New rating tool for parents seeking early learning program

Parent Aware, a new easy-to-use rating tool designed to help Minnesota parents find high quality early learning programs that help children prepare for kindergarten, is expanding to Anoka County in 2013.

Today, nearly half of all Minnesota’s five-year-olds arrive at kindergarten unprepared to start school. Parent Aware was developed to assist parents in identifying the kind of high quality early learning that helps kids prepare for kindergarten. The one- to four-star ratings synthesize years of research on early childhood development to provide an objective assessment of practices that are most predictive of kindergarten readiness, including physical health and wellbeing, teaching and relationships, assessment of child progress and teacher training and education.

“Parents can instinctively judge if a child care provider is safe, clean, affordable and in a good location,” said Ericca Maas, executive director for Parent Aware for School Readiness. “But based on a brief visit or talk with a provider alone, it’s nearly impossible to learn whether that provider is using a full range of early learning best practices.”

“Parent Aware provides this difficult-to-obtain information to help parents determine how well a provider will prepare their child for kindergarten.”

To date, parents in Anoka County have had to rely on their own networks and other resources that fall short on measuring kindergarten readiness for child care referrals. Come July 2013, almost 100 providers will be rated and searchable via www.parentawareratings.org. More rated providers will continue to come online as the ratings expand statewide in 2014 and 2015.

Parent Aware is a voluntary program. Providers who volunteer to be rated receive access to quality improvement grants and consultants who coach them through the improvements needed to increase quality. Most providers use this assistance to improve the physical learning environment, expand curriculum and purchase classroom materials.

Parent Aware-rated providers also receive free marketing materials and access to the growing number of using www.parentawareratings.org to shop for child care and early learning programs.

For more information and to sign-up, providers can visit www.parentawareratings.org/providers.

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