2016 Report of the “wise” Early Childhood Collaborative Action Network (WECCAN) of the

Cradle to Career Alliance

 

Who are we and why are we here?

The Cradle to Career Alliance (C2CA) is an educational nonprofit serving Boone County, Missouri. Members of the Networks formed by C2CA address one of their five goals. The “wise” Early Childhood Collaborative Network (WECCAN) was formed to increase the number of students in Boone County ready for kindergarten. It is composed of a cross section of the county. Members include school personnel from the six districts, those nonprofit agencies serving children birth to five, community organizations, health agencies, college and university professors, child care practitioners, city/ county personnel, etc.

This report addresses the learning and findings of the WECCAN. It was convened in January of 2015. Initially, due to the large number of people committed to addressing early childhood issues, two WECCAN’s were formed: one for the city of Columbia and one for the five out county schools including the towns of Ashland, Hallsville, Harrisburg, Centralia, and Sturgeon. The groups then united to share learning and determine action objectives.

 

What is our goal and purpose?

All Boone County school districts, individually and collectively, will increase the number of students ready for kindergarten, using their respective assessments, by 8% or more by the 2020-2021 school year.

WECCAN Charter

Purpose:

            The Boone County Early Childhood Collaborative Action Network is dedicated to ensuring that all Boone county children will enter kindergarten prepared to succeed.

Problem:

            Boone County children who lack access to quality early childhood experiences and nurturing environments are unprepared for kindergarten success.

Research shows that young children who start school behind have difficulty closing the learning gap. Children unprepared to learn impact the education of all children.

Scope:

All members of the Early Childhood Collaborative Action Network will take action steps to promote school readiness school readiness for all Boone County children.

What are the key things children need for school success?

The WECCAN’s first question of study was “What is kindergarten readiness?” To that end, two panels of kindergarten teachers with 8 teachers from the county and 7 teachers from Columbia were asked to join the group to discuss kindergarten readiness. One of the questions posed was “What is the most important thing a child needs in order to be ready for kindergarten”? To a teacher, their response was self-regulation skills (figure 1). That response in some ways shaped the rest of the group’s study. They began to explore why children might come to school with fewer self-regulation skills than in the past. A particular point learned was that children who live in toxic stress environments and/or who have experienced trauma in the young years are unable to self-regulate without specific interventions. In fact brain research is clear that living in a toxic stress environment over an extended period of time can actually alter the brain chemistry of children. Further, children who have experienced one traumatic event are more likely to experience additional ones.

This has major implications for learning. When a child’s brain is full of cortisol (a by-product of toxic stress or trauma) he is unable self-regulate in order to learn. Further, children often present with either externalizing or internalizing behaviors and may be seen as behavior problems. While any child can experience high stress due to divorce, a parent’s deployment, the death of a loved one, or difficult life situations; children living in poverty, whose family may be food, housing or income insecure are nearly assured of experiencing toxic stress. Further, children who have experienced trauma may actually develop PTSD. If these issues are not recognized and dealt with, they can alter the long-term trajectory of a child’s life.

Fortunately, once identified there are things that can be done. A warm secure environment where the child develops a strong, supportive relationship with an adult is key. Further, the use of brain-based strategies have shown positive results. Allowing children the opportunity for socio-dramatic play is another avenue to self- regulation.

While self-regulation becomes a key component for kindergarten readiness so that children are ready and able to learn when they enter school, there are many other experiences that help prepare children for a successful school experience. Several members of the WECCAN noted the confusion they experienced with what really constituted kindergarten readiness. As a result they determined that a function of the group should be to identify those criteria that are most salient to

Figure #1Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 8.27.02 AM

Adapted from the Duke’s OPRE Report # 2015-21, January 2015: Self Regulation and Toxic Stress

child’s readiness. As they discussed the criteria, the group was definitive that they wanted to have “one voice Boone County”, in other words one standard definition or set of criteria used throughout the county so there were no confusing messages for parents or childcares. As a result that became one of the action objectives when the group moved to action. Once the Readiness Action Team identified the criteria for readiness, they then distributed it to all kindergarten teachers in Boone County for feedback to ensure that everyone would be comfortable using the set of criteria. They developed a graphic (figure 2) that will be distributed throughout the county. It includes the types of activities and exposures that children should have from birth to age five to prepare them for a successful school experience.

What factors contribute to a child’s success?

Throughout their study the WECCAN charted those factors that either contribute to or detract from children’s physical and social/emotional health as well as academic readiness. Below you will find some of the factors they found to be critical for students health and success.

  • Prenatal care for mothers
  • Normal birth weight
  • Food, housing and income security for children and their parents
  • Safe and low stress home and childcare environments
  • Strong, warm, supportive relationships for children with parents and childcare providers
  • Quality, affordable childcare access
  • Parental education level
  • Family opportunities to participate in home visitation programs such as parents as teachers
  • Numerous experiences with books and being read to
  • Rich language used in the home with child/parent discussions using adult vocabulary
  • Consistent expectations and routines established by parents and care givers
  • Regular doctor and dental appointments

 

What is quality childcare?

Another query posed by the WECCAN is what constitutes a quality childcare experience for children that not only supports their growth academically, but ensures emotional and behavioral health. They spent time reviewing several articles on the topic, exploring research and information from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. They also relied on the expertise within the group to determine the most critical characteristics of quality childcare. While the information below was contributed by all WECCAN members; the loudest voices were from those working in the childcare field. They wanted their colleagues held to a high standard to ensure the best experiences for children. Quality childcare should:

Director and Staff

  • Have an owner/director who has a degree, is well qualified and participates in continuing education
  • Have a staff who understands child development
  • Have a staff who has an appropriate background of experience
  • Have a staff who participates regularly in professional development
  • Have low staff turnover
  • Have routine opportunities for self-evaluation

Parent involvement

  • Provide learning opportunities for parents
  • Provide opportunities for parent feedback
  • Promote parent involvement in their child’s education
  • Build strong relationships with parents and children
  • Make available a written or electronic parent handbook outlining information about the center

 

Kindergarten Readiness Tree 7.18.16Figure 2

The Program

  • Have an appropriate teacher/child ratio
  • Be willing to accept a diverse population of children
  • Charge a fair and reasonable fee
  • Keep a regular and reliable schedule
  • Utilize the Missouri Early Learning Standards (dese.mo.gov – search: Missouri Early Learning Standards) as a guide
  • Utilize a researched based curriculum
  • Ensure that instruction is purposeful and meaningful
  • Make numeracy and literacy central to their instructional program
  • Provide opportunities for motor development
  • Include a program for social/emotional development
  • Be responsive to each child’s needs
  • Explore topics related to health, science and social studies
  • Provide challenging opportunities and encourage independence
  • Work to increase children’s language development and vocabulary

The Environment

  • Establish an appropriate learning environment which:
    • Is clean, healthy and safe
    • Has an organized outdoor play area
    • Includes areas for concept and content development
    • Is a pleasant, happy place
    • Provides areas for cooperative and socio-dramatic play

 

A source of concern during their study was lack of any quality measuring system for childcares. Missouri was the only state in the US without some type of quality rating system. In fact there was a law on the books that actually prevented the use of any type of rating scale. Fortunately, Governor Nixon signed a bill this spring to allow quality rating for Missouri’s childcares. While a system will be piloted in a few locations next year, it won’t be rolled out statewide for a while. When it is in place, childcares will be able to participate voluntarily to have someone come to give them a quality assessment and then coach them on how to improve their program. The Network is excited to see that law reversed and to know that our childcares can look forward to that opportunity in the future.

Additional resources for parents wishing to learn more about early care and other information related to child development find them under the resources section of this report.

What action steps should be taken to ensure that the goals of 8% more children are kindergarten ready by 2020?

Once the WECCAN completed its major study of issues surrounding kindergarten readiness in Boone County, action objectives were prioritized to ensure parents and children were receiving the important information that would positively impact children’s readiness. The four prioritized items were:

1. Provide parents and childcares with the key criteria for Kindergarten Readiness in Boone County.

As can be seen above, this action objective is nearly completed. The WECCAN hopes to have over 8000 copies of readiness criteria available to distribute throughout the county by late September or early October of 2016.

2. Communicate in a clear, supportive manner with parents, childcare providers and the public to provide them with available resources and information that will assist them in ensuring that all of our children receive the very best and most informed support from ages birth to age five.

The communications group began their work by studying all of the programs available now and in the past that sought to support parents and childcare providers. They worked to cull the most effective types of information provided to guide them in their future communication efforts.

 Fortunately, at the same time, MU’s Department of Psychiatry through Project SOAR was in the process of doing a survey of and focus groups with parents in Boone County to determine what types of information they wanted and their favorite means of communication. As luck would have it, two members of the SOAR team, Wendy Ell and Rachel Kyrah were also WECCAN members working on the Communication Action Team (CAT). As a result CAT members were able to add questions salient to our work. The findings from the SOAR report will serve to inform effective communication efforts.

3. Increasing the number of Quality Childcares in Boone County became another action item. While Boone County is fortunate to have many quality childcare opportunities, there are also childcares who have the best of intentions, but due to the expense are unable to access research based curricula, continuing education and a sustainable workforce. A survey conducted by the Quality Curriculum Action Team (QCAT) of childcares in Boone County with 54 respondents found that many providers had little or only partial understanding of child development, though all seemed eager for more information. As a result the QCAT decided to write a grant to the Children Services Fund to seek funding that would provide a state approved academic curriculum, and a social/emotional and behavioral curriculum in coordination with Project SOAR, training on their use and follow up coaching for fidelity to childcares who were interested in improving their programs. In addition, workers in those childcares would be provided a no cost opportunity to improve their education through Child Care Aware’s TEACH MO grants. Those providers or teachers who do not have the basic childcare CDA certificate, would have the opportunity to receive one at no cost, with courses provided after hours or on line. Those who have a CDA who wish to advance to and AA in early childhood would be able to do so at the Moberly Area Community College also through the TEACH MO grant and those with an AA may choose a college or University of their choice to receive their BS in Early Childhood Education again with the same grant. The only requirement of the TEACH MO grant is that participants remain in their current childcare position until the completion of their education. That one requirement ensures a more stable workforce. In addition, juniors and seniors in Columbia the first year, and out county schools the second year would have the opportunity to earn their CDA as they graduate from High School providing an additional career path option. Though we do not know if the WECCAN will receive the grant that would be administered by the Cradle to Career Alliance, the WECCAN is very hopeful that it will be funded. If not, they will seek separate funding for different components of the grant.

4.  Building Parent Partnerships. This team was also capitalized on the SOAR Parent Survey to determine how parents are most likely to receive their information and where and how they currently get the information they are seeking. They have set three criteria they want to meet as they begin their work. They want to engage, educate and empower parents. They also plan to include in their work discussions based on the Strengthening Families Framework which includes 5 Child Protective Factors: parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, social emotional competence of children and concrete support in times of need. (Center for Study of Social Policies) Finally, in addition to starting new programs for parents they want to assess those programs that are already working and scale them up.

 

What other considerations are important?

While the four action items rose to the top of the list as the most important items to be addressed first, the group also identified several other important considerations for the future which include:

  • Trauma training for all childcare providers
  • Increase of the childcare subsidy so that it will cover the cost of childcare .(policy decision)
  • Once a child has begun attending a childcare on subsidy, the subsidy should be maintained for the year so the child can stay in the same location. (policy decision)
  • Expanding the use of socio-dramatic play in childcare and kindergarten as well as brain based strategies to support children who are experiencing toxic stress or trauma.

The Early Childhood Collaborative Action Network, as is common of all of Cradle to Career’s networks, is a continuous action network. As a result, once one goal is achieved members move on to the next to continuously address the most important issues at hand.

What resources are some resources available to parents, childcares and the community?

  • Child Care Aware provides information about local childcares and how to select the one best for your child and offers a key set of questions to ask as you visit childcares. http://mo.childcareaware.org/central-region/
  • Columbia Public Schools Title I Preschool offers screening for all children 3 to non-kindergarten 5 year olds. For an appointment call   (573) 214-3585
  • Daniel Boone Regional Library offers free programs, kits, visits, tours, recourses etc…and of course, library materials in all formats http://www.dbrl.org

Many thanks to the former and current members of the WECCAN for their dedicated service to the children of Boone County. Current members a listed below, but know that there were others who contributed greatly for whom family or work reasons needed to leave us. That said, we’ve also had many people join us who are compelled by this work.

Dr. Pam Conway, WECCAN facilitator

 

 WECCAN Members

Name Organization
Bev Borduin Grant Pre-School
Tamara Breece Buckles & Bows
Melody Boling Launch
Christy Brookins VDP CDC
Nate Beucke MU Pediatrician
Tiffany Campbill Tree Top Childcare
Adrian Clifton Worley St. Roundtable
Lisa Driskelhawxby OPEN
Vicki Davolt Launch/SOAR
Wendy Ell Launch/SOAR
Pat Forward Moose Tracks Center
Christi Everett OPEN
Leslie Fannin CMCA
Pat Forward Moose Tracks Center
Kim Harvey Harrisburg ELC
Michelle Haynam Hallsville Public Sch.
Karen Himmelberg Southern Boone
Cheryl Howard Nora Stewart CDC
Sarah Howard DBRL
Tracey Huang MACC
Jack Jensen FCFC
Karen Jimerson Hallsville Public School
Alicia Jobe CPS
Janeene Johnston LCFS
Nancy Knipping MU
Verna Laboy Worley St. Round TBL
Rachel Kyrah Soar
Belinda Masters CPS PAT
Teresa McClure Harrisburg
Catheryn Miller Parent Link
Joanne Nelson BOCOCSF
Kathy Norden Family Child Care

 

Julia Parker Julia’s Fam Home Pre-S
Phil Peters MU/C2CA
Cindy Reese DHSS
Janet Robison Child Care Aware
Mary Rook CPS Pre-school
Ron Rowe RC2 /C2CA
Lisa Ryan Reach
Mary Ann Sanders Centralia
Marisa Sherbo CPS
Tami Strodman Harrisburg Pub Sch
Melody Vieth CMCA Headstart
Laura Warbritton Centralia R-IV
Laine Young-Walker MU Psychiatry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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