In Kelly Stevens’ kindergarten classroom, each day begins with circle time for what sounds like a menu of lesson options.
Students — or “friends” as Stevens calls them — can read at the green table, they can build boats or make things out of clay, among other options.
Students Marco Carias Castellanos and Holden Free chose a writing activity today. But there’s no worksheet in front of them. Instead, they’re standing in front of wolf statues they made out of blocks and their assignment is to write labels for body parts.
In 2001, not long after Oklahoma had adopted one of the nation’s first universal pre-K programs, researchers from Georgetown University began tracking kids who came out of the program in Tulsa, documenting their academic progress over time.
In a new report published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management today, researchers were able to show that Tulsa’s pre-K program has significant, positive effects on students’ outcomes and well-being through middle school.
The program, which serves seven out of 10 4-year-olds in Tulsa, has attracted lots of national attention over the years because of the on-going debate over the benefits of preschool and whether those benefits are long-lasting. William Gormley, a professor of public policy at Georgetown and one of the lead researchers, says the Tulsa findings offer convincing and compelling evidence that they are.
Hundreds of thousands more children across the country have access to high-quality early learning programs today, compared to the beginning of the Obama Administration.
In 2013, President Obama put forth his bold Preschool for All proposal to establish a federal-state partnership that would provide high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. After the President’s call, many states took action and today, all but four states offer preschool to young children. Overall, in the 2015-16 budget year, states increased their investments in preschool programs by nearly $767 million or 12 percent over the 2014-15 fiscal year. And, from 2009 to 2015, states enrolled 48,000 more 4-year-olds enrollment in state preschool.
The Obama Administration has increased investments by over $6 billion in early childhood programs from FY 2009 to FY 2016, including high-quality preschool, Head Start, child care subsidies, evidence-based home visiting, and programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities.
The U.S. Department of Education announced today two grant awards totaling $25 million to Twin Cities Public Television and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the development of television and multimedia programs that will engage preschool and young elementary school children and their families in science and literacy-themed learning.
The awards, made through the Ready-to-Learn Television program, support the creation of television shows, games, websites and apps for young children and families to play and explore, with a particular focus on science and literacy. The grantees—two award-winning public telecommunications entities—will create digital experiences for children that teach the content and skills needed to succeed in elementary school. Today’s awards build upon the successful 2010 Ready-to-Learn competition, which facilitated the launch of the Emmy-award winning show, Peg + Cat.
The U.S. Department of Education released a new report today detailing the unmet need across the country for high-quality preschool programs.
According to the report, A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America, of the approximately 4 million 4-year olds in the United States, about 60 percent – or nearly 2.5 million – are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, including state preschool programs, Head Start and programs serving children with disabilities. Even fewer are enrolled in the highest-quality programs.
The report highlights the need for an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that expands access to high-quality early learning opportunities and makes the law preschool through 12th grade, rather than K-12. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan discussed the report today during a visit to Martin Luther King Jr. Early Childhood Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Across the country, there is a great need for early learning. But the need isn’t just for preschool seats — it’s for high-quality early learning programs that can put children on the path to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.
Research has shown the powerful benefits of high-quality early education. Children who receive rich early learning experiences are less likely to need special education services. They’re in better health, and they get better jobs. Yet, today, only 30 percent of 4-year-olds in the U.S. participate in state preschool, and 10 states don’t offer it at all. Among other industrialized nations, the U.S. ranks 25th in enrollment of 4-year-olds in early learning.
A remarkable thing is happening. Local leaders in cities across the country are ploughing ahead — in some areas, without additional funding from federal or state governments — and making commitments to quality early education. Increasingly, cities are seeing high-quality early learning programs as a way to improve their communities and to become more competitive sites for the high-skills jobs of the future.
I recently visited two very different communities—Dallas and Salt Lake City. Each city is experiencing disparate challenges and moving forward on early learning in a distinctive way, determined, in part, by the preschool policies of each state.
Throughout the country, there is a tremendous unmet need for high-quality early learning. Fewer than three in ten 4-year-olds are enrolled in high-quality preschool programs, and yet, the importance of early learning is clear. Studies prove that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.
In a recent speech during the National Governors Association’s winter meeting, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that we have reached an important turning point in the debate over early learning. “Demographic, economic, and ideological forces are all combining today to propel a big expansion of high-quality early learning,” Duncan said. “We just need Congress to catch up with the rest of the country.”