Greater Midland Community Center recently received a higher quality rating for its early care and education programs, demonstrating the level of care and education they provide to area children and their parents.
GMCC’s Early Care Program was awarded a four-star rating, moving up from a two-star rating three years ago. The four-star rating puts the tuition-based program in the top 10% of Quality Care in Midland County, said Kristen McDonald, CEO and president of Greater Midland.
The rating is part of Michigan’s Great Start to Quality program, which evaluates infant, toddler and pre-K education programs based on five main categories: staff qualifications and professional development; family and community partnerships; administration and management; environment; and curriculum and instruction.
The goal of the rating, which is a scale of one to five “stars,” is to help parents decide where to send their children for pre-kindergarten education.
The Great Start to Quality program is under the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Great Start. It is implemented by an independent, public non-profit called the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.
McDonald, who is also one of the chief architects of the ECIC and was appointed to the Executive Committee of the ECIC by Gov. Rick Snyder in July 2017, said it is difficult to go from a two-star rating to a three-star rating and even more difficult to get to a four.
Although, she said Greater Midland’s star increase was due to some changes in curriculum in addition to an emphasis on staff development.
“We really worked intentionally on adopting an evidence-based curriculum and focused a lot on the professional development of our staff and working in partnership with parents and families to think about how we can support kids at every single stage of development,” she said.
Every classroom at the center has a daily lesson plan and every child has an education plan tailored specifically to them. To track growth, the programs use key development indicators, McDonald said.
“Ninety-six percent of our kids meet their developmental milestones every single year,” she said. “And we’re enormously proud of that, particularly since more than 65% of the kids we serve qualify as low-income.”
However, she admitted that Greater Midland couldn’t do it alone. While the community center’s personal fitness program helps bring in most of the funding for the early care program, there has been outside support as well.
“Part of the reason we have been able to make these leaps forward in quality is because we have a very generous philanthropic community here,” she said. “So, everybody from Kiwanis to the Strosacker Foundation have really supported our work to improve our curriculum and the increase professional development of our staff, and even help to purchase materials for our classrooms. Had we not had that level of support, I don’t think we would have been able to do this.”
McDonald said the only reason the early care program did not receive a 5-star rating is due to the environment category. She said the building infrastructure, as it is now, would not allow for a five-star rating due to things like no direct access to the playground and the fact that there isn’t a toilet in every classroom.
“There are things structurally that this building doesn’t accommodate that would have allowed us to get to a 5-star rating,” she said. “But everything else, in terms of our curriculum, what happens in the classroom; the interaction with our staff; qualifications with our staff are five-star.”
However, the community center’s program does offer some perks in that the kids are able to access all the other facilities, such as the pool, McDonald said.
"The light in a 3-year old’s eyes when you tell them it’s their day to visit the pool is like nothing you’ve ever seen,” she said.
In addition the to the community center, Greater Midland has three other early care locations, each with their own star rating. Together, they are Midland County's largest early care provider.
The Greater Midland Community Center is located at 2205 Jefferson Ave. To learn more, visit http://www.greatermidland.org/childcare/