Part of the money will be used for regional town hall meetings.
Baltimore, Md (KM). The State of Maryland has received a federal grant to help improve its early childhood learning programs. The Preschool Development grant comes from the US Department of Health and Human Services and totals $10.6-million.
“Maryland is very proud of its early learning program, but we can always to do better,” says Bill Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education.
Reinhard says the money will be used to conduct a needs assessment on the availability and quality of early childhood programs, and to put together a strategic plan for continued improvement.
The funds from the grant will be used to hold eight town hall meetings across the state. “We’ll include a lot of information about early childhood at these town halls. But more importantly we’ll receive testimony for local educators and parents,” says Reinhard. He says the testimony will try to answer some basic questions such as “what constitutes good child care? Where are there issues in their areas? Do they have enough quality child care in those areas? What can we do to help strengthen it? Where we can focus funding?”
MSDE also plans to use the grant to provide training and coaching to about 200 educators in the state on Maryland’s new integrated curriculum for four-year olds. In addition, the money will invest in family engagement activities and provide grants to public libraries to support children without access to early childhood programs.
Reinhard says some parents of newborns may not be aware of learning opportunities for their children at local libraries, pre-k programs in public schools and private nursery schools. “And we want them to know as much as they to make the right decisions about their children, and what they can to do at home to help their child improve and that’s part of this grant,” he says.
Children who participate in pre-k are much more prepared when they enter kindergarten. “They know the alphabet. They’re able to socialize with young kids. They have a lot of preparation. They’re the best ones. They do best in kindergarten. And if they do well in kindergarten, they’ll do well in first grade, second grade and thereafter,” he says.
Maryland’s new grant is one of 45 recently announced by the US Department of Health and Human Services, and is one of the largest in the current cycle of the Preschool Development Grant program, MSDE says.
This grant is initially for one year, but the Maryland State Department of Education says it plans to apply for a three-year renewal grant.
By Kevin McManus