Donor Stories

Houston Endowment Invests in Early Learning

Houston Endowment, a private philanthropic institution, partners with nonprofit organizations to create change for the people of Houston. With assets of more than $1.7 billion, the Foundation makes grants totaling approximately $85 million each year in five areas: Arts & Culture, Education, Environment, Health and Human Services. Established by Jesse H. and Mary Gibbs Jones in 1937, Houston Endowment has a rich legacy of addressing some of Houston’s most compelling needs, and today continues efforts to create a vibrant community where all have the opportunity to thrive.

Over the years, Houston Endowment has invested deeply in education, which, broadly defined, represents one of the best pathways to overcome poverty and systemic inequality. In 2008, Houston Endowment invested in Collaborative for Children to pilot an innovative, neighborhood-based approach to improve outcomes for children. The effort, begun in the Sunnyside area of Houston, partnered parents and schools with child care and health care providers in a comprehensive effort to improve kindergarten readiness and third-grade reading scores.

The program, College Bound from Birth, focused on building leadership capacity and teacher knowledge and skills at early childhood centers. Efforts also focused on engaging parents and building parenting skills, improving early learning environments and increasing access to healthcare services. Early data on the results of this effort within participating child care centers are compelling: teacher retention is increasing, learning environments have improved, and children who were enrolled in those centers are now building strong academic records in elementary school and scoring significantly higher than average on reading and math standardized tests.

“College Bound from Birth represents a strong example of philanthropic and nonprofit organizations working together to create positive outcomes. Collaborative for Children used this pilot investment to develop and launch an idea, collect and analyze data, and plan for how to scale in a cost-effective way,” shared Leslie Wang, senior program officer with Houston Endowment. “This investment is an important part of a larger focus Houston Endowment has on early childhood development and its critical role in helping to level the playing field for some of our most vulnerable residents.”

Sunnyside programs are now transitioning to sustainability and replication efforts are underway in other neighborhoods. Collaborative for Children has been able to expand their pilot efforts with significant cost savings and with a solid base of data and evaluation practices to ensure continued learning and improvement as the program grows to serve more children and families in Houston.