CADILLAC — Cadillac Area Public Schools Superintendent Jennifer Brown doesn’t have to be convinced when it comes to the benefits of a successful preschool program.
In Brown’s estimation, any investment in early childhood development is a wise one. So when it was announced earlier this month that Michigan was one of only four states nationally to meet all 10 National Institute for Early Education Research quality standards for pre-kindergarten she agreed it was worth talking about.
“It’s always a wise investment when we talk about access to early childhood education opportunities for our kids. CAPS has partnered with the (Wexford-Missaukee) ISD in providing not only the Great Start Readiness Program preschool but also our tuition-based preschool to help expand preschool opportunities for our families,‘ she said.
Brown said programs like GSRP and CAPS’ Little Vikings Preschool are great play-based learning curriculums that prepare children to be school-ready. She said they also wrap around the entire family unit and include parent engagement and involvement. Currently, CAPS has 72 students in GSRP and 30 in the Little Vikings Preschool.
In total, Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program serves more than 37,000 children across 82 of the state’s 83 counties. GSRP is Michigan’s state-funded preschool program for 4-year-old children with challenges that may place them at risk of educational failure.
The 10 standards that Michigan and Alabama, Mississippi, and Rhode Island met include comprehensive, aligned, supported, and culturally sensitive early learning and development standards; curriculum supports; requirement of a bachelor’s degree for staff; teacher specialized training; assistant teacher degree; 16 hours of staff professional development per year; a maximum class size of 18; a staff-to-child ratio of 1:8 for 4-year-olds in the program; vision, hearing, and health screenings; and a consistent quality improvement system of structured classroom observations and use of data for program improvement.
Last year, Alabama and Mississippi joined Michigan for this honor. Research on preschool programs and specific research on GSRP indicates that children provided with a high-quality preschool experience show significant positive developmental differences when compared to children from the same backgrounds who do not attend a high-quality preschool program.
“Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program is a successful early childhood education model that has tremendous value in preparing our children for academic success in school,‘ State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice said. “Expansion of our nationally recognized early childhood program is one of the goals of the state’s new strategic education plan, a goal that recognizes the importance of getting children off to a strong start in school.‘