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Randolph College Nursery School becomes fourth program in the state—and the only from the region—to earn a top rating from the Virginia Star Quality Initiative

Randolph Preschool staff works with kidsThe Randolph College Nursery School (RCNS) has become just the fourth program in the state—and the first from the Piedmont region—to earn a top rating from the Virginia Star Quality Initiative (VSQI).

The preschool was notified of the rating last week. As part of the 5-star rating, RCNS earned a perfect score in three out of four areas, including teacher/child interactions.

“It’s a goal we’ve had for years,” said Holly Layne, director of the program. “We work hard because we want to provide the best program that we possibly can for the families. It means our hard work has paid off.”

The VSQI is a voluntary program to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early childcare and education settings. It was created to empower families to make informed choices about the care of young children. In addition, VSQI provides opportunities and incentives for early learning providers to help continually improve the quality of services. Programs are assessed every two years on a five-star scale of increasing quality using four performance stands.

The program is administered statewide through a public-private partnership between the Virginia Department of Social Services’ Office of Early Childhood Development and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF). The Smart Beginnings organization, which is operated under the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, helps administer the rating system through eight regions across Virginia.

“Virginia’s QRIS establishes a common, statewide definition for quality in early learning settings. Not only is it an effective consumer tool for parents making important decisions for their families, but this system is a framework to guide programs in the process of improving the quality of early care and education they provide,” said Kathy Glazer, president of the VECF.

Randolph’s preschool was one of the first programs rated by the VSQI in 2008, earning four stars, the highest rating given at the time. “We’re just thrilled that they’ve stuck with it and continue to strive for an even higher level of quality,” said Kris Meyers, VECF’s director of quality improvement.

Meyers said it is extremely difficult to earn a perfect score in the interactions area of the assessment and applauded Randolph for the achievement.
“This is a huge accomplishment and a testament to the dedication of the RCNS staff,” added Kimberly Secor Maddox ’87, VSQI coordinator for Smart Beginnings. “It’s phenomenal. And to achieve a perfect score in the interactions piece is unheard of.”

20141208_nursery_school_0079Seeing Randolph earn 5 stars has special meaning to Maddox, who worked at the RCNS as student at Randolph. After college, she entered the early childhood education field, working with Layne through the Smart Beginnings organization. Today, her daughter has followed in her footsteps and works for the preschool while attending the College. “I’ve seen this come full circle, and I’m so proud and honored to be a small part of Randolph’s success,” she said. “This is huge.”

About 300 programs across the state are participating in the VSQI. While a growing number have seen their scores improve form one to four stars, very few have earned the highest rating—five stars. “We’re getting there. We’re making a difference,” Maddox said. “Programs want this. They want to be able to improve. Randolph is the first one in our area to get to that 5-star level.”

Programs that volunteer to participate are assessed by trained and experienced Star Quality Raters. They are evaluated in several areas, including student/teacher interaction, program structure, environment and instruction, and educational background and development of staff. After a program has been rated, they work with Star Quality Mentors to draft and implement a plan to help them improve their quality.

“People sometimes think of preschool as babysitting, and it’s not,” Layne said. “Ages zero to five are the most critical for brain development. We need people in childcare programs who understand how the brain develops so that we can make sure our programs are preparing children to be successful.

“Being on a college campus, I want us to be the model program where people can come and learn,” she added. “Now that we have the five stars, it validates that yes, this is a good program to come and learn from. And it assures parents that our program is high quality and effective.”

Layne and the RCNS staff are celebrating the big news this week; however, they know the key to remaining high quality is to never stop learning.

“The rewards of being a preschool teacher or director don’t come from pats on the back or your paycheck. They come from seeing the children grow and learn,” Layne said. “Our teachers have worked really hard on this, and we’ve met our goal. But we will never stop learning and striving to improve.”

To learn more about Randolph’s preschool program—including its new class for 5-year olds who need an extra year before kindergarten—see: www.randolphcollege/edu/nurseryschool or call 434-947-8787.

Media inquiries, please contact Brenda Edson at bedson@randolphcollege.edu.



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