The News-Star, Monroe, La. On Pilot programs will lead the state

April 28

The News-Star, Monroe, La. On Pilot programs will lead the state:

Two communities in our region have been selected by the Louisiana Department of Education to be participate in a two-year pilot program that aims at improving early childhood education and reaching more at-risk children.

In Ouachita Parish, the Children’s Coalition of Northeast Louisiana will coordinate the effort with the Monroe and Ouachita Parish school systems and local early childhood programs. The Lincoln Parish School Board will coordinate efforts in Lincoln, Jackson and Union parishes.

The idea is to coordinate and communicate the basic skills children need to be ready for school, and to help parents find ways to develop those skills in their children.

State Superintendent of Education John White said the pilot program is the first step toward setting higher standards for pre-kindergarten children. ...

The coordinating agencies are eligible for up to $200,000 in state grant funding to improve early childhood programs. One goal is to determine how these programs can reach more at-risk children and keep them involved until they reach the public school system.

According to White, pre-K students will be measured on their learning and interaction with educators. Local schools and groups are asked to devise solutions to better prepare children for kindergarten. ...

The Children’s Coalition is the ideal coordinator for such an effort in Ouachita Parish. Identifying and developing local resources has been part of this non-profit group’s work since its inception.

In Lincoln, Union and Jackson parishes, a top priority will be communicating services that are available. Kay Bradford, grant writer for the Lincoln Parish School Board, said they want to ensure children who need early development services receive them before they show up for kindergarten.

“We want parents of at-risk children to know these services are available so their children become academically successful and ready for kindergarten. We want to see child care become more than just babysitting, but a place where children are prepared to learn. The potential is there for great things,” Bradford said.

These pilot programs will have a great opportunity to develop best practices that eventually will impact every child in the state, and it’s a great bottoms-up approach for the education department. Instead of the state saying to local educators, “This is how it will be,” our local communities have an opportunity to say, “This is what works.”

We’re fortunate to have experts in our region who will help write the guidelines that will be used throughout Louisiana by 2016.

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