Arizona Learning Institute (ALI) History Summary

Arizona Learning Institute is an agency first founded to do early childhood consulting and direct parent education services for the Town of Gila Bend’s First Things First Projects. Developing an experienced network of health and education professionals, ALI became a subcontractor working closely with Eric Santiago, First Things First, SW Regional Director. When few others would provide services in meeting the needs of this rural area, and after a regional grant was turned down by a grantee, ALI accepted the subcontractor challenge.  ALI brought the evidenced base internationally recognized parent program, Readiness (Learning) Basket to the Gila Bend area. This program is used internationally for bilingual parents that include mothers, fathers, and other caregivers. The Readiness Basket is an integrated set of offerings that include Basic and Support Group Workshops, Screenings, and Case Management.

ALI History Details

Founded in 2009 by Marj Jones, Ed.D.  as the Arizona Learning Institute the organization provides collaborative leadership, based on nearly 50 years of research, awareness, advocacy, and innovative practices for struggling children, teens, parents and adult learners.

In 2010, ALI in conjunction with partners in participation in Readiness BasketBasic Program was selected by the Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services (TOPS) to participate as their First Things First parent education grant provider. Instruction in English & Spanish for parents was offered to those with children birth to five living in the Gila Bend area. In 2011, as the Town of Gila Bend opened its First Things First supported Care 1st Resource Center, ALI’s basic Readiness BasketBasic Program was added to the Center’s offerings.  In addition, a support program, with case management was added for Readiness BasketBasic Program graduates wanting to expand and continue their parenting and child advocacy education. Outreach was also done through the Town of Gila Bend providing Readiness Basket services to the rural Paloma farming area parents, west of Gila Bend.

Now it in its fifth year in rural Maricopa County the Readiness Baskethas partnered with the First Things First, Kids Watch and Nurturing Parents grantees for expanded services with emphasis on Developmental Screening. ALI maintains the Ages and Stages (Developmental Screening) Questionnaire (ASQ) on-line hub to serve parents and children involved in all three of these First Things First grants. Parents work with staff on developmental screening for their children. Staff reviews results, provides and guides parents in activities to make sure their children’s needs are strengthen. ALI’s ASQ hub allows for case management follow-up and tracking of the child’s and parent’s progress over time.

ALI is completing its 3rd year consulting with Arizona Literacy and Learning Center on the Reading Detectivesprogram development and delivery supported by Target Charities. The Reading Detectives has been an evidenced based reading intervention program developed for the Apostle’s Lutheran Church, Peralta, and Palm Lane Schools in the Cartwright School District. During the last three years, 497 1st – 3rd -grade children were screened for intervention placement with 218 children receiving instruction.  Children received progress measurements 3 times during their intervention programs.

ALI identifying that a child’s progress is often hindered by parents not being able to help their children with the fundamentals of reading, spelling, and writing collaborated with the Delta Kappa Gamma, Beta Chapter (educational women’s honorary) to establish an Adult Reading Detectives program for parents at Peralta School. Now in its second year, parents comment they are feeling more competent and confident that they have skills in the five components of reading and that they now know what their children’s teachers are talking about and can help with homework.

ALI provided Ages and Stages Questionnaire (developmental screening) and Teaching Strategies Gold professional development and implementation to the Phoenix Day Preschool supported by Arizona Literacy and Learning Center and Valley of the Sun United Way. While ALI continues to supply the ASQ hub online services and technical advice, after three years, the Phoenix Day Preschool staff are fully trained and implementing their screening and follow-up program.

ALI Experience

Arizona Learning Institute (ALI) teams are led by Dr. Marj Jones with over 40+ years of experience in coordinating special needs services in Arizona schools and private clinics. For twenty-five (25) years Dr. Jones served as the founding Arizona Literacy and Learning Center’s (ALLC) Executive Director and therapist. During this time, the Center developed major recognition as a Valley of the Sun United Way Agency, an AZ Department of Education Grantee for Early Childhood Professional Development and Literacy Screening, and the Southwest Representative for the National Center for Learning Disabilities early childhood research and direct services network. In recognition of her significant contributions to Arizona State University’s Early Reading First Preschools’ Center of Excellence Partnership ($2M) federal grant, she was awarded the ASU President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness. Following a mission change at ALLC, Dr. Jones went into private practice.

Her skill set includes screening, diagnosing and treating learning problems; writing and providing special needs curriculum for elementary through higher education programs; a research team member for early childhood (NCLD & Head Start) observation methods; head of AZ field testing for early childhood literacy screener; teacher and specialist professional development through school districts, three universities, agency workshops; speaker at local, state, and national special needs conferences; and a participant in: the AZ Town Hall, Who Will Teach Our Children Summit, and has held positions on the AZ State Dept. of Ed. Child Find, early childhood intervention, literacy and grant writing committees. She is currently involved in the Strengthening Families movement and recently participated in the Center for the Study of Social Policy activities.

Other ALI staff includes Bachelor and Master degreed Social Workers, Counselors, Advocates, and Teachers, each with 10 to 30 years of experience working in urban and rural areas of Arizona.

Over 4,380 hours of professional pro bono time has been given to ALI in the last fiscal year.