Illinois State Board of Education Awards National Louis University's McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership $5.1 Million Grant to Assess Quality in Preschools
Project brings together two state systems to create a strengthened, integrated, and consistent approach to preschool assessment
November 3, 2011 (Chicago, IL) – As research continues to suggest the importance of developing a child's educational foundation during the preschool years to close the achievement gap, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has invested in National Louis University's McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership to provide quality assurance monitoring for the Preschool for All Program, which serves Illinois children ages 3 to 5 in state-funded preschools.
With the six-year, $5.1 million contract, National Louis will serve as an objective researcher and will systematically assess quality in preschool environments using a valid and reliable tool, the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ECERS-R). Six assessors, who are participating in intense training through the McCormick Center, will observe preschool classrooms, and then create a feedback report with strengths and opportunities for growth. The report will be sent to ISBE personnel, who will share the written reports with preschool classroom staff so that improvements can be made. Among the many areas of observation, assessors will look at teacher-child interactions, whether children are engaged in fine motor activities, literacy, music, and gross motor play. They will observe the type and variety of books and learning materials available, as well as the balance struck between structured and unstructured activities. Each classroom assessment takes a minimum of three hours.
National Louis' McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership is uniquely qualified for this project, as the organization currently is working with the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) on a similar project -- the Quality Counts—Quality Rating System, which helps child care programs provide quality care to the children and families they serve. Since working with IDHS, National Louis has established a structure for effective quality assurance monitoring. Now, as the McCormick Center provides quality assurance monitoring for both ISBE and IDHS programs, it will make possible a comprehensive and integrated assessment system for Illinois's early childhood programs. With the ISBE grant funding, the university has expanded its work to reach the approximately 67,000 children enrolled in the Preschool for All Program housed in school districts and community based settings across the state. The ISBE grant project, which began in September, focuses on preschool programs in schools and in centers across Illinois, outside of the city of Chicago.
"We are thrilled at the opportunity to expand our quality assessment for all early childhood programs in Illinois," said Dr. Sue Offutt, executive director of National Louis University's McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership. "Working with IDHS and ISBE on a quality assessment system will help ensure consistency in the delivery of early learning and development services across early childhood programs, promote data sharing between state agencies, and reduce state costs associated with duplication of effort."
About National Louis University
In 1886, founder Elizabeth Harrison took the idea of early childhood education and built around it one of the first four-year colleges for teachers. Today, in the process of educating students, faculty in the National College of Education, College of Arts and Sciences, and College of Management and Business continue to act on some of the most urgent problems of our time and our society. They are innovators, animated by an intense dedication to their students and a commitment to building more effective and more caring schools, communities, and societies. For more information, visit www.nl.edu or www.nl.edu/125.
About National Louis' McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership
Founded in 1985, the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership is dedicated to enhancing the management skills, professional orientation, and leadership capacity of early childhood educators. Funded by grants and contracts from philanthropic foundations, state agencies, and corporations, the McCormick Center's activities encompass four areas: training and technical assistance to improve the knowledge base, skills, and competencies of early childhood administrators; program evaluation to improve the overall quality of early childhood services; research on key professional development issues; and public awareness of the critical role that early childhood directors play in the provision of quality services for children and families. For more information, visit http://cecl.nl.edu/.
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