The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

November 18, 2013

Childcare centers adjust to new standards

ASHTABULA — Ohio’s early learning standards are changing, and childcare centers have adjustments to make.

A Kids Only Early Learning Center has already implemented the changes and, by December, all of their staff will be  up-to-date on the new training, said owner and administrator, Tammy McTrusty.

“What prompted the changes is that Ohio received the Race to the Top Grant for $70 million,” McTrusty said. “In order to apply for the Race to the Top Grant, (the state) needed to align with the national standards, so they just adopted the national standards.”

The standards are intended to improve the quality of care and education for children ages birth to five. “It goes along with the new Step Up to Quality standards. They went from three stars to five stars.” Kids Only is currently a three-star Step Up to Quality center.

McTrusty explained that the Step Up to Quality rating is currently done on a voluntary basis, but soon all childcare centers and preschools will be required to participate in order to receive state funding.

“Most parents work, so kids are in childcare from a very young age,” she said. “They’re just starting to realize that the first five years of life are the most important. We want kids to start ahead so they can stay ahead.”

The new standards now account for physical and social development, in addition to language and cognition. McTrusty said that the changes are good, and that they lean more toward intentional teaching. “Everything we do has a reason. Every lesson plan aligns with one of the standards.”

The changes in the standards are based on research from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Specifics on the new standards are available at www.earlychildhoodohio.org.

She said, “Big changes are coming. They’re developing a tool that will be mandatory for us to use, an assessment tool. Maryland and Ohio will use the same tool. I think eventually they will mandate scores like they do for schools.

“We’re on top of things. All of our centers are ready. The standards came out in October and we started using them in October,” McTrusty said. The Race to the Top funds are used for training, so all of the staff has access to the same professional development and training, and the better quality centers have a better pay differential.

She explained that the Step Up to Quality centers with higher star ratings get more funding so they are able to pay their staff more. “The entire time I’ve been in (childcare), all centers got paid the same. Now they’re recognizing and rewarding quality programs. They’re recognizing centers that have staff with teaching degrees over centers that have high school grads teaching preschool.”

Another major change is that the standards for preschools outside of school systems and preschools within school systems are now the same. Early learning centers outside the school systems are regulated by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), while the centers within school systems are regulated by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

“Now, finally, they are working cooperatively. Now all the standards are the same in the ODJFS and the ODE. We have to send the kids to school ready to learn. We’ve got to start partnering with schools. We work with Buckeye through the Ready, Set, Read! program (through the Third Grade Reading Grant). We’ve got their kids, so we need to work closely. It has to be like that.”

McTrusty said they are also rewriting their entire risk management plan as part of their continuous improvement plan for the Step Up to Quality program. “We feel like we have to take every precaution we can to make sure the kids are safe.” She said they can apply for the four-star rating in six months.

Kids Only has three centers: Ashtabula, Geneva, and Jefferson.

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