In The News

 Articles/news items written about or containing mentions of Way to Grow, or your events, employees, etc.

Way to Grow in the News

Way to Grow in the News 1080 400 Way to Grow

School enrollment has felt the impact of the current pandemic. Way to Grow was recently in the news as part of a larger discussion on school enrollment and the drastic choices families face. In a Star Tribune article from October 19, our CEO Carolyn Smallwood outlines the challenges families face: “Pandemic pushes down Minnesota kindergarten enrollment.”


“Carolyn Smallwood, CEO of Way to Grow, a Minneapolis-based early learning nonprofit that aims to address achievement gaps and support families in Minneapolis, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center, said some families have struggled to find spots in scaled-down kindergarten programs. Others, especially those with parents juggling multiple jobs to keep the family afloat, realized they couldn’t balance work with supervising their kindergartner’s distance learning and decided to keep them out of school for the year. 

Smallwood said vastly different kindergarten experiences this year are likely to exacerbate the state’s already significant achievement gaps, particularly because the first years of school set the course for future studies. 

‘Now we have a situation where they’re not in kindergarten, not receiving the quality of services that is needed at that particular time, and our kids are probably going to be further behind,’ she said.”

Parents as Teachers

Way to Grow Joins Parents as Teachers (PaT) Network

Way to Grow Joins Parents as Teachers (PaT) Network 2560 1941 Ken Story

Always striving to improve our services and the Minneapolis community, Way to Grow’s Family Educators have participated in a week-long training, and we have now become a part of the Parents as Teachers (PaT) network as an affiliate.

PaT promotes optimal early development, learning, and health of young children by engaging and supporting their parents and caregivers through an evidence-based education model rather than an evidence-informed education model.  With PaT, Way to Grow will be following a home visiting curriculum where actual research has been conducted on the specific topics within the curriculum.

Founded in 1984, the PaT network serves more than 195,000 children in all 50 U.S. states, over 100 Tribal organizations, five other countries, and one U.S. territory. PaT has four primary goals:

  • Increase parent knowledge of early childhood development and improve parent practices
  • Provide early detection of developmental delays and health issues
  • Prevent child abuse and neglect
  • Increase children’s school readiness and success.

This model has been rigorously tested by peer-reviewed studies and shown to produce results. More than a dozen outcome studies have been done on the effects of the PaT model. The evaluations have been verified and supported by various states, school districts, universities, research organizations, and private foundations. Evaluation results show:

  • Children’s developmental delays and health problems are detected early
  • Children enter kindergarten ready to learn and the achievement gap is narrowed
  • Children achieve school success into the elementary grades
  • Parents improve their parenting knowledge and skills
  • Parents are more involved in their children’s schooling
  • Families are more likely to promote children’s language and literacy.

As a first step, our Family Educators are currently training on a home visiting curriculum focused on the prenatal stage to age three. Later this year, they will attend an additional training that will extend the curriculum to age 5, adding in academically driven session that go along with Way to Grow’s readiness numbers.

Giving Parents a Voice

Giving Parents a Voice 2560 1707 Lisa Bryant

On September 26, Way to Grow launched the first in a series of parent engagement workshops designed to equip parents with the necessary resources and information to advocate for their children’s education and ultimately impact long-term educational outcomes.  My Voice Matters, an innovative initiative developed in collaboration with several of our community partners, will provide parents from seven Minneapolis neighborhoods with an opportunity to voice their concerns about their children’s education, and provide training sessions to help parents navigate the school system and make the school choice that is best for their children.

During the first workshop, nearly 55 people representing Way to Grow families filled the room to listen and share their common concerns about language and cultural barriers, communicating with teachers, cultural competency, and choosing the appropriate school for their children. Information gathered from the series will be used to develop future training sessions.

“Every parent we’ve talked to is concerned about their children’s educational future and the role schools play in preparing them for success,” says Megan McLaughlin, Way to Grow’s program director. “What we’re doing is taking the initiative to empower parents so they’re more deeply engaged in their children’s education and are better able to advocate as a community leader on their children’s behalf for broader education policy.”

In addition to providing parents and families with resources and trainings, this year-long initiative will ultimately provide them training to advocate for system and policy change at the community level, as well as at the school, city and state level. These advocacy trainings, hosted by our community partners, will teach parents how to mobilize others to be more active at school board meetings, and engage key legislators in conversations about their children’s educational future. Ultimately, they will learn how to testify as a group at the Capitol on Advocacy for Children Day 2018, along with Way to Grow CEO Carolyn Smallwood to help shape future policy.

Way to Grow announces its participation in the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program

Way to Grow announces its participation in the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program 667 553 Lisa Bryant

MINNEAPOLIS—July 26, 2017—Way to Grow, the Twin Cities’ preeminent leader for early childhood and K-3rd grade education has announced today that it is participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and has begun to serve meals at no separate charge to children enrolled at Way to Grow Preschool Pals (Center for Families), 3333 4th Street North, Minneapolis, Minn. 55412.

CACFP is designed to improve the diets of young children and increase the opportunity for children to eat a variety of nutritious foods.  The program is operated by the Minnesota Department of Education, and meals meet nutrition standards established by the United States Department of Agriculture.

In the operation of USDA Child Nutrition programs, no participant will be discriminated against because of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

For more information about Way to Grow’s participation in the Child and Adult Care Food Program, please contact: Craig Allen, Education Coordinator at 612-874-4740, or

To learn how you can help us do more, visit, or call (612) 874-4740. Way to Grow is headquartered at 125 West Broadway Avenue, Suite 110, Minneapolis, Minn. 55411.


Way to Grow Celebrates the Achievement of Early Learners enrolled in ‘Great by Eight’

Way to Grow Celebrates the Achievement of Early Learners enrolled in ‘Great by Eight’ 150 150 Lisa Bryant

Mayor Hodges Visits Way to Grow as City Launches Talking is Teaching Initiative

Mayor Hodges Visits Way to Grow as City Launches Talking is Teaching Initiative 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Last week, Way to Grow teamed up with Mayor Betsy Hodges and TPT to launch and promote the City’s “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign. The Talking is Teaching campaign is the first initiative to come out of the Mayor’s Cradle to K cabinet, formed in 2014.

Carolyn Smallwood, Executive Director of Way to Grow and chair of the Cradle to K cabinet explains, “The Talking is Teaching campaign is one of the cornerstone projects of Cradle to K. This campaign encourages the community to talk, read, and sing to our children with the goal of building up rich vocabularies.”

Nearly 60% of American children enter kindergarten unprepared. This sobering statistic stems from the fact that by 3 years of age, there is a 30 million word gap between children from the wealthiest and poorest families. This means building rich vocabularies is a vital first step in securing the futures of our young children. Cradle to K is reminding parents the importance of their role in closing the word gap by engaging in simple, everyday interactions with their children. Mayor Hodges notes, “Science has told us clearly that this simple step can help prepare our children for brighter futures.”

By reminding parents of the fact that these seemingly mundane activities are fostering learning and healthy brain development, we can narrow the disparities seen in early childhood literacy that often persist into grade school and beyond.

Parent Education – Our Message to Parents

Parent Education – Our Message to Parents 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Way to Grow Partners with Local Newspaper in Launching Parent Education Section

Way to Grow is happy to announce our partnership with the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. As a contributing partner to the new parent education section, Message to Parents, we will focus on the most critical issues affecting the communities we serve. In order for parents to fulfill their roles as their children’s first teachers, they need access to the tools and information critical to their children’s success. Each month, we will be sharing parent education tips to encourage parents by saying we can do this; we can give our children better opportunities to succeed in school and life – and here’s how.

The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder was a natural partner for Way to Grow in this endeavor. The hearts of our organizations are united by the same goal: to empower the second generation by working with and through their parents. Way to Grow has been working with parents in isolated communities for over 26 years. Through this project, we aim to cast our knowledge of early childhood and parent education far and wide, sharing the best information and advice we can to help each family rediscover and achieve their highest potential.

Read more about this exciting project and hear from our fellow contributing partners. And, don’t miss our first Message to Parents: Choosing the Right School for Your Child.

Education – Where the Candidates Stand

Education – Where the Candidates Stand 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

With the primary election in full swing, we’ve heard a lot of talk from the candidates on other pressing issues, but what are their views on education? No matter who you support, or which party you belong to, education affects the prosperity of us all as individuals, as communities, and as a nation.

Here’s where the candidates stand (in five bullet points):

Hillary Clinton
• In favor of universal pre-k
• Believes in established right to education from preschool through college
• Supports scholarships for teachers who go to urban schools in effort to get more teachers into hard-to-serve areas
• Opposes Common Core
• View on vouchers: Against

Ted Cruz
• Supports cutting government spending on education/abolishing the U.S. Department of Education
• Believes school choice is “the civil rights issue of the 21st century. Every child deserves a fair chance at a quality education.”
• Advocates the right to education via public, private, charter, or home school
• Opposes Common Core
• View on vouchers: Supports

Martin O’Malley
• In favor of universal pre-k
• Supports focus on the early years and expanding pre-k as well as after-school programs
• Believes under-performing public schools need more resources
• Opposes Common Core
• View on vouchers: Against

Marco Rubio
• Expressed support for early learning programs while arguing they’d be better run by states, but hasn’t yet taken or supported any concrete policy action
• Promote voluntary pre-k scholarships and scholarships to low-income families and students in chronically failing schools
• Supports school choice
• Would like to create a national online learning program
• Opposes Common Core

Bernie Sanders
• Supports quality, affordable education, from child care to higher education
• Advocates for reducing class size to 18 children in grades 1-3
• Proposes $25 billion to renovate and repair elementary schools
• Opposes Common Core
• View on vouchers: Against

Donald Trump
• Supports cutting the Department of Education down in size and spending to localize education, but hasn’t indicated yet in what ways or how much
• Believes school choice will improve public schools
• Would like to “bring on the competition and tear down the union walls”
• Opposes Common Core
• View on vouchers: Supports

ESSA – Three Things to Know

ESSA – Three Things to Know 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Eight years after No Child Left Behind (NCLB) went into effect, congress has passed a revision to the bill to allow states to reclaim control over much of their education policies. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law on December 10, will take full effect at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

How is it different?

  1. ESSA includes a new $250 million program earmarked for high-quality early childhood education programs as well as avoiding Title I Portability, which according to Martin and Sargrad, would have caused the poorest districts to lose more than $675 million while gaining the richest districts more than $440 million.
  2. States will now look at multiple measures of performance and success beyond test scores and graduation rates and begin to consider altruistic factors like student and teacher engagement, success in advanced coursework, attendance rates, school climate and safety, and social-emotional development of their students. These factors also serve as important indicators of educational equity – encompassing a more holistic approach to evaluating each school’s success.
  3. States are federally required to identify and take action in the bottom 5 percent of schools and schools graduating less than two-thirds of students, but how they do so is now entirely in the hands of the state. States are now not only responsible for setting their own interventions, but also for setting new solutions, overhauling the one-size-fits-all approach of NCLB.

By allowing local legislators and officials more flexibility and say in how the state’s education system will operate, this bill holds great potential to positively impact our earliest learners here in Minnesota. As we go into the new year, and a new legislative session, one thing is for sure; it will be as important as ever for educators and officials to remember the old adage, with great power, comes great responsibility.

Minneapolis Mayor and Cabinet Release Cradle to K Plan

Minneapolis Mayor and Cabinet Release Cradle to K Plan 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and her Cradle to K Cabinet released a final report detailing a plan to eliminate disparities for children in Minneapolis from birth to three years old.

Hodges campaigned on her Cradle to K idea to close what she saw as a public health epidemic of children unprepared for kindergarten.

“It’s a big day for a mayor who had an idea, saw it come to fruition with the cabinet and now we have these ideas and can move into implementation,” said Hodges. “But really it’s a big day for Minneapolis, big day for the kids and the families in the city of Minneapolis because we have an even better idea of how we can move forward to make sure our children thrive.”

Hodges and her cabinet met with over 200 community members in March and received considerable feedback on how to implement the plan. The nearly 50-page report outlines three main goals.

First, to make sure every child has a healthy start, by boosting home visits, early childhood screenings, and mental health services. Secondly, after public feedback, Cradle to K will make sure safe and stable housing is another top priority. Last, the group will work to bring more access to high-quality childcare. All the goals are supported by current research and prevailing best practices, along with policy and legislative recommendations to make the strategies reality.

“The beautiful thing about this report it acknowledges that children don’t come in pieces and that we need to ensure that family systems are included when we talk about outcomes for children,” said Peggy Flanagan, Cradle to K Co-Chair and Children’s Defense Fund Executive Director.

Carolyn Smallwood, Cradle to K Co-Chair and Way to Grow Executive Director spoke about the efforts to reach out to family networks.

“Family, friends and neighbors are cornerstones of our services in Minneapolis and that’s where the majority of our children are being cared for so the city has to come up with a strategy that would align those two,” said Smallwood.

Outreach will extend to pregnant women and families with young children as Cradle to K works to leverage existing services of Way to Grow, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, Generation Next, among other organizations.

“That access and those resources, and mostly the need for those additional resources are not determined by income, by race and are not determined by zip code,” said Hodges.

Hodges stressed the city is at a critical juncture with the disparities young children face, pointing out 80 percent of brain development occurs by three years old.

The recommendations in the Cradle to K report will be tracked beginning in 2016.

This post by Lindsey Seavert originally appeared on KARE 11.

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