Ybarra Unveils Early Childhood Education Proposal

Ybarra unveils early childhood education proposal

Originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on November 27, 2017

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra’s proposal for free early childhood education involves a digital, cloud-based learning program pitched by a for-profit company.

On Nov. 8, Ybarra told an audience at the Idaho School Boards Association’s annual convention that she was developing a “free, read my lips, free” early childhood education program “for all Idaho kids.”

Ybarra didn’t reveal the details at the time. But on Monday, Ybarra and State Board of Education President Linda Clark helped facilitate a presentation from the Lakewood, N.J.-based corporation Achieve3000.

Achieve3000 founder, President and CEO Saki Dodelson pledged to offer the digital Smarty Ants program free to all Idaho 4-year olds for five years.

Dodelson said Stanford University and University of California at Berkeley educators developed the program, which is intended to help prepare students to enter school and to improve literacy.

Smarty Ants is an animated learning tool that looks like a cross between a video game and a homework assignment. Children begin by completing a pre-test to determine their skill level. Then the program creates a personalized instruction program that includes built-in assessment tests, games and graduation ceremonies.

Acheive3000 representatives said children can download Smarty Ants free for their Chromebook, iPad or any number of devices, and access the lessons online or offline.

“We think this is a unique approach, something that maybe we hadn’t thought about before,” Clark said.

No decisions were made Monday.

Some of the dozen education and community leaders in attendance posed questions about how to deploy the program in rural or low-income households with limited Internet access.

“Technology certainly has a place in early learning, but I want to be careful we’re not talking about it as the solution to ensuring our children are entering school with all the skills and the knowledge they need,” said Beth Oppenheimer, executive director for Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children.

Oppenheimer said an online program could serve as one of several building blocks to improve early literacy rates and education. But she said online learning doesn’t build the social, emotional and teamwork skills children will need to succeed in school.

“I’m not sure more screen time is the answer for kids,” Oppenheimer said.

Rob Winslow, executive director of the Idaho Association of School Administrators, predicted that many families would jump at the chance to take advantage of a free digital learning tool. But he suggested the parents who would be drawn to Smarty Ants might already be heavily engaged in education.

“How do we reach the low-income families who aren’t as engaged?” he asked. “That’s who we are trying to reach.”

Achieve3000 would not charge 4-year-olds for the use of Smarty Ants, Dodelson said. But Achieve3000 does offer a suite of other digital learning tools that are available for purchase.

Achieve3000 already counts at least one Idaho school district, the Jefferson County School District, as a paying customer.

Acheive3000 representatives said Monday they had not considered how much it would cost a school or parents to continue using the program after a child turns 5.

Moving forward, Ybarra and Clark will solicit feedback from those attending Monday’s meeting and consider creating a committee to study Smarty Ants’ proposal.

“This is one of the best opportunities we have in Idaho,” Ybarra said. “I can’t see a reason to say ‘no.’ Free is always good.”

Oppenheimer was more cautious.

“I get nervous when we talk about free,” she said. “My mother told me nothing in life that is hard or good is free.”

National Organization Provides Snapshots of Idaho Child Care Landscape

July 14, 2017 (Boise, ID) – Yesterday, Child Care Aware® of America released their 2017 State Fact Sheet outlining the use, supply, and cost of child care across all 50 states. The report finds Idaho has over 76,000 children, from birth to age 6, who are in need of child care across the state. These children come from households where both parents are in the work force or working single-parent families.

Charming Charlie Fundraiser

Charming Charlie is hosting a fundraiser for Idaho AEYC at The Village in Meridian!

For every item you purchase, whether it be jewelry, handbags or various accessories, Idaho AEYC will receive a portion of your purchase. If you haven’t found your statement necklace yet, that’s the place to go. If you find one you like, buy it in every color! The more you buy; the more we benefit.

Idaho CapEd Foundation Donates Books to Prevent Summer Learning Loss

The Idaho CapEd Foundation donated over 1,700 new books to the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (Idaho AEYC) to support their efforts to increase reading over the summer months. The donated books, for children birth to third grade, will be given out this spring to parents and child care centers serving low-income families in the Treasure Valley. 

Early Learning Supporters Plan Event at the Capitol

February 6, 2017 (Boise, ID) - Efforts continue to gain support for investments in quality early learning programs for Idaho’s youngest children. Research is clear that children with access to high quality early learning programs enter school better prepared than children who do not have these opportunities. At Early Learning Legislative Day, on Wednesday, February 8th, supporters will bring attention to the importance of early learning through an interactive BLOCK Fest for Idaho kids in the Capitol Rotunda.

New Horizon Academy Receives National Accreditation

The New Horizon Academy’s Boise Avenue Center  has earned recognition for the highest level of quality through accreditation with National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). NAEYC Accreditation represents the gold mark of quality in early childhood education and measures the early childhood program against 10 NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards and more than 400 related accreditation criteria.

In an Era of Growing State-funded Pre-K, Idaho Has None

Many 3- and 4-year olds still lack access to high-quality preschool education despite modest gains in enrollment, quality, and funding, according to an annual report by the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. While several states, including New York, made significant progress through a concerted effort to increase enrollment and funding and improve quality, progress is slow and uneven nationally and quality standards are particularly low in some of the nation’s largest states like California, Florida and Texas. Despite the relatively good news this year, the rate of progress is so slow that it will take 150 years for the nation to reach 75 percent enrollment in state pre-K even at age 4.

Celebrating Our Youngest Learners

IDAHO CELEBRATES WEEK OF THE YOUNG CHILD

April 11, 2016 (Boise, ID) – Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (Idaho AEYC) asks Idaho to come together for children during the Week of the Young Child™ (April 10-16, 2016). As part of the national Week of the Young Child™ celebrated across the country, Idaho is honoring young children and all those who make a difference in children’s lives.

“Young children and their families depend on high-quality education and care, which help children get a great start and bring lasting benefits to Idaho,” said Idaho AEYC Executive Director Beth Oppenheimer. “Week of the Young Child™ is a time to recognize the importance of early learning and early literacy, and to celebrate the teachers and policies that bring early childhood education to young children.”

Early Learning in Idaho: Finding Common Ground

In May 2015, the Andrus Center for Public Policy and the James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research had the great privilege to cohost Early Learning in Idaho: Finding Common Ground. Members of our organizing committee represented organizations from across the business community and political spectrum. Our common goal was to seek an Idaho solution to the serious problem that almost half of Idaho’s children enter kindergarten without the educational foundation they need to be successful.

Early Learning Legislative Day was a tremendous success!

All of Idaho deserves a choice

Idahoans love opportunities for choice. Many of us get to ultimately choose where we live, work, play, and we certainly value opportunities for choice when it comes to educating our children. Thankfully, Idaho has a variety of choices when it comes to schools and learning opportunities. Unfortunately, those choices are not available for all of Idaho’s children in their most formative years.

Early Learning Supporters Plan Day at the Capitol on February 10th

Children with access to high-quality early learning programs enter school ready and eager to learn. But many Idaho kids are missing out on early education opportunities and have to play catch up from the start. At Early Learning Legislative Day on Wednesday, February 10th, supporters will bring attention to the issue of early learning through a film screening, a rally on the Capitol steps and presentations to the House and Senate Education Committees. There will also be an interactive BLOCK Fest for Idaho kids in the Capitol rotunda.

Caped makes early learning a priority and offers free trainings to child care providers

January 12, 2016 (Boise, ID) - CapEd Credit Union is stepping up to support our youngest. The organization has taken to heart that over fifty percent of Idaho’s children are not prepared for kindergarten when they enter the classroom and believes that Idaho can do better. Through a partnership with the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children (Idaho AEYC) and Lee Pesky Learning Center, CapEd is providing free Every Child Ready to Learn trainings for 180 Treasure Valley child care providers.