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Smart Start 'achieving goals,' UNC center report indicates

(Embargoed) CHAPEL HILL -- An annual evaluation of the state Smart Start initiative concludes that its "goals of better child care, improved well-being of families and greater health resources are being achieved," according to researchers at the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Evidence shows that children who have attended child-care centers that are very involved in Smart Start activities are more prepared for kindergarten," said lead researcher Dr. Donna Bryant, a senior scientist at the institute.

The report, scheduled for release Thursday (June 6), is a compilation of recent Smart Start studies by the UNC center FPG, and is done under contract to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child Development.

Three waves of data collection in 1994,1996 and 1999 at hundreds of child-care centers showed significant improvement in the quality of child care over time, Bryant said. "Compared to 1994, almost twice as many classrooms in 1999 were rated as providing 'good' to 'excellent' care. Centers participating in more Smart Start quality improvement activities were likely to have higher scores."

Another sign of quality improvement is that the number of N.C. centers that are nationally accredited rose from 28 in 1992 to 170 in 2000.

A 2001 study showed that the new 5-star state rating system for child-care centers was significantly related to both observed quality and several other indicators of program quality. "Parents and policy makers should be assured that centers with higher star ratings are indeed providing high quality care for young children," Bryant said.

The number of children receiving immunizations and developmental screenings also has increased substantially since 1996, according to the report. A recent study of more than 2,000 children showed that those who had participated in any type of Smart Sta
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Contact: David Williamson
david_williamson@unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
6-Jun-2002


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