Early Childhood Standards
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Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards
The Iowa Department of Education (DE) is committed to providing effective early learning services and programs to children, birth to five years of age, and their families. The Department of Education and the State Board of Education have established early childhood as one of Iowa's education priorities.
This investment is considered to have life-long benefits to children, families and communities. High quality research-based early learning experiences are essential to building a foundation for achieving positive outcomes for children. In addition, it is the Department of Education's belief that providing a diverse array of environments interwoven with family and community support leads to ultimate learning opportunities for young children of Iowa.
The DE designated Early Childhood Consultants (Early Learning Work Team) to develop a set of state standards. The Early Learning Work Team reviewed other state's early childhood program standards and national research regarding program standards and criteria. Due to the research and comprehensive information of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) the Iowa Early Learning Work Team developed state standards based on all 10 of the NAEYC program standards and 45% of the NAEYC program criteria. The Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (QPPS), were drafted then finalized by the spring of 2004. These standards were developed to be used for programs with 3- and 4-year-old children.
Overall, Iowa' s QPPS were developed as a beginning point for cc programs to engage in of a continuum of to implement quality standards for early childhood programs to work toward accreditation with NAEYC program standards and criteria. The QPPS were designed to be used with programs having funding linked to the Iowa Department of Education including those operated by local school districts: Early Childhood Special Education, Title I, and district operated preschools and childcare centers. In addition, community based early childhood programs were considered necessary to be included in this pool of programs since preschoolers with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) need to receive special education services in the least restrictive environment (setting with typical peers). The QPPS are provided at no cost to programs and are available to download from the Department of Education's website. Personnel from early childhood programs are encouraged to complete the self-assessment to evaluate the strengths and needs of their current program status to attain standards and criteria and to provide ongoing data for the number of Iowa's quality early learning environments.
Note: Iowa's QPPS were not designed for programs serving infants and toddlers (birth - three) or child development homes.
What are the benefits of QPPS?
Quality early learning experiences are based upon research and focused on producing positive outcomes. The QPPS are based on research and evidence-based practices in child development and early education. The ten standards and selected criteria are from the NAEYC Accreditation standards and criteria. Early childhood practitioners and researchers have ensured that each criterion reflects quality practices and interventions proven to promote children's health and developmental outcomes.
QPPS provides valuable information about the quality of the early childhood programs to administrators, providers, families and community member in the following ways:
- QPPS serves to validate program strengths as well as provide information to support continuous improvement in areas that enhance children's health, safety and learning experiences;
- Program administrators and directors will be able to use QPPS to promote the strengths of the program with staff, families and community members as well as develop quality improvement plans to improve the learning environment;
- Staff will gain a perspective of research-based, developmentally appropriate practices that enhances their professional growth and promotes lifelong learning;
- Families have an assurance that they are a key component of the programming and that their children are in quality programs that support learning; and
- Programs have valid information that communicates their effectiveness in promoting a high quality service for children and families.
Research Supporting Quality Preschool Program Standards
Research has proven that high quality early learning experiences prepare children to successfully achieve the social and academic challenges of school-age programs. In order for children to develop these skills, children need opportunities to participate in early learning experiences that produce positive child and family outcomes. By implementing the QPPS standards and criteria, early childhood programs are providing early learning experiences for preschoolers that meet high standards of quality. The QPPS criteria provide descriptive statements so that programs are able to continuously affirm, modify and establish practices to support children's learning. The QPPS support the implementation of early learning experiences by promoting the use of the following research-based practices:
- Build responsive, positive relationships between children, families, and early childhood professionals;
- Use of a full range of research-based teaching strategies to address individual children's needs, abilities and interests and to provide a broad base of developmentally appropriate experiences;
- Apply low adult-child ratios, small class size in group settings, and consistent relationships with primary providers;
- Establish organized quality environments with appropriate learning materials, equipment and spaces;
- Engage well-trained staff in ongoing professional development with administrative/leadership involvement and support;
- Use developmentally appropriate assessments to inform adults about individual children's abilities in order to use the information to meet their needs; and
- Promote family centered principles in the delivery of services for children and families.
Review the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (QPPS) and determine whether or not your early childhood program's quality is validated by a higher standard such as the Head Start Performance Standards or the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Program Accreditation. If your program currently meets Head Start Performance Standards or NAEYC standards, it would not be necessary to engage in the Iowa QPPS. If your program does not meet or is not required to meet either of these standards, the Iowa QPPS are an option for validating your current program quality.
1. Assemble a Team
Involve the program administrator, teacher, associate, and if possible parents in reviewing the program standards and begin plans to implement Iowa's QPPS. The early childhood program may want to consider requesting a QPPS Facilitator. If you have access to a local QPPS Facilitator, set up a meeting to discuss the process. A QPPS Facilitator can provide training to help you understand the QPPS process and how to complete a self-assessment.
2. Complete the Self-Assessment
As a team, complete the QPPS self-assessment within 30 days. The early childhood program staff would be involved in completing the QPPS self-assessment. If a center has more than one classroom, a self-assessment would be completed for each individual classroom.
It is important to reflect on the current research regarding quality so your team accurately assesses how the program currently meets criteria in each of the 10 program standards. If you have access to a QPPS Facilitator, you will want to reflect on the QPPS training provided by your facilitator. It will be important to clarify some criteria with a facilitator during the self-assessment.
Once the team has completed the self-assessment discuss the results. You may want to request a QPPS Facilitator complete a self-assessment as an outside source to validate the accuracy of the team's findings. It is important to have an accurate understanding of the criteria since your program will be developing a Quality Improvement Plan based on the results of the self-assessment. Also, consider requesting assistance from other community agencies for support and to clarify specific content of the program standards.
3. Establish Priorities
After completing the self-assessment, the facilitator and EC staff, including administrators/directors and teacher assistant(s), would prioritize the needs of the program. In developing priorities it is important to consider input from a variety of stakeholders including parents, board members, advisory councils, or other community partners. Identifying potential resources to support implementation of the plan would be helpful as the team begins to discuss priorities.
Obviously, safety concerns would be a first priority to address. In addition, teams need to consider the following:
- Will this action have great impact on program quality?
- Does this action have a high or low cost?
- Is this action easy to complete?
- Is the action time consuming and difficult to complete?
- Will this action be easy or difficult to sustain?
4. Develop a Quality Improvement Plan
Developing a Quality Improvement Plan is an important step in the process. The Quality Improvement Plan will guide how your program will spend funds, prioritize staff time, determine curriculum and instructional practices, and choose staff development.
The team will identify and prioritize areas of need based on the results of the self-assessment. One to 3 priorities should be selected to guide development of a Quality Improvement Plan. The team will then identify steps to be taken, resources needed, timelines for completion, and evidence of change. If a QPPS Facilitator is available, the team is encouraged to work with the facilitator to develop a Quality Improvement Plan.
5. Verify and Maintain Continuous Program Quality
Each program would need to annually review their Quality Improvement Plan to determine progress and to adjust goals. Periodically, programs would complete a QPPS self-assessment. This would be indicated every 5 years or more frequently as significant changes occur in the program. Significant changes would include changing location or site of the program, new administration, or new teachers. Programs are encouraged to continually examine the data from the Quality Improvement Plan as well as progress of the children to address continuous quality improvement.
Iowa QPPS Implementation Guide- The QPPS Implementation Guide provides guidance to local school districts and the early childhood community in implementing the QPPS in their early childhood programs for preschoolers ages three to five in a center based setting. It also includes supporting documents and forms.
AEA QPPS Facilitators - Contact a QPPS Facilitator in your area for information on how to access the QPPS.