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Meet the alliance member: Kimberly Nelson

Kimberly Nelson Member Alliance Picture

By Emily Loney
March 27, 2017

Kimberly Nelson is a member of MECERA and serves as the executive director of early childhood for the Rockford (IL) Public School District. Nelson supervises the district's early childhood program of more than 2,500 students ages 3 to 5 as well as a birth to 3 home visit program that currently serves 171 families. Rockford Public School District serves a school population with high rates of poverty, student mobility, and homelessness.

Nelson has been closely involved in a "safety net" effort with other community partners in Rockford to make sure that families have access to high–quality early learning programs. Working with the housing authority, the community partners looked at pockets in the city by zip code where there were many families with children under the age of three not being served by the birth to age 3 home visit program. Nelson explains, "We are trying to identify all of the organizations that provide services to the families we serve and ask whether we are doing a good job coordinating services. Are agencies connecting with one another?" The ultimate goal of this effort is to better coordinate community services so that more referrals for early childhood education programs are made.

Nelson has been able to apply this expertise as a program executive and community collaborator to the research agenda–setting process with MECERA. As the group of stakeholders from higher education, state agencies, and district programs began to define its planned scope of work, Nelson was pleased to see that there were many common themes. "It was a really interesting process," Nelson reflected. "I learned a lot listening to the conversations. Everyone at the table had different perspectives but similar concerns about early childhood education." When asked what she hopes to gain from her involvement with REL Midwest, Nelson emphasized the importance of the collaborative approach to applied research.

"Our district has always looked at best practices. We want to learn and take information back from conferences, but those don't always translate into changed practice unless you do a deeper dive." For Nelson, having access to rigorous data and research is critically important in shaping decisions about programs and resources. "Data without research does not effectively move the needle for student outcomes," explained Nelson. "We cannot continue to do things the same way and expect a different outcome for our most vulnerable children and families."

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Author(s) Information

Emily Loney Staff Picture

Emily Loney

Researcher | REL Midwest


Beating the odds (2)

Charter Schools (2)

College and Career Readiness (42)

Data Use (32)

Discipline (4)

Early Childhood (31)

Educator Effectiveness (36)

English Learners (10)

Literacy (11)

Math (1)

Online Courses (7)

Research Tools (2)

Rural (14)

Teacher Preparation (24)

Teacher Recruitment (2)

Teacher Retention (2)

Teacher Workforce (14)

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