Imperative #4

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Imperative #4 Guarentee safe and inspiring learning environments for our children

Summary:  Safe and inspiring learning environments lay the foundation for high quality early childhood experiences. The physical location and environment of early childhood programs has a tremendous influence on children, families, and providers. The quality and design of these environments can not only ensure safety and comfort, but also actively promote development, learning, and positive social interactions. Locating programs near where parents live or work is fundamental to their ability to access child care, allowing them to work and support their families. Unfortunately, many Detroit families lack a safe, inspiring place to send their children for early childhood care.

Detroit's Context

Detroit's Early Childhood Education facilities lack both adequate supply of available ECE seats and a properly defined set of criteria to define a high quality learning environment. First, there are simply not enough high quality childcare providers to meet the needs of Detroit youth (9). There are over 55,000 children below the age of 5 in Detroit, and a gap of over 23,000 seats needed to fill the demand for childcare among this group. (31) Beyond this dearth of quality opportunities, the city offers no set of shared criteria on which to evaluate the quality of ECE facilities (9). The initial Hope Starts Here Community Survey indicate that this is an important area for imporvement as “safe, healthy, and clean,” childcare was the top priority of respondents (9). Addressing these challenges will require significant investment. First policymakers and local authorities should work to establish standardized definitions and criteria for Facilities that allow ECE programs to have an optimal impact. Additionally, we must invest in our ECE providers to ensure that meeting these standards is a possible given their already daunting financial constraints.

Policy Alignment

The work of IFF and the Great Start Office align well this imperative and priority 4.1 of the HSH framework. Advocates should continue building off the work of these partners to both evaluate the quality of facilities and help to invest in better facilities with larger capacity.

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Leading Practices
  1. Improve facilities quality throughout Detroit.
  2. Align, expand, and better leverage available resources to increase the number of high-quality early childhood facilities.

Case Studies and Evaluations (Research):

  • ECERS-3- The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale 3rd edition is the latest incarnation of the Early Childhood Environmental Rating scale developed by researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The original ECER scale was validated by extensive research (34). This third version has also been validated through a series of pilot trials beginning in 2013. This work was done by 14 accessors, across a sample of 50 classrooms in 4 states— Georgia (12), Louisiana (4), North Carolina (24), and Pennsylvania (10). The Authors note that Classrooms were recruited with a goal of having approximately "1/3 of the total be low-quality programs, 1/3 be of mid-level quality, and 1/3 be of high quality, based on available data from state licensing and Quality Rating and Improvement System information." (34). The conclusion of this study found that the scale could be properly used to assess facility quality across a wide range prgorams.
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)- The CCDBG is one of several federal grants available to assist childcare providers and parents. (35). The grant is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and can be used by providers to pay for labor, or to operate and maintain childcare facilities.(36). The CCDBG and other grans like can provide useful models for how state and local official could seek to provide additional funding to ECE providers in order to increase their capacity and facility quality. (35).


     

 

What We Do

Facility Improvements

-Ensure facility quality is aligned with programmatic quality in existing high quality ECE programs

- Conduct assessments of facility quality using a standardized rating system

-Develop innovative, data-informed exemplar ECE centers

Resource Alignment

-Increase resources and tools that support best practice in the design, development, and renovation of ECE learning environments

-Create champions to advocate for a revised quality rating system that incorporates facility quality

-Secure resources to enable facility improvements

Who's On Deck

In 2007, ECCE stakeholders in Michigan presented recommendations for a Quality Rating and Improvement System to improve the quality of ECE care. Subsequently a QRIS for the state of Michigan was designed, tested, and implemented (32). Michigan’s QRIS, known as Great Start to Quality, now exists as a resource for all ECCE stakeholders in Michigan, and provides a rating to licensed providers ranging from 1 to 5 starts based on a validated self assessment. (32). However the QRIS system does not directly assess the quality of the environment and facilities of ECE programs, the criteria on this matter only evaluates providers for the absence of environmental health hazards (32). IFF currently offers learning spaces grants between $5,000 to $50,000 dollars, to improve facility quality and capacity, for providers in Detroit who have recieved at least a 3-star rating. (33). These providers are also offered financial and technical consulting services.

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