, with 100% demonstrating improved classroom behavior and meeting educational and behavioral goals. RSVP also provided homework assistance and enrichment activities to 185 children ages 5-15, with 130 sustained mentor matches throughout the school year.  

 “National service volunteers have been an invaluable resource in addressing local challenges, rallying other volunteers, and making our community a better places to live,” said Judy Rautine, Generations Manager at Porter-Leath. Devoting over 200,000 hours of service,  AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs operate in 10 additional nonprofit and public sector sites in Memphis including Bridges USA, the City of Memphis, HopeWorks, Impact Memphis, Libertas School of Memphis, Literacy Mid-South, MIFA, Shelby County Schools, Memphis Teacher Residency, and Teach for America. First Baptist is located at 2835 Broad Ave. 

Read more about Mayor's Day 2016 at The Commercial Appeal.


About Porter-Leath 

For over 160 years, Porter-Leath has been the primary resource for Memphis' at-risk children and families. By focusing on the essential building blocks of healthy development, Porter-Leath not only gives them access to the tools they need, but also a sense of hope. Porter-Leath helps build stronger children, stronger families and a stronger Memphis. For more information, visit or contact at 901-577-2500 or jrautine@porterleath.org. 

About The Corporation for National and Community Service

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is a federal agency that connects more than 5 million Americans to service opportunities in their communities. CNCS engages volunteers of all ages and backgrounds in service each year through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs. For more information, visit nationalservice.gov.

Porter-Leath Breaks Ground for Preschool and Teacher Training Institute



MEMPHIS, Tennessee –Porter-Leath recently broke ground for its Early Childhood Academy at 628 Alice Ave. The state-of-the-art preschool and teacher training institute will establish a continuum of early childhood education, from prenatal to age 5, that defines and promotes excellence for young children and their families. The Academy will open for children’s classes and teacher training in 2017.

The Academy will provide comprehensive early childhood education and support services for 224 students in 16 classrooms. Designed by early learning facility specialist RDG Planning and Design, the 32,000-square-foot facility, weaves local culture, history and geography into safe, inviting spaces that encourage play and exploration. Its child-friendly architecture utilizes natural light, lush landscapes and bright colors that enrich learning opportunities.   

The facility will also feature a teacher training center to develop successful early childhood educators in partnership with Shelby County Schools. Paired with its outstanding early learning facility, the Academy’s teacher training program lays the groundwork for revitalizing the Shelby County early childhood education system.  

"The Early Childhood Academy will be a world-class preschool where great teachers will come together with an evidence-based curriculum and meaningful partnerships to prepare children for school and life success,” said Sean Lee, President of Porter-Leath. “The Academy will demonstrate the benefits of quality preschool and effective Teachers.  The lessons learned will carry our children and community to great heights."   

About Porter-Leath 

 For over 160 years, Porter-Leath has been the primary resource for Memphis' at-risk children and families. By focusing on the essential building blocks of healthy development, Porter-Leath not only gives them access to the tools they need, but also a sense of hope. Porter-Leath helps build stronger children, stronger families and a stronger Memphis through the mission of empowering children and families to achieve a healthy, optimal and independent lifestyle. For more information, visit or contact at 901-577-2500 or rhughes@porterleath.org.  

New South Lauderdale Early Head Start Opens

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – The Administration for Children and Families has awarded Porter-Leath with federal funding to expand Early Head Start availability to 160 new Mid-South children, ages birth to three. Porter-Leath will partner with four local child care centers to prepare these children for school success — including Goodwill Homes Community Service, Inc., University Prep School, South Parkway East Kiddie Learning Center, and Southwest Tennessee Community College - Union Avenue Campus. In addition, Porter-Leath will open a new Early Head Start center providing comprehensive early childhood education services at 1940 S. Lauderdale St. Classes will begin Sept. 7 at S. Lauderdale and in October at partner locations.      

Early Head Start is a federal program that provides early child development and family support services for infants and toddlers from the highest risk families. The program uses the research-based Creative Curriculum to support children’s developmental growth while providing health screenings, nutritious meals, disability services, and mental health support to build their school readiness.  Each family is also assigned a family service worker to help them set and achieve individualized family engagement goals.    

Porter-Leath has 399 Early Head Start families enrolled.  As the Shelby County grantee for Early Head Start and a contractor to the local Head Start grantee, Shelby County Schools, Porter-Leath will serve 5,800 total children in the 2015-2016 school year.  The organization's early childhood goal is to prepare children and their families for long-term learning success through high quality teachers, effective teaching practices, safe learning environments and strong community partnerships.  

To learn more about this exciting new location, check out this story from WREG. For more information on the recent Early Head Start expansion related to South Lauderdale, click here.

SCS and Porter-Leath Early Childhood Partnership Achieves Success for Kids

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – A recent assessment by Shelby County Schools has revealed that 72 percent of incoming kindergartners from its Early Childhood programs demonstrate full academic readiness in foundational reading skills — an increase of 125 percent over the past year. SCS took over Memphis’ Head Start program from Shelby County government in 2014, increasing the number of students served by 3,000. The district contracts the operation of early childcare centers and wraparound services exclusively to Porter-Leath, which will serve 5,476 students in the 2015-2016 school year.      

Head Start is a federal program that provides early child development and family support services for children, ages 3-5, from the highest risk families.  With a comprehensive focus on all aspects of healthy development, the Head Start Approach to School Readiness means that children are ready for school, families are ready to support their children's learning, and schools are ready for children.   

School readiness goals for Porter-Leath and SCS are aligned with the Head Start Child Developmental & Early Learning Framework, the Tennessee School Readiness Model, and the Kindergarten Readiness Checklist for SCS. Ongoing evaluation of children’s learning and development progress is administered through Istation® computer-adaptive testing as well as Brigance assessments, which determine progress in language, motor, self-help, social-emotional, and cognitive skills. School readiness goals for the following year are adjusted based on student progress.      

Dr. Deanna McClendon, SCS’ Director of Early Childhood Programs said, “Our partnership with Porter-Leath has successfully combined accountability, experience and cooperation to not only deliver critical learning components but also meet the social and emotional needs of children and families.”    

"We are delighted to have doubled our school readiness scores, and continue to work towards our goal of 90 percent readiness," said Karen Harrell, Vice President of Early Childhood Services at Porter-Leath. “Reaching this landmark brings us closer to our vision of becoming a leader in helping Mid-South children and families succeed.” In addition to supporting children’s developmental growth, the program provides health screenings, nutritious meals, disability services, parenting training and mental health support to build their school readiness. 

Read more about this wonderful news for Memphis at Teach901

Porter-Leath Head Start and Corporate Partners Close the Summer Strong

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – As Porter-Leath enters the 2015-2016 school year, our students, families and employees will benefit from working with our corporate partners  to build a stronger Memphis.   

In July, Over 50 volunteers from Porter-Leath , Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance and AutoZone gathered at Porter-Leath’s  MLK Head Start location to paint the building’s 9 classrooms, pressure wash the playground and perform other cosmetic renovations. MLK Head Start serves 180 children each year.   

Later in August, Raymond James employees treated 20 families from Porter-Leath’s Douglass Head Start to a Redbirds game at AutoZone Park. In addition to watching the game, enjoying ballpark snacks, and meeting Rockey the Rockin' Redbird with students and their parents, Raymond James presented Porter-Leath with a $2,500 donation to celebrate the company’s Raymond James Cares Month.     

“Porter-Leath is able to build a stronger Memphis through support from our corporate partners,” said Rob Hughes, Development Director for Porter-Leath. “Our partners not only provide the much needed funds to help thousands of Mid-South children and families, but also the personal engagement to drive real change in the community.”   

Porter-Leath Preschool offers a comprehensive combination of quality home-based family services and onsite educational programs. Porter-Leath’s Preschool program provides high-quality preschool education for more than 5,800 of the highest-risk children in Shelby County annually, free of charge. 

We Live in Memphis! and Goodnight Memphis books given to over 4500 Porter-Leath Preschoolers

MEMPHIS, Tennessee – Porter-Leath recently announced the donation of Memphis-themed picture books to over 4,500 preschool children. The community-based organization will distribute Perre Magness’ “We Live in Memphis!” and Grace Hammond Skertich’s “Goodnight Memphis” to Early Head Start and Head Start classrooms in order to build school readiness skills for children ages 0-5. Magness and Skertich are local authors. 

Both “We Live in Memphis!” and “Goodnight Memphis” introduce children to colorful Memphis landmarks like the Mississippi River, Graceland, The University of Memphis, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The books also facilitate reading time with children, which helps parents and caregivers create language-rich homes that promote early literacy.  The book donation encourages summer learning retention while maintaining the reading skills that the children have developed over the school year. “When kids are read to, listen to words, and talk about the stories, it helps prepare them for a lifetime of learning,” said Mike Warr, Executive Vice-President of Development and New Business for Porter-Leath. With goals of exposing infants and toddlers to increased book reading and enhancing their pre-reading skills, Porter-Leath’s early literacy programs have insert data on student gains/ measurable education metrics.

Read more about the book donation in The Daily News, Memphis Flyer and The Tri-State Defender articles.



WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee
Posted by Rob Hughes at Friday, June 19, 2015

Family Rewards 2.0 First Evaluation Released

The first report evaluating the Family Rewards 2.0 model has been released. Porter-Leath is a proud partner of the project in Memphis as part of our Cornerstone program. For more information, or to access the report, please click here.