Excel by Eight in Independence County
Out of five goals in Independence County, one is to strengthen the foundation for oral language and literacy. The E8 steering committee was awarded a $60,000 grant to invest in LENA, a professional development opportunity focused on increasing adult-child interactions.
Research shows that increased verbal interactions between children and the adults who care for them, called conversational turns, are one of the most important factors in language development. Program participants included 4-year-olds and educators from early childhood centers in Independence County’s four school districts – Batesville, Cedar Ridge, Midland, and Southside. Watch this video from Independence County to see LENA in action.
Through weekly data reports and coaching sessions, teachers were able to implement a more equitable talk environment in real time. Children who started the program in the “low talk” range, about 15 conversational turns per hour, increased their conversational turn rate by 42% by the final week. Overall, each center saw an increase in the quantity of adult-child interactions across all children during the 10-week program:
- 96% of teachers reported seeing positive changes in children’s language development.
- 91% of teachers reported feeling more confident in their teaching abilities after the first five weeks of the program.
Planning and strategy development in Independence County are ongoing in areas of physical child development, social-emotional development, oral health, and access to child care. With the help of the federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars, child care facilities in Independence County added a total of 128 infant and toddler slots, a 50% increase in county-wide capacity.
North-central region of Arkansas, adjacent to the White River
Specialties in agriculture, healthcare, banking and retail
Implemented first community school model in the state
Jamie Rayford, Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce
LaToshia Carroll, Cedar Ridge School District
Jennifer Douglas, Batesville School District
Amy Finster, White River Health System
Jessica Gilmer, Midland School District
Mary-Katherine Hardin, STARS Academy
Gracie Hellums, STARS Academy
Novella Humphrey, Southside School District
Kristie Jenkins, Southside School District
Crystal Johnson, Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce
Abbi Limbaugh, Cedar Ridge School District
Whitney Massey, Baker Family Dentistry
Lisa McGhee, Southside School District
Bani Meharg, Midland School District
Dr. Lesley Milton, Tooth Be Told Pediatric Dentistry
Debbie Mize, Child Care Aware of Northcentral Arkansas
Brandi Nelson, UAMS North Central
Leslie Patterson, Pinnacle Pointe
Kimberly Poole, Southside School District
Dr. Julia Roulier, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Mindy Shaw, Batesville School District
Dr. Nikki Yonts, Lyon College
Read more about E8 Communities
Independence County: Building Brains in Preschoolers One Conversation at a Time
Preschools in Independence County have adopted innovative technology to support early brain development. LENA – short for Language ENvironment Analysis – is a professional development opportunity for early childhood educators that uses cloud-based software and a small, wearable device – often referred to as a “talk pedometer” – to measure and increase conversational turns that happen between a child and an adult caregiver.
Independence County hosts Excel by Eight fall 2022 Learning Community
For the first time, Excel by Eight hosted its semiannual Learning Community outside of Arkansas’s capital city, bringing more than 30 community leaders to Independence County in mid-October for local site visits and informative sessions. The two-day event took place in the cities of Batesville and Southside and focused on early care and education for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Jill Wilson, executive director of two child care centers in Mountain Home, and Garrett Dolan, senior manager of corporate social responsibility at Tyson Foods, served on a panel moderated by Roby Brock, editor-in-chief and host of Talk Business and Politics. The panelists discussed the challenges facing employers and child care providers in Arkansas, including quality of care, workforce, and affordability.
Building a Bridge to Kindergarten Readiness Through Parks and Public Spaces
A subcommittee based in the town of Horatio, Arkansas, in Sevier County has worked to raise funds to improve area parks and recreation spaces – as well as local businesses – with a focus on early childhood development.