The Week of the Young Child (April 22-28), sponsored by the National Association of Young Children, provides our country with an opportunity to focus on the importance of early childhood in lifelong success. This year's theme, Early Years are Learning Years, is one that Iowa educators have embraced for many years.
In the spring of 2004, the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (IQPPS) were finalized and introduced to the early childhood community. These standards describe the characteristics of a high quality learning environment for children ages three and four. Preschool staff members are encouraged to do a self-assessment and rate themselves on 10 standards which cover important aspects of early childhood learning, including relationships among parents, children and staff; the use of a research-based developmentally appropriate curriculum; highly qualified teachers and teaching assistants; healthy practices; effective community relationships; and high quality administrators, among others. Research has shown that when these standards are met, the children who attend those centers have a much better chance of entering kindergarten "ready to learn."
The Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267) Early Childhood Leadership Team supports public and private preschools that are trying to reach these standards through professional development and training opportunities as well as on-site visits and technical assistance. School districts and their community partners who are Statewide Voluntary Preschool sites (the majority of school districts in AEA 267 participate in the program) must show that they have achieved these standards (or one of two other early childhood quality standards) in order to receive funding for their four-year old preschool students. A team of early childhood professionals visits each district in order to verify that they are meeting these standards.
Parents who are interested in finding out more about their district's participation in the Statewide Voluntary Preschool program are encouraged to contact their district administrative offices. Many community partners and private preschools have also chosen to adopt these standards. Parents should ask the director of their facility what standards their center is addressing. Questions about the Quality Preschool Program Standards can be directed to any Early Childhood Consultant.
Deb Molitor is an Early Childhood Consultant based out of the Marshalltown office of Area Education Agency 267. She can be reached at 641-844-2486. Area Education Agency 267 serves over 60,000 students. In addition, over 5,000 educators rely on AEA 267 for services in special education, school technology, media and instructional/curriculum support. The agency's service area reaches 18 counties and nearly 9,000 square miles.