Sunday September 16, 2012

NORTH ADAMS -- The Berkshire Readiness Center has received a four-year, $400,000 grant to support the educators of the county’s littlest learners.

The Berkshire Readiness Center was established in 2009 and is supported in partnership with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Berkshire Com munity College and other supporters.

It is one of six centers in the state designed to provide professional development and instructional services, convene stakeholders and outline educational priorities for its respective region in alignment with state goals, for early learning though post-secondary to adult learning environments.

"This grant has a different target audience. Most of the general Readiness grants are targeted for K-12 educators. This is an early learning grant looking to work with preschool and out-of-school-time care providers, a new thrust from the state and the [state] Department of Early Education and Care," said Doug McNally, coordinator of the Berkshire Readiness Center.

In 2008, the EEC formally began developing what is now known as the QRIS -- Quality Rating and Improvement System -- designed to assess, improve and communicate the level of quality in early childhood care and education and after-school settings.

The system pushes the idea of a career ladder, including a goal to provide financial incentives for professional development and obtaining degrees in early childhood education and care.

"Our work is getting more early childhood and out-of-school-time professionals into BCC for associate degrees and into MCLA for bachelor degrees," McNally said. "The ultimate goal is to have teachers with a bachelor’s degree in every early education setting."

As further incentive, Mc Nally said both MCLA and BCC are working to create accommodating course work and schedules in the early childhood field of study, including online course work and Saturday classes, in addition to offering free professional development training and workshops.

Dr. Cynthia Brown, vice president of academic affairs at MCLA, said the new Regional Readiness Center Activities grant from the EEC will benefit a wide range of educators, as well as the children and families they serve in settings like public schools, day-care facilities, and organizations such as Head Start.

"We look forward to working with our Readiness Center partners and the early education and care community to meet the grant’s outcomes and accelerate opportunities for the professional advancement of early educators," Brown said.

To offer the programs and activities required by the grant the Readiness Center has been partnering with other organizations, including the Pre school Enrichment Team of West Springfield.

"For the Pittsfield area in particular, this grant is very much in keeping with the Pittsfield Promise goal of increasing childhood literacy to proficient by the third grade," McNally said.

For more information on the Berkshire Readiness Center go to www.mcla.edu/readiness.

To reach Jenn Smith:
jsmith@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6239
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink