The moment Tiffany Cross drops off her one-year-old daughter, Leah, at Tiny Tots Learning Center on Milwaukee’s north side, she feels confident her child is in a great place.
“It’s a comfort feeling knowing she’s in a safe environment and also learning at the same time,” Tiffany said.
Joseph Clayton and his staff credit that success from taking part in Milwaukee Succeeds pilot project to improve Kindergarten Readiness.
“The goal of the project is to help daycare centers in Milwaukee’s low income neighborhoods improve their YoungStar ratings so that they can provide the best child care possible to children in the city,” said Tim Coughlin, who manages the Kindergarten Readiness Partnership between United Way and Milwaukee Succeeds.
YoungStar is a rating system for childcare programs that ranges from one to five stars, with five being the highest quality. After participating in United Way/Milwaukee Succeeds pilot project, Tiny Tots Learning Center was able to raise their two-star rating to three.
“We all row in the same direction for the betterment of our kids, regardless of where they go to school, or where they live we want to make sure they’ll be successful,” said Danae Davis, Executive Director of Milwaukee Succeeds. “Thanks to our partnership with United Way, Milwaukee Succeeds is uniting our community around a common purpose of ensuring every child in every school is successful, cradle-to-career.”
During the pilot project Joseph and his staff took a series of classes on how to become better teachers. “They made a way for us to go back to school to learn how important it is from birth to six-weeks and from six-weeks to twelve years old for kids to develop,” he said.
While enrolled in the project, the staff at Tiny Tots received paid time off, and United Way/Milwaukee Succeeds provided Joseph with a substitute teacher so the center wouldn’t be short staffed. Joseph says after a few classes, he could already see the important impact it was having on the children in the center.
“Miss Robinson came back from class and started changing her curriculum around and said ‘I’m going to change this, I’m going to try this,’” said Joseph. “She was implementing everything she had been learning so I just stepped back.” Joseph and his team are grateful to United Way and Milwaukee Succeeds for giving them the opportunity to learn, to grow as a team, and become better child care providers to the kids who attend Tiny Tots Learning Center.
“We know that if we do right by our babies early their chances of being successful in life are exponentially better,” Davis said.
Over the last two years, United Way in partnership with Milwaukee Succeeds has helped nearly half of the 12 childcare centers enrolled in the pilot program improve their YoungStar rating by assisting staff in obtaining post-secondary education. Over the next five years, they will continue working to create opportunities for childcare centers across Milwaukee to improve the quality of their services, enabling hundreds of children to participate in high quality early childhood education as they prepare to enter Kindergarten and the next phase of their academic achievement.
As for Tiffany, she feels lucky to have Leah in a center that will help her daughter grow long after she leaves Tiny Tots. “My daughter’s speech has become clearer, she’s putting words into sentences, and she’s friendlier; waving and saying hi to strangers,” said Tiffany. “She really makes me proud.”
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