Primrose's accreditation effort pays off


A local preschool got national recognition last month when it received Franchisee of the Year award by the International Franchise Association.

Primrose School of Woodbury, which will celebrate its fifth anniversary Oct. 22, received the award for the owners' work in unifying statewide accreditation standards.

Owners Tonya and Travis Holt were honored during the International Franchisee of the Year Conference for their performance and contributions to enhance the growth and development of franchising, according to a news release.

But what Tonya Holt said was something the owners are proud of is the fact they've been working with legislators on developing a more unified system that explains what "high quality accreditation" really means.

"Minnesota should be the leaders in creating high quality standards instead of taking that follower role," she said, adding, "Primrose franchising company credits us for lighting the fire."

The school that staffs 33 members and has grown from 20 students five years ago to 175 this year was told it was a leader in the Primrose organization and deserved to be recognized, Holt said.

"The Primrose School, we not only employ 33 staff, we also make it possible so that our moms and dads can confidently go into the workforce," she said. "That little ripple effect keeps us all above water."

Holt said they worked with Sen. Ted Lillie, Rep. Andrea Kieffer and Rep. Kathy Lohmer to come up with a plan that by February of next year, the Department of Human Services will have a set of standards that define what high quality early childhood education should be no matter what the accreditation body is.

Does it mean that the center has to be licensed or hire quality teachers? What are quality teachers and are unqualified substitutes allowed? Holt said those are some of the questions that need clarification.

"We need for you to tell us what your definition of high quality is," she said. "And how do we meet your definition ... There is so much gray area."

She recalled when a young family visited Primrose about three years ago and said the school's international accreditation wasn't considered "high quality" according to research that the parents had done.

"What makes one high quality versus another? Well, there is really not a firm plan and place for that," Holt said.

The difficulty lies where curriculums are clearly defined for students in ninth grade, but there is no expectation to what they should learn at age 3, she added.

She explained that it would serve parents and children best if they're offered the information based on what the research indicates and given the option to choose what program they think is best, whether it's language learning or music integration.

"Parents know their kids best," Holt said.

In the next couple of years, Holt hopes that whatever accreditation bodies are accepted in Minnesota meet the state standards. She said it will also serve students and families if those accreditations are revisited since their own standards often change.

The Franchisee of the Year Award is a major component of the IFA's Public Affairs Conference, which brings more than 400 franchise business leaders together in Washington, D.C. to carry the key messages of franchising to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. During the two-day event, held Sept. 10-11, franchise industry leaders met with more than 200 congressional offices about issues important to the future of franchising as well such as tax certainty, health care reform and access to credit.