The State Board of Education voted on Thursday to add four new early learning collaboratives, or public-private partnerships between school districts, nonprofits and private community members, in Mississippi.

The new programs will be operated by the Agape Community Development Center in Canton, Greenwood School District, Grenada School District and Starkville-Oktibbeha School District, bringing the total number of collaboratives to 14.

The Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013 established the program, which provides state funds to local communities to start or expand quality early education services for 4-year-olds. The Legislature added $1 million in the 2016 session, bringing the total appropriation to $4 million.

State Education officials say the existing early learning collaboratives have seen impressive results, with all programs’ students achieving the target score on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, which indicates students are prepared for kindergarten.

On the individual level, 71.4 percent of the students in the collaboratives met the target readiness score, an increase from 59 percent in 2015.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.