NASBE Recommends Universal Preschool
12.12.2006—The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) has released a new report recommending universal preschool and addressing strategies for states moving toward greater access to high-quality preschool programs. The report, entitled "Fulfilling the Promise of Preschool," is available now in abridged for on NASBE's Web site.
According to the report, quality preschool programs provide dramatic improvements to students' preparedness when entering kindergarten, but children of low-income families do not have the same access to quality preschools as children of mid-range and higher-income families.
And, furthermore, children from lower-income families are less prepared for kindergarten than those from higher-income families.
NASBE suggests that providing greater access to quality preschools can improve the situation for poorer children while, at the same time, boosting overall readiness for students entering kindergarten.
"Poor children may have the most to gain from expanded access to preschool," NASBE said in a prepared statement, "but all children can benefit from quality preschool. The K-12 system benefits as well, as the experiences young children gain in pre-K programs translate into higher achievement in later grades."
"The goal of leaving no child behind simply cannot be met without high-quality preschools for all," said Brenda Welburn, NASBE Executive Director, in a summary released today. "Given the clear payoff from early childhood programs, in everything from narrowing the achievement gap to boosting student performance, state board members need to take the lead in efforts to nurture the best early childhood practices and ensure access and quality for all students."
At the same time, the report advises that preschool programs alone aren't the solution: that preschools must share characteristics with model preschool programs in order to maximize effectiveness. The report recommends that state boards of education "leverage their existing authority—over K-12 system standards and teacher licensure—to vertically align the pre-kindergarten system with the rest of public education." It also says that state boards should collaborate with other state agencies to move toward universal preschool in an incremental basis, targeting children of low-income families initially.
According to the report, "Further research is underway to answer specific questions about the critical features of effective pre-K programs, the extent to which their impact varies according to the characteristics of the child and the program and the optimal time periods to intervene. In the interim, states are faced with system-wide considerations for implementing pre-kindergarten programs, all of which are not well informed by research. Until we learn more, policymakers must grapple with tough questions and decisions (e.g., total allocations, how to spend investments, eligibility requirements for enrollment, intensity of service, comprehensiveness, accountability) to maximize the benefits of early child care and education."
Further information and an executive summary of the report can be found on NASBE's Web site. (Note that NASBE's links to the executive summary of the report are incorrect. Use the link below.)
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