Nebraska's public and private sectors have long recognized a common interest in enabling all the state's families to better guide the development of infants and toddlers, paying particular attention to those with situational or developmental needs.
Every year, Nebraskans commit public and private dollars to advance early childhood services that help parents guide the development of their infants and toddlers. As part of this process, it is important to ensure that all children have access to the quality programs they need and that they receive services from these programs which put them on the path to academic and lifelong success. Assessment of program outcomes is crucial to providing accountability for the dollars we invest in them.
Sixpence succeeds because it is based on the understanding that quality and accountability are inseparable—we cannot have one without the other. The high-quality, strategically timed and targeted services Sixpence offers ensure more children arrive at school ready to learn. These services are expected to reflect the high standards of good management, efficiency, and financial responsibility we should expect from our public and private early-childhood organizations.
Sixpence Commitment to Quality and Accountability
Developmentally Positive Experiences: It isn't enough to simply keep children physically safe and adequately fed in advancing their healthy development and skills formation. School preparedness and lifelong success require home and childcare environments that offer stimulating and emotionally positive experiences and interactions. Sixpence grows programs and services that reflect early developmental practices known to increase children's skills mastery and reduce the achievement gap.
Targeted—Not Universal—Investments: Analysis reveals high-quality programs serving children with the most pressing situational and developmental needs deliver the largest social and economic returns across a lifetime. Even though Sixpence focuses on early care and learning programs for infants and toddlers in greatest need, all schools and students benefit when more children enter the K-12 system ready to learn and function alongside their peers in the classroom.
Investing Before Preschool: A single year of high-quality preschool for four-year-olds cannot reverse serious setbacks in neural architecture and skills formation in the first three years of life. Gains in children's academic performance and character development are more likely to persist into the K-12 years and beyond if they are built upon a solid foundation of early learning experiences established in the first three years of life.
Evaluation and Guidance: Independent analysts at Nebraska's Munroe-Meyer Institute (UNMC) evaluate each Sixpence-funded program on annually. These evaluations measure program structure and performance, parent engagement, children's developmental outcomes, and health. Sixpence's Board of Trustees and technical staff use these findings and other data to guide programs toward quality improvement and help them meet high standards to qualify for continued funding.
Public-Private Investment and Governance: Sixpence unites financial, material, and professional resources at the state and local levels guided by a Governor-appointed Board of Trustees representing state and private sector interests. Private governance allows Sixpence to work flexibly and efficiently to improve the quality of community programs, while public partners ensure that community programs are collaborating effectively with their local school districts in pursuing standards of educational excellence.
Accountability in Action: Sixpence and Step Up to Quality
In 2016, Sixpence began offering early learning grants to partnerships between school districts and local childcare providers. These grants were contingent upon providers' participation in Step Up to Quality, Nebraska's childcare quality rating and improvement system.
- Step Up to Quality ensures accountability for Nebraska's $94 million annual investment in subsidized childcare by helping providers grow as professional, highly skilled educators, and program administrators.
- The system also connects parents with information to make informed decisions about their childcare options and increase the market demand for accountable, high-quality programs.
- Together, Sixpence and Step Up to Quality demonstrate what Nebraska can achieve through results-driven, fiscally responsible collaborations for infants and toddlers in need of specific situational or developmental assistance.