Governor Markell Honors 100th Early Learning Program to Achieve Highest Quality Rating

Link to photos from event

Christina Early Education Center Achieves 5 Stars and Joins More Than 550 Programs Voluntarily Committing to Raising Quality

Newark, DE – Recognizing the tremendous commitment early learning programs across the state have made to raising quality, Governor Markell joined Department of Services to Children, Youth and Their Families Secretary Jennifer Ranji and other leaders today to celebrate the 100th early learning center in Delaware to achieve 5 Stars – the highest rating in Stars for Early Success, the state’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system.

Speaking at the Christina Early Education Center in Newark, Governor Markell said the center exemplifies the state’s commitment to supporting quality education experiences for all children beginning at birth. A total of 550 programs, representing more than 75 percent of the state’s early learning centers, and a third of licensed home-based programs are now participating in the Delaware Stars for Early Success initiative, which helps early learning programs improve quality and assigns a 1 to 5 Star rating to help families make child care choices.  That’s up 300% from 2011 when, despite budget challenges, the Governor proposed and the General Assembly passed a $22 million to increase early childhood funding by one third and boost the Stars system.CEEC

“All young children should have access to high quality early education experiences that help them realize their potential and succeed in school and life,” said Governor Markell, who has worked with the General Assembly to allocate significant additional resources to early learning since 2012. “I applaud the Christina Early Education Center and all of our community and school-based early learning programs in Stars for stepping up to meet higher quality standards.”

“We are so proud to be the 100th center to achieve 5 Stars.  Our center is a fully inclusive program serving 428 children ages 3 and 4 years. About 30 percent of our children have identified disabilities and most are from low-income families. Stars has helped us improve our practices with all children and strengthen our commitment to continuous quality improvement,” said Rebecca Ryan, principal of the Christina Early Education Center.

According to research, children who experience quality early learning programs start school more ready to succeed and are healthier, more self-sufficient and less likely to enter the criminal justice system over their lifetime. Young children from low-income families or with other risk factors benefit most – and Delaware has made tremendous gains in ensuring its vulnerable children have access to high quality early learning experiences. More than 58 percent of children with high needs in child care are enrolled in highly rated Stars programs, up from just 5 percent in 2011.

To support early learning programs, the state has provided:

  • Increased professional development to assist early learning center staff in curriculum development, assessments, and other areas
  • Aid for teachers to raise their education levels and pursue additional relevant degrees
  • Assistance with child development screenings and mental health consultations.

Eligible centers have also received increased reimbursements from the state for accepting low-income students, and the level of reimbursements increases with a program’s quality rating.

Secretary Ranji noted that Stars for Early Success was one of several major state efforts over the past several years to support families in raising healthy, successful children beginning at birth. “Delaware has made great progress in raising the quality of early learning programs and supporting children’s healthy development. In addition to our Stars successes, over the past four years we provided more than 28,000 developmental screenings for young children– moving the state from last in the nation to 21st in the percent of young children receiving these screenings, which are critical for identifying and addressing developmental problems as early as possible.  We also served more than 2,400 children with intensive Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, reducing child behavioral challenges and achieving a 99% success rate in avoiding preschool suspensions – which disrupt families’ lives and children’s early learning progress.”

The state’s early childhood initiatives have been led by the Delaware Office of Early Learning and rooted in the growing body of scientific evidence that shows early experiences shape the brain’s architecture and set the foundation for a child’s lifelong health and success in school and career.

“The Office of Early Learning is dedicated to continuing to work with our public and private partners to create evidence-based early learning services and policies that strengthen the critical role that families, early learning programs and schools, and communities play in a child’s life,” said the Office of Early Learning’s Executive Director Susan Perry-Manning. “Delaware has a proven track record of leadership, partnership, and success in early learning that our office is honored to support.”

Mary Kate Mouser, Chair of the Governor’s Early Childhood Council, noted that the state’s early learning progress has been accelerated by a combination of increased state funds and a nearly $50 million, four-year federal Early Learning Challenge award Delaware won in 2011.

“Delaware’s early learning progress must be sustained if we are committed to raising outcomes for all young children.  The Council is proud of the achievements in early learning over the past four years, and has an aggressive strategic plan it plans to continue to advance to ensure that every child in Delaware gets a great start in life.”

The Delaware Office of Early Learning contracts with the University of Delaware’s Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood (DIEEC) to provide training, technical assistance, assessment and validation for early learning programs to help them improve quality and achieve and maintain the top tiers in Delaware Stars.


Governor Jack Markell and Lt. Governor Matt Denn Unveil Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Education

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visits, highlights President Obama’s Preschool for All proposal

Wilmington, DE – Governor Jack Markell and Lt. Governor Matt Denn presented a long-term, strategic plan today to strengthen and sustain Delaware’s early childhood system. Developed by the Delaware Early Childhood Council, the plan focuses on whole-child development, family engagement and community collaboration to reach milestones and meet established goals over the next five years.

“One of the most important investments we can make is in our state’s youngest children,” said Governor Markell.  “Our vision is to create the nation’s finest early childhood system where quality programs prepare all of our  children for success in a competitive, global economy.  Early childhood development is fundamental not only to later educational success but virtually all facets of a child’s health, prosperity and quality of life.  Studies show:  children receiving quality early care and education are more likely to be successful in school, become better citizens, earn greater wages, contribute more to their communities and require government support.  Education is not only our moral obligation – our state’s economic future depends on it.”

The plan includes four strategic goals:

1.  A Healthy Start for All Children: create an environment where Delaware children become the healthiest in the nation– physically, emotionally, and behaviorally.

2.  High-Quality Early Childhood Programs and Professionals: provide all Delaware children with access to high-quality early childhood programs and professionals.

3.  An Aligned and Effective Early Learning System, Birth Through Third Grade: create a system that enables all children to arrive at school ready and eager to succeed and prepares K-12 schools to further enrich their early learning.

4.  Sustainable System Improvement: develop and sustain policies, programs and partnerships that address the comprehensive developmental needs of all children.

“There is work going on in classrooms all over this state that is not only exciting, but also critically important,” said Lt. Governor Denn. “We are creating a comprehensive early childhood system that serves all children and families in our state and, in doing so, Delaware has the opportunity to change the future in a fundamental and enduring way – to impact the lives of children and their families for generations to come.”

Accompanying the four strategic goals are strategies and objectives for implementation.  They include: strengthening young child developmental screening and access to health services; ramping up participation in Delaware Stars, the state’s quality rating and improvement system for early childhood providers; offering professional development and wage enhancements for early childhood teaching professionals; and building bridges between the early childhood system and the K-12 system using cross sector professional development and the Delaware Early Learner Survey at Kindergarten entry.

“This strategic plan charts a clear path for us to follow,” said Jennifer Ranji, Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families.  “This work has intensified in focus and momentum in recent years and this plan will further accelerate that activity.  If we help children succeed when they’re young, we can make the hurdles they face more surmountable and their full potential achievable.  We owe them our best efforts.”

“This initiative is about community ownership,” added Dan Rich, Chairman of the Delaware Early Childhood Council. “Mobilization of partnerships across all sectors is the key to sustainability.  This strategic plan was developed over the last year by the Delaware Early Childhood Council with the participation of hundreds of stakeholders across the state. The Interagency Resources Management Committee (IRMC) with the enthusiastic support of all three relevant Cabinet Secretaries – Children’s Department Secretary Jennifer Ranji, Education Secretary Mark Murphy and Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf then recommended the plan to the Governor.  We are grateful for the participation of our partners and their commitment to our implementation efforts going forward.”

Today’s unveiling occurred immediately following a visit by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who toured St. Michael’s School and Nursery to observe its early learning program. He also joined the Governor, Lt. Governor and Delaware’s Congressional delegation to highlight President Obama’s Preschool for All proposal to expand access to high quality preschool for all children. The President’s 2014 budget proposes $75 billion over 10 years to create new partnerships with states to provide high-quality preschool for all four-year olds. Funding would be provided to states and distributed to local school districts, or local school districts in partnership with other early learning providers, to offer high-quality preschool programs. An additional $750 million would provide competitive grants to states to strengthen their early learning systems.

“Under the leadership of Governor Markell, his education team and many others across the state, Delaware is setting a high bar for educational achievement and better outcomes,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper. “Focusing on early education is fundamental to student success and building a first-class workforce that is ready to take on the challenges of the 21st century.”

“In child after child, we’ve seen proof that early education results in kids who are better prepared for the classroom and ultimately more successful in school and in life,” U.S. Sen. Chris Coons said. “Developing and implementing a long-term strategic plan shows real leadership and commitment to investing in our kids and ensuring they have every opportunity to succeed. When we invest in our kids, we invest in our own future.”

Building a strong foundation for Delaware’s education system is a top priority for this administration. In 2011, with the support of the General Assembly, the State invested $22M in early childhood education.  Later that year the state won an additional $50M in the federal Early Learning Challenge grant competition that will allow Delaware to significantly increase the number of early childhood programs participating and attaining the highest levels of quality in Delaware Stars – the state’s quality rating and improvement system for early childcare and education programs. Those funds will also support efforts to grow the percentage of low-income children in child care enrolled in quality-rated early learning programs. In addition, an annual investment of $1.9 million will allow 10,000 Delaware students to participate in Delaware’s World Language Immersion Program over the next decade. Students enrolled in the program spend half their school day learning science, social studies and math in either Mandarin Chinese or Spanish.


Photos from today’s events are available on Flickr.