Research shows that high-quality early childhood programs prepare children for future success in school, work, and life. From birth through age 5 is the most important time for growth of the human brain. A child’s brain develops in response to the child’s experiences by building neurological networks in reaction to the environment.
The learning environment created within Hilltop Neighborhood House’s Early Childhood Development Program is designed to provide children with the resources, tools, and age-appropriate stimuli to help ensure that they thrive when the enter the elementary and higher public or private school systems.
“Our school systems need children who are entering school prepared and ready to succeed,” commented a Porter County educator. “In turn, businesses need a high-quality work force both now and in the future. In fact, studies have shown that high quality early childhood programs increase the graduation rate, reduce the future crime rate, and can save up to sixteen dollars for every one dollar invested. High-quality child care programs are essential to everyone.”
One way to ensure that children’s educational needs are met is attending an early childhood educational program that has achieved success within “Paths to QUALITYTM” (PTQ) – Indiana’s Child Care Qualtiy Rating and Improvement System. PTQ also gives families a way to select a child care program and they can look for the PTQ logo to determine what level their provider has achieved.
Hilltop Neighborhood House CEO Jennifer Wright gave more detail about this system. Wright explained that inn order to improve the quality of child care programs, states across the nation are using Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), such as the one here in Indiana, Paths to QUALITY™. Quality Rating and Improvement Systems assess the quality of care within a program, work to improve that quality level, and give families an easy, recognizable symbol that makes the difficult decision of choosing child care easier.
“We are the only registered childcare ministry in Porter County to have achieved our success in Paths to QUALITY and only the second in the State of Indiana to achieve Level 3,” said Wright. She added that Hilltop achieved Level 3 Status this month thanks in part to a small grant from United Way of Porter County’s Success By 6 Initiative.
Each Paths to QUALITY level builds on the foundation of the previous one, resulting in significant quality improvements at each stage and in national accreditation at the highest level. The system validates child care programs for ongoing efforts to achieve higher standards of quality and provides incentives and awards for success. The four levels address:
Level One: Health and safety needs of children met.
Level Two: Environment supports children’s learning.
Level Three: Planned curriculum guides child development and school readiness.
Level Four: National accreditation (the highest indicator of quality) is achieved.
Because Hilltop’s mission is to give all children – regardless of the ability to pay - the opportunity to benefit from its program, scholarships are made available. In fact, Hilltop gives out 65% of scholarships a year. In 2013, they gave out $225,000 in childcare scholarships to both Hilltop and Walt’s Place, the After-School Program. Hilltop served 118 children in our childcare program last year and had another 67 in our after-school program.
Is the Early Childhood Development Program an educational success? Testing shows that children within Hilltop’s Early Childhood Development Program are quite successful. In fact, as part of its curriculum, Hilltop offers a Kindergarten Readiness Program, which provides children with opportunities to develop social, listening, and learning skills; 100% of children tested in the 95th Percentile or Higher on Kindergarten Entrance Testing.
“We are proud of our Level 3 PTQ Status and what opportunities it brings to children within our community,” concluded Wright. “With Level 3 accomplished, we’re now setting our sights on working toward the final level – Level 4 – to provide Hilltop children and families with every opportunity to succeed.”