GAR’s major investment in ‘STARS’ advances early learning centers in Akron
STARS: Supporting Teachers and Ready Students is a major $618,000 investment from GAR Foundation designed to engage a cohort of up to 25 community-based early learning centers in high-quality early childhood instructional development. STARS provides expert tools and support to help early learning centers navigate the state’s quality rating system, Step Up to Quality (SUTQ), and increase their ratings over the next two years.
WHY REACH FOR THE STARS?
Research tells us that high-quality teaching and engaged learning means better outcomes for kids and greater kindergarten readiness. There is broad agreement about the importance of early childhood experiences and the return on investment that high-quality early learning can have for students’ later years, yet there is significant underinvestment in the workforce supporting our youngest learners. We know that helping young children ages 3-5 get the right start is the most important investment we can make in the educational continuum.
A new state mandate will require early learning providers that receive public subsidy to enroll in SUTQ by 2020 and to earn three or more stars by 2025, in order to continue receiving public subsidy. While SUTQ is the current and best available common indicator of early learning quality, we also know that many centers cannot afford the training and necessary supports to improve their SUTQ ratings.
While there is willingness, there is little financial capacity for investment by child care centers to support extensive staff training. Most early learning centers and preschools are staffed only to meet the minimum ratios to serve the children in their care. STARS helps alleviate the financial and capacity challenges many centers face to meet these requirements. This initiative complements the State of Ohio’s $73 million annual investment in improving quality in early learning centers, so our initiative supports quality at community-based preschools, thereby lifting the entire local sector.
The STARS initiative addresses gaps in the early childhood education system, and seeks to demonstrate how effective teaching and engagement tactics can support meaningful educational advancements for young children. Our goal is to help our youngest children be ready for kindergarten through advanced teaching methods.
HOW WILL WE REACH FOR THE STARS?
We will demonstrate the value of early learning through the following key elements:
$618,000 INVESTMENT IN THE EDUCATIONAL CONTINUUM
GAR Foundation’s investment will advance success for our children by supporting the critical adult relationships in their lives.
ENHANCE THE QUALITY OF CHILDCARE CENTERS
Increase the Step Up to Quality rating of Akron-based Early learning centers over two years.
ADVANCE THE TEACHING PROFESSION
Provide research-based curricula, data-informed teaching, coaching, certifications, and training for teachers and childcare providers.
Develop family engagement strategies, with a focus on fatherhood programs.
LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD
Focus on Akron’s neighborhoods with the greatest needs.
COLLABORATE WITH EXPERT PARTNERS
The Early Childhood Resource Center will provide intensive training and coaching on cognitive and social-emotional learning and in selected early learning centers over the next two years. Summit Education Initiative will support the effort with coordinating CLASS™ teacher observations and Transition Skills Summary data.
PROVIDE DATA-DRIVEN EVALUATION
An overall evaluation of STARS will be conducted by Dr. Peter Leahy from Kent State University’s Center for Public Policy & Health. We seek to demonstrate the value of the various elements of the initiative, and to be transparent about what works.
PREPARE CHILDREN FOR KINDERGARTEN
Only 41% of children arrive at Akron Public Schools’ kindergarten classrooms ready to learn. STARS will help our early learning teachers give Akron’s students the right start.