Early Childhood Education
Jumpstart is a national organization that believes early literacy is a fundamental building block of success. Founded in 1993 by college students, parents, and Head Start staff, Jumpstart launched its first school-year program at Yale University. Jumpstart has since expanded to twenty-four states and Washington, DC.
Jumpstart’s preschool goal is to enhance the literacy, language, social, and emotional development of children through positive adult-child interaction and family involvement. Jumpstart’s philosophy and research-based approach incorporate recommendations from recent best practices from the field of early education, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, and the Stony Brook Reading and Language Project’s dialogic reading method.
Jumpstart partners with higher education institutions and early learning programs that share a commitment to the basic tenants of developmentally appropriate practice and quality early childhood education. Jumpstart’s intensive enrichment program trains a college student, called a Jumpstart Corps member, to work one-to-one with a 3-5-year-old child in Head Start or similar early learning programs. During the eight-month school year, Corps members hold twice, weekly, two- hour Jumpstart sessions, structured-classroom sessions set aside for a team of nine or 10 Corps members to devote attention to children following the traditional school day. Corps members spend additional time in their child’s classroom supporting the classroom teacher and other students.
Jumpstart Corps members receive sixty hours of training in early childhood education and learn to facilitate children’s development following four key principles:
1) Utilize developmentally appropriate practices,
2) engage children in active learning,
3) strike a balance between adult and child-initiated learning, and
4) support children’s early or emergent reading and writing.
Corps members implement these principles during Jumpstart sessions through One-to-One Reading with each child; Circle Time to foster socialization and to build a sense of community through active group learning; Choice Time to foster independence, curiosity, and self-esteem; and Small Group Activity to introduce common, self-paced activities, focusing on a beginning, middle, and end.
Using a pre- and post-assessment of language and literacy, social, and initiative skills, Jumpstart tracks children’s progress, measures program impact, and continuously improves content and delivery. Annual assessments conducted by independent consultants show that Jumpstart children begin the school year with skills rated lower than their peers but make greater progress than their peers in language and literacy, social, and initiative skill areas by the end of the year.
During the 2004-2005 school year, Jumpstart served more than 8,000 children by partnering with 66 higher education institutions and 200 early learning programs. The organization averages 30 percent annual growth and is evaluating several expansion opportunities, including expanding its program to partner with more colleges and universities across the country, expanding existing programs by enrolling more college students, and exploring different volunteer populations that could deliver the Jumpstart program to preschool children.
Kim Davenport and Alison Pitzer