FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Jane Hess
(239) 935-6129 | jane.hess@ELCofSWFL.org
Area Preschools Reach for the STARS!
Area Child Care Providers Demonstrate Quality with SWFL Stars Ratings
FORT MYERS, Fla. – November 1, 2016 – The Southwest Florida Stars program is dedicated to helping young children get ready for kindergarten by improving the quality of the preschools they attend. The Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida (ELC) began the SWFL Stars program 4 years ago to help boost the performance of children and teachers alike. Childcare centers and Family Child Care Homes can volunteer to take part in the program and undergo a rigorous review process based on six categories of quality indicators. Once providers are evaluated, they are assigned a rating of 1 to 5 stars. By working together with their Early Childhood Specialist, the child care providers may improve their star rating—and receive grants, scholarships, and materials for the classroom.
“Last year, 37 child care providers were evaluated in SWFL Stars. This year, 46 child care providers have already signed up, demonstrating their commitment to high quality early childhood education,” said Kristi Biffar, Early Childhood Specialist Supervisor of ELC of SWFL. “The goal of SWFL Stars is to support child care providers in their efforts towards continuous quality improvement and preparing children to be successful in school.”
The SWFL Stars rating may also help parents choose a preschool for their family. Preschools entered into the STARS program are concerned with exceeding health and safety standards, keeping teacher qualifications high, using effective curriculum and assessment tools, and much more. Heather Singleton, Program Director of the Gladiolus Learning and Development Center thinks the program is a valuable tool. “The implementation of the QRIS “Stars” Program has assisted our Early Education Program in achieving and retaining quality measures throughout the program. The tool assists us by requiring staff to receive training annually in key areas, requiring us to maintain our Asthma and Safe Sleep Certifications, requiring mandatory parent conferences annually along with prerequisite teacher educational requirements. As an incentive for a positive score on the tool, we receive funds for classroom and playground supplies, as well as teacher training funds. These supplies and training dollars are an asset to our program, which we would not be able to provide without the participation in the Stars program.”
The Early Learning Coalition can provide parents with useful information about the type of schools that would fit their child’s needs. Emily Roman, the parent of a child who attends the Gladiolus Center is pleased the preschool is keeping standards high by participating in the SWFL Stars program.
“I see that the teachers have had training, educational qualifications and experience by the quality learning that my child is receiving. As an asthmatic I also appreciate that the Gladiolus Learning and Development Center is an Asthma-Friendly Childcare Center.”
Visit the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida’s website www.elcofswfl.org to learn more about the SWFL Stars program and how it can benefit your child and our community. Preschools interested in entering the SWFL Stars program can find an application on the ELC website.