Raising Standards In Daycare Centers
The National Governors Association (NGA) has chosen Oregon as one of six states who serve as an example for raising the standards of daycare throughout the United States.
During the daycare boom of the 70's and 80's an idea was formed that licensing standards for daycare should focus on staff to child ratios and on safety and health. The notions of a quality curriculum or coordinating teaching efforts according to a child's developmental milestones fell by the wayside. Now, there is a movement to redirect this mistaken focus.
From the time a child is born until he reaches the age of five, the architecture of the brain takes shape. These formative years wield impact on the child's future in terms of his economic success, his productivity in the workplace, and his mental health. This is according to John Thomasian, who is the director of the NGA's Center for Best Practices. It is crucial that daycare centers provide direction and stimulation during this early childhood process.
Oregon has taken this responsibility to heart, says Dell Ford, a Head Start specialist with the Oregon Department of Education, making it a requirement that state-funded preschool programs match their standards to those of the federal Head Start program. But Oregon didn't stop there—the state also initiated a program called Equip that works toward upgrading the skills of daycare staff by providing training and by raising standards in both daycare centers and home-based daycare initiatives.
Ford says that the NGA urges daycare providers to assess their 3 and 4 year-old charges during story time, for instance. The staff is encouraged to see if the kids can pay attention throughout the entire reading of the book, retell the story they've had read to them, and can respond to questions relating to storybook characters and plot development. If the answer to any of these questions is in the negative, the provider should attempt to work toward improving those skills. According to Ford, raised standards in the daycare centers would include a focus not just on early literacy and math skills, but would also speak to socialization, the arts, and health.
Oregon's governor, Ted Kulongoski issued a statement in praise of the state's raising of the bar for early childhood education. "With the support from national experts, we will move even closer to designing a system and investment plan that can offer every child access to high-quality learning opportunities to prepare them for kindergarten and beyond," he said.