VEST Education and Research Speaker Series: Crystal Francis, Yolanda Jenkins, and Lieny Jeon

Baltimore City’s Early Childhood Landscape: Art of Research-Practice Partnership

  • - EST
  • Holloway Hall (Bavaro Hall 116)

Summary: Baltimore City is one of the exemplary cities that has established a successful research-practice partnership (RPP) in the early childhood development and education space. In 2012, acknowledging data and research needs in the early childhood space, the Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC), a partnership between Baltimore City Public Schools and researchers affiliated with 11 universities in Maryland, created the Early Childhood Data Collaborative (ECDC). ECDC houses data from multiple Baltimore City entities that serve children under age 5 including Baltimore City Health Department, Maryland Family Network (Early Head Start), four Head Start Grantees in the city, Family League of Baltimore City, and Baltimore City Public Schools. ECDC projects address questions of critical importance to research, policy, and practice so that early childhood stakeholders can use evidence to identify challenges, move conversations forward, design strategic and practical responses, advocate for resources, and capitalize upon promising practices or levers for positive change. This unique partnership also allows Baltimore City’s Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) to understand experiences of young children and their families and ways to improve services and programming for children and families. ECDC and ECAC primarily analyze school readiness for the Baltimore City Public Schools students using merged historical data on prior participation in early childhood services (prenatal to age 5). By integrating administrative datasets from the ECDC entities, the purpose of our RPP is to ensure that all Baltimore City children are ready for school. In this talk, the Director of Early Learning Programs at the Baltimore City Public Schools, Crystal Francis, the council coordinator of ECAC, Yolanda Jenkins, and the Director of Early Childhood Initiatives at BERC, Lieny Jeon, will share how we implement data analytic and research efforts to address the needs of organizations that are committed to Baltimore City families and children.

Headshot of Crystal Francis

Crystal Francis is currently the Director of Early Learning Programs for Baltimore City Public Schools. She leads an office of early childhood educators that manage the general education and special education early childhood portfolio, Birth to Pre-Kindergarten, for the entire school system. In addition to managing Pre-Kindergarten, Preschool Special Education, and serving as the co-lead of the Infants and Toddlers Program, she manages the Judy Centers, a model unique to Maryland, that provides comprehensive, wraparound services to children and families ages Birth through 5. She is currently leading Baltimore City Schools through an extensive plan to increase free 3 and 4 year old Pre-K for students all throughout the City. Before joining City Schools, she worked as a preschool administrator in the Bronx, NY. There, she was responsible for coaching, mentoring, and developing teachers and managing the day to day operations. She began her career as a teacher of students with Autism in Montgomery County Public Schools. Ms. Francis believes that too often students in urban communities suffer from ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations,’ but she wants to raise the bar. She holds a Bachelors degree in History and a Masters of Teaching in Special Education from the University of Virginia, and a Masters of Education in Sociology and Education from Columbia University.



Headshot of Yolanda Jenkins

Yolanda Jenkins is the Program Director of School Readiness for Family League of Baltimore City. In this role she manages Family League’s school readiness portfolio, which includes the Baltimore City Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) and Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY). She serves as the Council Coordinator for the Baltimore City ECAC and is a member of the Maryland State Early Childhood Advisory Council. Both councils are dedicated to coordinating efforts among early care and education programs, conducting needs assessments and leading family engagement efforts concerning early childhood education and development programs in their respective regions. She is a member of the core implementation team for B’More for Health Babies initiative and sits on the Executive Leadership Committee of Ready at Five, a nonprofit committed to comprehensive school readiness for all Maryland children. Yolanda holds a Bachelors of Sociology from Morgan State University and a Masters of Nonprofit Management from Notre Dame of Maryland University. She has spent twelve years working in youth focused programs and services. She lives in Baltimore with her husband and two young sons.

Lieny Jeon

Lieny Jeon is the Jane Batten Bicentennial Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education in the Educational Psychology and Applied Developmental Sciences at the UVA School of Education and Human Development. She also serves as the Director of Early Childhood Initiatives at the Baltimore Education Research Consortium housed within Johns Hopkins University. In her role, she is leading the Early Childhood Data Collaborative, which is a research-practice partnership with Baltimore City’s publicly funded early childhood programs. Her research focuses on early care and education, family characteristics, and neighborhood disadvantage that impact children’s lives. She is also passionate about early childhood educators’ well-being and workforce development and the way it impacts young children’s development. She is leading development and implementation of the Well-being First program, which is designed to support Head Start teachers’ resilience and organizational well-being. She received her PhD degree in Human Development and Family Science with a minor in Quantitative Methods at The Ohio State University.

Event Information

Event Sponsor

  • Virginia Education Science Training (VEST) Fellowship Program