DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES ANNOUNCE POLICIES, PLAN TO COMPLETE UNIFICATION OF EARLY CHILDHOOD SYSTEM

Sep 15, 2014

State Agencies and Local Network Pilots Collaborate on Teacher Training, Report Cards, and Enrollment

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Department of Education and the Department of Children and Family Services today outlined proposed policies and strategies to complete the unification of Louisiana’s early childhood system by the fall 2015 deadline required by Act 3 of the 2012 legislative session. Through Early Childhood Care and Education Networks, early childhood education providers – child care, Head Start, and pre-kindergarten – in parishes statewide have collaborated for two years to set unified expectations for teachers and providers; coordinate enrollment processes; and train educators. The methods announced today are the result of an innovative policymaking process whereby 29 such Networks pilot particular policies and strategies, informing the ultimate development of statewide policy.

Because of inconsistent standards for learning and development among students below the age of five, just more than half of the state’s children enter kindergarten equipped with basic literacy skills such as letter recognition. In 2012, the legislature passed Act 3, requiring the creation of a unified network for early childhood care that would establish a common expectation for excellence among all publicly funded service providers, along with accountability for results. That same year, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) approved the state’s multi-year strategy to implement Act 3, the Early Childhood Care and Education Networks. BESE developed the strategy alongside the Department of Children and Family Services, Department of Health and Hospitals, BrightStart Early Childhood Advisory Council, Nonpublic School Commission, Head Start, and the Child Care Association of Louisiana.

The proposed approach announced today has been informed by the work of pilot Networks and will complete the implementation of Act 3. They include:

  • A plan for unifying the processes of licensing early childcare providers and enrolling families under the Department of Education over the course of 2014-2015.

  • The development of report cards that will define and measure quality teaching, care, and education, providing parents consistent and transparent information when making choices.

  • A system of support for all teachers that considers credentials and training required for all educators, as well as curricula, assessment tools, and professional development.

  • A plan for coordinating enrollment in every parish that will better inform families of all available  seats, their family’s eligibility for various programs, and one application for applying to multiple programs.

  • Options for funding that would allow all families seeking an early education option to be served and all publicly funded service providers the resources needed to meet high expectations. 

“Our mission is to take a fragmented system of early childhood, with different expectations from one place to the next, and to unify that system so no child falls through the cracks,” said State Superintendent John White. “By coordinating the efforts of early childhood providers, we are creating a unified system that will allow greater access, greater equity, and greater child development.”

“One of the most important factors in a child’s future success is a quality, safe early learning experience.  Louisiana’s unified approach with common expectations, simplified enrollment for families, and shared supports for teachers has tremendous potential to change outcomes for our children,” said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier.

What’s Next:

Monday, September 22, and continuing the week of October 6, Superintendent White will set out on his fall Louisiana Believes tour, visiting with early childhood providers around the state to further discuss the unification process and see this work in action.

In October, BESE will make decisions on members of the newly created Early Childhood Care and Education Council, established through Act 868 of the 2014 Regular Legislative Session. The council will provide an additional opportunity to inform policies related to the unification of early childhood.

Additionally, the state will expand the network again early next year with the announcement of a third cohort of pilot communities. Those communities not yet part of the Early Childhood Care and Education Network pilots will be able to apply for Cohort 3, enabling them to access state resources and support. Statewide implementation of the network will take place for the 2015-2016 school year.

The proposed policy ideas outlined today are open to public comment and the state will continue to seek input from stakeholders through events in communities across the state. Ultimately, the newly created Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council will review and provide recommendations on all policies before they go to BESE for final approval.

For more information on the Early Childhood Care and Education Networks, please click here.

To view the PowerPoint presentation on the announced policies, please click here.
 

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