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Top rating makes parents aware of Colvill quality

Lila Lynch, Colvill Kids preschool teacher, helps a student with her writing. As part of the Parent Aware program, Colvill can receive funds to help students prepare for kindergarten. (Photos courtesy of David Oakes)

When students first arrived at Colvill Family Center this fall, there was something new in the front entry.

On the wall in the main lobby hangs a certificate with four stars. Those four stars represent the highest rating given by Parent Aware in Minnesota.

Three programs at Colvill Family Center have achieved the four-star rating, said Colvill Director Min MartinOakes. The Head Start Center, which MartinOakes does not supervise, all sections of Colvill Kids Preschool and the School Readiness program were given the highest rating by Parent Aware.

“It’s really just a way for the state to rate the quality of early childhood programs, both child care and preschools, and a way for parents to have some sort of barometer of the quality of a program,” MartinOakes said.

More than 1,000 early education programs have been rated in 22 counties and on seven reservations, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Parent Aware will expand to 23 new counties and one reservation in 2014, reaching statewide in 2015.

MartinOakes said the rating program is voluntary and is based on physical health and safety, teaching and relationships, assessment of child progress, as well as teacher training and education.

There needs to be a way to assess the progress of students in meeting curriculum goals, she said.

“Today, nearly half of all Minnesota’s 5-year-olds arrive at kindergarten not fully prepared to start school,” DHS Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said. “Too many will never catch up.”

Another advantage to having a four-star rated program is the ability to apply for grant funding to increase student readiness for kindergarten, MartinOakes said, adding that Colvill has applied for some of those dollars.

MartinOakes said she has worked in collaboration with the Head Start program on a grant to develop summer preschool programming for students who are attending preschool but not making adequate gains based on teacher observation.

“So some significant investment in those kids to hopefully boost those skills either as they’re on their way to kindergarten, or also it could be for a child who has been in a 3-year-old program and now we’re going to boost those skills before they go into the 4-year-old program,” she said.

Jesson said investing in quality early education along with giving parents the information they need will be instrumental in getting Minnesota children prepared to move forward in the education system.

According to the DHS, in March 2014 the department will begin to use part of a $19.4 million investment as incentives for providers to reach high-quality ratings; the department will pay higher Child Care Assistance Program rates to those with three- or four-star ratings.

Colvill’s rating expires in 2015 and the school will need to reapply at that time.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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