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Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative

The Duke Endowment

Using CQI to Advance Kindergarten Readiness in Tri-County South Carolina


Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative

The Duke Endowment


Using CQI to Advance Kindergarten Readiness in Tri-County South Carolina


How can a region ensure that every child and family has access to the quality early childhood services they need so that children enter kindergarten ready to learn?



Over 47,000 children under the age of 5 live in Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties in South Carolina. The area is home to numerous social support and education programs for young children and their families. Despite these programs, more than half of the children entering kindergarten in the fall of 2018 did not meet kindergarten readiness standards in phonics, numeracy, and social and emotional development.[1] These children were disproportionately Black and Hispanic, and/or came from low-income households. For these groups of students, disparities persist and even worsen as children continue in their schooling. In 2018, only 28% of Black children and 32% of Hispanic children met 3rd grade reading proficiency levels, compared to 68% of White children.[2]

Early years form the foundation of a child’s academic and social success. Those who start kindergarten on track tend to stay on track and those who start behind often find it difficult to catch up. To ensure all children start school ready to succeed, communities must create early childhood systems that promote and support the development of the whole child. Simultaneously, service providers need to use evidence-based, child-centered, and developmentally and culturally appropriate curricula and practices within systems that work with children.


With funding from the Duke Endowment, Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative (TCCC) and Root Cause are partnering to strengthen a cohort of local early childhood service providers with continuous quality improvement (CQI) coaching. CQI is the process of collecting, analyzing, and using data to improve the quality of services being delivered. Coaching by Root Cause will help local providers strengthen their capacity to collect and use data to improve program quality, towards the ultimate goal of increasing rates of kindergarten readiness among children in the community.

A part of Root Cause’s process for CQI includes assessing each organization. Program leaders take an assessment that focuses on Program Quality and Performance Measurement Capacity. The assessment uncovers opportunities to apply CQI practices that strengthen quality across these domains:

  • Accessibility: How do programs address barriers to participation for marginalized populations?
  • Use of Evidence: How do programs use research to inform their approach?
  • Trauma-Informed Practice: How are programs designed to address the consequences of trauma and to facilitate healing?
  • Family Engagement: How do programs systematically involve families in their planning, development, and evaluations of programs designed to serve them?
  • Referral Process: How do programs coordinate services with other providers?

Root Cause then works with programs to analyze and apply assessment data in the design of a capacity improvement plan that strengthens program quality and performance measurement practices.



“We recognize the critical importance of what happens to a child early in life as a determinant of future success and will support evidence-based programs that result in kindergarten readiness.” -Anita Zucker, CEO of InterTech Group and chair of the Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative The Post and Courier.
“Together, we are taking ownership for public education and taking a stand to demand better from our school districts, school boards, legislators and decision makers.” - The TCCC board,
“It is no longer sufficient, if it ever was, to leave the job of changing the education system only to those who are a part of it. Complex systems change rarely happens that way. Disruption is needed – civil and constructive – and it needs to come from those who own the responsibility for public education. And that’s us, the “public.” We and our leaders have remained largely silent about this failure, even though we know it be true.” -John C Read, Charleston Currents

Goals & Results

Root Cause will work with TCCC through 2021. First, Root Cause worked with TCCC to introduce the CQI Initiative to the community and develop trusting partnerships with key stakeholders, particularly grassroots and community leaders, across the Tri-County area. Together, TCCC and Root Cause formed a working group and selected eight programs to participate in the cohort:

Root Cause will conduct an assessment with each participating program and will use the results to develop continuous improvement plans with program teams. Over the course of 15 months, Root Cause will provide individual coaching to strengthen cohort members’ CQI practices and service quality. As a result, we expect participating programs will show measurable progress over the course of the coaching, based on their initial assessment.

Key stakeholders of the initiative will met regularly to assess progress and identify lessons learned to support continuous improvement. Root Cause helped build the capacity of TCCC so that they have all of the knowledge, materials, and tools to continue implementing all aspects of the CQI initiative once the project concluded. 

To learn more about continuous quality improvement for social service providers visit our Continuous Quality Resource Library.


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About the Partner

Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative Logo

Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative

Tri-County Cradle to Career Collaborative (TCCC) is a community movement in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, South Carolina, committed to improving educational outcomes for all students.

Using data and focused community collaboration across a continuum from “cradle-to-career,” TCCC works to build and implement strategies that will facilitate widespread systemic change, with the ultimate goal of increased student success and economic prosperity for all. Families, students, educators, administrators, nonprofits, businesses, school districts, colleges, churches and other civic and philanthropic groups and service providers have joined as partners in this movement, and others are encouraged to get involved.

The Duke Endowment Logo

The Duke Endowment

Since 1924, The Duke Endowment has worked to help people and strengthen communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits.

Located in Charlotte, N.C., the Endowment seeks to fulfill the visionary genius and innovative legacy of James Buchanan Duke, one of the great industrialists and philanthropists of the 20th century. 

The Endowment has awarded more than $3.7 billion in grants since its inception, including over $1.5 billion to Duke University. With assets of $3.69 billion in 2017, the Endowment is one of the nation’s largest 501(c) (3) private foundations. Today, more than 80 percent of its total spending goes to grantmaking.

In addition to grantmaking work in four program areas, the Endowment shares its knowledge by publishing resources for grantees and other service organizations, including information about what the Endowment is learning from its work in various publications, reports and evaluations. The Endowment also operates a fellowship program to cultivate emerging leaders in philanthropy.

For more information about The Duke Endowment, please visit its website.

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