EFS emphasizes the positive development of the whole child. Consequently, the organization measures its positive outcomes at many levels to ensure that we prepare children to enter school “kindergarten ready” both academically and in their social-emotional development, as well as to help centers themselves sustain these benefits over time. EFS measures:
Going forward, centers participating in an EFS-assisted centers will be encouraged to participate in the Kindergarten Readiness System (KRS). KRS matches students’ preschool data to various reading diagnostic instruments administered in kindergarten to determine the effectiveness of early childhood education programs in preparing students for early literacy. KRS recognizes the positive impact of pre-kindergarten programs with a “PreK Center of Excellence” designation.
Progress of a center within Four Steps to Excellence is measured in two complementary ways: internally by EFS and externally by a national accreditation agency. Internally, EFS periodically assesses against defined milestones regarding safety, teaching technique, positive social interactions, completion of key trainings and other components that lead to center excellence and eventual accreditation. After a thorough initial diagnostic review, achieving Level 1, 2, and 3 competencies across these dimensions is anticipated at roughly one year intervals, based on explicit written examinations by EFS quality staff. These progress measurements are then shared, discussed and diagnosed in partnership with center staff to accelerate positive outcomes wherever possible. At the same time, EFS documents individual teacher progress through its own supporting curriculum, through the fully subsidized Child Development Associate certificate process, and through other available development options such as Brazelton “Touchpoints”.
Unlike many other programs, “graduation” from Four Steps to Excellence requires an independent verification of excellence by a national accreditation agency (to date, NAEYC and NAC). The standards promoted by both organizations are based on extensive research into the best and most appropriate practices of child development and educational effectiveness, whatever the resource levels of the particular organization being evaluated. It is a testament that EFS is regularly able to achieve partnership with providers in impoverished circumstances that leads to such national recognition as superior educational experiences, particularly within the timeframes and costs of our program. With EFS’ sustaining hand after accreditation, these centers typically re-accredit in later evaluation cycles, preserving the benefits to children over time and helping the center itself in its marketing efforts and its role as a stable community anchor.
EFS continually re-evaluates internal practices and the Four Steps to Excellence program itself to capture new benefits. The most recent program changes affecting the 2012/13 operating years, for example, targeted a reduction in the time and cost of successful accreditation, a closer marriage between in-class mentoring and formal training elements of the program, a re-alignment and extension of the teacher training curriculum, the emergence of stronger skill-building for center directors both in education and business leadership, and a more frequent quality review process.
Thus, EFS measures not just the whole child but the whole system, through a multi-level measurement hierarchy, encompassing the organization overall, national accreditation by independent, knowledgeable evaluators, internal milestones that support that ascendance, and, ultimately, persistent, quantifiable benefits to children themselves at the very times that such testing becomes routine and reliable.