Born Learning: A Community Partnership for Children

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Born Learning is a public/private partnership working collectively to build a community system that creates and invests in opportunities for children to realize lifelong success.

What is Born Learning?

The Born Learning initiative began as a "call to action" from the 2012 Life Report. It was determined that United Way of Portage County would focus on closing the academic achievement gap that exists in our county for socio-economically disadvantaged children.

Through a Race to the Top planning grant received in the fall of 2015, it was determined the most effective way to close the academic achievement gap was through a systems change within our community. A collective impact approach is being used in this work, which includes: A common agenda, shared measurement system, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and a backbone organization. United Way of Portage County serves as the backbone organization for Born Learning and is responsible for continuous communication, convening and facilitation of meetings, fiscal responsibility, and a multitude of other activities.

To continue this work, we applied for an Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin grant through the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. After completing a 3-stage process, we were successful in securing a $350,000 grant over a 30-month period to continue this systems change work. We are fortunate to have an academic partner, biostatistician, and data analyst on board assisting with this work from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Born Learning is not another program, but a public/private partnership involving systems change work that aims to get all pre-natal through age five service providers out of their single silos and at the table working together as one team to measure the same outcomes. To move the needle in Portage County, we need to continually evaluate data and make continuous improvements for success with all partners at the table. This includes our health care community, four school districts, non-profit organizations, health and human services, and others.

Why is Born Learning so important to Portage County?

As Born Learning has grown through research and data, this initiative has become so much more than working to close the academic achievement gap. We have discovered:

  • The Workforce Hub Regional assessment 2016 indicates that 30.33% of employers across the central WI region are reporting that a significant soft skills gap exists. (Teamwork, problem solving, cooperation, critical thinking, communication, motivation, etc.) Research shows soft skills that you gain during the earliest years of life.
  • Without intervention and/or high quality early childhood programming, employers will continue to struggle with recruitment and retention of talented employees, resulting in economic development challenges in our region.
  • Scientific research has shown that 85% of the brain's core structure if developed by age of three, creating the foundation for the rest of your life. The first three years, are the most important years to the developing brain.
  • Toxic stress during the early years can have damaging effects on learning, behavior, and health across the lifespan.
  • 71% of Wisconsin residents cannot meet the military's eligibility requirements.

Advocacy and Awareness Steering Committee

The Advocacy and Awareness Steering Committee members serve as influential voices within Portage County for the prenatal-age 5 population. They will attend quarterly meetings, work together with other key leaders, and work to develop community wide goals for the initiative. This committee meets quarterly delving into education topics related to prenatal-5 and have oversight over action items for the initiative. Current members are:

  • Andrew Halverson, Ellis Construction
  • Julie Lassa, Community Volunteer
  • Marc Christianson, Rosholt Superintendent of Schools
  • Meg Erler, Right From the Start Volunteer, Stevens Point School Board
  • Sherrie Stanczyk, Stevens Point Area School District Early Learning Principal
  • Ray Przybelski, Portage County Health and Human Services
  • Sue Wilcox, United Way of Portage County Executive Director
  • Mae Nachman, United Way of Portage County Director of Community Impact
  • Lisa Falduto, United Way of Portage County Early Years Engagement Specialist
  • Ray Ackerlund, Skyward
  • Dr. Ryan Andrews, Ministry Health
  • Jayne Petruska, Sentry Insurance
  • Katrina Shankland, 71st Assembly District State Representative
  • Doug Ballweg, Delta Dental, United Way Board
  • Fred Eichmiller, Delta Dental, United Way Board
  • Mary Berard, United Way Board, Community Volunteer
  • Amy Bakken, Right From the Start
  • Dan Dobratz, Portage County Board of Supervisors
  • Timmy Cooper, Cooper Dental, United Way Board
  • Dean Sivley, Berkshire Hathaway
  • John Cowden, Berkshire Hathaway
  • Craig Gerlach, Stevens Point Area Public School District Superintendent
  • Fred Hebblewhite, United Way of Portage County Director of Resource Development
  • Tara Draeger, Aspirus Community Health Programs Manager
  • Tina Peters, Right From the Start, United Way Board
  • Mike Toelle, Tomorrow River School District Principal

Gateway Partner Action Team

The Gateway Partner Action team is comprised of leaders from the prenatal-5 service sector. This group is directly responsible for building the new system (Social Services Triage) that will connect families who need support to a home visitor/navigator that will remain with the family prenatal through age 5.

The Gateway team is working on indicators to match our four outcome areas. Once outcomes are chosen, the Gateway team will begin work with Skyward to develop a software program, which will track data for those families engaged within the triage system.

The Gateway partner team meets twice a month continuing to work through the collective pieces to create the system change within Portage County.

Key Facts

•    Investments in early childhood development improve the long-run productivity of the workforce, a key to economic growth.

•    Investments in early childhood development have a high public return on investment by reducing costs to government and society

•    From birth to age 5 is the window where soft skills are formed like; teamwork, organization, cooperation, creativity, and critical thinking, to name a few.

Born Learning in the News

DEC. 29, 2016: The new Born Learning initiative recently received a $350,000 Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin grant. The grant will allow Born Learning and its partners to develop efforts to strengthen families and support optimal child health and development in Portage County. To learn more, please click here.

Get Involved

For more information on Born Learning, please contact Lisa Falduto, Born Learning Engagement Specialist.
Phone: 715-254-2186