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Early Childhood: Achieving Quality Through Professional Development & Accreditation

February 5, 2009

 

The Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program was established May 10, 2007, when Governor Chet Culver signed House File 877. The purpose of the legislation is to provide an opportunity for all four year old children in the State of Iowa to have access to a quality preschool program, resulting in children being better prepared to enter Kindergarten. According to Joyce Leavell, Coordinator of Early Childhood Services for the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency, “the allocation of funds will provide a ‘predictable, equitable and sustainable funding method’ to school districts.” 
 
The Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency (AEA) has launched it’s newly designed Early Childhood Academy in response to the State legislation described above. The Academy is a collaborative, cross-divisional effort.  A series of professional development opportunities and supports are being offered to professionals who provide early care and education programs for children three to five years of age. Funding assistance from the Iowa Department of Education and local Community Empowerment Boards has made it possible to offer the courses at no cost to participants. Educators may receive renewal or graduate credit at a nominal fee. Para educators and associates are able to apply their coursework for certification.
 
One unique feature of the Academy is the composition of the participants. For the first time, educators from district operated programs are learning in the same room with community based preschool program staff. The participants include district early childhood and early childhood special educators, Statewide Voluntary Preschool educators, community based preschool providers and administrators from all groups. The goal of the participants is the same: Improving the quality of their programs and working toward program accreditation.
 
Program accreditation for early childhood is a rigorous and evidenced based process. The Iowa Department of Education, Early Childhood Bureau, is requiring district early childhood special and regular education programs as well as community based programs receiving State Wide Voluntary Preschool funding, to complete one of three recognized quality accreditation systems. Those three are the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Head Start Performance Standards, or the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (IQPPS). The Academy is supporting the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards accreditation by offering professional development and technical assistance in conducting the self assessment, designing the program improvement plan, developing portfolios, implementing evidenced based curriculum and assessment and preparing for the verification visit by the Department of Education. AEA early childhood staff who have been trained as QPPS facilitators and verification specialists are a key component of this instruction and support. Additional training and education is provided to support quality instruction in the classroom.  
 
Mississippi Bend AEA offers a wide range of support services to districts that have received a State Wide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP) grant or are preparing an application for future funding.    Those services include:
            *Guidance to establish and facilitate community collaboration
            *Proposal Development
            *Professional Development
            *Marketing and outreach
            *Grant management tasks
Districts in Mississippi Bend AEA’s region who have been awarded SWVPP grants for 4 year old preschool programs include:
Camanche; Clinton; Davenport; Delwood; Durant; East Central; Muscatine; West Liberty and the North Scott, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley Consortium.
 
Mississippi Bend AEA, along with local districts, community partners, and parents, are helping to support quality early childhood education for our youngest learners. Together, we can help make the Iowa Early Childhood Vision a reality: “All children, beginning at birth, will be healthy and successful”.
 
To learn more about early childhood efforts in Iowa, please visit the Department of Education website at: http://www.iowa.gov/educate.
 
 For information regarding the Early Childhood Academy, please contact Jill Yates at jyates@aea9.k12.ia.us or 563-344-6380.
 
For information regarding Iowa’s Quality Preschool Program Standards Accreditation process or the Iowa Early Learning Standards, please contact Gayle Powell at gpowell@aea9.k12.ia.us or 563-242-6454.

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