SPARK Project

Helping kdis get ready for kindergartenUnited Way’s helping kids get ready for kindergarten and long-term academic success

United Way of Greater Cleveland will implement a special project that has proven to help kids score higher on the state’s kindergarten readiness assessment test as well as positively influence future academic performance. The program will be put into action in collaboration with Cuyahoga County’s Invest in Children initiative and the Literacy Cooperative of Greater Cleveland. It focuses on helping children ages 3 and 4 years old become kindergarten ready.

The “Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids” (SPARK) project is a nationally demonstrated project initially supported by the Kellogg Foundation that has shown significant results at improving kindergarten readiness among low-income children in urban, rural, and suburban settings in six states and Washington D.C. In Ohio, SPARK was piloted five years ago in Stark County with the support of the Kellogg Foundation and the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton.

An evaluation of the project conducted by the University of Akron found that children whose families participated in the program scored higher on the state’s kindergarten readiness assessment test than other children from the same school district. In addition, the gains shown by these children held up over time and these children also had better math and reading skills than their peers through grade three.

The local project will work with families with 3 and 4-year-old children in the Cleveland Heights/University Heights and Maple Heights school districts, recruiting  100 4-year-old children and 50 3-year-old children within a three-year timeframe, and following their progress from preschool through grade three.

The project will:

  • reach out to families of at-risk children with a home visitation program;
  • provide parent/child educational activities and materials to build reading, language and social skills;
  • link parents and children to needed physical and behavioral health intervention when required, including testing and screening for learning problems;
  • intervene early to correct language delays and other developmental gaps before kindergarten, and
  • offer group enrichment activities for parents and children.

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