Preparing children to be successful – our future depends on it. But how do you accomplish this lofty goal with an at-risk population? Monica Mitchell, PhD, associate professor at Cincinnati Children’s and co-director of Innovations, believes research is the key.

Innovations in Community Research and Program Evaluation collaborates with nonprofit organizations like Cincinnati Public Schools to address, decrease and eliminate social, educational and health disparities among underserved people.

One of their particularly significant contributions is their work with Winning Beginnings, a joint early learning improvement initiative involving Success By 6, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), 4C, Cincinnati Early Learning Centers and other area childcare centers.

Research conducted by Innovations shows that family income is the strongest predictor of kindergarten readiness, with preschool experience a close second. Based on these findings, Innovations staff joined forces with CPS, Success By 6 and United Way to make a difference.

“Preschool matters. It has a significant impact on school readiness,” says Mitchell. “The best thing we can do is provide increased access to quality preschool and other early enrichment experiences.”

In an effort to boost the level of kindergarten readiness in CPS schools, the district has strategically invested in teacher development. As a result, kindergarten readiness scores have increased each year since the Winning Beginnings partnership began. In the 2008-2009 school year, CPS students outperformed all other major urban high-poverty school districts in Ohio.