Quality and Accountability
Nebraska's public and private sectors have long recognized a common interest in enabling parents to better guide the development of their infants and toddlers, especially those most at risk.
Every year, Nebraskans commit public and private dollars to advance early childhood services that help parents guide the development of their infants and toddlers. But not all of these programs and services offer the level of quality known to put young children—especially those most at risk—on the path to academic and lifelong success, or offer accountability for the dollars we invest in them.
Nebraska's policymakers, business and education leaders, private sector investors and citizens created Sixpence advance high-quality, strategically timed and targeted services that ensure more children arrive at school ready to learn. At the same time, 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. Sixpence succeeds because it is based on the understanding that quality and accountability are inseparable—we cannot have one without the other.
How Sixpence delivers quality and accountability
Developmentally Positive Experiences: It is not sufficient to simply keep children physically safe and adequately fed to advance their healthy neural development and skills formation.School preparedness and lifelong success require home and child care environments that offer cognitively 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: Economic analysis reveals high-quality programs serving children most at risk deliver the larrgest 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 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 early learning experiences established in the first three years of life.
- Evaluation and Guidance: Independent analysts at Nebraska's prestigious Munroe-Meyer Institute (UNMC) evaluates each Sixpence-funded program on an annual basis. These evaluations measure program structure and performance, parent engagement, children's developmental outcomes and health. Sixpence's Board of Trustees and expert technical staff use these findings and other data to guide programs toward continuous quality improvement and help them meet high standards to qualify for continued funding.
- Public-Private Investment and Governance: Sixpence brings together financial, material and professional resources at the state and local levels under the guidance of a Governor-appointed Board of Trustees representing state and private sector interests. Private sector governance allows Sixpence to work flexibly and efficiently to improve the quality of community programs, while public sector partners ensure that community programs are collaborating effectively with their local school districts in pursuing high 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 child care providers. These grants were contingent upon providers' participation in Step Up to Quality, Nebraska's child care quality rating and improvement system. Step Up to Quality was designed to ensure accountability for Nebraska's $94 million annual investment in subsidized child care 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 child care 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 at risk.