Just good business sense

Retired Brig. Gen. John Douglass was in town the other week not so much to kick butt -- he was quite the congenial gentleman, really -- but to rally the troops: a friendly audience of about 100 Roanoke business leaders who've enlisted in the cause of early childhood development.

He has a way, though, of landing his message like a swift kick delivered smartly to the seat of the pants. Nurturing children's brains early, in their first five years of life, is a matter of national security. And Virginia -- like America -- is failing the readiness test.

Douglass is on the advisory council of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Mission: Readiness, a group of retired senior military officers alarmed by the small pool of young men and women qualified today to serve in the armed forces.

Mission: Readiness embraces the science that shows most human brain development occurs by age 5, and the research that indicates the quality of learning in those years plays a large role in determining people's success in school and life.

Douglass addressed a Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke breakfast for business leaders April 7. Scott Hippert, president of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, also was among the speakers.

"A fundamental problem in the country," Hippert told the crowd, "is that while other countries are putting a lot of money into very young kids, we're putting a fraction of that in. As a result, we're not competitive.

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Every Child Matters


by Maria Ferrone; Director of Government Programs Honeytree Early Learning Center

Young children hold the key to our future.  Their young minds will one day be capable of creating breakthrough technologies and amazing scientific advancements.  One day these children will possess the abilities and talents to change our world.   Those of us who work with young children are privileged and honored to play a part in the opportunity to get them started on their path to greatness.  You might be asking yourself, “How does all this “greatness” happen”?

It’s simple really.  Great teachers help create great students!  Research has shown that a teacher who is inspired and informed is one of the most important factors influencing a child’s achievement and overall success into adulthood.  Ongoing professional development keeps teachers up-to-date on new research regarding how children learn, emerging technology that helps children and teachers, new curriculum resources, local and state initiatives, public policies, the Quality Rating and Improvement System for preschools and childcare centers, and Virginia’s Milestones of Child Development.

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$100,000 Grant Awarded to Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke


Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke, a local collaborative working to improve the quality of early education and care in the Roanoke area, has received a grant of $100,000 from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF), a public-private partnership headquartered in Richmond.

Funds for this “Sustaining Grant” will support the coalition’s ongoing efforts to build partnerships with business and community leaders and to increase public engagement about the importance of providing young children, ages 0-5, with quality early childhood experiences so they will be successful in school and in life. According to Kris Meyers, Program Manager for Smart Beginnings, “The grant will be used to expand parent education opportunities, increase the number of families receiving home visiting services, and provide professional development training for early childhood educators.”

Another focus of the VECF grant funds will be to increase the number of preschools and childcare centers participating in the Virginia Star Quality Initiative. This is a statewide system designed to help families make more informed choices when considering where to send their young children for childcare and preschool. Currently there are only six early childhood programs in the Roanoke region which have been “star rated” by the state of Virginia. The VECF funds will increase that number to 20 or more programs by 2012. In addition, the VECF grant funding gives Smart Beginnings the ability to provide these programs with intensive training and mentoring support designed to develop higher-quality learning experiences for young children.

Quality Counts in Early Care

by Amy Hatheway

Hatheway is a research and grants developer for TAP Head Start and chairman of the operations committee at Smart Beginnings of Greater Roanoke.

On May 14, The Roanoke Times joined other media outlets in publicizing a national longitudinal study on the lasting effects of early child care ("Study: Kids who were in day care take more risks"). I applaud The Times for covering this important issue, and I want to highlight some of the most important findings that deserve attention and were left out of the article.

What the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development reaffirms is that quality care does matter. Teenagers score higher academically and are more likely to make good decisions as 15-year-olds when they had quality care in their earliest years. Whether a child is cared for solely by family members or in other child care settings, it's the quality of the interactions between adults and children that makes the most difference.

Research tells us that children do best when adults provide opportunities for children to play and interact with people and things in nurturing environments that intentionally challenge children to grow and develop. This doesn't happen by accident -- and it happens only in the highest quality early childhood settings and in homes where parents know what they can do to best promote their children's development.

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“The Virginia Star Quality Initiative can raise the bar on early childhood education, but success will depend on consumers demanding it.  Help spread the word."

Elizabeth Strother, Editor Roanoke Times

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The United Way of Roanoke Valley serves as the fiscal agent for Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke.

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