Choosing Quality In Massachusetts
Sep 29, 2008
Two years ago, the Massachusetts Department of Early Childhood Education and Care decided to invest funds in a Universal Pre-Kindergarten pilot program offering competitive, discretionary grants to pre-kindergarten providers serving at-risk children. A report by Abt Associates examines how the 126 participating pre-kindergarten providers, including public and private child care centers, Head Start programs, public school programs, and family child care homes, invested their pilot grants. Their resounding choice: improving quality.
In Fiscal Year 2008, participating programs spent about half (48 percent) of their grants on their staff, including professional development opportunities and compensation. For example, some grantees offered bonuses to teachers with Bachelor s degrees. Grantees reported that compensation initiatives like bonuses decreased turnover and encouraged other staff members to pursue additional education credentials. Professional development activities included training in assessment systems, curricula, child development, classroom management, and serving special needs children. Participating programs spent 28 percent of their grants on education/instruction, on items including curricula and assessment. Seventeen percent of the grants were spent on program operations, including the provision of comprehensive services and full day/full-year services.
Research has indeed shown that high-quality early care and education can provide long-term benefits for young children, especially at-risk children. But those gains are only realized if the early settings are indeed high-quality. In a recent news article, the department s acting commissioner Amy Kershaw states that, "The early approach for pre-K is to ensure children already enrolled in preschool are receiving the highest quality of education. But the governor's long-term vision will eventually have us expand access."