While the state of Illinois already has a licensing system in place, the city of Chicago is starting a system that will allow parents to see where 450 city-funded programs rank based on quality ratings. The areas that will be rated include things like the program's staff qualifications, family involvement and learning environment. In addition, those early childhood programs with the highest ratings will receive the most funds. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that this system will be "stricter" than the state system, which will almost certainly be a good thing in my opinion, however I'm a bit worried on how much he's focusing on just education. From the Chicago Sun-Times report, he says: "“Just getting certified and doing a background check was good enough before. No. Where are you on the basics of teaching a child on learning, learning the alphabet, what the letters are, what the numbers are?” Luckily in the same story, we hear from Diana Rauner (president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund) who says that the focus shouldn't just be on the basics, but also on "persistence, self-control, motivation.”
My worry when ratings systems pop up like this in early childhood education is always that it will lean toward hard academics at inappropriate ages. I hope that this system will not do that and will allow children in the lower ranges (birth to 4) a chance to learn through play and adventure and at their own unique paces based on where they are developmentally. Hopefully this system will be modeled after others used for program evaluation like the NAEYC accreditation standards and those of the American Montessori Society. Both do a nice job of recognizing the needs of the whole child, family and program staff.
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