About Us

Our Mission

Smart Start of Transylvania County promotes positive early learning experiences and coordinated community services for families, so by age five every child is healthy and prepared to succeed.

Our Vision

In Transylvania County, our vision is a community aware of the need for, and dedicated to, providing a safe, healthy, nurturing environment so all young children and their families have the opportunity to develop to their full potential.

Smart Start Works

For the first 10 years of Smart Start’s existence, the North Carolina General Assembly funded an independent evaluation of this early childhood initiative, which included more than 15 studies that examined Smart Start’s effectiveness.

The data confirmed Smart Start was accomplishing two of its primary goals—improving the quality of early education in our state and, in doing so, helping children become better prepared to enter school. read more of this enlightening article . . .

 

How do we know Smart Start works?

For the first 10 years of Smart Start’s existence, the North Carolina General Assembly funded an independent evaluation of this early childhood initiative, which included more than 15 studies that examined Smart Start’s effectiveness.

The data confirmed Smart Start was accomplishing two of its primary goals—improving the quality of early education in our state and, in doing so, helping children become better prepared to enter school.

With this data proving that children who were enrolled in higher quality early education programs entered school with skills and abilities deemed appropriate for school success, Smart Start continued to focus on improving the quality of early education in our state. Smart Start then instituted a performance-monitoring system to ensure that Smart Start continued to impact indicators associated with school readiness, such as quality early education experiences.

The performance review is conducted every year and focuses on benchmarks in the areas of early education, health and family support. The results are shared every year in Smart Start’s annual report to legislators.

Smart Start’s 2007 report reflects continued progress toward improving child and family well-being. Statewide, 57% of all children in child care are enrolled in 4 or 5-star programs. This is a 33% increase from 2001. In addition, 88% of children with special or developmental needs enrolled in child care programs are in 4 or 5-star programs. The percentage of children who are receiving subsidy and are enrolled in 4 or 5-star programs increased from 49% in 2002 to 65% in 2007.

How does Smart Start evaluate itself each year?

The North Carolina Partnership for Children (NCPC) leads Smart Start, including setting standards to ensure that Smart Start effectively meets the needs of our youngest children. Smart Start partnerships are the community-level leaders in establishing a comprehensive early education system where every child has the services he or she needs to succeed. While Smart Start partnerships are not solely responsible for providing those services, they are charged with identifying where gaps in services exist and how best to address the need.

Each year, NCPC collects data from independent sources that offer a picture of children’s well-being in the areas of health, family support and early care and education in each county. Partnerships are held accountable for meeting the minimum standards that are needed to make up an effective early education system. The results of this study are shared annually, each winter, in the NCPC report to legislators.

Has Smart Start conducted any comparison studies on children who receive services?

In 2003, the Frank Porter Graham (FPG) Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conducted a study titled “Smart Start and Preschool Child Care Quality in NC: Change Over Time and Relation to School Readiness.” It was a two-year study that included 512 preschool children at 110 child care programs in 20 North Carolina counties. The study proved, conclusively, that Smart Start was reaching its goal of ensuring children were ready when they entered school. (http://www.fpg.unc.edu/smartstart/reports.html).

The report shows that North Carolina preschoolers participating in high quality child care programs are ahead of their peers who attend low quality programs. The three main findings showed that child care quality had increased in the study sample during the Smart Start years; Smart Start-funded activities were positively related to classroom quality; and quality was positively related to children’s outcomes.

The researchers expected that children’s abilities would be related to poverty, as many studies have shown, but this study showed that the quality of the children’s child care experience made a difference over and above the effects of income, gender and ethnicity.

How do we know if high quality early childhood education is a worthwhile investment?

Many national, longitudinal studies have proven the benefits of high quality child care. One 40-year study shows the irrefutable benefits of high quality care. The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study released in 2004 showed that low-income three and four-year olds that participated in high quality child care programs were more likely to graduate from high school and have and maintain jobs as well as commit fewer crimes.  This documented a return on the investment of public funds of $17 for every $1 spent. 

The study results showed lasting effects.  According to the study, those that participated in high quality care were far more likely to:

  • Graduate from High School (65% vs. 45%), particularly females (84% vs. 32%);
  • Outperform various intellectual and language tests during their early childhood years, on school achievement tests between ages 9 and 14, and on literacy tests at ages 19 and 27;
  • Be employed at age 40 (76% vs. 62%);
  • Have a median annual earnings more than $5,000 higher than the non-program group ($20,800 vs. $15,300);
  • Own a home;
  • Have a savings account (76% vs. 50%);
  • Commit fewer crimes (36% vs. 55% arrested five times or more); and
  • Not be arrested for violent crimes (32% vs. 48%), property crimes (36% vs. 58%), or drug crimes (14% vs. 34%).

Nobel Prize winner James Heckman further supports the benefits of investing resources in early childhood education.  In the report, “The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children” (October 2004), he concludes that “the best way to improve the American workforce of the 21st century is to invest in early education to ensure that even the most disadvantaged children have opportunity to succeed alongside their more advantaged peers.”  (http://ced.org/docs/summary/summary_heckman.pdf.)

“The general question of whether early childhood programs can make a difference has been asked and answered in the affirmative innumerable times”— Institute of Medicine, 2000.

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