Governor Kitzhaber today announced several milestones in Oregon's Early Learning System, including the establishment of the state's first regional Early Learning Hubs and recognition of early learning programs that have received quality ratings. The announcement was made as the Governor and early learning leaders from across the state met to discuss implementation of legislation designed to improve early learning outcomes for Oregon's 45,000 new kindergartners.
"Children across Oregon have amazing potential, and our job as adults is to meet them where they are and give them opportunities to be successful in school and in life," said Governor Kitzhaber. "To stay on track to meet our educational goals, we need to make sure kids show up at kindergarten ready to succeed. We'll get there by supporting programs that offer quality early learning environments for all students."
Evaluation of Oregon's early care programs is key to their improvement. Through initial field testing of Oregon's new Quality Rating and Improvement System, 13 early care programs have received star ratings, and more than 200 other facilities have reached "Commitment to Quality" status. Testing of the QRIS was conducted in Multnomah, Linn, Benton, Deschutes, Crook, Jefferson, Lane, and Douglas counties, which were chosen because they include urban and rural programs and serve diverse populations and low-income families. Results from the field test will be used to streamline and maximize the efficiency of the QRIS as it expands statewide. Funding for the QRIS came in part from a federal Race to the Top grant.
Jada Rupley, Oregon's Early Learning System Director, praised the progress. "Recognizing local child care and early learning providers who are working hard to develop staff quality and best practices can help raise performance across the state. As expertise and results are shared through a growing network of providers, and with strong commitment from local communities, we're raising the bar and investing in programs that ensure kids have the tools they need to learn."
Programs receiving starred ratings include Overlook Collaborative Preschool, Portland; Shannon's Child Care & Preschool, Portland; Alameda Beaumont Child Care Inc., Portland; Ms. Teapots Tiny Tots, Portland; Happy Hearts Kids Care, Eugene; Little Explorer Preschool & Daycare, Eugene; The Children's Garden, Coburg; Ellie's Preschool & Daycare, Creswell; Mrs. Z's Childcare, Bend; Shelby Shaw Daycare, Roseburg; Farr Out Child Care Center, Springfield; Wildflower Day Care, Myrtle Creek; and Wildflowers Preschool, Portland.
In addition, the state's first regional Early Learning Hubs were conditionally approved. The Early Learning Council voted to move forward the application from Marion County Early Learning, Inc., and, pending successful contract negotiations, approved applications from United Way of Lane County, South Central Oregon Early Learning Hub, Frontier Oregon Service Hub, Early Learning Multmomah, and Yamhill Early Learning Hub. Following legislation passed in the 2013 session, Early Learning Hubs across Oregon will use a local model to bring together social and educational resources to families to ensure that kids show up at kindergarten ready to learn.