Helping Very Young Children Access Quality Education in Henry CountyPrint This Post
What centers should know
Participating in Quality Rated demonstrates a higher commitment to early care and education standards than those required, giving the center and identity of distinction in the public eye.
Quality Rated centers are eligible to receive financial assistance for materials and staff training as well as free technical support.
All programs licensed or registered by DECAL can participate in Quality Rated. Some programs not required to be licensed but are still eligible include:
What families should know
Quality Rated will help parents immediately know which of the 6,300 early care and education programs throughout Georgia have committed to meeting a set of defined program standards.
Teachers in a Quality Rated center receive ongoing education and training exposing children to a growing quality of programs and services.
Children who participate in Quality Rated centers will be better prepared for kindergarten and more likely to succeed throughout their school years.
The foundation and educational philosophy of a center will not change. Quality Rated assesses each program individually with the understanding that the components of curriculum, environment and services vary depending on the center’s location and the population it serves.
BY DIANA ST. LIFER
Daryl Dotschay says the stars and moon aligned when Georgia’s Quality Rated system was announced earlier this year. Dotschay, executive director of Connecting Henry, Inc., was embarking on a countywide school readiness initiative when the state unveiled its volunteer rating program for early care and education centers.
“We couldn’t believe it,” said Dotschay, who chairs the School Readiness Committee of Henry County E2: Education and Economics, an initiative sponsored by the county’s Board of Education and the Chamber of Commerce. “Many of the initiatives of Quality Rated are exactly what we were looking to do in our county.”
The timing couldn’t have been better and Dotschay immediately refocused the committee’s efforts on helping center administrators, parents and communities understand the benefits of Quality Rated to help get the more than 200 centers in Henry County on board.
“This is the direction we’re moving toward, and we need all our centers to be part of the system because the benefits are just amazing,” he said. However, even with incentives like free staff training and technical assistance, funding for materials and supplies, and financial bonuses, Dotschay understands that recruiting centers into the program will not be an easy task.
To date, 21 of the 900 centers across the state that have voluntarily signed up for Quality Rated are from Henry County.
To better understand the Quality Rated process, Connecting Henry is working closely with the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), which is administering the program.
“We’re going through the steps with these centers so we can get a better idea of how to approach other early learning centers,” Dotschay explained. “If we understand their fears and apprehensions, we will have a better chance of getting other centers on board.”
Three centers—Kidazzle in Hampton, Cornerstone Academy in Stockbridge, and Cornerstone at Eagle’s Landing in McDonough—will be part of this pilot program. In addition to being part of Quality Rated, these centers hope to provide in the future additional slots for students from low-income families.
“For these families, Quality Rated serves as a guarantee that their children will receive the quality care and learning necessary to ensure that they are ready to enter kindergarten,” said Pam Carter, executive director of Communities in Schools: Henry County.
Laura Johns, Quality Initiatives Director for DECAL, agrees, saying access to high-quality education is essential for all children, particularly those who come from families with financial struggles. “We believe our most at-risk children need to be in our highest quality centers for them to be successful in school. Training and assistance provided by Quality Rated will be a resource to centers that meet basic licensing requirements and are committed to taking their programs to the next level.”
Quality Rated is a tiered three-star program with benefits associated at each level ranging from an initial incentive of $1,000 in materials to bonus packages ranging in value from $4,000-$6,000. Centers begin by submitting a portfolio and participating in a DECAL observation visit to determine at what level they will enter the program.
Johns says Quality Rated is committed to respecting each center’s individual philosophy as long as the curriculum and assessments are developmentally appropriate, support outcomes for children, and are standards based. “A unique piece of our program is that we are not trying to create cookie cutters,” she said. “We recognize that schools choose their curriculums for different reasons and serve varying populations, and we respect that.”
Dotschay plans to get that message to the centers throughout Henry County. “The state is not coming in and dictating what the centers are doing and what materials they are doing it with,” he said. “If this is something the centers fear, we want to alleviate that fear.”
Johns applauds Connecting Henry’s efforts in promoting Quality Rated and hopes it will be a model for others.
“Research supports that the quality of early care and education and student’s readiness and ability to succeed in school are clearly connected,” she said. “Quality Rated will help to raise the standards of programs for our youngest learners in Georgia, therefore advancing our next generation’s potential. Henry County understands that the best way to help their communities is to help their children access quality education at a very young age. We hope other counties will look at this and realize that helping young students be successful is the way to long-term sustainability.”
Centers can obtain information about and support for Quality Rated by calling a toll-free assistance number:
1-888-800-7747 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Questions also can be emailed to [email protected].
Find your local Georgia Family Connection collaborative organization to find out how your community is working together to improve conditions for children and families.
Diana St. Lifer is a professional writer with more than 25 years’ experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications, a post-B.A. certificate in child advocacy, and is a certified professional life coach who specializes in teen and adolescent issues.
Early education programs participating in Georgia’s new “Quality Rated” program will receive additional technical assistance, equipment and curriculum thanks to a grant from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation and the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta. The grant was awarded to a partnership created by:
For interactive statewide data, visit Georgia KIDS COUNT at gafcp.org/kidscount
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