Tonight, a third cohort of 10 child care centers will become Niagara Quality Improvement Project ambassador centers.
The Niagara County-based child care centers have completed an initial year of "active engagement," which will culminate with a certification ceremony tonight at 6 p.m. in Niagara University's Bisgrove Hall, Room 350.
During that event, 36 child care directors and staff from the following child care centers will receive certificates of completion:
The group will join an established professional learning community of 20 child care centers that previously participated in the Niagara QIP's first and second cohorts, both of which are now in the sustainability phase of the program.
"The directors and staff of these centers are the gatekeepers to quality care," said Lynnette Haley O'Stewart, Niagara QIP director. "Over the past three years, we have collaboratively changed the landscape of child care in Niagara County."
The Niagara County Early Child Care Quality Improvement Project, concluding its third year, has elevated the quality of care in 30 centers throughout Niagara County.
Established in fall 2010 as a collaborative initiative by Niagara University, the United Way of Greater Niagara, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the Niagara Area Foundation and local business leaders, the Niagara QIP has made significant strides in enhancing the kindergarten readiness skills of more than 715 preschool age children in 44 preschool age classrooms.
Funding for the three-year, $625,000 program is provided by the Grigg-Lewis Foundation and The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation.
In the past two-plus years, the Niagara QIP has profoundly changed the landscape for child care in Niagara County. Program highlights include:
Fifty child care providers (directors and teachers) representing the first and second cohorts have completed a 45-hour professional development certificate course in early childhood education. The third cohort will add 36 certificate recipients.
More than 350 child care providers have participated in short-course professional development activities.
A team of 18 graduate students in Niagara University's school psychology program conducted pre- and post-school readiness assessments.
Child care centers are now a placement for students participating in Niagara University's Learn and Serve and field placement programs.
An external review of Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 found statistically significant improvements in all participating sites in both the ECERS (learning environment and teachers' behavior assessments) and ESI (school readiness assessments).
A director's forum has been established, allowing child care professionals to meet with colleagues quarterly.
Moving forward, the Niagara QIP plans to continue to cultivate high-quality early child care and education by extending the project to the infant and toddler classrooms.
In keeping with its commitment to early childhood and the critical nature of early development and cognition, Niagara University's College of Education offers a master's degree program in early childhood and special education (birth to grade 2) to support the project, and has included candidates in the school psychology program in the assessment components of the QIP.
For more information on the Niagara County Early Child Care Quality Improvement Project, contact Haley O'Stewart at 716-286-8567 or [email protected].
To learn more about NU's College of Education, visit www.niagara.edu/education.