In Focus: Pre-kindergarten

Feb 12, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

ESEA Reauthorization Provides Opportunity to Bolster Support for Vulnerable Young Children and Disadvantaged Youth

By Christina Walker and Kisha Bird

Congress is currently considering the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), a law established in 1965 to provide funding to primary and secondary education. To inform their crucial debate, CLASP has released recommendations focused on young children and early childhood education, as well as academic success and college readiness for disadvantaged youth.

ESEA emphasizes equal access to high-quality programs to give every child a fair chance at success in school and life. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently appealed for the reauthorization of ESEA, which has not been updated since No Child Left Behind in 2001. And last Monday, President Obama released his FY 2016 budget proposal, which included bold initiatives to support our nation’s most vulnerable families, including an increased investment in ESEA.

Young children experience the highest incidence of poverty, with young adults close behind. Black and Hispanic children are disproportionately affected. Children and youth who are poor or from low-income communities have far worse education and employment outcomes in adulthood. High-quality early care and education programs play a critical role in the healthy development of young children, particularly those in low-income households. But despite growing consensus on the importance of the early years, lack of public investment leaves many young children without access to high-quality early education programs, including Head Start, public and community-based preschool programs, and child care programs.

Youth and young adults are suffering, too. Many school districts are failing to provide high-quality education that keeps students engaged. For every 10 students that begin 9th grade, 2 fail to graduate from high school 4 years later. It’s critical that we strengthen the education system to ensure all students graduate and are prepared for postsecondary opportunities and careers.

ESEA has the potential to improve access to high-quality early learning opportunities for young children and ensure youth succeed academically and are ready for college and careers. CLASP recommends the following priorities be included in an ESEA reauthorization:

  • Provide a dedicated federal funding stream for early childhood education.
  • Improve early childhood services for children birth through school entry.
  • Ensure college and career readiness for all students by addressing disparities in school systems, particularly those with high-minority populations.
  • Fund dropout prevention and recovery strategies and interventions, including multiple education pathways and options for struggling and out-of-school youth.
  • Promote collaboration with other systems and sectors, such as human services and workforce systems and community based organizations, in order to better serve poor and low-income students.
  • Encourage states to invest in accountability and data systems that inform planning and programming around dropout prevention and recovery. 

A reauthorization of this important law must protect and enhance robust opportunities for all students, particularly those most at risk. Young children and disadvantaged youth are two key populations that deserve more attention in ESEA.

Read CLASP’s ESEA recommendations>>>

May 16, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Improving Pre-Kindergarten Access for Children of Immigrants

By Rhiannon Reeves

Despite opportunities for advancing school readiness and child well-being, children of immigrants are less likely than children of U.S.-born citizens to access early education programs. A new Urban Institute report confirms that states and local communities can improve access to preschool by using intentional outreach and enrollment strategies and building stronger relationships with parents.

Children of immigrants and English Language Learners (ELLs) are a growing segment of the U.S. population, accounting for nearly one-quarter of all children in the United States.  To accommodate such growth and diversity, communities and states across the country must meet the needs of immigrant families.

Supporting Immigrant Families' Access to Prekindergarten makes proposals for conducting outreach that supports pre-kindergarten enrollment amongst immigrant families and ELLs; helping immigrant families overcome language, documentation, and other logistical barriers when enrolling their children in prekindergarten programs; and building trust and good relationships with immigrant parents and designing immigrant- and ELL-friendly programs. The report includes strategies for:

  • Outreach: To ensure immigrant families are aware of pre-kindergarten and other available options, programs should participate in community events, go door-to-door in targeted neighborhoods, reach parents in places they already frequent such as grocery stores and churches, encourage parents of enrolled children to recruit other parents, and use mass media.
  • Enrolling families: To help parents meet paperwork requirements and streamline the application forms and enrollment process, programs should accept multiple document sources to fulfill enrollment requirements; be flexible in the ways that families can verify their income; create enrollment forms sensitive to immigrant families’ needs; offer multiple ways to enroll; provide enrollment assistance; and offer a variety of enrollment times and locations.  These approaches benefit all families, not just immigrant families.
  • Building relationships with parents: To help pre-kindergarten programs become self-sustaining, programs should engage immigrant families as ambassadors by building trust and good relationships with parents and communities through a welcoming attitude; work with trusted community partners; build capacity for communicating with immigrant parents; address logistical barriers such as volatile work schedules; and build cultural competency that supports families’ cultural beliefs and practices.

To meet the changing demographics of the young child population, policymakers need to creatively address the design and implementation of early learning programs to ensure ELLs are included and ideally served in high-quality early learning programs such as pre-kindergarten. As states consider expanding pre-kindergarten offerings through new federal opportunities and additional state funding, ensuring such programs include and benefit children of immigrants will be essential.

May 14, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Strong Start for America’s Children Act Moves Forward in Senate

By Stephanie Schmit

Today, the Senate passed the Strong Start for America’s Children Act out of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee. The Strong Start bill would establish a partnership between state and federal governments to equip states to improve and expand high-quality, full-day preschool programs for four-year-olds with the goal of increasing school readiness. It would also establish Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships that would bring high-quality infant and toddler care that meets Early Head Start standards to many more children.   

High-quality early education experiences are widely recognized as key to preparing young children for school success and improving the lifetime employment and earnings of low-income children. In addition to children and families, our society as a whole bears a large cost burden for children not equipped to succeed in life. The Strong Start Act would help equalize the opportunities children have at the starting gate. In particular, the following components of the bill would advance high-quality, comprehensive early care and education access for children across the country by:

  • Setting clear expectations for high-quality services including high staff qualifications and developmentally appropriate and evidence-based curricula and learning environments.
  • Providing critical supports to increase the educational attainment of the early childhood workforce.
  • Addressing the needs of low-income working families by allowing schools, Head Start and child care settings to offer pre-kindergarten and establishing expectations for the provision of full-day services and comprehensive health services.
  • Providing for partnerships between Early Head Start and child care programs to ensure that more vulnerable infants, toddlers and their families have access to the comprehensive early education and family support services that are the hallmark of Head Start.
  • Building on existing state structures by providing funding to help states expand access and improve the quality of existing state pre-kindergarten programs. Because a variety of early education settings are needed to meet different families’ needs, schools, Head Start programs, and community-based child care can compete for resources to provide quality care in communities that need it. States will also have the flexibility to use funds for quality improvements, and to serve infants and toddlers.

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