Higher education, business and philanthropic leaders increase access to nationally accredited childcare to low-income families by 1800% in ten years through Ready, Set, Grow!

In 2003, the Mayor of Shelby County, the University of Memphis and Memphis Tomorrow, comprised of CEO’s of the area’s largest businesses, came together to address the critical need for high quality early care and education in Shelby County. With grants from private and corporate foundations, as well as Memphis Tomorrow, Ready, Set, Grow! (RSG!) was launched in 2004 at the University of Memphis to help childcare and early learning programs earn accreditation from the “gold standard of quality”, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The program focused on childcare centers serving low-income families, including over 30 Head Start programs.

After reviewing best practices around the county, Consilience Group (CG) collaborated with early childhood experts from the University of Memphis and funders to develop a Ready, Set, Grow! business plan, including organization, services and curriculum design. CG supported the launch and data-driven quality improvement for over ten years.

Impact

Ready, Set, Grow!, now in its twelfth year of operation, has delivered significant impact:

  1. Increased NAEYC-accredited childcare programs in Shelby County from 22 to 35 during a time when most cities experienced an overall loss in NAEYC-accredited programs.
  2. Delivered an 1800% increase in NAEYC-accredited childcare centers serving low-income children, from 1 to 18 centers, serving approximately 3,500 children annually.
  3. Assisted 17 accredited centers in earning reaccreditation after standards were raised.
  4. Established NAEYC accreditation as the target standard of care for quality early care and education in Shelby County.
  5. Expanded the cadre of highly educated local childcare leaders, with 45 directors earning early childhood post-secondary credentials or degrees, including masters doctorates degrees
  6. Evolved a highly efficient program model that fully leverages existing resources to help early learning programs gain and maintain national accreditation.

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