BoardBuzz recently learned that the first children to participate in the Denver Pre-K Program (DPP) are now in third grade, and data from the Colorado Department of Education indicate that they are doing noticeably better than their predecessors. How much better? Fifty-six percent of 3rd graders are reading at grade level – a 5 percent increase from last year, and the biggest single year gain in the history of Denver Public Schools (DPS).
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) was superintendent of DPS when the DPP was approved in 2006. “The voters made a smart investment by passing a ground-breaking public policy initiative designed to increase Denver children’s access to and enrollment in high-quality preschool programs,” the Senator stated at a recent hearing on quality early education and care.
The DPP is open and voluntary for all Denver children in the last year of preschool before kindergarten. Nearly 6,000 children benefit from the tuition credit program, and most (60 percent) receive pre-k services from Denver Public Schools. The rest receive services from center-based and home care.
“In just the few short years of its existence, DPP has made good on its mandate, growing quickly to become one of the highest enrolled preschool programs in the country.” Bennet said. “I hope we can find additional ways to replicate this kind of successful effort.”
BoardBuzz knows that public schools are important in the delivery system for pre-K instruction. Local school boards are uniquely positioned to lead, plan, and support early learning collaborations throughout the community to eliminate achievement gaps and improve school readiness and transitions to K–12 education settings.
Learn more about federal policy for investing in early childhood education on the NSBA website. In addition, the Center for Public Education has videos, a Toolkit for School Boards and many other resources for school boards interested in pre-K collaboration.