BALTIMORE - Maryland aims to strengthen the qualifications of child care and early education staff, promote the use of preschool curricula in child care programs, and foster a closer relationship between early childhood providers and the public school system, under ideas forged in a new strategic plan.
The Maryland State Board of Education (MDSE) on Wednesday accepted the strategic plan for the Division of Early Childhood Development put forth by a broad cross-section of early childhood advocates and educators in the state. The document sets in place a three-year plan aimed at boosting the quality of early learning.
MDSE says that Maryland is uniquely positioned to improve early learning for children across the state. Since July 2005, MSDE has been in charge of policy and regulation for all early care and early education programs in the Maryland.
"We are aware of the huge responsibility that was handed to us by the General Assembly and the Governor when child care was transferred from the Department of Human Resources to MSDE," said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. "We made it clear that young children in child care programs deserve nothing less than quality care and a positive start in learning. This plan will move us in the direction of establishing a high quality continuum of education from birth to Grade 12."
The plan was forged by a committee of early childhood advocates, childcare providers, parents, and representatives of state and local agencies. It identifies targets and actions intended to address administrative, program, and policy issues that have an impact on childcare, before- and after-school care, Head Start, pre-kindergarten, and nursery programs.
The plan outlines a number of major initiatives, including:
* Consolidating licensure for early care and education programs, which transfers the responsibilities of issuing certificates and approval for nursery programs within MSDE's Division of Early Childhood Development.
* Expanding program accreditation and credentialing of child care providers.
* Establishing state-endorsed early childhood curricula for use at non-public early childhood programs.
* Establishing the Maryland Early Childhood Career and Professional Development Fund.
* Strengthening the rigor of pre-service and continuing education requirements for child care providers.
* Bringing statewide accessibility to child care for children with disabilities.
* Improving the quality and capacity of school-age child care programs.
* Expanding Judy Center services for economically disadvantaged students to other Title I elementary schools.
* Improving the transparency and effective transition practices between early care education programs and those in the public schools
Maryland brought its child care and early learning programs under one roof in 2005 when the Maryland General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to transfer childcare responsibilities from the Department of Human Services to MSDE, creating the Division of Early Childhood Development (DECD). DECD was charged with establishing a mission and strategies of addressing a variety of long-standing issues in child care and early childhood education.
The transfer has closely aligned early childhood programs with K-12 education, helping to ensure that children have the needed skills to enter school ready to learn.
Source: Maryland State Board of Education (MDSE)