One program in Charlotte Schools is focusing on the littlest learners. Recognizing that good learners begin early, education officials have developed an award winning preschool program called Bright Beginnings.
The Bright Beginnings program involves full day, literacy based programs for four year olds in the Charlotte – Mecklenburg area. More than 3000 students benefit from the program at five education centers and fourteen elementary schools. Over time the program has spread beyond the public school system and has been integrated into preschool classrooms throughout the community by partnering with the Smart Start, Child Care Resources, Child Care Centers, and More at Four programs, which all target the education needs of preschool students.
Developing Pre – K Experiences
Teachers and program developers recognize the need for enriching experiences at the preschool level. Students at this age have very limited opportunities to explore the world around them, and the Bright Beginnings Program hopes to change that. By exposing children to new and different things, program developers believe that they can strengthen student vocabulary, a skill that they hope will carry over when the students learn to read. While many of these new experiences take place in the classroom, Bright Beginnings also encourages students with field trips to local learning centers, such as Discovery Place and ImaginOn.
Aligning Pre – K with Elementary Education Curriculum and Instruction
Bright Beginnings has recently been incorporated under the North Carolina State Elementary Education Curriculum and Instruction area. Teachers hope to build connections between what they do in the Bright Beginnings program and what students will need to do when they enter kindergarten. The new partnership seeks to produce students entering kindergarten who are better prepared to learn and kindergarten teachers with a clearer idea of what their students have been exposed to and how they can build on that knowledge as they move through kindergarten. The program has the potential to raise student achievement at every grade level, as better prepared students advance year to year. Bright Beginnings recognizes that as Elementary Education Standards increase, preschool student curriculum must as well. As the director of the program explains, “(Children) are expected to learn more. The standards have increased, not just in college and high school but in kindergarten too.”
Professional Development for Teachers
As part of Bright Beginnings commitment to preschool education, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools has used federal and state grant money to ensure that the teachers working in the program are highly trained and qualified. All teachers must be certified in early child development, meaning that they have studied children from birth to kindergarten.
National Recognition for Bright Beginnings
Several years ago, Bright Beginnings sold its award winning curriculum to Pearson Publishing. Through this partnership, the curriculum has been distributed nationwide and continues to grow in neighborhoods far from the Charlotte – Mecklenburg area. The director of the program credits Bright Beginning’s success to the continued dedication of teachers and developers to work towards better learning practices. She comments, “We’ve started some new things and we’re going to continue to build them. We have gotten great marks for our curriculum for years. (Charlotte – Mecklenburg Schools) is a leader in the nation.”