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Kansas Education Department Receives $4.5M Grant To Improve Early Childhood Programs

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Kansas education officials are launching a yearlong study to improve early childhood programs and services.

The goal is to get a better understanding of the overall federal, state and local childcare and learning programs available for children under five.

Amanda Petersen, director of early childhood programs at the Kansas State Department of Education, says after that, the state plans to build on and improve Kansas' early childhood infrastructure.

“We are anticipating that this will strengthen early childhood governance in the state of Kansas," she says, "and it will give us a roadmap in where we want to go as we are considering how we build the strongest early childhood system possible."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education awarded Kansas and 44 other states funding through the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five, a $250 million competitive federal grant.

The one-year planning grant focuses on three major activities: maximizing parental choice, improving transitions within early care and learning programs and with elementary schools, and improving overall quality of early childhood education programs.

The state education department will use its $4.5 million federal grant for a needs assessment and to develop a strategic plan to optimize existing early childhood education resources.

Petersen says the KU Center for Public Partnerships and Research and Wichita State University will be involved in the project. Staff from the universities will coordinate community sessions, collect stories from families, work with state partner agencies for data collection and prepare a draft version of the strategic plan.

“We want our final product to be something that pulls together many of the initiatives that are already underway,” Petersen said during her presentation to the Kansas State Board of Education last week.

In October 2015, the Kansas State Board of Education identified kindergarten readiness as one of five outcome areas to measure progress and now expects every district in Kansas to utilize a developmentally appropriate snapshot tool beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.

The goal of kindergarten readiness is to ensure that each student enters kindergarten at age 5 socially, emotionally & academically prepared for success. To do this, Kansas must have common kindergarten entry data sets across all elementary schools.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.