Family Learning Center receives five-star award quality from state

Family Learning Center recently was awarded a Five-Star Step Up To Quality award from the state, a first for the facility.

“It is the first time we were rated and we received five stars on our first attempt,” Heather Justen, assistant superintendent for early childhood, said. “So we are excited about it.”

FLC is a preschool program of the North Central Ohio Educational Service Center. The facility offers preschool for children ages 3-5 with and without disabilities.

“We base our instruction on the children’s developmental levels and then continue to build and grow all areas of development while aligning our lessons with Ohio’s early learning and development standards,” Justen said.

FLC also offers specialized services for children with autism, developmental delays, vision and hearing impairments, traumatic brain injuries, multiple disabilities, other health impairments and other conditions.

“While our teacher and paraprofessionals provide these services, we also have therapists — speech, occupational, physical, etc. — embedded in the classroom to ensure carryover in everyday activities,” she said.

Through the Step Up to Quality program — Ohio’s rating system for learning and development programs — participating programs can earn a one- to five-star rating.

In addition to meeting all the standards of a four-star rating, programs with five stars may also have lower staff/child rations, use child assessment results to plan activities best supporting learning and development goals, share assessment results and create goals for children, develop plans to support children as they transition to a new classroom or educational setting, work with other organizations or businesses within the community, have an active and organized parent volunteer group, use input from families and community partners to inform the program’s continuous improvement process and have accreditation by an approved organization.

“We are excited and proud to see our hard work be recognized by the Ohio Department of Education,” Justen said.

She said to earn the five-star rating, a rigorous review of all required documents took place, including review of parent surveys, staff observations, student files, student assessments, policy and procedures and professional development. There also were classroom observations, teacher interviews and administrator interviews. All took place over a two-day period, she said.

Justen said FLC is to continue working to grow its specialized preschool classrooms for children with autism. The learning center has two rooms dedicated to children with autism and, she said, FLC has seen great success over the last two years the program has been in place.

“We believe this award confirms and validates our commitment and dedication to serve preschool children with and without disabilities,” Justen said. “We have always held ourselves to a high standard of education and appreciate being recognized by the state of Ohio.”

As part of the five-star rating, facility administrators and teachers have higher educational qualifications, administrators and teachers complete more than 20-hours of specialized training every two years, program staff completes assessments to evaluate and improve the learning experience, families and the community are valued, and the program offers at least three of the following to staff: health insurance, paid leave, tuition reimbursement, a discount on child care, paid professional development, retirement, flexible spending account, one hour of paid planning time weekly, paid holidays or life insurance.

“I feel the dedication and hard work of the staff at the Family Learning Center and, of course, our preschool children and their families allowed us to earn this recognition,” she said. “We would not be able to be a five-star program without our families entrusting us with their preschoolers.”