If one or more parents has not finished high school or is learning English, young children in the home are at greater risk of not graduating high school than their peers with more educated parents. LEAF provides a quality preschool education for the child as well as learning opportunities for the parents. Parents take English, GED prep, and parenting classes as well as participate in home visits and intergenerational learning activities. While parents fulfill these commitments, younger siblings attend childcare. This and all other aspects of the program are free of charge.
This 30-year-old, award-winning program works with public schools districts that provide space on local school campuses. The host district also provides direct site management through preschool directors or principals, some of the adult education, and access to free and reduced breakfast and lunch for the enrolled preschooler through school-funded programs.
A Stepping Stone Foundation provides funding for all aspects of the program other than meals and some adult education. All teachers’ salaries, benefits, supplies, and most professional development is provided through the Foundation and paid to the school districts three times over the course of the school year. We provide technical support on a weekly basis and regular assessments to ensure adherence to our model.
LEAF is a true community partnership. Teachers are full-time employees of the local school district and may receive benefits such as group insurance. A Stepping Stone Foundation covers all costs associated with these benefits.
More details about the LEAF program:
There is a formal application process which includes an application, an interview with the parent(s) of the child who will attend preschool and an orientation before the program begins stressing the importance of full participation all school-year long. If a family falls below 80% in any of their obligations (a rolling monthly average), they are placed on a six week probation. During this time, there is counseling and an attempt to remove any barriers preventing full participation. While rare, if there is no improvement in attendance, the family is asked to leave the program. Often we can place that family with another less rigorous program such as Head Start.
The program lasts one full public school year and over the course of each month while in LEAF, each child attends 16 or more hours of preschool a week. Each enrolled parent attends a minimum of 12 hours of English or GED preparation instruction, 8 hours of working in the classroom with the children, 8 hours of parenting classes, and at least one home visit. As mentioned above, there is childcare provided on the campus for younger siblings should it be needed.
Child assessment is fulfilled through Teaching Strategies Gold online system and adult assessment is provided through one of our Adult Education partners such as Literacy Volunteers of America. The lead teachers provide constant monitoring of day-to-day progress and attendance.
At the end of the year, there is a wonderful celebration with the families to recognize all the hard work the families have done to make their lives better.