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MDE expanding early learning program

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The Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) has voted to add five new early learning collaboratives (ELC) to the current list of 14.

According to the Department of Education, The ELC program’s goal is to provide high-quality early childhood education programs to 4-year-old students. The new programs will be added in the following school districts:

    • Cleveland School District
    • George County School District
    • Hattiesburg Public School District
    • Oxford School District
    • Marion County School District

The approved ELC programs will serve an additional 1,076 students, bringing the total students served to 3,200. The five new programs will add 21 new preschool classrooms and will increase the quality of 43 existing classrooms.

“By giving preschool students a strong start, they will be better prepared for kindergarten. I congratulate these communities on partnering to take the first step in supporting their students’ academic success throughout their education,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.

The ELC expansion is made possible by a $2.5 million increase in state funds for the program, which brings the current total appropriation to $6.5 million.

The Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013 established the ELC program, which provides funding to local communities to establish, expand, support and facilitate the successful implementation of quality early childhood education and development services.

The MDE issued the request for proposals on July 26 and accepted applications through Sept. 21.  The MDE reviewed all nine applications received. Five applicants gained the required points to qualify for the interview round, and the MDE submitted all five applicants for the SBE’s final approval.

ELCs must include a lead partner, which can be a public school or other nonprofit group with the expertise and capacity to manage an ELC’s pre-K program. Funds are competitively awarded based on evidence of existing strong local collaboration, capacity, commitment, need, ability to demonstrate enhanced outcomes for participating children, and availability of funds.

All 14 ELCs achieved the end-of-the-year average scores that indicate students are prepared for kindergarten. The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recognized Mississippi’s ELCs in its 2015, 2016 and 2017 State of Preschool report, making Mississippi one of only seven states in the nation that meet the majority of quality standards for early childhood education.

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