What Are Common Traits Shared by High-Quality Preschool Providers?
An education advocacy group based in Connecticut has profiled five early childhood education providers around the country in an effort to learn how to improve ECE in its own state.
The study found four common threads among the programs it studied, including effective strategies for recruiting and retaining a high-quality workforce, an intentional focus on learning and development, a wide variety of structures, and a reliance on data to help drive continuous improvement.
The profiles were developed by Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, or ConnCAN. The organization studied a diverse group of successful programs, including two community-based providers, two charter schools and a traditional public school. The schools had differing student body compositions and different sources of funding. It chose to focus on out-of-state programs becuse researchers were not able to find any Connecticut programs with independent evaluations of their impact on students.
"What we wanted to do was to spotlight what five very different but all high-quality early childhood programs looked like in order to spark a conversation around what high-quality programming in Connecticut can and should look like," said Jennifer Alexander, ConnCAN CEO. "Connecticut needs a system that embraces quality in the many forms in which it can come."
- Acelero Learning, a community-based provider in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Nevada
- Apple Tree Early Learning, a charter school in Washington, D.C.
- Boston Public Schools, a traditional public school in Boston
- CAP Tulsa, a community-based provider in Tulsa, Okla.
- City Garden Montessori, a charter school in St. Louis, Mo.
For each program, ConnCAN documented evidence of effectiveness, program design, and areas for growth. The information about each program came from publicly available information online and through interviews with program staff. The report is a follow-up to a report ConnCAN released in 2015 that covered early childhood education in Connecticut and the current state of young children there.
Takeaways for Connecticut
Based on these case studies, ConnCAN is making several policy recommendations, including that the state provide more funds for early childhood education programs so that teacher salaries become competitive and that the state create alternative pathways for teachers with bachelor's degrees to earn early childhood credentials.
The nonprofit is also recommending annual, evidence-based assessments to ensure that students' needs are being met and that early childhood education providers be required to use age-appropriate, evidence-based curricula.
But meeting some of these goals may be difficult as the state continues to struggle with financial difficulties.
"Clearly, Connecticut is a state that is experiencing fiscal challenges," said Alexander. "There are very limited public dollars to invest in any programming right now including early childhood education, and as the state moves forward making sure that whatever scarce dollars we do invest are invested wisely in helping high-quality programs continue and serve more kids... will be more important than ever."
Photo: A Cap Tulsa classroom in Tulsa, Okla., awaits preschool students, courtesy Cap Tulsa
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