It’s hard to overstate the value of high-quality early childhood education. According to leading researchers, high-quality preschool programs benefit the children in the classroom — and they also have the potential to provide upward mobility for that child’s future children and grandchildren. Beyond preparing for kindergarten, quality programs like Michigan’s Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), prepare children for a lifetime of successful learning experiences in school and in life, says Carissa Orr, Early Childhood Consultant with Wayne RESA.
“Teachers in GSRP have degrees in early childhood and experiences that align with developmentally appropriate practices for 4-year-olds as they prepare to transition into kindergarten,” Orr says. “GSRP teachers provide environments rich with opportunities to prime children’s brains for learning. Ready to learn is what we focus on.”
GSRP is Michigan’s free preschool for 4-year-olds and it’s available to families that meet income eligibility guidelines. Families who quality for Head Start may also be eligible for GSRP. If families have income in excess of the Head Start guidelines, they may qualify for GSRP.
“A typical example of eligibility is a family of four can make up to $66,250 per year and qualify for GSRP,” Orr says.
In Wayne County, there are more than 450 GSRP classrooms housed in child care centers, local elementary schools, charter schools, churches and even YMCA programs.
Why your child will benefit from GSRP
A little-known fact about GSRP is that it’s built on a research-based curriculum that is designed to provide the very best early childhood education. Many parents are surprised to learn that the quality of the GSRP program contributes to a child’s positive learning outcomes.
“There’s often assumptions around enrolling your child in GSRP because it’s tuition-free and you have to meet eligibility requirements,” says Orr. In reality, the program standards are higher by design.
For example, GSRP classrooms provide 1 adult for every 8 children, while state licensing requires 1 adult for every 12, she adds. Additional examples of high program standards in GSRP classrooms include nutritious meals, transportation, family involvement, parent teacher conferences, home visits, social work supports, school nurses and the ability to meet individual needs of enrolled children. The state funding makes these high-quality standards possible.
“Often people think you get what you pay for and free tends to imply low-quality,” Orr says. GSRP is free to families thanks to funding from the Michigan Department of Education and the state legislature. “It’s one thing to make sure children are safe and fed. GSRP teachers recognize that in order to make the most of these early years, they have to understand whole child development.”
Right now, parents are shopping for preschool and information will help them make an informed decision, Orr says. “With a simple phone call to 833-FOURYEAROLD or a click to the GSRP website, families can find locations that offer free GSRP preschool,” she says.
“What research shows is that we need a certain recipe for high-quality early childhood education and that is a research-based program,” Orr explains. Since 1989, the Michigan Department of Education has done extensive evaluation on GSRP. It is ranked one of the top six early learning models in the nation.
Raising quality for all children
Parents can approach their local preschool and ask if they offer GSRP, says Orr. “If you are paying for child care and think you might be eligible for GSRP, reach out using the resources above and below. If your current child care provider is not offering GSRP, encourage them to apply,” she says.
When preschools establish GSRP classrooms, the school raises the educational quality for all children who attend through access to curriculum, materials and funding to help teachers grow their professional learning.
“Right now, across our state there is a shortage of early childhood credentialed teachers. GSRP funding can be used to help support staff in receiving their associate degree in child development or finish their bachelor’s degree. Or they can take part in a program like T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Michigan where they can earn a credential and get on-the-job training,” she says.
Find out more
Orr encourages all families to find out if they are eligible for GSRP and learn more about the benefits of high-quality early childhood education for their children. Families can use Google to search for “Wayne County GSRP,” call 833-FourYearOld (833-368-7932) or visit the United Way Connect 4Care Kids site to check eligibility and discover more resources.
Content brought to you by Wayne RESA. Learn more at resa.net.