Bright Promises Early Childhood Education Quality Improvement Program (EQUIP) provides multi-year, capacity-building support to early childhood education agencies, helping them to work with the staff and families to create long-lasting, sustainable quality improvements that directly benefit low-income children.
The early childhood centers we support must respond to a shifting array of needs and offer services that encompass entire families. With the number of demands put on child care centers, the ability to have funds marked for quality rather than "putting out fires" is important. EQUIP grants help to address this need for quality early childhood education.
In 2015-2016, 13 early childhood centers serving low-income communities received a grant to address the need for quality education and services for children up to five years old. Projects focused on art and music concepts, school readiness, parent engagement, language development, and effective classroom management.
There were some challenges related to staff turnover and to the state budget impasse in Illinois, which our grantees handled with care and professionalism. Developing comprehensive project schedules, remaining responsive to agency needs, and incorporating feedback throughout each project were the primary strategies utilized to overcome challenges. In addition, evaluation forms and pre- and post-test surveys were utilized to assess the efficacy of each project.
We wish to congratulate each of our 2015-2016 EQUIP grantees and look forward to seeing how these critical quality improvements help our partner agencies to better serve more children in their communities.
- Lutheran Social Services of Illinois: The agency partnered with Lill Street Art Center to provide mentoring and workshops for instructors and parents. Art and music were incorporated into weekly lesson plans to promote school readiness, cultural diversity, and cognitive development. The project culminated in an art show during the agency’s Family Fun Day.
- Trinity United Church of Christ: During Trinity’s Literacy Connection program, language development activities were structured for 120 children between 3 and 5 years old. Participation in parent conferences increased by 10% and a parent focus group continues to meet monthly to discuss education goals for the children.
- Howard Area Community Center: The Conscious Discipline project at Howard Area Community Center focused on empowering instructors to turn conflict into an opportunity for children to learn life skills. The consultant employed a “train the trainer” model to develop strategies for sustaining new engagement initiates at the conclusion of the project. Staff adopted a Classroom Observation tool focused on social/emotional learning to be incorporated into weekly lesson plans.
- Gads Hill Center: There were 12 trainings implemented during Gads Hills’ Effective Classroom Management project. 100% of staff reported feeling comfortable with classroom management techniques and 95% reported that the trainings have allowed them to grow professionally in areas where they needed support.