Articles tagged with Pre-K

Align Pre-K and early grades, coalition says

High-quality preschool is essential for ensuring that all children — particularly disadvantaged children and English Language Learners — are launched onto a path of academic and career success, says a new report by the Pre-K Coalition, a group that includes NSBA and six other education organizations. Yet, as important as this advantage is, Pre-K is not some kind of educational “silver bullet,” and its successes must be built upon in early elementary school,

To get the most impact from Pre-K, the programs should be closely aligned with early elementary school (kindergarten through third grade) so gains made in preschool can be maintained and enhanced throughout the K12 years and beyond, says the coalition’s report, The Importance of Aligning Pre-k through 3rd Grade.

“Child development is a continuous process that must be fed and nurtured along the way,’ the report says. “Gains made in high-quality Pre-K programs must be sustained by quality education throughout the K-3 years. Likewise, skills developed in first grade must be reinforced and built upon in second grade.”

The report cites several impediments to aligning Pre-K with early elementary school, as well as strategies for addressing them. One issue is the lack of focus that policymakers have put on the early grades.

“Unfortunately, our education system is structured to pay the least attention to children’s progress during these critical years,” the report says. “Under current federal law, state and district accountability benchmarks focus primarily on student performance in grades three through eight. Intervention strategies and turn around models for schools ‘in need of improvement’ target these grades as well.”

While the new Common Core State Standards, which cover grades kindergarten through 12, will help states and districts focus on the entire K-12 continuum, schools need to provide “a continuous and well-aligned set of early learning experiences” in grades K-3 to achieve sustained success,” the report says.

School districts also have to work to finds ways to collaborate with community preschool programs, which may have different regulations, funding streams, and educational philosophies.

“To foster collaboration, some districts have implemented joint professional development opportunities for community-based early educators and teachers to come together to share experiences and align expectations,” the report says. “Other efforts may involve more formal program integration such as the sharing of program staff, space, or other resources between a public school and a Head Start provider.”

The report cites school districts in three communities that are successfully aligning Pre-K and early elementary school: Montgomery County, Md.; Nooksack Valley, Wash.; and Santa Maria Bonita, Calif.

In addition to NSBA, which is spearheading the coalition, the other members are: the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, and the National Education Association.

Successfully aligning Pre-K and early elementary school will take hard work and the cooperation of educators and policymakers at all levels, said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant.

“There must be a culture of shared responsibility among all partners (local, state, and federal as well as parents to support a comprehensive continuum of learning from pre-K to grade 3,” Bryant said. “We are asking the federal government to become a true partner with states and local communities to ensure that students receive a high quality start to learning.”

Lawrence Hardy|December 7th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Center for Public Education, Preschool Education, Educational Research, National Standards, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, School Board News|Tags: , , , , |

Pre-K Coalition calls for more federal support, greater integration, for early education

C. Ed Massey Photo

C. Ed Massey, president-elect of NSBA, addresses the Capitol Hill Pre-K Coalition Briefing

The National School Boards Association (NSBA)  and six other leading national education organizations are urging the federal government to take a more active leadership role in assuring that all children have access to quality preschool education.

At a briefing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, the group — known as the Pre-K Coalition — released a report titled Ensuring America’s Future: Policy Statements and Recommendations from National Education Organizations. It calls on local, state, and federal policymakers to “come together to design an early childhood financing system that ensures equity, supports quality and effectiveness, fosters collaboration, and does not take funding away from any other existing education programs.”

A major step in that direction is for Congress to expand the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to include early education practices and interventions, the report said. “The reauthorization of the ESEA offers a unique opportunity to update our nation’s primary federal education law to take full advantage of high quality pre-K,” the coalition said.

At Tuesday’s briefing, several speakers said preschool is an integral part of the education process, providing young children with critical social and academic skills that will influence their success in elementary school and beyond.

“We believe if we have them ready to learn in those important years, it will have a huge effect on the years they’re in the [K-12] system,” said C. Ed Massey, president-elect NSBA and a member of the Boone County (Ken.) Board of Education.

“Pre-K is not separate, apart from K-12,” Massey said. “It is a part of that process.”

The days when researchers and advocates had to explain why preschool is important are, for the most part, over. But despite groundbreaking programs in many states, several speakers said policymakers have a long way to go to create a nationwide system that truly integrates preschool into the broader education process. And that means creating an environment in which preschool teachers are looked upon as true peers of their counterparts in the K-12 system.

“We need to stop drawing this firewall between teachers who teacher preschool education and those who are in the K-12 arena,” said Brenda Lilienthal Welburn, executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education. (NASBE), one of the coalition members.

And this will require concerted leadership from the top – at all levels of government: federal, state and local, several speakers said.

“We often talk about distributing best practices,” Welburn said. “We don’t talk enough about distributing model policies.”

In the past 10 years, preschool enrollment has grown by more than 70 percent and public schools are involved as never before. But even in model programs, such as the one at Washburn Elementary School in Bloomington, Minn., Principal Jon H. Millerhagen said it takes considerable effort to get all groups with a stake in early education to come to the table.  For example, curriculum directors need to collaborate with preschool teachers to ensure the most effective alignment of the preschool curriculum with the rest of the elementary school program, Millerhagen said at the news conference.

Another issue is the stability of funding. Washburn’s preschool program has been widely praised, and it is supported by grants from several foundations. But in order for all public preschool programs to be sustainable in the long run, they must have a reliable source of funding, Millerhagen said.

In addition to NSBA and NASBE, the coalition includes the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the National Education Association.

Lawrence Hardy|October 4th, 2011|Categories: Preschool Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Student Achievement, Reports|Tags: , , , |

Denver pre-K program yields impressive results

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.

Lucy Gettman|July 22nd, 2011|Categories: Curriculum, School Boards, Educational Legislation, Center for Public Education, Preschool Education, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Dropout Prevention, Leadership, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , |
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