Only 40% (or 2 out of 5) of Ohio’s children enter kindergarten ready to learn. The other 60% haven’t developed the fundamental skills they’ll need to succeed. And when a child starts school already behind, there’s very little chance the child will ever catch up. Children who aren’t ready typically get increasingly further behind, making success improbable.

SPARK (Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids), a program of the Early Childhood Resource Center, is a parent-focused program for families of three- and four-year-old children. The program targets low-income communities with high rates of economic disadvantage.

Independent evaluation results show that SPARK children start school with a significant advantage over their peers.

SPARK is a home visitation program. Participation is voluntary and free for families. Each SPARK family is assigned a specially trained home visitor, known as a parent partner, who visits monthly to conduct lessons and activities. Together, the parent and the parent partner work to get the child ready for kindergarten.

SPARK strengthens parent engagement. When a parent is engaged in a child’s learning, it has a lifelong positive effect on the child. The parent partner’s job is not to teach the child, but rather to enable the parent to become the child’s learning advocate. 

SPARK provides wraparound services. SPARK lessons are only part of the solution. If a child is experiencing learning challenges, those challenges must be addressed before the child will be ready to succeed. SPARK’s responsive services team identifies developmental delays, specialized learning needs, and social-emotional issues. The team then facilitates school readiness by addressing the challenges before the child starts school. The team includes a child psychologist, educational specialist, speech and language therapist, mental health consultant, and school-based personnel.

More SPARK children start kindergarten already demonstrating readiness. Significantly more SPARK children fall in the Demonstrate Readiness scoring band of the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, compared to their non-SPARK peers. What’s more, the SPARK advantage stays with children, at least through the third grade.

Since 2003, SPARK has helped more than 18,000 Ohio children get off to a great start.

Learn more about the importance of school readiness.