Oct 30, 2012
Framework Aligns Standards, Accountability and Funding to Student Success

BATON ROUGE, La. - The Louisiana Department of Education today released a draft framework with a multi-year schedule to implement the Early Childhood Care and Education Network, which was directed by Act 3 of the 2012 Regular Legislative Session. The proposal expands access to high quality, publicly-funded early childhood programs to families across Louisiana and provides easy-to-understand information for parents to choose the program that will best prepare their young child for success in school. The framework leverages existing funding for early childhood programs - $1.4 billion including $300 million for early education - to increase the number of students who are academically and developmentally ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. While the number of children ready for kindergarten has risen in recent years, nearly half of students - 46 percent - are still unprepared for school.

"Louisiana families deserve better outcomes from early childhood programs and taxpayers deserve greater accountability for the results," said State Superintendent of Education John White who presented the framework to the advisory council of BrightStart. "This framework is the first step to aligning the funding and accountability with the results of early childhood programs, which will give parents and taxpayers a better return-on-investment."

"The people of Louisiana have spoken. Our standing at the lowest rung of educational outcomes in the United States is no longer a tolerated option! The results to date are great strides in K-12 education reform. Now it is time that Louisiana, with the same vigor, undertakes reform of its Early Childhood education delivery system. Once linked together these reforms give our people not only the hope but also the expectation that the children of Louisiana will be ready to lead us into the 21st century and beyond," said Senator Conrad Appel who was the sponsor of Act 3.

"Improving early childhood education in Louisiana is crucial during the formative years of our youngest learners," said Representative Steve Carter. "It’s critical that we provide a strong educational foundation for our children that will serve to increase their success in school and also give them a better chance at achieving their potential as adults."

"We all know how important early childhood education is and the research backs up the state’s efforts," said Penny Dastugue, President of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. "The new law and the efforts of this coalition will ensure that we continue to move forward in the development of a world-class early childhood education system that prepares all students, regardless of their age, for college or a professional career."

Louisiana has multiple early childhood programs, including pre-kindergarten in public schools (LA4, 8g, Title I, IDEA), the Nonpublic School Early Childhood Development Program, Child Care Assistance Program, Head Start, Early Head Start, and EarlySteps. However, families may not have access to high quality programs and parents have little information to compare the quality of programs.

"As a working parent of three little girls and a one-month-old baby boy, I never stop thinking about what I can do to make sure my children get every chance to succeed and achieve their dreams," said Donell Hayes, Baton Rouge Stand Parent Leader. "Giving each of my children - and every child - the opportunity to attend a high quality pre-k program that challenges and motivates them will make sure they get a strong start in school and set them up for continued success in school and in life. I - like every parent I know - want my children to be in a safe, nurturing environment where their needs are being met. And, with the state making it easier for parents like me to learn more about the quality of programs available, I can make the best decision for each of my children and put them on the path to success."

"Since the LA 4 legislation was passed in 2001, Louisiana has made great strides in focusing on high-quality education for 4-year-olds through a variety of programs. Now with the implementation of Act 3, children birth to five will be brought into the fold, and Louisiana will have a consistent approach to early childhood education for its youngest and most at-risk population," noted Dr. Billy R. Stokes, executive director of the Picard Center. "Despite this year’s full legislative calendar, the late superintendent Picard would be gratified to see that our legislators took time to take care of our most vulnerable children."

The framework employs four strategies to accomplish the goals of the new law. These strategies will be developed and implemented collaboratively with partner agencies and stakeholders during the next three years:

  1. Fair and transparent outcomes-based rating system, including letter grades, that rewards high-performing programs and intervenes in persistently under-performing programs.
  2. Funding based on performance and demand that ensures all parents - regardless of income - have access to higher quality programs that prepare their child for success in school.
  3. Families have information to make informed decisions about what program is best for their young child and greater access to high quality choices.
  4. Resources and support to improve the quality of care and instruction that ensures all students have access to effective early childhood professionals.

Partners in the development of the early childhood education network include the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Health and Hospitals. Before releasing the framework for the development of the network, the three state agencies solicited feedback from the childcare and early childhood communities. Specifically, they held nine regional forums and numerous meetings and conference calls with providers and stakeholders. The interagency coalition also conducted a focus group with early childhood leaders and stakeholder surveys.

Research shows that children who participate in high quality early childhood programs are more likely to enter kindergarten ready to learn. Short-term benefits include better academic and social performance in school, lower retention rates, and fewer referrals to special education. Long-term benefits are higher graduation rates, increased learning potential and an increased participation in the labor force.

For an abbreviated version of the framework presentation, please click here.

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