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Report: Ten Questions To Ask About Expanding Early Education

As early-childhood education programs continue to expand across the U.S., local policymakers need to know the best questions to ask, and the most reliable research to cite. The American Institutes of Research just made that a whole lot easier with a report, published in May, listing the key questions policymakers should consider when deciding on local programs.

The list encompasses the most important aspects of any early childhood program: students, teachers, access and cost. And while it's targeted at local policymakers, it would be a good list for the feds to consider as they continue to discuss federal funding increases.

Here are the questions:

  1. Should Preschool Be for All, or Only for the Neediest?
  2. Should Local Initiatives Focus on Four-Year-Olds, or Three- and Four-Year Olds?
  3. What About Teachers' Qualifications and Pay, Adult-to-Child Ratios, and Other Quality Factors?
  4. When Should Preschools Be Open?
  5. How Much Does Preschool Cost?
  6. How Do Cities Pay for Preschool?
  7. How Long Does It Take to Serve the Target Population?
  8. What Settings Work Best for Preschool?
  9. Who Should Run Preschools?
  10. How Can Cities Win Public Support?

The answers (there's one question and one answer per page) are more complex than I'll rehash here. While researchers often indicate a direction that seems best, they leave open the possibility of several successful pathways. Still, the writing clear and concise enough to understand without wading through a lot of jargon.

To make their list, researchers reviewed the Institute's findings on 10 cities' public preschool programs in the United States. Some have had documented success, while others are too new to judge.  Above all, researchers urge policymakers to stay flexible as they roll out new programs in an every changing state and federal policy context.

"Based on the history of K-12 in the United States, figuring out the best approach to preschool is likely to require a process of continuous improvement," researchers conclude.

Read the full report.

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