Positive Results from GAR Foundation’s STARS: Supporting Teachers and Ready Students

Communications \
September 20, 2021

Akron, Ohio (Sept. 16, 2021) – With the beginning of a new school year, GAR Foundation analyzed the first two years of data from its STARS (Supporting Teachers and Ready Students) initiative—and is thrilled to announce the findings.

Over the last two years, GAR Foundation and the Early Childhood Resource Center conducted the STARS program. The initiative connected a group of 24 preschools and daycare providers in Akron with professional development and proven training on engaging learning techniques in an effort to advance early learning outcomes in the community. STARS also provided tools and support to help early learning centers navigate the state’s quality rating system, Step Up to Quality (SUTQ), to increase their ratings.

STARS demonstrates the effectiveness of a combined approach to teacher training, coaching, and instructional methods that can support meaningful educational advancements for young children at risk of entering kindergarten off track.

Key Outcomes after the first two years of the program, using 2019-2020 school year data, according to an analysis by Kent State University’s College of Public Health:  

Children in STARS significantly outperformed the non-STARS comparison group on Language & Literacy Development, Cognition & General Knowledge, and Physical Health & Motor Development. STARS students also outperformed non-STARS students in similarly-rated programs on all Transitions Skills Summary dimensions—suggesting that it’s not only the center’s rating that makes a difference for students but the ongoing support from the coaching specialists at the Early Childhood Resource Center as well. 

Twenty-three of the 24 centers are now highly rated in the state’s SUTQ system (a rating of three stars or better).

The McKinley Early Childhood Center recently joined the STARS cohort, and Ms. Val, a six-year veteran teacher at McKinley, is enthusiastic about the support she’s receiving. “We meet about once a month, and [the STARS team] doesn’t just give supplies, they explain how to use them,” Ms. Val shared when asked about the impact of STARS in her classroom. “I have seen the difference in my children when it comes to reading and books—now they are really loving it. ”

One of the students in Ms. Val’s class is Demari, who is described by his aunt as an active, loving child. “This is Demari’s first time in daycare, and he has blossomed,” states his aunt Della Haley. “He loves coming here and being with Ms. Val. He talks about her all the time. After they started the STARS program, I felt this shift. They were adding things to the room, providing support, and I saw how that positively affected Demari. He’s now more attentive, paying more attention to detail—this program has helped him!”

GAR Foundation anchored its work in preparing preschool teachers with advanced techniques that would help them better serve their children and families, resulting in a better socially and academically prepared child for kindergarten and beyond. 

GAR’s Senior Vice President Kirstin Toth remarked, “We are so pleased with these results that we have increased the number of participating preschools and child care centers to a total of 31, including the original centers, for another two years. We know this makes a difference for children.”

STARS is proving that high-quality learning and teaching begins with the kind of engagement that creates deep relationships.  It is clear that every moment when teachers and children interact is an opportunity to develop positive relationships. Children are happier, healthier, more confident, and excited to learn when adults nurture relationships and interactions. 

For more information contact Lisa Denson, [email protected], or 330.572.2809. 

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GAR Foundation

GAR Foundation was established in 1967 by Galen Roush, co-founder and chief executive officer of Roadway Express, and his wife Ruth Roush. GAR Foundation’s mission is to help Akron become smarter, stronger, and more vibrant. Visit www.garfoundation.org for more information.

1 Center for Public Health
2 Summit Education Initiative’s Transition Skills Summary is a communication tool that provides a snapshot of a child’s readiness for kindergarten at the end of preschool. Teachers complete the TSS for transitioning children in their preschool classrooms to support the students, their families, and their future school leaders in a successful kindergarten transition.