Preschools to undergo evaluations |

Preschools to undergo evaluations

Assessment mandated by state Department of Education

Christina M. Currie

Three Craig preschools will be evaluated in October to determine whether they offer the high-quality programs that studies show better prepare students for future learning.

There are nearly 90 students in Craig attending preschool, thanks to Colorado Preschool Program grants. The state guarantees those scholarship students gain acceptance to a preschool and assures parents that their children are getting a high quality experience.

To do that, the state Department of Education requires an evaluation process be established of all programs that accept Colorado Preschool Program students.

In Craig, those schools are the Moffat County Early Childhood Center, Sunrise Kids Preschool and Day Care and St. Mark’s Preschool.

As the facilitator of CPP funds, it falls on the Colorado Preschool Program District Council to coordinate that evaluation.

The group decided to hire an expert who will evaluate each of the three participating preschools using the Early Childhood Environmental Ratings Scale, which measure seven key areas and 43 subsets of those areas.

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Those areas are space and furnishings, personal care routines, language/reasoning, activities, interactions, program structure and parents and staff communications.

The evaluator will make surprise daylong visit to each school sometime in October.

Moffat County Early Childhood Coordinator Sarah Hepworth looks at the evaluation as a positive for all involved, saying it will give schools a starting point in the creation of school improvement plans.

“This is how our community guarantees the state that we’re putting kids in high-quality programs,” she said. “The process isn’t supposed to eliminate preschools from the program, it’s to improve them.”

During the last 10 years, that CPP scholarships have been available, Hepworth or members of the CCP District Council have evaluated preschools.

“It was one person’s opinion and a very subjective opinion,” Hepworth said. “This is more standardized.”

The evaluations will cost the school district nearly $2,000 and are labor intensive, so they will be done once every three years.

Schools will be given a rating of one to seven in each of the seven categories and the District Council has set a standard of three as being acceptable, because this is the first such evaluation.

The state ranks a score of five as acceptable, and that likely will be the benchmark for the 2007 evaluation.

“This is supposed to be a learning process,” Hepworth said. “I’m pretty excited. I think nothing negative can come of it. I think we can only get better.”

Sunrise Preschool already has implemented some of the ECERS recommendations, which resulted in changes in class sizes.

Many of the changes have been well-accepted and successful, owner Judi Whilden said, but some haven’t.

All classes must run independent of each other, which means mixed activities such as “circle time” are gone. That also means the school must hold three different snack times, lunch times and play times.

Overall, Whilden thinks the evaluation will be a good opportunity for preschools.