The North Carolina Division of Child Development recently awarded The Jewish Preschool on Sardis a rating of five stars – the highest score a preschool or child care center can receive. The rating is based on three different areas: program standards, staff education and compliance with state child care regulations.
“We are very proud of this achievement,” said JPS Director Fern Sanderson. “This has been a process to which everyone on our staff contributed. The five-star rating recognizes us for the hard work we do and the quality of education that we provide. But what’s most important is knowing that the beneficiaries of our efforts are the children at our school and their parents, who can be confident in the decision they’ve made for their children’s preschool education.”
In 2000, the Division of Child Development issued star-rated licenses to all eligible preschools and child care centers to provide information to parents about the quality of a preschool or child care facility. JPS’ participation in the star-rated assessments was completely voluntary.
The school’s five-star rating is not its only recent achievement. Last year, JPS was one of 10 programs in Mecklenburg County selected to receive a grant. The grant provided JPS with outside professionals who assisted the staff with continuing education and support.
Tara Fowler, an early childhood program quality specialist associated with the grant, worked with the JPS staff in preparing for its star-rated license. “I witnessed their perseverance and dedication to promote a positive early childhood experience,” she said. “Their exemplary marks are reflective of the quality of care provided in the center environment. In combination, their measurable marks and their vision have set the foundation to enriching the lives of the children and the families they serve as well as the community. This five-star rated facility will continue to serve an infinite number of children and families.”
To determine the star rating for a facility, the Division of Child Development evaluates the center’s program standards, staff education and compliance with state child care regulations. The star rating is based on the total points earned in each of the three areas.
When reviewing program standards, the state evaluates the daily environment of a preschool’s program, including the space for activities; variety of play materials; cleanliness and comfortableness of play areas; the number of staff per child; interactions between adults and children, the children’s participation and the children’s activities and materials. Programs applying for the highest level in program standards such as JPS also are scored on appropriate health practices, the staff’s responsiveness to the children’s needs, classroom safety and activities that challenge children according to their levels of development.
A center’s staff education is based on the education and experience levels of the administrator; the number of lead teachers with early childhood education degrees; the number of lead teachers with additional early childhood education; and the amount of teacher experience. According to the Division of Child Development, research has shown that children whose teachers had higher qualifications did better both academically and behaviorally in elementary school. Teachers with more early childhood education and experience interact better with children and create more enriching classroom experiences. At JPS, every teacher has an undergraduate degree and 25 percent have a master’s. Collectively, the staff has nearly 350 years of teaching experience.
Compliance history includes licensing requirements such as supervision of children; the condition of equipment and materials; discipline practices; child/staff ratios; health department inspections and staff development. JPS’ teacher-to-child ratio is lower than state requirements and equal to the highest level of preschool accreditation nationwide.
“The Jewish Preschool on Sardis began 19 years ago with 16 children, and today we have nearly 140,” Sanderson said. “To have our staff and curriculum grow along with the school – and to be honored by the state while doing it – is extremely rewarding.”
The Jewish Preschool on Sardis is a project of Lubavitch of North Carolina and is located at 6619 Sardis Road, Charlotte, NC 28270.