Dallas, TX (PRWEB) February 07, 2013
Since 1990, Educational First Steps (EFS) has been improving the quality and availability of early childhood education for at-risk students, helping create early learning centers of excellence for the children who need them the most. Since 2006, EFS has accomplished this through Four Steps to Excellence, a program which emphasizes a collaborative relationship with child care center teachers and directors. It is focused on mentoring, formal training, and enrichment, with the ultimate goal of accreditation through the National Accreditation Commission (NAC) of the Association for Early Learning Leaders or the National Association for the Education of Young Children(NAEYC).
In late 2006, EFS initiated a collaboration with researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) on a long-term study on the impact of its program. The research team was led by Dr. Richard Scotch of the UTD School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (EPPS). Data collection and analysis was conducted by staff associated with the Texas Schools Project (TSP), a state-recognized education research center. The first phase of the study used actual test performance to find that students served by EFS-assisted centers experienced meaningful benefits in literacy, numeracy, Limited English Proficiency and grade retention rates.
The second phase of the study, published January 2013, confirmed those benefits at even higher levels, specifically among children attending EFS-assisted centers that had achieved accreditation. These children scored nearly 6 percentile points higher than peers from non-accredited centers on third grade literacy assessments, a critical marker which predicts high school graduation rates. Additionally, the EFS program produces persistent positive and significant effects, having a direct impact on later academic success. This is a rare trait among early childhood intervention programs, most of which find their program results diminishing over time. Students from EFS-assisted accredited centers find the positive effects of the program persisting even longer and with even greater strength than non-accredited centers. The EFS program decreases the likelihood of grade retention, absenteeism and students being labeled as Limited English Proficient, three obstacles that consistently hinder the academic experience of at-risk children. According to the study, "the results indicate that EFS affiliation has a positive effect on later student academic success, and that accreditation increases both the strength and extent to which the effect endures."
"The study results further validate what we know to be true about early childhood education and the EFS Four Steps to Excellence program," stated John Breitfeller, EFS Executive Director. "A holistic model focused on age appropriate development of pre-literacy, pre-numeracy and social-emotional and motor skills multiplies benefits to children and prepares them for success far beyond the formative years. The impact is exponential as students progress through the academic years and enter the workforce prepared to produce social and economic outcomes in their communities."
Knowing the value of accredited quality on children's academic lives, EFS recently introduced an enhanced program called Four Steps to Excellence 2.0. This program significantly accelerates the achievement of accredited quality by child care centers in at-risk neighborhoods. It also sustains this quality long after initial accreditation is achieved.