Funding Stalls Efforts to Bridge Preschool and K-3
You may have spotted Sarah Garland’s great article on the Pre-K -3 movement either at the Hechinger site or at Education Week. Pre-K-3 is a new effort among funders and early learning advocates to build better bridges from preschool to kindergarten and beyond. Garland paints it as an ambitious policy agenda covering universal preschool, full-day kindergarten for all and connected curriculum from pre-school through third grade.
I think her reporting shows that the most important step to bridge elementary school from preschool effectively is getting the pre-K and early elementary teachers in the same room to talk about what they are doing. The lead of the piece shows preschool and kindergarten teachers in Santa Maria, Calif., a mostly Hispanic and low-income city north of Santa Barbara, making exactly this kind of connection. The kindergarten teachers told the preschool teachers that the children, mostly from immigrant families, struggled with stories in the reading curriculum, like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” or “Humpty Dumpty.” So the preschool teachers began reading those stories with the children to help familiarize them with classics of the American children’s canon.
Budget cuts sadly have hamstrung Santa Maria in its effort to link preschool and the early elementary grades more explicitly. The biggest problem is lack of money for preschool: Many children lack access to the program. The city had a kindergarten transition program but that has been eliminated for lack of funds. Though Garland’s piece links the city’s efforts “with only small test score gains,” I’d view it in more of a glass-half-full way. That the town has seen test scores increase slightly with this modest effort to bridge preschool and the first few years of grade school seems to me to be a glimmer of hope.
Garland’s piece points to the nearby town of Carpinteria as a place that has looked to Santa Maria’s example and is trying to expand the work by improving teacher quality and building a community center including mom-and-tot activities for stay-at-home mothers.
It will be interesting to see how pre-K-3 efforts play out across the country, especially as state and federal funds become even tighter. How those efforts will play out in Latino communities and what distinct features they might have should be worth watching, too.