Raising of Fort Worth: Early Childhood Is the Key to Unlocking Educational Outcomes & Sustaining a Strong Workforce


The Raising of Fort Worth kicked off its fourth year of early learning community events on March 20, 2018 at the Fort Worth Club. In 2018, the Raising of Fort Worth event series is featuring nationally renowned speakers and local business leaders to explore the critical connections between early childhood and a strong workforce – supporting the Mayor, the Fort Worth Chamber, and the broader community in our collective work to build Strong Beginnings for a Brighter Future.

The March 20th event panel included:

  • Alice Carter, PhD, University of Massachusetts
  • Todd Ritterbusch, MBA, JPMorgan Chase
  • Prachi Shah, MD, University of Michigan Medical School
  • Amber Scanlan, MBA, PNC
  • Angela Tomlin, PhD, Indiana University
  • Todd Landry, MBA, CEO of Lena Pope and Chair of Early Learning Alliance (Moderator)

Opening from Mayor Betsy Price & Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent Scribner

The 200-member audience was welcomed by introductory remarks from FWISD Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner and Mayor Betsy Price. Dr. Scribner emphasized the importance of starting at birth to provide quality early learning experiences in order to achieve the community’s collective kindergarten readiness and third grade reading goals as outlined in the Read Fort Worth strategic plan.


Mayor Price reiterated the impact of quality childcare not only in developing our future workforce, but also in supporting the workforce of today.


Connecting “Whole Child” Development to Key Educational Milestones

As shared by Dr. Scribner and Mayor Price, Fort Worth is currently focusing much of its resources and community effort on improving two key educational outcomes:

  1. Kindergarten readiness (through the work of the Early Learning Alliance)
  2. Third grade reading (through Read Fort Worth)

To address these local priorities, the Raising of Fort Worth panel discussed key competencies that increase children’s chances of entering kindergarten ready to learn, and later, being able to read on grade level by the third grade.

The early childhood experts highlighted three specific areas that, starting at birth, can contribute to greater academic achievement for a child once in school:

  1. Fostering social emotional skills early builds the foundation children need to be successful in school – including the ability to self-regulate and manage their emotions, pay attention, and build positive peer relationships that enhance their experience of learning and increase the likelihood of later persistence and higher achievement in school.

2. Creating safe, nurturing, and responsive environments is crucial from birth, as babies absorb and are shaped by their early surroundings and relationships. Stressful, neglectful, or abusive environments can have detrimental effects on a baby’s ability to learn for years into the future. This is another reason why quality child care for under-resourced families can be a key protective factor for children that may otherwise be exposed to stressful or nonresponsive environments in their home.


3. Providing stable and predictable caregiving relationships, that include consistent back-and-forth interactions between adult and child, is the basis for a child’s developing perspective on the world and safe relationships. Social emotional and behavioral problems can show up in children as early as 1.5 or 2 years old – so supporting families to ensure quality caregiving beginning at birth is essential in preventing future behavioral issues and learning delays that can impact reaching key educational metrics.

Dr. Prachi Shah, a behavioral pediatrician researcher at University of Michigan Medical School, cited her recent study that showed that curiosity can be a significant predictor of future academic success – even after factoring in socioeconomic, demographic, income and other factors. In a national representative sample of kindergarten students, greater curiosity equaled greater reading and math skills (particularly for those with lower socioeconomic status). So enabling children to be in safe environments that allow for them to explore and discover the topics and activities of their interest – to be curious – can actually close the achievement gap.


Why Quality Early Childhood Is a Priority for the Business Community

Two corporate panelists – from JPMorgan Chase and PNC – underscored the importance of quality early education and childcare in sustaining our current workforce and developing the workforce of the future.

Since 2004, PNC’s Grow Up Great initiative has focused exclusively on investing in programs that provide high quality learning opportunities for children from birth to age 5. Amber Scanlan, PNC’s SVP and Director of Client & Community Relations, shared that early childhood education was PNC’s giving focus because “it is the best investment we can make for our children, our communities, and our economy.”


Todd Ritterbusch, JPMorgan Chase’s Managing Director for Tarrant County, applauded Fort Worth’s breadth of engagement and interest in quality early childhood, as evidenced by the participation in the Raising of Fort Worth events and the commitment of leadership across sectors – including the Mayor, FWISD Superintendent Dr. Scribner, and the Fort Worth Chamber. He also emphasized the direct tie between early childhood and business success, as evidenced through JPMorgan’s research. “Across the country, this is the number one issue facing businesses – finding and retaining quality employees.” Supporting working families in accessing quality, dependable childcare is a competitive advantage for many businesses seeking to attract and build a high-quality workforce.


Raising of Fort Worth: Supporting Early Childhood Engagement & Action

Sadie Funk, CEO of First3Years, closed the event acknowledging the contributions of The Miles Foundation as the Raising of Fort Worth sponsor, the planning committee, and every community member in attendance. “At Raising of Fort Worth, we’re committed to continuing the conversation around early childhood, as well as connecting you with national leaders in this space that can help Fort Worth be the best city for children, families, and a thriving workforce.”

In 2018, Raising of Fort Worth continues its commitment to grow awareness and support actionable steps across diverse sectors to improve the quality of life and learning for Fort Worth’s youngest learners and future leaders. For more information on Raising of Fort Worth, and to stay apprised about future events, visit www.RaisingofFortWorth.com.

Sara RedingtonComment