Preparing For Excellence

By Christina Cox
Wednesday - August 30, 2006
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The McInerny Foundation awarded KCAA a $100,000 grant for quality initiatives, including curriculum training, on July 31. Accepting the grant check are (from left): Mizuho Yamaguchi, Paula Boyce, Christina Cox, Marilyn Kamiya and Julita Partido
The McInerny Foundation awarded KCAA a $100,000
grant for quality initiatives, including curriculum
training, on July 31. Accepting the grant check are
(from left): Mizuho Yamaguchi, Paula Boyce, Christina
Cox, Marilyn Kamiya and Julita Partido

When it was formed more than 100 years ago, KCAA Preschools led the effort to establish early childhood education in Hawaii and established Hawaii’s first teacher training program. That spirit of leadership and innovation continues today, as KCAA Preschools of Hawaii is forging new teacher training and curriculum development programs which may serve as models for other early learning programs in our state.

KCAA is the fourth-largest preschool provider in the state, with seven nationally accredited Oahu preschools: Muriel, Atherton, Laura Morgan, Kuapa, Na Lei, Mother Rice and WaiKahala. Nearly 40 percent of enrolled children receive tuition assistance form a variety of public and private sources.

School readiness through quality education and care for Hawaii’s children is a top priority at KCAA Preschools. Research has consistently shown that children, and in particular at-risk children, who attend high quality early education programs using curriculum with clearly identified goals and objectives are better prepared to acquire more complex skills, and ultimately to succeed in school.

That’s why the board and staff of KCAA Preschools have embarked on a comprehensive campaign of “Excellence in Education.” In addition to facilities improvements to continue to maintain the quality standards of national accreditation, recent grants have enabled KCAA to pioneer early education development through the KCAA Curriculum Initiative and the KCAA Teacher Training Institute.

Two years ago KCAA implemented a nationally recognized, research-based, age-appropriate curriculum for all seven preschools. The Creative Curriculum is a comprehensive program that helps teachers plan a program with explicit guidance about what to teach, how to teach and why. It includes an online component that helps teachers identify groups of students within their class with common needs and develop targeted lesson planning ideas. Reports generated by the program also allow KCAA to track children’s progress over time.

Through the generous support of the McInerny Foundation, KCAA Preschools is now positioned to take teaching excellence to the next step. The McInerny Foundation grant will enable KCAA to provide ongoing training to all levels of preschool staff - administrators, teachers and aides - to strengthen their skills in implementing and assessing the curriculum standards. Importantly, the grant will also ensure that program standards continue to be aligned with national accreditation requirements for program quality.

In conjunction with these curriculum initiatives, KCAA is in the forefront of preparing Hawaii’s early education teachers with critical professional development support. Through a grant from the Samuel N. and Mary Castle Foundation, KCAA this year instituted the Virtual Training Institute. This innovative program addresses Hawaii’s critical need for qualified early education teachers, providing online college credit courses that assist existing staff in furthering their education, while providing entry-level staff with courses that enable them to become teacher-qualified, all while continuing to work full time.

In its first phase, a “virtual” institute, established in partnership with Chaminade University, is supporting the efforts of employees to pursue college degrees through online programs. The project will soon include the new online four-year degree program offered by UH-West Oahu. Participating staff members improve their levels of education and skills in early education, while the children that we serve benefit from our faculty’s increasing knowledge base and skill level. Ultimately, this institute may have a facility which houses services that support staff from a variety of early learning programs in Hawaii.

Preparing children for success has been KCAA’s mission since its inception in 1895. Due to the wisdom and foresight of its founders and the support of Hawaii’s community, KCAA Preschools of Hawaii, an Aloha United Way partner agency, today continues its commitment to leadership in providing quality early childhood education for Hawaii’s children.

Next Week: Lance Kawano, Vice President of Atlas Insurance Co.

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