The Oklahoma Early Childhood Program (OECP) was created by the Oklahoma State Legislature in 2006 to improve the quality of early education and expand capacity to serve children from birth through age three statewide. The OECP provides the fiscal structure to align Oklahoma State Department of Education and private resources to promote high-quality standards tied to minimum teacher qualifications, ongoing professional development, and parent supports designed to foster low-income families’ independence and economic success.
All centers meet both the state Department of Human Services, highest possible three-star-standard, and selected requirements from Head Start Program Performance Standards. Participating programs must be in the process of being accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Teacher Qualifications: Every classroom has two teachers at all times, and at least one bachelor-degreed teacher is staffed for every two classrooms.
Pay Equity: Lead teachers with a bachelor’s degree are paid comparably to public school teachers. Training: Teachers receive 32 hours of WestEd Program for Infant/Toddler Care training their first year of employment, and providers receive additional supports for creating quality programs.
Time: Services are provided 44 weeks of the year and at least eight hours per day.
Created in 2006, eligible providers include child care centers, school districts, tribal and community agencies, and local Head Start and Early Head Start program operators. Since its inception, OECP has benefited:
- 19,500 children
- 22 community partners
- 1,400 classrooms
- 20 early childhood centers
- 13 rural communities
- 9 urban communities
OECP is a national model for states and communities. The University of Oklahoma’s Early Childhood Education Institute independently evaluates OECP on an annual basis and has documented that, compared with typical community child care centers (as measured by ITERS-S), OECP classrooms have:
- Higher quality environments
- More intentional language interactions
- Higher child growth in language and social emotional development
- Every dollar spent on high quality, birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children delivers a 13% per annum return on investment
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