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Federal Prize to Support Child Care Centers in Eight Communities Advance Classroom Quality

BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Louisiana Department of Education today awarded $1.5 million in grant funding to support improvements to early childhood education quality. The grant, a supplement to the federal Preschool Development Grant, will provide teachers at low-performing sites in eight communities with professional development designed to strengthen teacher-child interactions and classroom instruction and to improve kindergarten readiness.

The eight communities include Calcasieu, Concordia, Iberville, Jefferson, Orleans, Rapides, St. John the Baptist, and Tangipahoa parishes. Allocations were approved today by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
"We applaud these communities for stepping up to increase the number of children served and to improve classroom quality," said State Superintendent John White. "Children learn more when they receive better instruction, and these forward-thinking communities are taking concrete steps to improve instruction, and therefore, kindergarten readiness in their communities. They are models for others in the state."

The Preschool Development Grants competition, administered by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE), supports the expansion of high-quality preschool programs in targeted communities. In 2014, Louisiana secured a $32 million grant through the competition to last until December 2019. Three years later, in 2017, the USDOE announced another opportunity for participating states to compete for supplemental funding to build upon their work from the original award. Louisiana seized the opportunity.

Louisiana's application for the supplemental funding outlined how the state would use this funding to improve classrooms in sites labeled "Approaching Proficient" and "Unsatisfactory," the lowest two of four categories in the state's new performance rating system. Initiatives included providing specialized trainings to strengthen interactions between teachers and children and to implement and utilize Tier 1 curriculum, classroom content highly regarded by the state. 

In December 2017, Louisiana won the supplemental grant and invited early childhood communities already participating in the grant program to apply to receive a portion of the supplemental money. Communities were asked to develop and submit a clear plan for how they would use the funds to address the concerns in their lower performing sites, as identified by their data, and explain how the activities chosen for the grant would help teachers better prepare children for kindergarten. 

Eight communities applied, identifying a select number of classrooms and sites to target, and the state was able to fully fund all applications. As a result, more than 300 classrooms and about 1,500 children across the state will benefit. 

"Iberville Parish is excited to receive supplemental funding for our Approaching Proficient classrooms," said Early Childhood Coordinator Lydia Canova, noting six classrooms in 12 sites will benefit from this grant opportunity in Iberville. "We look forward to providing these classrooms with high quality curriculum materials and coaching aligned to CLASS [the state's performance rating tool], which in turn will lead to improvements. Center directors are overwhelmed with the support and materials they will receive that they are not able to normally provide."

Cindy Rushing, early childhood coordinator in Rapides Parish, agreed. "This deliberate, targeted improvement will result in a high-quality educational learning experience for at-risk children in Type 3 Early Learning Centers, Head Start/ Early Head Start and public Pre-K classrooms across Rapides Parish. As a network, the ultimate goal is for every early childhood classroom to be Proficient, resulting in increased student outcomes and ensuring that all children enter kindergarten with the appropriate skills to be successful."
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