For Immediate Release: December 19, 2013
JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Board of Education voted Thursday to award 11 grants through the first state-funded, voluntary prekindergarten program known as the Early Learning Collaborative Act.
The Mississippi Department of Education received 30 applications from existing and newly organized Early Learning Collaboratives. Out of those applicants, 18 groups were interviewed and a final list of recipients was selected. An Early Learning Collaborative must include a lead partner, which can be a public school or other nonprofit group, with the expertise and capacity to manage a collaborative’s prekindergarten program.
“We were impressed by the high level of creativity and innovation that went into developing these quality early childhood education programs,” said Dr. O. Wayne Gann, Board chairman.
The purpose of the Early Learning Collaborative Act, signed into law last spring, is to provide funding to local communities to establish, expand, support and facilitate the successful implementation of quality early childhood education and development services. Funds were competitively awarded based on evidence of existing strong local collaboration, capacity, commitment, need, ability to demonstrate enhanced outcomes for participating children, and availability of funds. The state Legislature appropriated $3 million for the program.
“We awarded until we exhausted all the funding,” said Dr. Carey Wright, superintendent of education. “The applicants overall were amazing. The collaboratives were leveraging their resources to provide technology, equipment and highly-qualified teachers in every classroom.”
Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, who co-authored the legislation in the Senate, congratulated the recipients.
"Just as we thought, the law has sparked creativity on the local level and utilizes shared resources to deliver high-quality education where it matters the most. We have been declared a national model for early childhood collaboration. I look forward to the next round," he said.
Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, who co-authored the legislation in the House, said the collaboratives will be a critical first step in improving Mississippi’s student outcomes.
"This investment can advance Mississippi's position in a global economy. Early childhood education makes a huge difference in boosting educational outcomes, and I look forward to seeing the results these recipients will produce,” he said.
An early childhood technical advisory committee of nine nationally early childhood experts from around the United States provided guidance and feedback to MDE during this process. Evaluators used a two-level evaluation. For the first level, each of the 30 applications was evaluated on 11 components, which included the strength of the community partnership, leveraging and sharing resources, community commitment, parental involvement, evidence of need and quality of staff.
The top 18 applicants with the highest scores were invited to interviews for the second level of evaluation. The interviewers asked questions that would further establish how the collaborative would leverage resources, the role of each partner, and the how prekindergarten providers would use curriculum, instruction and assessments aligned to early learning standards. Each grant recipient must report annually to the MDE the collaborative’s progress in meeting objectives and annual targets described in the partnership’s accountability plan.
Wright said she was pleased to see communities working together to address the educational needs of young children.
“We are on the right road when it comes to improving Mississippi’s educational achievement. I believe that a high-quality early learning program can prepare children socially, emotionally and academically for kindergarten and lay the groundwork for improved literacy among students,” she said.
A complete list of grant recipients can be found here.