Educators from six states participated in an early childhood education symposium Dec. 10 hosted by the American Institutes for Research at Bains Lower Elementary.

Founded in 1946, AIR is one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations and seeks to facilitate improvement in education, health and workforce issues. More than 15 parishes were represented among the attendees, who heard from several experts, toured the facilities and participated in panel discussions and breakout sessions on early childhood literacy and mathematics.

Dr. Virginia Buysse, a principal researcher with AIR and a specialist in early childhood education, was the keynote speaker for the all-day program. She emphasized the need to evaluate and measure how early childhood programs are working through effective policy, educational practices and research that advances knowledge and understanding in the field.

“Guiding assessment principles should be clearly identified and should guide all subsequent decisions,” Buysse said. “Assessment is a tool to be used with input from families and other professionals.”

Earlier, Bridget Plauche, Family Service Center supervisor and Head Start executive director, gave a brief history of the development of early childhood programming in West Feliciana Parish. She said the success of the programs is a cooperative endeavor, and West Feliciana has had a stellar track record in early childhood educational development because of unwavering support from the school board and the superintendents through the years.

“We also can’t do this without family support and they play an integral part,” Plauche said. “It is the commitment we have that is extremely important to this parish.”

Milton said investment is important with dividends paying off down the road because early childhood education is a way for students to succeed socially, academically and, in the long run, economically and will strengthen the state.

“We see on a daily basis the powerful work of our educators in our early childhood programs and the long-lasting impact on students,” Milton said. “The event sponsored by The American Institutes of Research brought state and national attention to the work we do so well.”

Milton said West Feliciana Parish is planning to host another AIR event next fall on science, technology, engineering and math curricula.