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Minnesota's Early Childhood Program Under Microscope

Those who want an idea of the promises and pitfalls of a preschool program for disadvantaged children might take a look at a recent feature story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that examined that state's program.

Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, is seeking $44 million in this year's budget to expand the state's preschool program for low-income children, one of several state leaders seeking to invest in this area, as I wrote about recently. Minnesota also received nearly $45 million over four years from the Department of Education as part of the Early Learning Challenge Grant competition. The state plans to use the money to improve quality rating systems and target high-need urban and rural communities.

However, leaders in Minnesota are asking whether quality preschool can be effective without other long-term supports for families. The article focuses on the Morgan family, which realized their children were failing to meet certain developmental milestones and enrolled them in preschool:

The Morgans are thrilled with the gains their kids have made in preschool, but believe it is only part of the long-term solution. Parenting classes helped them learn better ways to communicate and discipline their kids, and they are spending more time reading with both children.

Morgan's habit of screaming as discipline has been replaced with "if/then statements: that help her children become more responsible on their own.

"Now it's: 'If you put your toys away, then you'll get chocolate milk,'" she said, "not "Put your toys away!'"

I'll be interested to see how the president's proposal links parent education, infant and toddler development and preschool, since experts suggest all these elements must exist for a strong program.

Early Years is on Twitter! Follow @EarlyYearsEW.

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