Using a two-generation approach, the Dunbar Learning Complex — home to Educare Atlanta and Dunbar Elementary School — aims to demonstrate how to provide comprehensive supports to children from birth through age eight and their families. Educare Atlanta is a high-quality early childhood school that provides child-centered and family-focused educational, physical, social and emotional programs and services to children and their families to prepare children for success in elementary school. As these children transition into Dunbar Elementary School, they continue to receive high-quality instruction and supports designed to ensure that they are proficient readers by the end of third grade. Through independent and in-house evaluations, the staff at both schools are measuring the children’s progress to strengthen the case for providing high-quality, literacy-focused and seamless instruction for all children, including those from low-income families.
The two separately managed schools at the complex, Educare Atlanta and Dunbar Elementary School, are located under one roof to foster seamless instruction and supports from early childhood through fifth grade.
Educare Atlanta, which serves children ages 6 weeks through prekindergarten, is staffed and managed by Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Centers. With 16 centers in the metro Atlanta region, Sheltering Arms is one of the most respected nonprofit early care and learning programs in the state of Georgia.
Dunbar Elementary School, a K-5 school, is part of the Atlanta Public Schools system.
While the schools are separately managed and run, they work in close partnership with a focus on reading proficiency by the end of third grade — a crucial milestone in a child’s educational development. Teachers at both schools participate in joint training sessions, and the schools offer transitional programs to prepare children and their families for moving from prekindergarten to elementary school. In addition, Educare Atlanta teachers share student information — including individual assessment data — with their Dunbar counterparts so that they can continue helping the students move forward in their academic journey.
The financial model that makes the Dunbar Learning Complex possible is replicable. It involves the blending of public and private funds to support the high-quality, seamless services and programs that are critical to child and family success. The average cost per child at Educare Atlanta is less than $14,000, the large majority of which is supported by public dollars. Public funding streams include Early Head Start, Head Start, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, Georgia Pre-K, the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, Atlanta Housing Authority, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child and Adult Care Food Program and U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. In addition to these public sources, contributions from private entities help fill in the gaps to cover the high-quality, family-focused programming that children and families need.
The Dunbar Learning Complex employs a comprehensive approach to ensuring young children are learning and on track to become proficient readers by the end of third grade. This approach involves strategies and supports around effective teaching, child-centered learning environments, parent empowerment, evidence building and physical, social and emotional health. The complex is employing a two-generation approach that combines high-quality early education and supports for children, programs to improve the caregiving skills of parents and others and to provide economic support services for parents — all to improve outcomes for the entire family. By partnering with The Center for Working Families, Inc. and Sheltering Arms’ Georgia Training Institute, the complex is also able to help parents improve their financial stability. As of 2012, approximately 20 percent of the staff at Educare Atlanta resided in the neighborhoods surrounding the complex, having completed the training offered by Georgia Training Institute.
Another distinct feature of the complex is that it consists of two schools — one public and one nonprofit — that share a building and goal of making sure all children are able to read proficiently by the end of third grade. Both schools use evidence-based curriculums and programs to prepare children to succeed in school. They also work together closely — through joint staff training and sharing student data — to make the transition from one school to the other smooth and seamless for the children and their families.