Educational Institutions


Strong Start, Bright Future.

aka Collaboration for Early Childhood

Oak Park, IL


We champion high-quality early childhood care and learning experiences, and support for families, so all children develop their full potential.

Ruling Year


Executive Director

Ms. Carolyn Newberry Schwartz

Main Address

123 Madison St., Rm. 209

Oak Park, IL 60302 USA


early childhood care and education





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Kindergarten, Nursery Schools, Preschool, Early Admissions (B21)

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Programs + Results

What we aim to solve

In 2002, Oak Park's 6 public jurisdictions -- School Districts 97 and 200, the Village of Oak Park, Oak Park Township, the Oak Park Public Library, and the Park District of Oak Park -- joined together to address the uneven quality, fragmentation, and shortage of quality early childhood programs that hamper school readiness for our most at-risk kindergarteners and contributes to a system-wide achievement gap for minority, low-income and other at-risk students.

Our programs

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Early Detection Screening

Parent Information and Support

Professional Development for Early Childhood Providers

Public Preschool Coordination

Unified Early Childhood Database

Where we work

Charting Impact

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have they accomplished so far and what's next?

The aim of the Collaboration is to develop a fully integrated, coordinated, and comprehensive, community-wide system of high-quality early childhood programs and services that nurtures the physical, cognitive and social-emotional development of our youngest children during the critical first five years of life. Our goals are to ensure that:
•Every child has access to high-quality early care and education,
•All parents have the information and support they need as their child's first and most important teacher, and
•The most at-risk children and their families receive the services they need to ensure healthy development and school readiness.

•Early Detection Screening. We promote the administration of developmental and social-emotional screening to area pediatricians, family practitioners, and early childhood providers. We provide hearing and vision screening for over 1,400 children at 37 center-based programs and developmental and social-emotional screening for over 1,700 children at 17 childcare centers and preschools, 8 family childcare providers, 1 social service agency, 3 community-based programs, and 3 medical practices. We work closely with the providers to ensure that children identified as needing further assessment and services receive them. We publish a Developmental Referral and Services Directory for physicians and programs participating in the screening program.

•Parent Information and Support. Through a partnership with Easterseals, we offer Home Visiting and organized group activities for high-risk pregnant women and parents of at-risk children from birth to age 3 to help them grow as their child's first teacher, connect to other parents, and access health care and social services. We publish and distribute two free publications for parents, an Early Childhood Resource Directory and “Watch and Help Me Grow: Developmental Milestones Birth to Five Years". Our website features extensive information on child development, early childhood resources, and local child-centered activities. We organize workshops and guided playgroups for area parents.

•Professional Development. We work to improve the quality of child care and preschool education by encouraging and assisting early childhood providers to build the capacity of their staff by participating in professional development activities, college-level classes, and statewide quality enhancement initiatives. We support the professional development of early childhood providers by sponsoring an Annual Symposium, bi-monthly roundtables for Directors and for Family Child Care Providers, semi-annual Physicians' Breakfast Meetings, and intervention-specific training on special topics.

•Coordination of Public Preschool. We identify at-risk children, encourage low-income parents to enroll their children in free, high-quality public preschool, and screen program applicants. We also provide technical support, professional training, and mentoring for all publicly funded preschool programs in Oak Park to ensure that our most vulnerable children receive a quality educational experience.

The Collaboration has been coordinating early childhood services and education in the Village of Oak Park for 15 years. Ours is a much-lauded and oft-replicated model of community-wide service integration and cooperation. In fact, we provide consultation to other communities on how to replicate our unique model of public-private collaboration.

Benchmarks for Success:
Child Outcomes: Every child arrives at kindergarten safe, healthy, ready to succeed and eager to learn
Child Outcome 1: Children identified through screening as needing assessment or services receive them
Child Outcome 2: Percent of children in Oak Park and River Forest Preschool for All (PFA) and Head Start who demonstrate age-appropriate proficiency in each domain of development in accordance with the Illinois Early Learning Standards
Child Outcome 3: Percent of children entering kindergarten demonstrating age-appropriate proficiency in kindergarten readiness assessment administered by District 97
Service Delivery Outcomes: Parents and children receive the early childhood care, education, parenting information, and support services they need
Service Delivery Outcome 1: Kindergarten students with Free and Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) assistance have a history of participation in a PFA/HS/NAEYC accredited program, or a program meeting the Illinois Quality Rating System (ExceleRate) Gold Circle of Quality
Service Delivery Outcome 2: Teen parents and families receiving up through All Kids Level 1 health insurance for their child under age 3 receive referral to intensive parent education program
Service Delivery Outcome 3: Percent of referred parents who choose to participate in the intensive parent education program
Service Delivery Outcome 4: Percent of kindergarten and first grade students with Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) who have documentation of receiving services in early childhood (if they lived in Oak Park or River Forest during their early childhood years) System Outcomes: Oak Park has a high-quality, coordinated early childhood system that aligns with K-12 districts and state programs and strategies
System Level Outcome 1: Estimate the Collaboration's connection with all families in Oak Park and River Forest with children under five via direct and indirect measures
System Level Outcome 2: Percent of teachers and directors in Oak Park early childhood programs who have above minimum state educational requirements for their role
System Level Outcome 3: Percent of teachers and child care providers reporting more than the state-mandated 15 documented hours of continuing professional education each year
System Level Outcome 4: Percent of preschools, child care centers, and home are engaged in the Illinois Quality Rating System (ExceleRate) and improve their scores each year

•Attendance at our Annual Symposium has grown from 140 attendees in 2003 to 384 in 2017.
•The reach of our professional development curriculum development workshops and coaching expanded from an average of 6-8 centers a year to 31 childcare centers and 24 childcare homes in 2017
•The number of childcare centers and preschools participating in Illinois' ExceleRate Quality Rating System doubled from 9 in 2014 to 20 in 2017
•The percentage of early childhood professionals who have an early childhood credential or professional licensure increased from 68% in 2015 to 92% in 2017.
•After more than a decade, we have made contact with 42 previously unknown, license-exempt providers (family, friend and neighbor care) and engaged them in the State Quality Rating system and supported their online coursework to meet training requirements through the Gateways system.
•The number of sites participating in the developmental screening program increased from 20 sites in 2014 to 30 in 2017
•The number of children who receive a developmental screen increased from 1,021 children in 2015 to 1,806 in 2017.
•The number of sites participating in hearing and vision screening increased from 26 in 2013 to 38 in 2017
•The number of children who receive a hearing and/or vision screen increased from 1,100 in 2013 to 1,411 in 2017
•30 medical and social service professionals attended a Physicians Network breakfast meeting on sensory processing and 33 attended a second breakfast on gender identity.
•We distributed 12,000 copies of our Early Childhood Resource Directory and 600 copies of “Watch and Help Me Grow: Developmental Milestones Birth to Five Years" in FY 2017 (both publications are also available on our website).
•We contracted with Easterseals to provide home visiting services for at-risk families
•We increased our capacity to provide home visiting services by adapting the research-based, evidence-informed Parents as Teachers program.
•The number of families receiving home visiting services increased in FY 2017 from 30 to 86 families.
•The number of parents reached through the new Parent Resource Program tripled from 6,041 in 2014 to 19,148 in FY 2017.
•We promoted a coordinated intake process for the three public preschool programs through the development of uniform eligibility criteria, scoring systems, and developmental screening tools.
•We fostered the adaption and effective use of the Creative Curriculum and Teaching Strategies GOLD, a teacher observation assessment tool, through workshops and coaching.
•We worked with the public preschool sites to develop parent workshops and information on the impact of attendance and tardiness on establishing positive family-school routines.
•The number of children taking the Kindergarten Readiness Test, an important gauge of school readiness for incoming kindergarteners, increased from 70 in 2014 to 104 in 20

External Reviews



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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


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Organizational Demographics

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Race & Ethnicity

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This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members, Senior Staff, Full-Time Staff and Part-Time Staff.

Diversity Strategies

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We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
We have a diversity committee in place
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