Arkansas and the School of the 21st Century (21C) have a long history. The first 21C site in the state, Paragould’s School of the 21st Century, was established in 1992. In the mid-1990s, other schools in Arkansas expressed an interest in the program, and in 1997 the Yale Center for Child Development and Social Policy started working on a statewide presence in Arkansas with the Arkansas Department of Education. Additionally, the Ross Foundation has made a substantial investment in the Arkadelphia school district to enable district-wide implementation and outreach to the wider community.
Seeing 21C as a means to address the early care and education needs of all children in Arkansas, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation initiated a five-year partnership with Yale University to support the development of a statewide 21C Network, beginning in the fall of 2001.
“We know that children have opportunities for optimal development and learning when they participate in high-quality early childhood programs, engage in constructive activities during after-school hours, have access to preventive health services, and have parents who are involved with their education,” said Dr. Sybil Hampton, President of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. “21C schools provide these needed services. Our partnership with Yale University is an investment in the future of Arkansas and will ensure that communities throughout the state have the necessary resources to establish these valuable programs.”
The initiative is seen as a model for other locales interested in statewide implementation, as well as an example to other philanthropic organizations of an effective way to address the early care and education needs of children.
Thanks to the generous support of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, financial assistance will be available through the Yale Center for Child Development and Social Policy. 21C schools in Arkansas will also be able to participate in statewide training activities and will receive on-site technical assistance.
Another aspect of the project will be an evaluation, which Yale will conduct, to document the benefits of 21C to Arkansas children and families. Another major goal will be to identify the characteristics that contribute to successful school-based early care and education programs, which is a topic of current interest to educators and policymakers in Arkansas and nationwide.