Like football players watching game film, operators of some north Omaha child care centers will soon be watching videos of their staff working with children.
Coaches will critique them, offering pointers on proper tone of voice, making eye contact and interaction with children.
The coaching is a central feature of a new program approved Thursday by the Learning Community Council.
It aims to boost the chances that high-poverty children served by those centers will succeed in school.
Council members voted 13-2 to authorize a $278,000 contract with Early Childhood Services to provide the coaching.
Early Childhood Services is a nonprofit organization that receives funding through Building Bright Futures.
The program will target community-based child care centers near Conestoga and Kellom elementary schools, the same area where the Learning Community is building its new headquarters and learning center.
Over a 19-month contract, Early Childhood Services will work with 15 providers that serve children from birth to age 5, teaching them how to deliver the best care and helping them to engage with families.
Kris Carter, who represents north Omaha on the council, said training will go beyond the “bare minimum” required for licensing a day care in Nebraska.
“These kids spend a lot of time with them,” Carter said. “We want to make sure they are using the strategies that are conducive for the child's learning when they are entering into kindergarten.”
Officials expect that as many as 500 children will benefit from the program.
Renee Franklin, who directs programming for the Learning Community, said many north Omaha child care providers live in poverty themselves.
Much of the coaching will take place at the new Learning Community Center of North Omaha, which the council is paying to have built at 24th and Franklin Streets.
The $4.6 million learning center has been designed as a testing ground for programs aimed at raising the academic achievement of children living in poverty and facing language barriers.
The building will serve as headquarters for the Learning Community and as a community center where low-income adults can learn parenting skills.
Raising achievement is the mission of the Learning Community, the 11-district cooperative that funds its programs through a tax on property in Sarpy, Douglas and part of Washington Counties.
The 20,000-square-foot building is scheduled to open in September.
The coaches will bring the child care directors together in a “learning group” to meet at least once every two weeks for 90 minutes.
They will discuss the best practices for creating a great preschool environment.
Coaches will help them comply with Nebraska's quality rating and improvement system for child care providers.
The system, which lawmakers approved last year, will rate child care programs on several factors, including curriculum, health and safety, professional staff development and outreach to families. The ratings will be published online starting in 2017.
Early Childhood Services will provide a family engagement specialist, who will develop a relationship with families served at the centers. The goal will be to build a strong relationship between parents and children and to facilitate a smooth transition into kindergarten programs.
Carter said providers will be taught proven strategies such as those used at Educare centers.
“We are trying to equip them with proper strategies, accurate strategies,” she said.
Ted Stilwill, chief executive officer of the Learning Community, said dollars spent on early childhood intervention save substantially on the cost of remediation and incarceration later.
“The kids who are blown the farthest off course will cost the most in the long run,” Stilwill said.
Mike Pate, a council member and Millard school board member, said the Learning Community should have a formal process to evaluate whether the coaching program works.
Stilwill said officials should be able to observe over time whether child care operators are improving the teaching taking place in their centers.
He said the Learning Community has an agreement with the Omaha Public Schools that will allow for monitoring students' progress once they enter school.
Carter said that getting good data on the program could take three to five years.