The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith's School of Education has received a $1.8 million grant that will allow it to offer more free professional development to the state's early childhood educators.
The grant is from the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education, and it will be distributed in $258,000 annual increments for seven years.
Confirmation of the award was received in April, and the news enabled the UAFS ECE program to become a curriculum, training, and resource center on July 1.
"The School of Education faculty are committed to doing what is best for the children of Arkansas and to training the best educators for those children," said Monica Riley, executive director of the UAFS School of Education, in a news release. "We know that highly trained early childcare educators are the best defense against high school drop-out, juvenile incarceration, and illiteracy; and that success in school is dependent on success before school."
Between July 2019 and June 2020, the UAFS Early Childhood and Preschool project will continue to provide early childhood training, and the UAFS faculty and staff will launch a curricula development project targeting training. From July 2020-June 2021, they will focus on revising all of the existing training guides and extending the development of curricula guides paired with children’s books.
Nearly a full semester into the program, UAFS has offered 25 classes and 307 participants have completed courses.
In the grant-funded professional development trainings, all participants who have successfully completed the courses will receive their CEUs, free of charge, from UAFS. The UAFS trainers have also been asked to help deliver courses outside of the region, to underserved locations.
The program's footprint has expanded into the Delta. Training has been available in Sebastian, Crawford, Logan, Franklin, Scott and Johnson counties.