The Push for Public Preschool: More Districts Are Seeing the Advantages of School Readiness and Preparing Youngsters for Their K12 Careers
Dessoff, Alan, District Administration
FROM SELECTING APPROPRIATE CURRICULA and teachers to providing classrooms with bathrooms easily accessible to 4-year-olds, public preschool programs present challenges to districts that run the programs, which are designed to prepare children to get off to a good start when they enter kindergarten.
While a wide range of private preschool programs exist, public programs usually are free for parents who enroll their children in them, and the growing number of public programs reflects recognition by educators and parents that they improve the readiness of the children for kindergarten and the grades that follow.
"The school readiness component is one of the most important aspects of preK programs," says Davida McDonald, director of state policy at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). In a speech to NAEYC's annual conference last November, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, "Tragically, a substantial achievement gap exists in America before children ever arrive for their first day of kindergarten." But early learning that can help close the gap is "on the cusp" of transformational reform, he said, citing the "dramatic expansion" of state-funded preschool programs in the last decade.
According to the latest data available from the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education, 27,658 public schools had prekindergarten in the 2007-2008 school year, up from about 19,000 in 2000-2001.
Enrollment in state-funded preK programs rose to 1.2 million children in 2008-2009, an increase of about 81,000 over the previous year, according to The State of Preschool 2009, the annual survey of state-funded preschool programs by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. Thirty percent of children in the United States attend a state-funded preschool program at age 4, and total funding for state preK rose to more than $5 billion in 2008-2009, an …
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Publication information: Article title: The Push for Public Preschool: More Districts Are Seeing the Advantages of School Readiness and Preparing Youngsters for Their K12 Careers. Contributors: Dessoff, Alan - Author. Magazine title: District Administration. Volume: 46. Issue: 7 Publication date: July-August 2010. Page number: 72+. © 2007 Professional Media Group LLC. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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