State Schools' Chiefs Issue Guidelines for High-Quality Preschool
It's not exactly a new idea to publish a list of things that make for a great early-education program (in fact, it's quite popular right now). But the list released by the Council of Chief State School Officers on March 24 is notable because the association's members have real control over the direction of the many new and evolving state preschool programs out there.
1. Engage families and communities in early learning,
2. Connect early-childhood programs and elementary schools,
3. Accelerate improvement and innovation in early-childhood programs,
4. Build a high-performing early-childhood workforce,
5. Increase investment to provide quality, voluntary early-childhood education for all children.
If several of those sound very familiar, you've been paying attention to this blog. It's interesting, though, that setting a curriculum, creating learning standards, and establishing a mechanism for program evaluation are not included in this list. In part, that's probably because the report lists several steps towards having high-quality programs, including creating Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, among its members' established accomplishments.
The report also notes that state leaders have increased preschool funding by $1 billion since 2009, when a similar report was last released.
Creating useful rating systems of both programs and students also is covered in the section on accelerating improvement in early-childhood programs. "Poor-quality programs can have a detrimental effect on children's learning or at best, make no positive impact on their readiness for school," notes the report. Alabama, Kentucky, and Louisiana are listed as examples of states that are pushing for high quality well.
Perhaps the most interesting item on the list, however, is the one calling for state chiefs to "increase investment." In the more detailed explanation of that priority, the report calls for chiefs to work toward increasing direct funding for early education, but also to raise private funds through public-private partnerships or tax credits.
It's interesting because it's so practical, which is not always common on these types of lists. But without the money to rent or build facilities and hire and support teachers, the rest of this list (and all the others) is rather a moot point.