Sep 30, 2014

Agencies Sign MOU in Effort to Unify Fragmented Early Childhood Education System

BATON ROUGE, La. – The state Department of Education (LDOE) and Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) announced today that the agencies have completed a memorandum of understanding, finalizing the transfer of licensing authority for the state’s child care and Head Start centers from DCFS to LDOE. The transfer of the licensing authority will unify health, safety, and learning expectations for publicly-funded early childhood care and education service providers under the oversight of one agency. This transfer is mandated through Act 868 of the 2014 Regular Legislative Session and is part of a broader effort to establish a unified early childhood system to better prepare Louisiana children to enter kindergarten ready for success.

“We want our future generations to be ahead of the curve when they arrive for their first day of kindergarten,” said State Superintendent John White. “By establishing consistent expectations for providers, our young children and families will have equitable access to safe, high-quality care and education.”

“Ensuring that Louisiana’s children get the right start through a high-quality, safe learning environment is critical to their development and long-term success. This unified approach brings strength and community ownership to improving outcomes for our youngest children,” said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier.

In addition to streamlining licensing policy, the LDOE will link an academic expectation to licensure for publicly-funded program
s. Specifically, LDOE will build a two-level report card system to evaluate both programs and community networks on performance. The field test of the report cards will:

  • Base letter grades on teacher practice, using the CLASS observation tool to provide simple, clear information on how programs are teaching and ways to improve.
  • Provide information such as teacher-child ratios to make families aware of additional factors usually found in quality environments.
  • Evaluate networks on how well they support all programs, teachers, and children.

The LDOE will use the current 2014-2015 school year to develop and field test the report cards and use the 2015-2016 school year as a learning year to determine the best way to ensure a connection between early childhood outcomes and both K-2 expectations for teachers, students, and districts and K-12 outcomes for districts. Currently, 54 percent of Louisiana’s children enter kindergarten equipped with basic skills such as letter recognition. Students who begin behind – even at this young age – continue to fall behind their peers perpetuating the state’s achievement gap. Act 3 of the 2012 Regular Legislative Session required 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, 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.

Through the efforts of the Early Childhood Care and Education Network, the first two rounds of pilot parishes have unified their early childhood leadership, trained teachers through shared professional development, measured child development in common ways, and launched coordinated enrollment systems. A third and final cohort of pilots will be announced early next year. By fall 2015, all parishes are required to achieve a unified system.

DCFS and LDOE have been working with child care providers to ensure a smooth transition of licensing. Child care centers and Head Start programs that hold a current license will automatically receive an updated LDOE license; there is no need to reapply. Beginning Wednesday, October 1, child care and Head Start programs will apply through the Department of Education for a new license or to renew an existing one.

There will be no immediate impact on child care providers’ day-to-day operations and the status of an existing license will not change. Following the transition, the LDOE will work closely with stakeholders to revise the existing health and safety regulations and establish learning expectations. Superintendent John White will be touring the state in early October and plans to visit several child care and Head Start programs. The LDOE will also host roundtables around the state prior to presenting the draft regulations to the new Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council that will convene in October. It is expected that the revised licensing regulations for all child care and Head Start programs will be reviewed at the BESE meeting in December. Below is a schedule of upcoming events:

  • October 21, 2014: First Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council meeting
    • Council will establish bylaws and receive a high-level summary of proposed licensing and workforce policy changes

  • October 23, 2014: Launch of statewide roundtables with webinar; Department will share a summary of changes to licensing

  • Week of October 27, 2014: Face-to-face roundtables in north, central and south Louisiana

  • October 29, 2014: Formal draft of licensing regulations made public
    • Regulations will be submitted to Advisory Council in advance of November 5, 2014, meeting
    • Regulations will be submitted to Children’s Defense Fund, Louisiana Association for Education of Young Children, and Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families

  • November 5, 2014: Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council meeting
    • Council will review and provide recommendations on licensing regulations

Starting October 1, and throughout the transition, parents can learn more about child care providers in their area, including information about recent licensing inspections, by clicking here or calling 1-877-453-2721.

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