Prescott, AR -- The Panel is teaming up with parents, educators, community leaders and other advocates to improve early childhood education in Arkansas.

The Good 2 Great initiative is underway in Prescott and Marvell, the two Arkansas communities chosen for the study. Takema RobinsonBradberry, a Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation Senior Fellow, said the initiative intentionally chose places where pre-K programs are already doing well.

“We didn’t go to districts that are super far behind,” Robinson-Bradberry said. “We went to places that had some capacity, and the experiment is to work with the existing early childhood education providers and ask them, ‘What do you need? What do you need to move yourself forward? You set the goal and then we will help you get there.’”

Pre-K providers in both communities are working with Arkansas State University Childhood Services to improve performance over the next two and a half years. The effort will be carefully documented so it can be replicated statewide.

“We can double down over the next two and a half years, really pour the resources in and leverage the expertise of some key organizations to try and prove this theory that we can move Arkansas from good to great,” Robinson-Bradberry said. “If we can make it happen in Prescott, if we can make it happen in Marvell, then we can offer the state two shining examples of how to improve early education.”

Increasing community participation in education is a big part of the project. The Panel collected hundreds of surveys from parents in Marvell and Prescott to find a baseline perception of pre-K and education in general. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families analyzed the results of those surveys, and found most people feel welcomed and encouraged to be involved in their schools. However, many respondents also said they don’t go to the parent resource center, attend school board meetings, or vote in local elections.

“Most people said they don’t have time to attend board meetings or visit the resource center because of work or other commitments,” said Ana Phakhin, the Panel’s Lead Education Organizer. “Getting more parents involved is an essential piece of this puzzle.”

The Panel is working with the Concerned Citizens of Prescott and the Concerned Citizens of the Marvell Area to organize parent groups in both communities. The groups will increase parental engagement, but they will also help parents to become better advocates for their kids.

“Can we start to build some appetite, and some muscle in parents to begin to demand quality?” Robinson-Bradberry asked. “We want to help parents understand why we need them in Little Rock at the legislative session helping to advocate on behalf of their childcare providers.”

Good 2 Great is also working to engage the community at large. Members from all walks of life have been invited to participate on the Community Advisory Committee. This includes teachers, pre-K providers, the districts’ Superintendents and business leaders.

“We want to establish a space where all of the community is building an agenda about what we want for little kids,” RobinsonBradberry said. “If we have a cross section of people, different races, different genders, different jobs and roles, maybe we can move things forward.”