New teaching techniques may help preschoolers

imageBy Jennifer Quinonez

Faaidah Ameen teaches preschool to dozens of children out of her Compton home. She has done so for more than 20 years. “These kids can learn so much in preschool to help them get ready for kindergarten, and it’s my job to help them with their social skills, reading skills and more.”

Although she has been in the early care and education field for more than two decades, Ameen says it’s never too late to learn new techniques to help children with their growth.

“I’m open to new changes, and the opportunity that LAUP is giving me is helping me understand more about my role as a teacher, and changing my habits and behavior to be better with the kids,” says Ameen.

Ameen is referring to Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) and the non-profit’s goal of improving their quality assessment program to give children a top-notch quality early education.

Since 2005, LAUP has used a 5-Star Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to ensure high standards at the more than 320 preschools in its network throughout Los Angeles County.

But now, the organization has decided to build on the QRIS by introducing a new measurement tool called CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System).

imageCLASS is an observational evaluation that focuses on effective teaching and interactions, helping educators recognize the power of their own one-on-one connection with students. It’s based on research that indicates that interaction between children and adults is the most important relationship for development and learning.

“Our children deserve the best so that they can become creative, critical thinkers who are engaged and excited about learning for the rest of their lives,” said Alexandra Himmel, program support supervisor at LAUP.

Studies show that children in classrooms with better CLASS scores achieve at higher levels than their peers in classrooms with lower CLASS scores.

Over the course of the 2011-2012 school year, each LAUP-funded preschool will be observed and evaluated by trained and certified CLASS assessors who will examine all teachers and their interactions with children (and each other) in the classroom.

“We all need a deeper understanding of how our actions and behaviors impact a child’s long-term success,“ says Himmel. “It’s about changing our classroom habits so we can be more intentional and strategic as teachers. Asking a question like, ‘How did you figure that out?’ creates a whole different kind of learning opportunity for our children.”

imageThe goal of the CLASS is to encourage positive teacher-student interactions in a well-managed environment, where a teacher provides ongoing supportive feedback, along with frequent learning activities that foster language and concept development.

“We are proud of the providers in our network who continue to strive for the best training, education and new teaching techniques to help children with their social, emotional and academic skills,” says Celia C. Ayala, Chief Executive Officer of LAUP. “If a child has confidence, it’s more likely that he or she will become a healthy, productive and responsible adult – and that is the ultimate goal for LAUP.”

Research continues to show that children who attend a high-quality preschool receive a rewarding educational experience that is filled with lifetime benefits for the child, as well as society in the form of a better workforce and lower rates of crime and health issues.

Please visit or call 866-675-5400 for more information.

Preschool: A possible answer to Los Angeles’s academic troubles

By Alex Abels

The final story of a four-part series on Jefferson Park and the changing urban neighborhood.

At 1 p.m. on a Thursday in April, four-year-old Tony Williams appears to be living every kid’s dream – whizzing down the slide at the Leslie N. Shaw Park with a goofy smile plastered on his face. Most kids stuck in a classroom would envy Tony on this warm afternoon in Jefferson Park. Unfortunately, Tony is actually the envious one – he wants to go to preschool but can’t.

Tony’s father, Paul, who was recently laid off, thought he had explored all of his preschool options in the Jefferson Park area. He could find nothing in his price range or with an open seat for his child. “There’s only so much I can do,” says Williams. “He should be at school learning to read and count and making friends.”

This is a common problem, not only for residents of Jefferson Park, but for all of Los Angeles. Preschools, especially quality preschools, are out of reach for about half of all four-year-olds in Los Angeles County, mainly due to lack of availability. With 10 million residents, LA County is one of the most heavily populated in America. There are currently more than 155,000 four-year-olds living in Los Angeles, but only about 70,000 licensed spaces exist for them in preschools.

Jefferson Park faces these problems and is even worse off than the average neighborhood in LA. The proportion of residents under the age of 10 – almost 20 percent – is among the county’s highest, according to census data. So with a multitude of children ready for preschool and severe lack of facilities, residents of Jefferson Park have a dilemma.

Read more…

OPINION: Parental involvement helps children prosper in school


By Jennifer Quinonez, for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

image“The first day can be scary, even parents are crying,” says veteran preschool teacher Joy Cyprian about the transition from toddler to preschooler. “But in a few days, the kids are running to the front door, excited to be back at school.”

Getting a child energized about learning something new is actually very easy, as kids love show off their accomplished task.

“I’m making a castle out of rectangles and squares!” shouts four-year-old Andrea, a preschooler in South Los Angeles.

From figuring out how to zip up a jacket, to spelling out their name with a big bright crayon for the very first time, learning is fun for active young minds. That’s why parents need to be engaged in their child’s learning because by doing so, it will greatly help their child’s overall happiness.

Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) works to help parents learn new ways to become involved in their child’s life and education, because it’s a crucial component to the health and well-being of a child.

“Parent engagement is a critical, “says Elsa Leal, LAUP’s Parent Engagement Resource Team Supervisor. “We encourage an array of opportunities for parents to be involved in their children’s education that focus on communication, volunteering, parent education, parent advocacy and community resources.”

Studies show that regardless of the family’s economic, racial or cultural background, as long as a parent is involved in their child’s education, the results are impressive. They include better school attendance, reduced drop-out rates and overall better student achievement.

“I see how getting involved helps my daughter with her social and motor skills,” says mother of two Kay Mangum. “If kids aren’t ready, they’ll fall behind and we should all do what we can to support them.

  • One way to strengthen the bonds at home is by eating together as a family. Studies show that children whose families eat together at least four times a week scored higher on academic tests than those whose families eat together less often.
  • Another idea is to read to your child regularly, even if it’s for only five to 10 minutes a day, with a goal of 20 minutes a day per child. This will help strengthen your child’s reading, writing and speaking skills.
  • Educators also say it’s important to limit the amount of time your children watch TV and play computer and video games. It’s best to also choose quality programs and watch TV together as a family, asking your child questions about the show as well.
  • Parent involvement also includes having a lot of daily interactions and conversations with your child. Talking with them and asking them open-ended questions such as “What do you think happened?” or “Why” gets kids to enhance their critical thinking skills and improve their vocabulary.
  • Just as starting a conversation with your son or daughter is important, so is listening to their answers. By doing this, you’re showing that their ideas and thoughts matter which helps improve their self esteem.

If parents show they care, it’s the best way to ensure your child’s successful educational path as well as sending an important message him or her that education is important.

For more information about enrolling your child in a high-quality preschool program in Los Angeles County, please visit or call 1.866.675.5400.

Single dad finds affordable option for son’s preschool needs


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageThere’s no question that the economic hardships many Southern Californians are facing today are affecting families in all socio-economic groups. But the hardest hit tends to be those in the middle- or working-class. These are families of whom many are living paycheck to paycheck.

“I’m a single dad raising two kids, and everything is so expensive these days,” said Hawthorne resident Theo Mays, Sr.

Mays is a mail carrier and says he earns too much money to qualify for programs that would help pay for his children’s educational needs. Yet, he sacrifices every month to pay for the basic necessities such as the mortgage, health insurance and more. He says there was no question that finding a preschool for his youngest child was top priority.

“Financially, I needed help and Ms. Toi’s preschool program was the answer,” said Mays. “Not only did she provide an affordable program, she’s also giving my son a jump start.

“The core of his learning starts here, and even though I do take a very active role, I work full time. It’s reassuring to me that I know he’s getting the basics taken to another level.”

‘Ms. Toi’ is Toimicia Deffebaugh, a Family Child Care provider in South Los Angeles who operates a preschool out of her home. Mays says Deffebaugh’s educational and nurturing environment coupled with the affordability factor made it an easy decision for him to have his son attend her program.

image “The parents in my community want preschool, but it’s not affordable, and there’s little high- quality access,” says Deffebaugh. “So, a lot of four-year-olds are sitting at home, with elderly grandparents or other family members. I have a lot of grandmas calling me realizing their grandkids need to be better socialized, but not sure what to do.”

Since 2005, Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) has funded hundreds of preschools like Deffebaugh’s throughout Los Angeles County, giving people like Theo Mays the chance to have his child experience a high-quality preschool at little or no cost.

“All four-year-olds deserve the chance to thrive and live up to their fullest potential,” said LAUP Chief Executive Officer Celia C. Ayala. “That’s why it’s our goal to keep funding quality preschool education in the county, to make it more accessible and affordable to thousands of families.

“We need children to participate in a positive learning environment while getting ready for kindergarten, regardless of their parents’ financial situation, because their future success in life depends on it.”

imageDeffebaugh notes that preschool gives families a great introduction to preparing their child and themselves for lifelong success.

“In preschool, a child’s vocabulary expands weekly and children learn through play,” said Deffebaugh. “Children learn to count and their letters and numbers through songs, and movement, and creative expression and that’s why playing is so very important to learning.

“If it’s fun, they’ll grasp it.”

For Mays, preparing his son for kindergarten is top priority and finding a program that offers support and quality has made all the difference in the world.

“As a parent, you don’t’ know everything, but here, through this preschool teacher and LAUP, I’ve learned about things like nutrition, and why playing is important to my son’s learning, and how to help him at home,” said Mays. “I understand now that a child’s learning starts at a very young age. I didn’t have this opportunity with my now 12-year-old and I wish I had.”

For information about LAUP preschools throughout Los Angeles County, call 866-675-5400 or visit

More stories from our ‘Preschool Cool’ series:
LAUP offers education resources to aspiring teachers
How to help the transition from preschool to Kindergarten
The economic impact of preschool
Good habits begin in preschool

OPINION: LAUP offers educational resources to aspiring teachers


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageFinding a quality job and making a difference in a child’s life may seem like an unattainable dream. For many, it may also seem overwhelming as to where to begin to fulfill that goal.

Today, students have a place to turn to for guidance and financial support, thanks to Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP), which is seeking to support and inspire people interested in working with children and their families.

LAUP is a non-profit organization providing high-quality, free or low-cost preschool to children in Los Angeles County. Three years ago, LAUP launched an Early Care and Education Workforce Initiative to provide resources, funds and one-on-one support so that a person can more easily pursue an education in the field of child development. The Initiative is composed of seven collaborations located throughout Los Angeles County.

One collaborative, called Project RISE, is led by Long Beach City College (LBCC) and the program has partnered with the Long Beach Unified School District and California State University, Dominguez Hills to recruit, train and help students receive their degrees in early care and education, as well as furthering their careers in the field.

“We’ve changed the way our students think about their career path,” said Donna Rafanello, Long Beach City College. “Instead of taking a couple of courses, they’re thinking about this as an educational career, because we help them with the certificate process and offer specialized counselors — so it’s really made an impression.”

LAUP also supports its own LAUP preschool teachers by providing financial assistance through its stipend program to those who want to further their education. The LAUP Stipend Program awarded more than 200 stipends to LAUP teachers who have successfully completed college coursework in child development over the past year.

“The LAUP stipend was a great motivator, just knowing that there was somebody looking out for me, and encouraging me to go back to school while I tried to work as well,“ said Preschool Teacher Leslie Toscano. “I think teachers having degrees is very important. Sometimes, we think of preschool as a time of play or just daycare, but I believe children need teachers who understand that this is a very important age for them to learn. It’s the foundation of their young lives.”

For more information on these programs, contact LAUP at 1-866-675-5400 and visit

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OPINION: How to help the transition from preschool to Kindergarten

OPINION: How to help the transition from preschool to Kindergarten


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageAsk most parents and they’ll tell you that the transition from their newborn cooing and crawling to running around and talking and getting ready for kindergarten happens in what feels like a minute. So it may come as no surprise that many families might feel unprepared about how to best help their child become better prepared to enter the world of elementary school.

Experts say it’s never too early to get your child ready for their next educational experience. Research shows the best way to do this is by first enrolling them in a high-quality preschool program and then taking an active role in preparing the child for kindergarten.

“Transitions can be very stressful for children and talking to them about the upcoming changes to a new school like kindergarten will help alleviate some of the stress,” says Celia C. Ayala, the CEO of Los Angeles Universal Preschool. “Having a smooth transition to kindergarten will help a child adjust to their new school, and how well a child adjusts to their new classroom can have an impact on their academic and long-term social achievement.”

Educators recommend planning ahead and involving your child in the kindergarten process to have the most successful adjustment for everyone involved.

In the year leading up to kindergarten, Ayala recommends parents to take advantage of a quality preschool program because it’s a great way for them to learn lifelong skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking.

“In preschool, children learn to wait their turn, share and get along with others,” she explains. “Preschool also encourages literacy, language and math skills, as well as teaching children how to communicate their emotions and be empathetic.

image“This will go a long way in showing a child how to build friendships and get along with others.”

A few months before your child enters Kindergarten, it’s a good idea for families along with their 5-year-old to visit the classroom and meet with the teacher, principal and other staff. By doing this, it will ease a child’s fears about the upcoming changes, and give parents the chance to ask specific questions such as:

  • What curriculum do you use?
  • What is your teaching philosophy?
  • How can I volunteer in the classroom?
  • Do you offer before- or after-school care programs?

Above all, it’s important to help your child feel excited and comfortable about this new journey by talking to them about what’s about to happen and to discuss routines like washing hands, reading and play time, manners and schedules. It’s best to do this in a fun and interactive way to avoid causing anxiety about their new environment. Talking with your child in a positive manner and acknowledging their different feelings will additionally help your child feel comfortable about the new school year.

The first day of kindergarten may seem scary for your child, but if a parent helps them through the transition with support and understanding, it’ll strengthen the bond that lets the child know that no matter what changes may come their way, they can be assured that their family will always be there to help.

To enroll your child in a quality Los Angeles Universal Preschool program at little or no charge, call 1-866-675-5400 or visit

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OPINION: Good habits begin in preschool


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageFour-year-old Farid eagerly grabs his father’s hand and leads him into the colorful preschool classroom as fast as he can.

“Baba, ehna lazem nimshi. El madrasa hatebtedi!” Farid, who only speaks Arabic, excitedly had just said: “Daddy, it’s time to go, school will start soon!”

“My son is very excited about school,” said Farid’s father Anton Gendry. “In our country [Egypt], we care a lot about school. Now that we live here in the United States, I want him to go to school and learn English. My wife and I know we have to bring him here every day so he learns.”

Creating good habits like attending preschool regularly and on-time is vital to a child’s healthy development. According to research, a child’s attendance habit constitutes a direct link to his or her overall academic success – or failure.

“Consistent attendance is critical, because the curriculum builds and there’s a pattern to it,” said Los Angeles Universal Preschool Program Director Nonie Smith. “If a child comes and goes irregularly, there’s going to be a learning gap.”

Studies show that regular attendance in a high-quality early education program can boost literacy and social skills, as well as better prepare children for their future.

“Four-year-olds need to know what to expect, they need a routine,” added Smith. “It’s traumatic for a child to have inconsistency in their life. Security for a preschooler is imperative for their brain to be open to learning.”

Once a child enters elementary school, there’s even more reason for parents to take attendance seriously.

“We monitor attendance very carefully at the elementary level because we have a very rigorous pace, and every day, a teacher has to follow a daily map to ensure the curriculum is covered,” said Principal Kathy Carbajao. “The academic program is so thorough, that if a child is absent or tardy, they fall dramatically behind.”

For parents like Victoria Miranda, making the effort to teach her two children the importance of attending school regularly has already paid off.

“My fifth-grader won two awards this month for math and language and she gets them every year,” said Miranda. “She has confidence and loves school. Our preschooler is now following in her footsteps.”

Please visit or 1-866-675-5400 for more information about enrolling your child in a high-quality preschool program in Los Angeles County.

Read more on this topic:
Preschool Cool: the benefits of preschool

OPINION: The benefits of preschool


By Jennifer Quinonez for Los Angeles Universal Preschool

imageIt’s been proven that the most important years of your child’s development is the first five years of life. That’s because their brain is constantly making connections and in the brain of a four-year-old, a thousand trillion connections are active – twice as much as an adult’s!

So for parents, it’s crucial that they take an active role in their child’s development, and help their child make the right kind of healthy connections to develop their brain power. One way to do this is by choosing a high-quality preschool program.

There are countless benefits to having a child attend preschool. Studies show that children attending a high-quality program significantly enhance their critical thinking; problem-solving and social skills that are needed to succeed in kindergarten and life. Research also shows that children who are attend preschool are more likely to read proficiently by third grade, less likely to drop out of high school or have a teen pregnancy, less likely to become involved in violent crime and more likely to go to college.

According to the RAND report, “Who Is Ahead and Who Is Behind?:Gaps in School Readiness and Student Achievement in the Early Grades for California’s Children”, African American and Hispanic students have lower levels of proficiency in some academic measures than Caucasian and Asian students. Preschool, however, appears to be a promising strategy for narrowing achievement differences.

Additional studies show that parental involvement in their child’s education is the key to their little one becoming successful in kindergarten and beyond. Experts say parents and caregivers should spend at least 20 minutes a day of quality time with their children by engaging their kids in conversations to improve their language and social skills. By doing these activities, along with spending time playing outdoors and reading books together, a child’s self confidence will increase significantly.

Los Angeles Universal Preschool, also known as LAUP (, is a great choice for a high-quality preschool education. The non-profit organization has developed a 5-Star Quality Rating and Improvement System that ensures the 4-year-olds of Los Angeles County are receiving a top educational pre kindergarten experience. LAUP preschools give parents the right to choose whether they prefer a home-based, faith-based or center-based learning environment for their child.

LAUP is a non-profit organization providing a high-quality preschool education at little or no charge to the children of Los Angeles County. The reason LAUP was first established in 2004 was because of the critical need to educate children and get them ready for kindergarten. LAUP programs provide children with a safe and nurturing learning environment and give children the tools they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. LAUP programs serve more than 10,000 children per year in 325 preschools throughout Los Angeles County.

To enroll your child in a quality LAUP preschool at little or no charge, please call 1-866-675-5400 or visit