JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) voted April 21 to add seven new early learning collaboratives (ELC) to the current list of 23 to provide high-quality early childhood education pre-K programs to 4-year-old students.
The ELC expansion is made possible by $15.4 million in grants from state funds for the 2021-22 school year. Appropriations for ELCs have steadily increased since the 2014-15 school year to a cumulative total of $51 million, including $8 million in 2020-21.
The new ELCs are:
- Jackson Public Schools – Hinds Early Learning Collaborative
- Noxubee Early Learning Collaborative
- Senatobia Early Learning Collaborative
- Holmes Early Learning Collaborative
- Leland Early Learning Collaborative
- Long Beach Early Learning Collaborative
- Pontotoc Pre-K Partners Early Learning Collaborative (Pontotoc City only)
The seven new ELCs will serve 2,050 pre-K 4-year-olds in 35 new classrooms and 72 existing classrooms, bringing the total number of ELC students to more than 6,000. The total number of pre-K 4-year-olds served since the 2014-15 school year is more than 21,000.
MDE’s Office of Early Childhood oversees the ELC program. It issued the request for proposals for the newest ELCs on Feb. 4, 2022, and accepted applications through Feb. 23, 2022. The seven applicants that gained the required points to qualify for the interview round were submitted for the SBE’s final approval.
The Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013 established the ELC program, which provides funding to local communities to establish, expand, support and facilitate the successful implementation of quality pre-K early childhood education and development services.
The main goal of establishing ELCs is to better prepare preschoolers for kindergarten. In 2019, pre-K students in the state’s ELCs maintained gains on the pre-kindergarten readiness assessment. Among ELC students, 76.9% met the end-of-year target score, compared to 69.4% of students in other public pre-K classrooms, which included a variety of class configurations, including Title I, self-contained special education and other school district pre-K programs. The pandemic interrupted pre-K testing in 2020 and 2021.
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) first recognized Mississippi for its ELC program in 2015 as one of only five states that met all 10 of its quality standards. In 2021, NIEER recognized Mississippi as one of only six states that met all quality standards for pre-K.
“Early learning collaboratives have proven to be successful, and they continue to give Mississippi’s youngest students access to a quality early childhood education, positioning them for greater academic achievement,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “This ELC expansion marks the largest expansion since the program was established in 2013, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the continued investment from lawmakers.”
Find all MDE news releases at mdek12.org/news.