Ready, Set, Grow! Achieves 96 Percent Success Rate in Child Care Accreditation University News
For release: December 4, 2008

For press information, contact Dr. Deborah A. Moberly, 901-678-3517 or Sandy Guntharp, 901-258-5271

Accreditation has been granted to 23 of the 24 child care programs supported by the Ready, Set, Grow! pilot program at the University of Memphis that applied for accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

The program’s first phase was supported by major local corporations and foundations, including Memphis Tomorrow, the Plough Foundation, the Hyde Family Foundation, and the First Tennessee Foundation, in response to growing concern about the extremely low level of kindergarten readiness in Shelby County. At least half the children entering Memphis City Schools are assessed at 20 percent or lower for school readiness. Since its implementation, the program has increased the number of accredited child care centers throughout Shelby County by 60 percent, and nearly tripled the number serving primarily economically disadvantaged children. As a result, an estimated additional 1,700 Shelby County children annually will get top quality early care and education to help boost school readiness.

Ready, Set, Grow!
Dr. Deborah Moberly (right), Director of the Ready,
Set Grow! program, is pictured with Program Coordinator Sandy Guntharp (left) and Mayor of
Shelby County, A C Wharton (middle).
With funding provided by the Plough Foundation, Ready Set Grow! has begun its second phase and is now recruiting child care directors to participate in a professional development program to prepare them for the accreditation process. Directors have opportunities for scholarships for the program.

“Research shows that NAEYC-accredited centers do a better job in helping young children develop the foundation cognitive, social, and other skills so critical for success in school and throughout their life,” said Dr. Deb Moberly, director of Ready, Set, Grow! “But achieving national accreditation is a difficult accomplishment that often requires years of effort to meet increasingly rigorous program standards. The leadership and perseverance demonstrated by the directors and staff of the child care centers that submitted for NAEYC accreditation through Ready, Set, Grow!, combined with their 96 percent success rate, is a truly remarkable achievement.”

Research shows that children who spend time in high quality early care and education, such as that certified by NAEYC accreditation, spend less time in special education, have more self-esteem and self-control, and are more likely to graduate from high school.  They are also more likely to delay pregnancy, go to college and get better jobs.  Conversely, they are less likely to commit crimes or be on welfare. Research has also shown that NAEYC-accredited centers close the achievement gap between low-income and middle-income students, as well as between students of color and others. Because NAEYC accreditation is widely accepted as the “gold standard” for early childhood program quality, the Ready, Set, Grow! program was designed to support a diverse array of child care centers in achieving this distinction, both to increase the number of high-quality slots and to raise the bar for overall child care quality standards in Shelby County.

“We joined Ready, Set, Grow! because we are committed to providing the highest quality early education experience to our children and families possible,” said Patrice Jones, director of Earnestine Rivers Child care Center in south Memphis. “It took a tremendous amount of persistence, but we are so proud to offer our children the best chance to succeed in school and life. We’re also proud to be part of what we see as a new quality movement in early care and education in Shelby County for all our young children and their families, regardless of income or background.”

To earn accreditation, child care centers must thoroughly document that they have the ongoing teacher credentials to make sure that high quality care is consistently delivered in every classroom. The Ready, Set, Grow! program offered a variety of support for participating centers, including academic scholarships for program directors, on-site teacher training, grants for equipment and materials, and on-site consulting. In the pilot phase of the program, directors and centers spent several years meeting high accreditation standards. The program’s upcoming second phase offers support to more than 30 accredited centers to help them maintain their accreditation under new, more stringent accreditation standards introduced in 2006. In addition, the second phase will help a new group of centers get started on the road to accreditation.

A list of accredited child care centers in Shelby County is available online at

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