The Little Village Education Collaborative (LVEC) was established in 2014 to focus on implementation of the educational strategies of the 2013 Little Village Quality of Life Plan. LVEC works to connect the key players impacting the education system in the community in order to evaluate the current state of this system, plan strategic improvements for the future, and support legislative changes that expand educational access and opportunity from birth to old age. Central to LVEC’s approach is a community “cultural wealth” framework that is based on the recognition of parents’ and students’ cultural wealth, and that challenges the current “cultural deficit” framework that our educational system has adopted to explain and respond to issues related to educational attainment in low-income communities of color like Little Village. Representatives include stakeholders from community-based organizations, local public schools, early childhood centers, higher education institutions, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the City Colleges of Chicago. Four subcommittees – which focus on early childhood education, elementary and middle school, high school to post-secondary readiness, and adult education – adapt and advance LVEC’s goals.
LVEC is intentionally structured to empower its members and move its mission forward. Its subcommittees implement and revise strategies that are outlined in the 2013 Little Village Quality of Life Plan. All members convene quarterly in order to align the work of subcommittees and reinforce broader goals.
INNOVATIVE: LVEC convenes a diverse range of stakeholders and promotes unique methods of collaboration. This encourages the development of innovative and comprehensive ways to address educational issues in Little Village.
PARTICIPATORY: LVEC seeks to be inclusive of all stakeholders. It uses a participatory approach that embodies respect, trust, transparency, “human goodness” and social justice.
For more information about LVEC, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
LVEC has engaged in innovative community-driven research focused on increasing understanding of the educational system in Little Village. Its 2015 report outlined the strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities of the local adult education provider network. One central challenge identified was that, without collaboration and coordination, the existing network of adult education providers lacked a strong and effective pipeline into careers and career training, and organizations struggled to establish their own “niche” within the field. Other challenges included limited availability of upper level adult education courses, missed opportunities to track student level data consistently across sites, a small percentage of adult education students accessing resources outside of the community, and low enrollment and retention of male students.
LVEC’s 2017 report combined several sources of qualitative and quantitative data to compose a landscape of the college qualification, access and enrollment of high school students attending Little Village schools. The report found a fluctuating college enrollment rate even while high school graduation has steadily increased, and a low application rate among students who were deemed by Chicago Public Schools to be moderately or highly qualified to attend a four-year institution. It identified key challenges faced by students and their families, including complex college application processes, high school environments that lack post-secondary support and rigorous academics, and the inability of families to pay for even low-cost options like community college. The report also illustrated how the path to college for Little Village students requires constant navigation of dominant White, middle-class culture and the educational institutions that reinforce it. Finally, it highlighted some of the key factors supporting successful high school graduation and transition, including on-one-one adult attention, the development of writing and public speaking skills, and self-advocacy.
LVEC worked with Chapin Hall to conduct community-driven participatory research focused on the early childhood education landscape in Little Village. Published reports have included “Finding Child Care in Two Chicago Communities: The Voices of Latina Mothers” and “Applying to Chicago’s Public Early Learning Programs: Parent Experiences in Little Village.” Released the year before the pandemic, these reports established that 90% of the children in Little Village who were eligible for subsidies were not enrolled in center-based care. They also found that the density of childcare options did not seem to be the primary factor influencing awareness of childcare options; rather, availability of quality of information seemed to play a more important role and parents whose primary language was Spanish were less likely to have quality information about their community’s childcare options than those who spoke English and/or were bilingual. Another project with Chapin Hall focused on examining the experiences of Little Village families with the Chicago Early Learning (CEL) online application. While many parents felt that the application and enrollment process was complex and full of barriers, those who successfully navigated the process relied on the support of people at community-based organizations, local schools and other community hubs, as well as friends and family.