Final Pre-K Now Report Pushes Prekindergaten-12 Strategy
Today, the Pew Center on the States released Pre-K Now's final report, Transforming Public Education: Pathway to a Pre-K-12 Future. The report advocates shifting state and federal policymaking in education toward a pre-K-through-12 system. At the state level, it argues that states need to maintain and increase their investments in prekindergarten programs and to take the pre-K focus on the whole child and move it up through the K-12 system.
The report also serves as the swan song for Pre-K Now. The 10-year campaign ends Dec. 31. That time period saw pre-K advocates score major advances. Between fiscal year 2002 and 2010, total state funding for prekindergarten programs more than doubled, to $5.4 billion from $2.4 billion. (See this infographic for a state-by-state breakdown.) The quality of state pre-K programs also soared, from five states in 2002 that had programs meeting eight of 10 national benchmarks to 24 states in 2010.
The report recommends states take a number of steps to build pre-K-12 systems, including:
• Strategically expand access;
• Streamline state governance of early childhood and Head Start;
• Use smart early-learning assessments;
• Align early-learning standards with the Common Core;
• Improve teacher training and evaluation;
• Transform current licensing, training and compensation to ensure equity between pre-K teachers and early educators in the K-12 system.
At the federal level, the report continues to sound the drumbeat of incorporating pre-K into a newly reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
How likely is it that these recommendations will become reality? Work is already being done among leading states to streamline governance and use early-learning assessments wisely. The federal Early Learning Challenge, which will provide $500 million in state grants, will accelerate those efforts. Work also is underway on aligning early-learning standards with Common Core and improving early-educator evaluation.
Tougher challenges will be improving early-educator preparation, changing licensing, and creating more equitable compensation systems—there's some movement in these areas, but efforts to date are small and sporadic. The biggest challenges for advocates likely will come in their efforts to expand access to pre-K during tough budget times and the quest to include pre-K in a reauthorized ESEA.