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Preschool Teacher Drain and Reaching Parents Through Text Messages

Two interesting pieces on early education this week:

The New York Times says that private preschool providers are fighting to hold on to their best teachers as New  York expands its city-run programs. The private programs can't compete with the salaries and benefits that the city programs can offer, the story says: 

[Some private providers] have even criticized the department for aggressively recruiting teachers on its website and posters, going so far as to accuse the city of poaching.

At the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society, which oversees five preschool centers, the education director, Takiema Bunche-Smith, is bidding farewell to two of her most experienced teachers, both leaving in the fall for public school jobs. A third is in the last stages of the city interview process.

At Malcolm X Early Childhood Center in Corona, Queens, the director, Hope Cannady, said it was down two certified teachers. "Now we are fighting to keep the one we have left," she said.

A teacher drain is not the only pressure on private preschools. I explored another unintended consequence of public preschool expansion in a story focusing on a daycare center in New Orleans that is working hard to hold onto its 4-year-old students, whose tuition subsidizes the care of younger children. Many of those 4-year-olds are being siphoned away into free public programs. Though my story focused primarily on children, the provider, Pearlie Harris, also talked about how hard it is to hold on to teachers: she offers $13 an hour and no benefits, but that's not enough to keep the college-educated teachers that she is looking for.  As public programs expand across the country to general praise, there also needs to be a serious conversation about the effects of these programs on other child care centers.


Back in June, Sesame Workshop, Kaiser Permanente, and the mobile service Text4Baby announced a partnership that would use text messages to offer early-language development tips to parents, along with messages about child health and safety. (The June 24 announcement was made at the meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in Denver, the same day that the American Academy of Pediatrics announced its new recommendations around early childhood and reading.)

The New America Foundation's EdCentral blog has been exploring whether such "digital shoulder taps" could be effective in closing the word gap between children from low-income families and their more affluent peers. In one article, the blog explains the thinking behind Parent University, a text-reminder program that lasts for six weeks. Parent University is currently being evaluated by researchers at Northwestern University. 

In a follow-up article, one of the Northwestern researchers shares some early results. One interesting finding: The program seems to be particularly effective for dads and for parents of boys. As researcher Alexis Lauricella said, "Fathers and parents of boys are less likely to endorse or engage children in complex social-based activities like pretend play, and the texts may have prompted these parents to engage in behavior that might not otherwise have been top-of-mind for them."

Lauricella cautioned against overgeneralizing from the study. But the parents who received the text messages seemed to be "grateful and excited" about the service, she said. 


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