Community System Development Resources

North Lawndale Community Connections

Since 2012, Illinois Action for Children has been working with families, schools, and community organizations in North Lawndale to partner with families and to implement community systems development strategies that improve family access to early care and education programs. The North Lawndale Community Connections program includes several initiatives specifically for families living in the North Lawndale community.

North Lawndale READS program

In 2015, we joined the Steans Family Foundation’s North Lawndale READS initiative to increase the increase grade level literacy for children in preschool through third grade. In this project, IAFC is responsible for addressing issues of chronic absenteeism in preschool to third grade by partnering with four elementary schools to provide authentic family engagement supports.

Over the years, we have adapted and refined our approach to addressing chronic absenteeism and fostering attendance in schools.  Our program approach includes three pillars: 1) Authentic family engagement through intensive family supports and services, 2) Fostering community partnerships to provide families with holistic and comprehensive supports that address their basic needs, and 3) Building the capacity of the school leaders and staff themselves to foster a positive culture of attendance and family engagement.

The results of our approach have been tremendously successful with proven and significant impact on families and children’s learning. Some of our key successes include:

  • In the 2017-2018 school year, students served by IAFC saw an average gain of +6 percent attendance (approximately 11 extra days of school).
  • 63 percent of students reached by IAFC met growth benchmarks on MAP Reading assessments
    • For second graders, this growth corresponded to 1.4 years of growth
    • For third graders, this growth corresponded to 1 year of growth

Playful Learning Landscapes

Illinois Action for Children, in partnership with Metropolitan Family Services and its collaborative partners, has been working with families to identify every day public spaces that can be transformed into places of learning for young children. Through the North Lawndale Early Learning Collaboration, family leaders and community partners, have worked collaboratively to give voice to innovative ideas such as transforming sidewalks outside of Legacy Apartments, the Farm on Ogden, and at the Central Park pink line into literacy and early math spaces. In June 2021, another educational installation will be placed in the community on Douglas Boulevard. This set of installations will allow children to explore colorful concepts that will help them build mathematical skills.

North Lawndale Early Learning Collaboration

Formerly known as the North Lawndale Innovation Zone

In 2012, Illinois won a Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant to strengthen early childhood systems and kindergarten readiness for Illinois children. Within that initiative, IAFC led the Innovation Zones project. We engaged 11 communities to develop and test strategies to increase the enrollment of children with critical needs in high-quality early learning and development programs. North Lawndale—a neighborhood where 72 percent of the children age five and under were living in poverty—was among them.

Partnering with a diverse coalition of community organizations and parents, we set out to build a comprehensive community infrastructure to ensure that all children born in the community are on track to succeed by third grade. In North Lawndale, we  focused our efforts on creating a robust enrollment pipeline that would effectively connect families to the formal programs available to them and on enrolling more high-need children in high-quality early learning programs.

Ongoing Success

The North Lawndale team’s work during the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant continues to provide the community with benefits of the work the team completed, including:

  • A strong community collaboration, the North Lawndale Early Learning Collaboration, that has developed a more systematic way of sharing information and referring families.
  • A pipeline of partners that are referring families to early learning programs
  • A feedback loop between the Chicago Mayor’s Office (Early Learning Department), (Chicago Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS), Chicago Public Schools and the North Lawndale community collaboration.

Innovation Zone Case Study from Illinois Action for Children

Case Study

Read more about the North Lawndale Innovation Zone case study.