“Head Start, the country’s biggest preschool program, is getting better.”
More than a decade after Congress imposed new standards on Head Start, a third of its partners have been forced to compete for funding that was once virtually automatic, and the share of classrooms ranked good or excellent has risen more than fourfold. With a $10 billion budget and nearly 900,000 low-income students, Head Start is a behemoth force in early education, in an age when brain science puts ever more emphasis on early learning.
‘The quality of Head Start has definitely improved,’ said Margaret Burchinal, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a Head Start authority. ‘That’s a big jump because there are so many classrooms involved. To make that much improvement across the whole country is pretty amazing.'”
My colleague Diane Schilder and I briefed Massachusetts lawmakers last Thursday on the latest research and thinking regarding QRIS and P-3 partnerships. I was pleased to see how much interest there is in improving quality and supporting community P-3 initiatives. See this short write-up of the event.
I’m pleased to share my commentary in today’s Education Week, “A Purple Agenda for (Early) Education (print edition title).” It begins:
“Education policy has become as polarized as the rest of American politics. In the new administration, disagreements over standards, funding, school choice, and students’ civil rights are sure to intensify. Yet despite this polarized state of affairs, liberal and conservative education priorities are converging in a number of important respects, driven in part by mounting research findings. Common ground is emerging where conservative commitments to character formation, strong families, and local solutions meet liberal commitments to services that help low-income families overcome obstacles to improving their quality of life.
Borrowing a term from the Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, I suggest that a number of educational priorities, described below, are “purple”—they resonate with both red and blue constituencies. Further, these priorities animate a powerful reform movement that is spreading across the country ….”
I have strengthened the language around family engagement and support in the principles for effective P-3 partnerships and the associated theory of action graphic. You will see that I drew on a consolidated version of the renowned Head Start family and community engagement outcomes, which I think are right on-point and fit well within the context of the P-3 theory of action. Check out the Overview and/or the Full Explanation (a 12-minute read). Many thanks to my EDC colleague, Heidi Rosenberg, for her helpful suggestions.
Also see Melissa Dahlin’s article at New America’s EdCentral: All in the Family: Supporting Students through Family Engagement in ESSA.
From a recent NPR article:
“Is preschool worth it? Policymakers, parents, researchers and us, at NPR Ed, have spent a lot of time thinking about this question.
We know that most pre-kindergarten programs do a good job of improving ‘ specific skills like phonics and counting, as well as broader social and emotional behaviors, by the time students enter kindergarten. Just this week, a study looking at more than 20,000 students in a state-funded preschool program in Virginia found that kids made large improvements in their alphabet recognition skills.
So the next big question to follow is, of course, Do these benefits last?
New research out of North Carolina says yes, they do. The study found that early childhood programs in that state resulted in higher test scores, a lower chance of being held back in a grade, and a fewer number of children with special education placements. Those gains lasted up through the fifth grade….
The big difference between the long-term findings in North Carolina and Tulsa and the fade out in Tennessee, researchers say, is the quality of the preschool program.
Having a high-quality program is key, says Dodge. ‘The long-term impact,’ he says, ‘depends entirely on quality and how well elementary schools build on the foundations set in pre-K.'”
See here for the full article.
After a relentless focus on quality in the early years, the city is even bringing lessons learned to later grades …
Changing all of early elementary school in a methodical and purposeful way to better resemble the student-centered structure of preschool would be a much bigger win than just proving that preschool helps students do better in kindergarten, Sachs said. And those aren’t just words. Starting this coming school year, his department will be responsible not just for preschool and kindergarten curriculum and coaching, but for first and second grade as well.
Atlantic Monthly: What Boston’s Preschools Get Right