First 2000 Days: What is Quality?

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Children who attend a high-quality preschool have better high school graduation rates, fewer teen pregnancies and even a better chance of getting a job, that's according to 2013 study written by university professors from across the nation.
In Ohio, there are more than 8-thousand licensed preschools.
But not all providers are the same. Some have a strong curriculum while others are merely day-cares. 
As a part of Cleveland Connects: The First 2000 days, ideastream's Darrielle Snipes takes a look at what goes into a quality preschool.

When it comes to finding a preschool, parents must balance cost, location and transportation plus other factors.

Free preschools are not available to all families.
Private preschools which aren't cheap.

Valerie Ford, a mother of four, says finding a quality school is stressful.  She looked for a school that helps her continue the learning process at home.  She chose the YWCA learning center in Cleveland.

“They send paper home telling me what they did and how they were that day,” Ford said. “So I talk to the girls and ask them what they did and how they did it and what they want to do. And I said I do it with them at home.”

Education experts want to make sure more children attend high quality preschools so they are ready for kindergarten in six areas including physical: can they uses scissors, social: can they play well with others and literacy: can they recognize their name, shapes and numbers. 

And they say one way to make sure children are ready is to have them attend a high quality preschool

Ben Johnson said “to put it simply, we want their experience to be more than just babysitting.”

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services  oversee the preschool rating system called Step Up to Quality says spokesman Ben Johnson.  Facilities are given one to five stars based several factors including strength of the curriculum, teacher-child ratio and family involvement.

 Johnson says Step Up to Quality is designed to help parents make better decisions when it is time to pick a school and encourages providers to improve how they are teaching children. 

“A five star experience is the gold standard," he said.  “But a one star means the provider has made the commitment to join this program and begin to establish a curriculum and begin to set up a program for continuing education for their staff,”

Currently, The Step Up to Quality program is voluntary. By 2020, any provider accepting public funding will have to be rated.

According to the state, out of the more than 12-hundred facilities they licensed in Cuyahoga County only 25%  have gone through the rating process and only 90 have 3 to 5 stars, which is considered high quality.

In-home pre-school, Sister of J’s Child Enrichment in Cleveland, has three stars. Joanna Adams set up a classroom for six students in her home.

“We learn by doing,” said the educator of 30 plus years. “I also feel that if this looks like a classroom setting it will be easier for them to transition into the school system where the classroom setting are kind of similar.”

That's what Cleveland and Cuyahoga County leaders want-- a seamless transition into kindergarten.

A last year a study by Case Western Reserve University shows only 33% of preschool age children in Cleveland are attending high quality schools.

To make sure more children have the opportunity to participate in highly rated programs, Cuyahoga County leaders added a one–time investment of 10 million dollars to expand the county's early education program, Universal Pre-K.

In the City of Cleveland, Pre4Cle was formed in 2014 with one mission -- to create more seats in high quality preschools.

In its first year, Director Katie Kelly says they used a couple of different strategies to place 12-hundred kids into highly-rated programs.

“One is helping lower quality providers increase their quality so they can provide that level of quality to kids,” said Kelly.  “We also expanded the number of high quality seats to create new opportunities for children in all of our settings. Within the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.”

Kelly adds they are working on adding 800 more seats by the end of this year.

The YWCA Early Learning Center in Cleveland has three stars. The classes are filled with children who come from low-income and homeless families. The YWCA Presidents says they are making sure children who don't have access to a quality program are getting a preschool education and will have the necessary skills once they enter kindergarten.

Mom, Valarie Ford, pays $20 a month for her daughters to attend the center and says she is happy to see her daughter excited to learn. "She is doing really good and she is writing and talking more. Expressing her feelings. And I can just tell what the school teaches her sticks on her.”

Just one example of how a quality preschool can help a child build the necessary skills for a successful academic career and beyond.

 

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