Toddlers at the Oxford Early Learning Center (OELC) colored and enjoyed snacks last Friday.
As they played and giggled, they were most likely not aware that OELC programs throughout Oxford recently received high ratings from Great Start to Quality.
Great Start to Quality, implemented by the Michigan Department of Education, rates the quality levels of all licensed and registered child care and preschool programs throughout the state.
OELC programs at Lakeville, Leonard, Daniel Axford and Clear Lake elementaries all earned five-star ratings.
Results have not yet been delivered for Oxford Elementary/OELC, according to Education Coordinator Pat Mueller.
According to its website, Great Start to Quality looks at five aspects of a facility – staff qualifications and professional development; family and community partnerships; administration and management; environment; and curriculum and instruction.
“I think it’s an honor to have (our program) receive a five-star rating and to wear that badge of honor,” said Director of Early Childhood Programs Washea Jackson. “It really indicates a high-quality program. There’s a lot of work that goes into OELC and when families look for high-quality programs in the future, I’m sure they will be encouraged to take a look at our program through the state website . . . We also have a school district that supports us which makes a huge difference. That would not be possible if we did not have a superintendent or a board on our side.”
OELC offers an Extended Day Care program at each of the district’s five elementary schools along with the Great Start Readiness Program, a state-funded pre-kindergarten program that aims to provide young students with a high-quality preschool experience and prepare them for kindergarten.
Mueller and Jackson said the path to earning the top rating entailed making a few changes to the Oxford Community Schools program.
While the OELC program received second-best ratings of “4” at many of its locations in 2016, Mueller said the later addition of a parent advisor committee has allowed for better input and feedback from parents and the community.
Jackson added there has been better communication among staff and parents in recent years and the staff has worked more as a team since the center became more compliant with Great Start to Quality standards.
Mueller added that she is confident that OELC’s five-star ratings will reassure current and future parents that their children’s first school experience will be a positive one where students are well taken care of.
“We want children to have the best experience possible. We want our young children to be ready for school,” Mueller said. “For Extended day, we want to make sure that we’re supporting the district and its students, as well . . . It’s really critical. We want the highest quality possible for our students because we know that’s going to make them good students (later on) and allow them to have great futures. That’s what we all want as a community, I believe,” Mueller said.
According to Mueller, around 600 families are currently enrolled in the OELC program across the district.
To learn more about Great Start to Quality, visit greatstarttoquality.org. To learn more about OELC, visit oelc.oxfordschools.org.