Local child care program awarded highest ratings

April 4, 2012

Indiana State University's Early Childhood Education Center has achieved a Level 4 rating in Paths to Quality for the second year in a row and has renewed its membership in the Indiana Department of Environmental Management Five Star Program.

Paths to Quality is Indiana's quality rating and improvement system for child care programs. It is a consistent set of standards to help parents identify licensed child care that meets state requirements for health and safety.Gail Gottschling, director of the center and professor of elementary, early and special education, explained that the center wants to be leaders in showing the importance of quality in childhood education and support the state in its efforts to achieve the same goal.

The Early Childhood Education Center is licensed by the state of Indiana and accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Without accreditation the level 4 Paths to Quality rating cannot be attained, Gottschling said.

The center chose to participate in Paths to Quality, as it is a voluntary statewide system created to improve the quality of child care and early education for children, Gottschling said. It gives all families a tool to find the best quality program for their needs, and supports and recognizes providers on a four-level rating system, she said.

"We strive to have strong relationships with families," Gottschling said. "We are supporting families in a way that they know their children are well taken care of and they are getting the best foundation possible."

This Paths to Quality rating means the center has gone above and beyond the basic licensing regulations and that the staff are receiving more training than the typical early childhood staff would be, Gottschling said.

Gottschling and her staff are also meeting all of the standards that have to do with quality curriculum, environments for young children and staff interactions with children.

The Early Childhood Education Center has also renewed its commitment to the Five Star Environmental Recognition Program with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Membership in this program is reevaluated every two years.

According to the department, the Five Star program ensures child care providers have taken steps necessary to reduce and eliminate hazards that can cause permanent, long-term developmental problems in young children.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management identifies these hazards as children's exposure to mercury, lead, mold and asbestos, among others.

Aside from accreditation and state recognition, the Early Childhood Education Center's relationship to the university makes it unique, Gottschling said.

Indiana State students also gain experience at the center. This semester students in an early childhood curriculum class visit the center for two hours a week to observe teachers and try out learning activities, Gottschling said.

Other students from special education, psychology, and nursing also visit the center for various class activities.

"The children love having the ISU students come, they love working with people of that age group and the students bring a certain energy to the program," Gottschling said. "They have a different focus and fresh ideas and the children really look forward to that."

Contact: Gail Gottschling, director of the Early Childhood Education Center, at 812-237-2547 or gail.gottschling@indstate.edu

Writer: Alexa Larkin, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University.