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U.S. Secretary of Education King praises Delaware's early learning work in visit
Calling Delaware’s efforts to improve access to high quality early learning “nation-leading work,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. praised the First State for its investments in Delaware’s youngest learners during a visit to Wilmington today.
King and Governor Jack Markell took turns reading a book to preschoolers in the Child Development Center at Delaware Technical & Community College’s George Campus in Wilmington before joining a roundtable of early childhood leaders and advocates to discuss the state’s progress and remaining challenges in early childhood education.
King repeatedly praised Markell, whose $22 million state investment in early childhood education in 2011 launched a wave of improvements and better access to early learning programs. It also made Delaware well positioned to win a $50 million federal Early Learning Challenge grant to further the work. In June, the General Assembly approved $9.2 million to continue the progress made under the expiring Early Learning Challenge grant.
“I have long admired Governor Markell’s leadership on issues of education,” King said.
Markell said he has championed investing in the efforts because they are an investment in the state’s future.
“In a time of limited resources, we’ve been able to dedicate a lot of money, not by throwing money at a problem but by focusing on quality,” he said.
That investment and focus is paying off.
- The state has supported quality early learning programs via on-site support and assessment through voluntary participation in the state’s quality rating system, Delaware Stars. In 2011, only 11 percent of the state’s 1,200 early learning programs participated in Stars. That participation has increased to 72 percent of centers and 37 percent of family child care homes. And while only 5 percent of children from low-income families were attending Stars programs five years ago, now 70 percent are.
- Prior to 2011, Delaware ranked last in the nation in child development screenings. Delaware now is ranked 21st and more than 100,000 children have been screened in that time.
- Five years ago, the state had three times more children being expelled from preschool than in K-12. Since then the state has achieved a 99 percent success rate in preventing preschool expulsions thanks to the expansion of mental health services to early learning centers.
- Delaware also is supporting workforce development through T.E.A.C.H. scholarships to help early childhood workers increase their education. While the average early childhood worker in Delaware earns less than $11 per hour, a great pay gap compared to the salaries of elementary school teachers. The state has started to try to address that gap with salary supplements.
- A focus on family and community engagement has led to the development of 21 Community Readiness Teams across the state that are supported by more than 350 volunteers.
“If we are going to expand educational equity and opportunity for all children, we must ensure every child receives a strong start. A high-quality early education gives them that start,” said Delaware Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky. “The research is clear that attending high-quality early education and development programs gives children a strong foundation for their academic, health and social development.”
Find photos from the visit here.
Find the U.S. Department of Education’s Monday report on Delaware’s early learning progress under its federal grant here.