Connections has been a long-time partner with the Northwest Regional “Early STARS in the effort to improve the quality of early care and education for Key/Keystone children. Their leadership in working with caregivers through training events young technical assistance has been commendable and a great asset in our region. “ and Keystone STARS Technical Assistance Through an annual contract with the Northwest Regional Key, Early Connections continues to provide Keystone STARS Technical Assistance (TA) consulting to early learning and school-age programs in the region. Technical Assistance is provided to facilities who wish to progress through Keystone STARS and achieve specific quality levels. Consultation occurs around the Keystone STARS content areas of Staff Qualifications and Professional Development, Leadership and Management, Early Learning and School-Age Programs, and Partnerships with Family and Community. During 2015-16, Early Connections’ Technical Assistance consultant provided 515 hours of direct service to 48 facilities. Training and Technical Assistance research continues to support child care consultation as a method to improve teacher efficacy and positive child outcomes. Consultation is provided through multi-faceted one-on-one coaching and mentoring with early educators and caregivers. Early Connections, in cooperation with the Northwest Regional Key, had the opportunity to pilot a newly created Professional Development (PD)/Technical Assistance (TA) Blended Model for the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL). This PD/TA Blended Model pilot combined prescriptive Professional Development with the one-on-one support and implementation through traditional STARS Technical Assistance coaching and mentoring. Eight child care centers and two Family Child Care Home practitioners were afforded the opportunity to participate the Blended Model pilot project. The PD/TA Blended Model has now expanded to other Professional Development Organizations. They are now following this methodology to provide support around various classroom and teaching approaches and techniques to early educators in their catchment areas. Joyce Miller, Ph.D., CEO Northwest Institute of Research/Northwest Regional Key Early Connections strives to support and educate the child care workforce through professional development opportunities for teachers and staff in 20 counties of Northwestern Pennsylvania. One avenue for professional growth is provided through an asynchronous online Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, which is a 120 hour course. Upon coursework completion and CDA certification from the National Council for Professional Recognition, Gannon University will articulate Early Connections CDA coursework into college credits for participants who desire to continue in the Early Childhood Associate Degree program. The CDA program continues to be an excellent opportunity for Early Childhood professionals, and during 2015-16, 20 individuals completed the program in two CDA offerings. WHAT DOES KEYSTONE STARS MEAN? Keystone STARS (Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance, Resources) provides families with a tool to gauge the quality of early learning programs. The STARS program supports early learing programs in the commitment to continuous quality improvement. Programs that participate in Keystone STARS care about providing quality early learning to your child. As programs move up the STARS ladder, they are providing even higher quality experiences, so your child benefits even more from the program. Early learning programs can earn STAR 1 to a STAR 4 level. At each level, programs have to meet certain research-based quality standards that measure four areas that make a difference in the quality of care your child receives: Staff Education, Learning Environment, Leadership Management,and Family and Community Partnerships. As a program moves from STAR 1 to STAR 4, the requirements in these areas increase.
Quick Facts During the 2015-2016 school year: 164 scholarship opportunities were provided for eligible children to attend a quality Pre-K program for 3 half-days per week. Scholarship families select a Pre-K program from more than 40 high-quality program locations throughout Erie County. New for 2016 - Summer Scholars program provided 50 children with 11 weeks of part-time quality summer care. Data gathered from the 2015-2016 scholarship year revealed that by the end of the school year, an average of 92% of our 3 year-old scholars were in process or proficient in the Key Learning Areas, and an average of 95% of our 4 year-old scholars were in process or proficient in the five Key Learning Areas. Congratulations, scholars! Erie's Future Fund Erie’s Future Fund was created in 2011, an outgrowth of the Erie Community Foundation’s Early Childhood Advisory Panel in partnership with United Way of Erie County, Success By 6, members of the Early Learning Investment Commission (ELIC), and Erie Together. Community leaders from corporate, nonprofit and civic sectors sought to address growing concerns about the lack of school readiness among many children from low-income families entering kindergarten, and the significant impact this was having now and in the future, on Erie County’s economy and quality of life. They knew that children living within Erie County are our children and Erie County’s future. This school year was Erie’s Future Fund’s fourth scholarship year. For the 2015-2016 school year, with the financial support from within Erie County through individual donations, Pre-K Earned Income Tax Credits, and cause-related marketing, Erie’s Future Fund provided 164 scholarship opportunities for qualified children from low-income families to attend a high-quality early childhood education program. Qualified families were provided with educational resources and support, along a list of over 40 high-quality program locations. Once the families chose the quality program that best fit their needs, they enrolled their child; Erie’s Future Fund provided scholarships to them for three-half days a week during the school year. New for 2016, with the help of generous donors, Erie’s Future Fund began a Summer Scholars program. Fifty qualified children were provided the opportunity to attend a high-quality early childhood education program three half-days a week for up to 11 weeks during the summertime. This aided in providing adequate nutrition to the scholars and tackling “summer slide,” the loss of academic skills and learning over the course of summer vacation. With the help of our donors, the Summer Scholars program will continue each year, helping Erie County children thrive even more. hank you, donors, for your continued efforts and support to help change our community, one child at a time! This year’s scholarship families continued to be diverse and hard-working. They included grandparents, great grandparents, single moms and fathers, veterans, active members in the military, varying ethnicities, refugees, families with twins, and families who have experienced a lifealtering injury or loss of their spouse. Each scholarship family received educational resources and information about family-friendly events that occurred throughout the community throughout the lifetime of the scholarship. On-time kindergarten registration was encouraged; if needed, support with kindergarten registration was also provided. The benefits to scholarship families went beyond simply helping provide a positive foundation linked to kindergarten readiness skills and school success. While the children were at school, family members were becoming more engaged in their child’s education, attending college, securing jobs, advancing their careers, and even serving our country. Every year, Erie’s Future Fund gathers scholar testing information that measures Five Key Learning Areas. The Key Learning Areas were extracted from approved Pennsylvania guidelines that help children develop and transition from preschool through third grade, and are as follows: 1. Mathematical Thinking and Expression 2. Scientific Thinking and Technology 3. Language and Literacy Development 4. Social and Emotional Development 5. Learning Through Play The guidelines focus on standards that are research-based and essential to help our children succeed in school, graduate, and productively contribute to our community. Years of research have shown that improved kindergarten preparedness and school success eventually leads to an improved future workforce and community. Thanks to the continued partnerships and the collaboration efforts of leaders throughout Erie County from 2011 to the present, Erie’s Future Fund scholars have been provided with a better opportunity to succeed in school, and life.