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June Message From Deb Green

Mediocrity Is Not an Option

 
Recently I heard the following statistics concerning the current state of early childhood programs in the United States:
 
  • 10% of the child centers in this country are considered  high quality programs, those that are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and that have received the highest level of state quality improvement initiatives (in PA this is the Keystone Stars initiative). 
  • 20% of the child care centers are considered poor quality, those that are either unlicensed or have difficulty moving from the lowest level of state quality improvement initiatives.
  • 70% of the child care programs are considered mediocre, those that maintain state licensing and fall mid-level on state quality improvement initiatives, but are not interested or able to move beyond that level.
These statistics are alarming as they suggest that mediocrity is the norm in early childhood education today.
 
As I come to the end of my first year as the Executive Director at PIC, my first and strongest impression is that mediocrity is not acceptable at PIC and that working together, PIC families, teachers, administrators, and the Board of Directors, strive for the highest level of quality.
 
This past year at PIC, we have continued to both set and maintain high quality with the following achievements:
 
  • Children and nature: We have followed the research relating to the importance of connecting young children to nature play. In its final stages, we are excited that PIC's Magic Circle, we will be one of the first child care programs in the country to have created a nature playground in the midst of an urban area. When complete, the playground will have areas to jump among tree stumps, build structures with branches, outdoor blocks and loose parts, participate in outdoor art experiences, dig and play in the mud and sand, tend to the garden, and play among hundreds of trees, shrubs and plantings.
  • Facility upgrades: We have committed to the renovation of spaces that need to be updated and have nearly completed work on the Stucco building for children in our After School Center. When complete, the space will have new bathrooms, flooring, ceiling, lighting, and a fresh coat of paint throughout.
  • Transforming classrooms: In following research on the importance of designing classroom environments that exude a sense of order and tranquility, we have begun the process of transforming classroom spaces to reduce clutter, add elements of nature, and promote invitations for exploration. 
  • Professional Development: We have set a tone for professional development as a career long continuum by adding opportunities for teachers to learn together at PIC. 
  • Tuition Assistance Support: We have again met our fundraising goals with the success of Art Start last October and our more recent Plant Sale event. These events allowed us to grant tuition assistance scholarships to approximately 25 families to help them with the cost of care at PIC. 
  • Continued quality and accreditation: Our Early Learning Program has achieved re-designation as a Star 4 program (the highest level) by the Keystone Star Quality Improvement Initiative and our After School Center has once again been re-accredited by the Council on Accreditation.
As we look ahead to the coming year, our Early Learning Program will be embarking on our NAEYC accreditation self-study, a year-long process where we review every aspect of our program to see where we align with the current NAEYC accreditation standards.  
 
We do know that the criterion for teacher education levels is changing and that many of our teachers have registered to continue their education to receive higher degrees and certification in early childhood education. While this involves personal sacrifice for many of our teachers, we fully endorse the movement to increase the education and professionalism of teachers in a field that has for far too long been marginalized. By increasing education levels, teachers will have the opportunity to increase their compensation as they move along a career lattice.  
 
While our accomplishments have been plentiful, there continues to be much work to be done.  Mediocrity will never be an option and I look forward to continuing to report on all of our achievements as a program of the highest quality.