Early education experts converged Thursday to discuss innovative and effective quality preschool programs around the nation, and how federal policy makers could support their programs.
The Preschool: from the Capitol to the Classroom panel discussion and live webinar showcased state and local preschool programs from California, New Jersey and Tennessee successfully making a positive impact on children through the delivery of quality preschool.
The 5-Star Quality Rating and Improvement System developed by the non-profit organization Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) highlighted how accountability and support is vital to every quality program.
“We set high standards for the 300-plus preschools in our network and offer the funding and coaching support to help them meet those expectations,” said LAUP Senior Vice President of Programs Dawn Kurtz. “We look at teacher qualifications, classroom instruction and a host of other factors to ensure the programs we work with are constantly improving the quality of services they offer to children and families.”
Ronnell Nathaniel of the Acelero Learning Center in New Jersey reinforced how investing in Head Start programs helps close the high achievement gap facing the nation, and that proactive problem solving and follow-through in early education programs is crucial to building a better future for all communities.
“We believe in data-driven decision making, open communication and teamwork,” said Nathaniel. “We can never be complacent in our efforts, as quality preschool services demand our focus.”
For 140 years, the Children’s Home/Chambliss Shelter in Chattanooga, has served at-risk children in need of a safe haven while also offering a 24-hour child care center to families in the area.
"We've made great strides with our public dollars at the Chambliss Center for Children, but we still have a long way to go as a state and as a country to ensure every child has access to a high-quality early childhood education," said President and CEO Phil Acord. "Each year we delay investing in early education is an important year for a child's positive development and learning. We shouldn't wait longer to make the right investments."
Adele Robinson from the National Association of Education for Young Children (NAEYC) and Dr. Steve Barnett from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) served as co-moderators, highlighting the importance of President Obama’s budget proposal as a means to increasing the preschool services needed by millions of children across America.
"Given all that we know about the educational, social and economic return on investment, accelerated funding for high-quality early childhood education programs should be a top priority for Congress and for states," said Ms. Robinson. "The lack of access to and quality of early childhood education programs for thousands of young children, starting at birth and continuing through pre-kindergarten, not only undermines the potential of those children, it undercuts our nation's ability to prosper in the short and long-term."
Dr. Barnett noted that strong partnerships between the government and the private sector can lead to innovative programs when the right policies are in place.
“The three examples provide lessons regarding the public policies needed to support highly effective early education to improve the lives of our children and yield long-term savings to taxpayers," said Dr. Barnett. "When poverty is on the rise and half of all American children under the age of 5 live below 200 percent of the poverty line, there is no educational issue more important."
An essential take-away from the event was the key to helping children of all socio-economic backgrounds have a brighter future is by ensuring they receive a quality early education experience that fosters their academic, social and emotional development.
“All of these organizations show how important it is to focus on the quality of preschool programs,” continued Ms. Kurtz. “LAUP is contributing to and supporting this national preschool movement to help all children become prepared for kindergarten and beyond.”