Learning starts with a SPARK.

Every year, four million children in America enter kindergarten. As many as one in three will not be ready for school, and many will never catch up.

SPARK helps communities unite resources to better prepare children for school. Seeking ready children, ready communities and ready schools, SPARK works to smooth the transition to school and align pre-school and elementary school settings.

The Children's Defense Fund Southern Regional Office (CDF-SRO) is the grantee for SPARK Mississippi, an initiative that has improved school readiness for over 2,000 Mississippi children ages 3 to 8 who were vulnerable to poor academic achievement.

To help these children master skills and receive the cognitive, physical, family and community support necessary for school success, SPARK Mississippi brings together parents, school officials, child care and early education providers, child advocacy groups, Head Start providers and state and local government agencies.

SPARK Mississippi's strategies for ready kids and ready schools are:

  • Early Education Classroom Improvement Plans,
  • Individual Learning Plans,
  • Early Education/School Curriculum Alignment,
  • Support for Basic and Special Needs
  • Learning Advocates
  • Local Children's Partnerships
  • Parent Education

What we've done

  • 5,500 professional development hours provided
  • 7,500 home visits (three per year per SPARK child over three years)
  • 300 early childhood education providers/teachers/administrators directly affected
  • 150 classrooms assessed
  • 15,000 donated books distributed (free books to more than 1,000 children)
  • 300 early childhood education evaluations conducted
  • 3,000 individual child assessments conducted
  • 100 early childhood education partners (local, state and national)
  • 1,500 parents/guardians involved

With the initiative serving as a catalyst or "spark," the goal is to establish a long-term, ongoing network and support structure to ensure that vulnerable children are ready for school and schools are ready for them across the state of Mississippi.

Contact: Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald at ofitzgerald@childrensdefense.org