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How one poor Brooklyn preschool is competing with the best

May 26, 2016
AccessOutcomesQuality and Curriculum
Kathleen Lucadamo
The Christian Science Monitor

Student engagement and positive reinforcement like this, experts say, is a sign of a quality prekindergarten program. The Brooklyn school is one of hundreds of preschools across New York City to receive high marks, according to recent results of the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS). But what makes this center unusual is that it is serves Bushwick, a high-poverty community in which public elementary schools don’t do well on state and city tests. It’s one of the few schools in a high poverty neighborhood to do so – and it’s providing higher quality education than many of its pre-K counterparts in wealthier school districts. . .

Audrey Johnson and schools like it point to one of the most promising ways to narrow the achievement gap between high poverty children and their middle class counterparts – by providing high quality education before children start kindergarten. “Children in low-income houses start anywhere from a year to 18 months behind in language and mathematics and social and emotional development,” said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). “Half the achievement gap we talk about in the third grade and beyond starts before they even get in the door of kindergarten.” In 2014-2015, state funding for pre-K shot up more than $553 million over the previous school year, according to NIEER’s 2015 State Preschool Yearbook, making it the third year in a row that state pre-K funding has increased nationally. Almost two-thirds of the current increase is accounted for by New York where Mayor Bill de Blasio has pledged to provide preschool for all eligible children, an estimated 73,000 youngsters.