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Southern Connecticut State University Takes Lead in Boosting Quality of Preschools


Southern Connecticut State University's Early Childhood Education program has been tapped as a partner for the creation of a statewide "model preschool" at the oldest childcare center in Connecticut. The university was recently awarded a two-year, $200,000 grant from the state Department of Education to serve as the program coordinator. It will work with Leila Day Nursery School in New Haven, which was founded in 1878.

The project includes several components. Southern faculty will provide workshops and professional development programs for the teachers at Leila Day, already recognized as a leader among preschools in Connecticut. The university will organize "observation days," when teachers from other schools throughout Connecticut will be invited to watch how Leila Day operates.

Southern also will organize professional development programs for Connecticut preschool teachers. The grant will also be used to pay for materials and a program coordinator.

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Student teachers from Southern will work at the school, while field placements in which Southern students observe and assist Leila Day teachers as part of their class work will continue. Judith Buzzell, professor of education, says the grant is part of the state Department of Education's effort to strengthen the quality of state preschools and to make pre-kindergarten programs available to all children.


"There is a lot of research that says if a child participates in a highly qualified preschool program, he or she is successful in later schooling," Buzzell says. "That is why the state is increasing its emphasis on early childhood education. The model will combine the hands-on experience of the Leila Day teachers with the theoretical foundations offered by our faculty."

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The state's Early Childhood Education Research and Policy Council has generated a proposal that would provide universal access to high quality pre-school for low-income families. It would also lengthen the daily programs for those children. The plan was recently presented to the state Board of Education and is being reviewed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Gladys Deutsch, Leila Day director, says she is excited about the partnership with Southern. "Southern has the expertise to help educate the educators and to help us turn an already strong school with excellent teachers into a model for the rest of the state," Deutsch says. She notes that the school enrolls about 100 children, of whom more than 60 are preschool age.

It also includes after-school programs for students up to grade three. Deutsch adds that about a half dozen of the 20 or so teachers in the school are Southern alumni. The project involves Deutsch, Buzzell and Beena Achhpal, an associate professor of education. "It's exciting and offers an opportunity for our faculty to work with preschool parents, who are also involved in making it a model school," Achhpal says.

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Queens College
Queens College offers more than 100 master's degrees and advanced certificates in the liberal arts, sciences, social sciences, and teacher education.