While New York provides state-funded pre-K to 44 percent of its 4-year-olds, the state has consistently fallen short of the “universal” aim of its goals. A new effort from the Center for Children’s Initiatives (CCI) and The Campaign for Educational Equity (CEE) aims to change that, with today’s release of Making Prekindergarten Truly Universal in New York: A Statewide Roadmap.
The Roadmap is the result not only of a rigorous research process, but also of several meetings hosted by CCI and CEE with leaders in early childhood and New York-specific education policy, to fully understand the needs of early childhood students. NIEER Director Steve Barnett said, in response to this Roadmap, “The proposed road map to universal pre-K is the single most powerful education reform that New York could undertake. It would ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed in school from the very beginning. This is a road map to equity and excellence that will raise test scores while decreasing costly failure, repetition, and special education.” A similar program in New Jersey districts with a high concentration of low-income families has already produced student gains and cost-saving benefits for schools. Choosing to follow this roadmap could put New York on the path to greater long-term economic growth and a better start for thousands of children.
Barnett wrote about New York in March, offering recommendations for how the state should move from its not-so-universal program to a program serving all children in the state: focusing on quality, a realistic timeline, and ensuring stable and adequate funding. The CCI and CEE report addresses these with its key recommendations, proposing an 8-year timeline to provide access for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the state:
- Years 1-3: All 4-year-olds in districts with high concentration of low-income households
- Years 4-5: All 4-year-olds in all districts
- Years 6-7: All 3-year-olds in districts with high concentration of low-income households
- Years 8: All 3-year-olds in all districts
The proposal has a distinct focus on ensuring that program funding is adequate to
support a high-quality program, including health, social, and family engagement services, as well as funds for infrastructure to bring the program to scale. Prekindergarten funding should also be incorporated into the K-12 state education finance system. Initially, the state should pay the full cost of pre-K, with the long-term goal of appropriate state/local cost sharing.
How do CCI and CEE define “quality?” Many of their recommendations align with what NIEER recommends in the research-based 10 Quality Standards Benchmarks in the State of Preschool Yearbook. Standards for New York include:
- Provide access to a full-day (six hours and 20 minutes) program, five days per week, 180 days per year. Extended hours should be made available where needed.
- Maintain current state limits of no more than 17 students with one teacher and one assistant, but cap classes at 15 students with one teacher and one assistant where substantial numbers of students need more intensive support, including English Language Learners and students with disabilities.
- Pre-K teacher in all settings should have a B-2 instructional certificate, or certification for teaching students with disabilities or English Language Learners valid in the early childhood grades, within five years.
- All teaching assistants within five years should have at least “Level 1 teaching assistant certification,” and the state will move towards requiring all to have a Child Development Associate (CDA).
- Maintain current professional development requirements (175 hours per 5 years for lead teachers), with the goal of 40 hours per year.
- State should provide list of curricula aligned with New York State Prekindergarten Foundation for the Common Core. The list should be reviewed every two years.
- Provide comprehensive services and supports for at-risk students, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners (ELLs).
- Provide safe, quality, and accessible learning environments.
- Provide and sustain data systems, and technical assistance, to use valid and reliable instruments to track student progress in all settings.
-Megan Carolan, Policy Research Coordinator