Baton Rouge: The Department of Education announced that fifteen parishes recently completed their first meeting to kick off the Early Childhood Network pilot program. In the last three weeks, pilot Networks met to set initial goals for their communities, beginning the work of unifying systems that are currently fragmented among child care, Head Start, and pre-kindergarten providers.
Because of uneven standards and limited accountability for results, only 54 percent of the state’s children enter kindergarten prepared to learn. Act 3 of the 2012 Legislative Session requires Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to create a statewide unified network of each childhood care. Rather than working in disconnected silos - with different rules and varying levels of quality – the early Network pilots will establish unified academic standards, enrollment systems, and plans for professional development.
Approximately $2.6 million in direct funding to communities to support this innovative pilot program was allocated by BESE at their meeting in June through a combination of 8g grant funds and existing state and federal funds.
The Department intends to expand the Network concept across the state, accepting another round of pilot participant regions in the spring of 2014. By fall of 2015, early childhood providers statewide will participate in a unified Network.
“When children enter kindergarten ready to learn, it is life changing. Evidence shows that high quality early childhood education stands the test of time, but unfortunately our state historically has not offered that level of quality to all children,” said State Superintendent John White. “These community networks are an important step towards making sure that no child falls through the cracks because of a disconnected system and empowers those closest to our youngest learners to make decisions on their behalf.”
Over the next several months, communities will continue to work to implement this first of its kind program and will provide updates to the state on their progress in order to expand the pilot statewide in the 2015-2016 school year. These communities will serve as models for the state as they identify the best strategies for strengthening programs and increase the number of children served.
“We are pleased to partner with our area child care providers to grow together in order to assure that our children are absolutely ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. By leveraging our collective wisdom, we can assure that our children have the best learning opportunities possible both in their pre-school and school settings. This opportunity is a critical piece in the puzzle as we work to accomplish our mission of ‘Every child successful in an ever-changing world.’ As we do so, we hope to serve as a model for other communities across the state,” said Dr. Patrice Pujol, Superintendent of Ascension Parish.
“We are excited about the opportunity to increase capacity in our early childhood programs so that more infant to pre-school-aged children will enter school ready to succeed. The Ouachita Parish partners are all committed to continuing to build trusting relationships, combining resources, and thinking innovatively about how best to support our youngest children and their families. We hope to put a spotlight on best practice in all settings and the importance of affordable, quality child care to the economic development of our community,” said Lynda Gavioli, Executive Director of Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana.
“I never imagined that this project would generate so much excitement in Iberville Parish. Childcare centers, Head Start and school programs are working together to improve what we do for children. So many community agencies have stepped up asking what they can do to make sure that more children enter Kindergarten ready for success. We have more than 50 community partners – too many to list – representing medical services, social services, higher education, business, media, advocacy, private funding organizations, government agencies, and community leaders. Our goal is to be a model for other communities in the state,” said Lydia Canova, Early Childhood Coordinator for Iberville Parish Schools.
The list of parishes participating in Early Childhood Network Pilots is available at: http://www.louisianabelieves.com/newsroom/news-releases/2013/07/10/early-childhood-pilot-networks-convene-first-meetings
Each parish has a coordinating agency that works with an extensive list of community partners such as Genesis Learning Center in Ascension, Baton Rouge Community College and the United Way in Iberville, Regina Coeili Child Development Centers and Fundamentals Early Learning Center in St. Tammany, Total Community Action, Tulane University and Urban League in New Orleans, LSU Health in Caddo, and Head Start programs across the state. More than 250 organizations are involved across the state.