Community Partnerships Key to Early Childhood Education

On January 5, local, state, and federal representatives gathered to discuss the important role  that  community partnerships play in early childhood education.   The 9th annual Pre-Legislative Forum was held at Chesapeake College to discuss, in particular, how Queen Anne’s County has focused on early child care and working with the local community to form partnerships.  Speakers at the event included Shannon Rudisill, Director of Office of Child Care, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,  Liz Kelly, Director, Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood Development, and Dr. Carol Williamson, Superintendent, Queen Anne’s County Board of Education.

Kathy Edler, a national Head Start Fellow stated that Queen Anne’s County has long had a commitment to partnerships and a focus on early child care.   Despite the commitment, The Star Democrat reports that the County is facing budget cuts and may have to choose between  funding early childhood education or high school intervention. The choice is compounded by the fact that the 2014 deadline under No Child Left Behind requiring  students to reach national proficiency standards, is only a few years away.

State and national level officials stated that there is a growing emphasis being placed on “wrap-around” services, such as Head Start that provide children with educational opportunities and comprehensive benefits beginning at an early age.

… Maryland recently was awarded nearly $50 million in early child care funding for state-level infrastructure solutions.

Rudisill said many of the applications included innovative program partnerships such as the Head Start wrap-around concept.

“It’s an idea of the future that showed up throughout Race to the Top applications,” said Rudisill.

Reform goals on the national level include health and safety of children, building rating and improvement systems, professional development and workforce initiatives, program integrity and a child care subsidy system that is child-focused, family-friendly and fair to providers, Rudisill said.

Liz Kelly, director, Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood Development, represented the state perspective for Rolf Grafwallner, assistant Maryland state superintendent who traditionally speaks but wasn’t able to attend, she said.

Kelly is one of several who worked long hours on the Race to the Top application under Grafwallner’s direction. She listed 10 projects slated for the newly awarded grant.

Kelly said the goal at the state level is to make child care part of the education system.

“It’s where most young children receive their first educational experience,” she said.

Projects include creating local councils, revising standards to align with common core goals, professional development, refining the state’s comprehensive assessment and establishing health and behavior assessment tools and more all related to early childhood education.

For additional information on the Forum, visit The Star Democrat.

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