Saturday, January 14, 2017

In 2017, Let’s Take Bold Steps for Kentucky’s Youngest Kids

| by Cory Curl, Associate Executive Director |

Last week, the Prichard Committee called on the 2017 General Assembly to set bold goals with expectations to increase student performance and close achievement gaps across the Commonwealth.

As parents, we know our kids benefit when we set clear goals and expectations. My five-year-old son makes concrete, ambitious goals for himself for Lego projects. He also follows through – just look at that Space Shuttle! But he needs his parents, teachers, and other caregivers to be clear about our expectations for all the other aspects of his learning, growth, and character. By doing so, we also communicate to him that we’re invested in his success.

Likewise, young children across Kentucky benefit when leaders in communities, business, schools, and government set bold goals for them – increasingly, they are taking bold steps to invest in kids’ current and future well-being.

Here are a few of the many ways that Kentucky will build on its early childhood education progress in 2017:

Voluntary Home Visiting
Kentucky is the only state in the nation that provides statewide support to new families and their infants and toddlers through evidence-based, voluntary home visiting. Each year, HANDS provides home-based mentoring and coaching to more than 8,000 at-risk families across all Kentucky counties. Research conducted here in Kentucky shows that HANDS has a significant effect on improving birth outcomes, helping new parents improve their skills, and reducing child maltreatment.
In 2017, we will encourage continued expansion of HANDS and secured funding through the reauthorization of the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.

Quality Learning Environments
A recent report rates Kentucky’s Head Start program as 2nd in the nation for quality thanks to investment in teacher training. Kentucky is also taking a giant leap to embed quality throughout preschool, child care, and Head Start through its new Kentucky All-STARS quality rating system. Several programs, such as Warren County’s preschools, have already earned 5-star ratings for quality.
In 2017, we will encourage the development and continuous improvement of All-STARS, along with incentives to encourage more school districts and child care providers to meet higher levels of quality.

Local Partnerships
School districts, child care centers, and Head Start programs across Kentucky want to serve more preschool-age children in high-quality, full-day learning environments. Unfortunately, Kentucky has lost ground in preschool enrollment – falling in state rankings from 24th in 2008 to 40th in 2016. Creative, locally driven public/private partnerships will help reverse this trend.
In 2017, we will be learning innovative approaches from grantees of the new Preschool Partnership Grant Program. These are school districts, child care centers, and other communities working together to better serve more children and their working families.

The Strong Start Kentucky coalition of individuals and organizations, including the Prichard Committee, has committed to advancing Kentucky’s early childhood system from birth through 3rd grade by prioritizing these three areas of focus for this coming year.

Our kids win when we set bold goals and clear expectations for them, and our Commonwealth wins when our kids meet those expectations and succeed in life.

Join with us in sharing your goals for children and our Commonwealth with policymakers in Frankfort during Children’s Advocacy Day on February 9th and Live United Day on February 16th.

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