With the current fragmentation of early childhood programs, it is not uncommon for one child to move from child care, to school programs or Head Start, to specialized services, and back to child care all in one day. Transportation, dealing with various providers and different system expectations can have has a detrimental impact on children and their families. More and more communities and their early childhood programs are bringing the different programs into one building and children into the same classrooms.
What is an Early Learning Center?
10 Points that Distinguish an ELC from a Primary Grade School.
- Governance: Locus of control with staff and parents, i.e., charter status. Government units have oversight on the "intent" of all funding streams.
- Collaboration: At least four programs/funding streams should be included: Regular education, special education, Head Start and child care. Under the ELC roof, the programs are functionally blended. Space also available for health/social service providers as well as family/community functions.
- Hours of the Center: Would be open a minimum of 2,000. Operation: hours/year (9 hours a day, 45 weeks a year).
- Family-Centered: Consumer friendly, designed to meet parent "where they are at." Most important question, "What do you want your child to be like when they grow up?"
- Staffing: Team teaching, career ladder, continuous improvement, Patterns: adult child ratio low. Teacher child ratio may be high.
- Facilities: Designed expressly for young children, staffing patterns and parents.
- Funding: Business manager handles funding streams. Under the roof are endless variations on one program.
- Accountability: Results based. (How did the kids turn out at age 25?) The ongoing question, "How do we know we're getting there?" Shared responsibility, TQM, portfolios.
- Curriculum Choices: Responsive to child's learning style and respectful of parents values. Developmentally appropriate practices.
- Community: Multiple connections to the neighborhood. Center Based: serves as hub with satellite connections to other providers (i.e., family day cares, private preschools, etc.)
- Over the next ten years, thousands of schools will need to be built, and even more will need to be renovated in order to respond to rising enrollments and to repair aging schools. New and renovated schools will need to last for many years and will leave a lasting legacy throughout the 21st century. It is crucial that parents, teachers, and a broad range of community members are actively involved in the planning and design of the new schools and renovation projects, so that schools of the 21st century are truly centers of community.