Steps to Excellence

Steps to Excellence provides high levels of professional development to hundreds of educators in Springfield scaffolded on the work of the many dedicated early childhood professionals in our community.  Much of the focus is on Conscious Discipline, a trauma informed, brain-based philosophy to address the needs of children from infants through high school.  Thanks to funding from the Darr Family Foundation, our community has embraced Conscious Discipline, from large-scale trainings of more than 700 people to smaller-scale trainings of 50 educators coached on further techniques of the program, many investing six days to learn the tenets of the program.  This year included expansion with book studies, parent education, and more educators participating in summer institutes.

A second intervention includes assessing the social and emotional competency of children using the  Devereux Early Childhood Assessment DECA/DESSA.  The results are overwhelmingly positive and show gains in all areas of the assessment.  Every participating program has at least 83% of all children showing positive gains from pre-to post-assessments.  Additionally, programs have 57% of all children showing positive gains in two or more areas.  What is most exciting is the number of children who showed statistically significant gains in three or more areas.  Twenty-four percent of the 575 children assessed using the DECA assessment showed statistically significant gains.  Overall, 87% of children were socially emotionally competent as determined by the Devereux assessments.

Another piece of the Steps to Excellence success includes on-going support for Early Learning Leadership Academy (ELLA).  Fifteen local directors and owners are engaged in monthly professional development to ensure their programs are working toward better outcomes.  These fifteen women have stretched themselves, advocated at the state level for better policies and focus of state resources, attended state and national conferences, and are volunteering within our community, and serving as mentors for those new to the field.  Year 3 of ELLA has been focused around a Conscious Discipline book study, and how to take that to their centers, as well as continuing work on directors’ credentialing.

For more information, contact Dana Carroll at