Path to Pre-K in Colorado

De Blasio unveils implementation plan for lofty pre-K proposal

PHOTO: Geoff Decker

Mayor de Blasio’s signature campaign pledge, to expand full-day prekindergarten access to all New Yorkers, got new details today with the release of an implementation plan.

According to the plan, the pre-K expansion would cost $340 million a year and would include 53,600 students this fall and all 73,000 eligible 4-year-olds in the 2015-2016 school year. The lag in full implementation allows the city to spend nearly $100 million next year on startup costs, including securing and converting space and training teachers, according to the proposal.

De Blasio is in Albany today to pitch his pre-K plan to legislators. He wants to fund the expansion by increasing taxes on the city’s highest earners, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to use existing state taxes to expand pre-K access statewide. Their dispute has laid the groundwork for a showdown in Albany during the budget and legislative session.

“As educators, we have been waiting decades for this moment to bring truly universal, high-quality pre-K to this city—and we’re ready to seize it,” Chancellor Carmen Fariña said in a statement. “With our community of schools, teachers, and non-profit providers, we not only have the will to expand universal pre-K rapidly, but the capacity to deliver it well.”

The city’s press release is below, followed by the complete implementation plan.

CITY RELEASES IMPLEMENTATION PLAN FOR FREE, HIGH-QUALITY, FULL-DAY UNIVERSAL PRE-KINDERGARTEN

Historic and transformative plan will lift up all children and aggressively tackle inequality

City prepared to provide full-day, high-quality UPK to 53,604 children in September 2014, and all 73,250 children eligible during 2015-2016 school year

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today released an interagency report detailing plans to implement the historic expansion of pre-kindergarten to every 4-year-old in New York City. The mayor will deliver testimony drawing on the report’s findings in Albany later this morning. The analysis makes clear city agencies are prepared for a rapid and massive expansion of high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten programs, and that the principal obstacle to full implementation is securing dedicated, sustained and sufficient funding.

Mayor de Blasio has called on leaders in Albany to authorize New York City to increase the local income tax on its highest earners to provide the dedicated and reliable funding required to implement high-quality pre-K and after-school programs.

“Make no mistake: we are prepared to hit the ground running and launch a major expansion of quality pre-K for the coming school year. This will be one city, where everyone rises together. The real obstacle isn’t space or personnel—it’s the sustainable funding needed to serve every child,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The analysis prepared by the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Education, Administration for Children’s Services, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has determined that New York City is prepared to provide free, high-quality, full-day pre-K to the 73,250 children eligible for it by the 2015-2016 school year, beginning with 53,604 in September 2014. All programs, including those that are currently full-day, will be enhanced to foster the highest quality with an emphasis on increasing services for high-needs children and families.

Meeting those standards will cost an average of $10,239 per child. The total costs of reaching all 4-year-olds with these programs—including expansion costs and ongoing operational costs—are calculated at $340 million annually, of which $97 million will be dedicated to start-up infrastructure and costs required to upgrade program quality in year one. As the number of children enrolled increases, expansion costs recede, with $6 million in expansion costs in year two, and the full $340 million in funding dedicated to ongoing operations thereafter.

“As educators, we have been waiting decades for this moment to bring truly universal, high-quality pre-K to this city—and we’re ready to seize it. With our community of schools, teachers, and non-profit providers, we not only have the will to expand universal pre-K rapidly, but the capacity to deliver it well. We need our leaders in Albany to do their part now to change the lives of city students forever,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

The Department of Education estimates that pre-K expansion will require approximately 2,000 new classrooms in public schools and community-based settings across the city, each staffed by an early education certified lead teacher. The Department of Education has identified nearly 4,000 classrooms potentially available within public school buildings, with additional space likely available in community-based organizations that currently serve the majority of children in pre-K. In recent years, roughly 2,000 early education certified teachers annually applied for positions at the Department of Education. With new momentum behind pre-K expansion, the administration anticipates an increase in early childhood certified teacher applications, creating an even deeper pool of teacher talent.

Features of the New York City’s high-quality pre-K programs will include:

●     Free for every child, regardless of income;

●     Ensuring recruitment and retention of high-quality UPK lead teachers with early childhood certification;

●     Classroom ratios of 18 children to two adults (typically a lead teacher and a teaching assistant). Classes may go up to 20 students with an additional adult;

●     Basing all instruction and professional development on state pre-K learning standards, known as New York State Pre-Kindergarten Foundation for the Common Core;

●     Additional support for children whose primary language is not English;

●     DOE quality-assurance infrastructure for coaches, evaluation and research;

●     Increased family support in high-need areas;

“Don’t let anyone tell you these challenges can’t be met. At the Children’s Aid Society, we doubled the capacity of our quality early childhood education programs in five months. This can be done if we have the political will needed to set this transformation in motion,” said Josh Wallack, a Vice President at the Children’s Aid Society and a member of Mayor de Blasio’s Pre-K Working Group.

Ready to Launch: New York City’s Implementation Plan for Free, High-Quality, Full-Day Universal Pre-Kinderg… by NYC Mayor’s Office

By the numbers

As city gears up for year three of its pre-K expansion, applications hold steady

PHOTO: Jessica Glazer

More than 68,000 New York City children applied for full-day pre-K this year, jumpstarting the third year of the city’s expansion, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

The total number of applications is in line with last year’s total, but the Bronx and Manhattan both saw drops in the number of families that applied. The Bronx had a 5 percent decrease, from 14,280 applications last year to 13,529.

Brooklyn, the borough with the greatest number of families who applied for pre-kindergarten, saw an increase, with 22,046 families applying — up from 21,500 families last year. Staten Island and Queens saw marginal increases.

The number of applications is just shy of de Blasio’s original goal of enrolling 70,000 four-year-olds in pre-K. The city pointed out that the number of applications represents three times the number of children enrolled in full-day pre-K before the expansion started in 2014.

De Blasio’s push for universal pre-K has largely been seen as a success, with seats generally meeting or surpassing quality standards. A recent, limited survey found that families said that pre-K saved them money and helped their children learn.

This year, the city has made a few changes to the application process. The application period opened earlier to give families more time to decide where to apply. Families will also receive offers in early May, a month earlier than last year.

Families who have not yet applied will be able to apply to programs with available seats from May 2 to May 20.

pre-k report card

City touts record 68,500 students in pre-K, releases data on program quality

PHOTO: Rob Bennett/Office of Mayor Bill de Blasio
Mayor Bill de Blasio visits Sunnyside Community Services Pre-K in Queens on March 14, 2014.

The city released new data Friday about the quality of its rapidly expanded pre-kindergarten program, which officials touted as evidence that the program has maintained high standards even as it enrolled nearly 50,000 additional students over the past two years.

With free full-day preschool as the centerpiece of his education agenda, Mayor Bill de Blasio has more than tripled enrollment since he took office — leaving some observers to wonder whether the city was trading quantity of seats for quality. The new data, compiled from reviews of a portion of the city’s 1,800 pre-K sites that were conducted from 2012 to the present, shows that the quality of New York’s pre-K program is on par with other cities.

The inspected sites on average met or surpassed the national average on a measure of teacher-student interactions, according to review of 555 cites. On a different measure, 77 percent of reviewed sites earned a 3.4 or above on a 7-point scale, which city officials said is the benchmark that programs must reach to have a positive impact on students.

However, Steven Barnett, a professor at Rutgers who is an expert on preschool programs, said that programs should strive to score a five or higher on that scale. The results are promising, he added, but should be seen as a baseline that the city should improve upon.

“They’re OK, but they’re not nearly as good as they should be five years from now,” he said. “It’s not an overnight process.”

Officials also announced that pre-K enrollment reached over 68,500 — just shy of de Blasio’s goal of 70,000 — and said that a recent crop of new students came primarily from low-income backgrounds. Of the 3,000 students who have enrolled since September, 90 percent live in zip codes with incomes below the city’s median.

The pre-K expansion has been one of de Blasio’s only initiatives to garner positive reviews from most observers.

“We’re proud Pre-K for All is performing on a level with some of the most highly-regarded programs in the nation,” de Blasio said in a statement.

The education department used two observation-based measures for the report.

The first, known as the Classroom Assessment Scoring System, focused on how teachers interact with students. It uses smiling and laughter to gauge school climate and judges the quality of questioning in a class. The second, called the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale, used room set-up and student hygiene, as well as the quality of instruction.

More than 1,000 pre-K programs were evaluated using the second measure in the past three years. On average, they scored 3.9 on the 7-point scale. City officials said a 3.4 is correlated with “improved student outcomes,” including better reading, math, thinking, and social skills.

Barnett, who has studied New Jersey’s celebrated pre-K expansion, said it’s encouraging that categories like “language” and “interaction” were scored higher than “space and furnishings” or “personal care routines.” That implies physical space and classroom routines weighed down the ratings, not teacher instruction, he said.

New York’s scores align with pre-K programs in other cities. New Jersey’s Abbott program scored a 4.0 on the ECERS-R scale in 2002-03, just 0.1 points higher than New York’s rating.

Not all of the city’s 1,800 pre-K sites were evaluated, but soon the city plans to assess all programs. Every three years, each pre-K program should receive both ratings, city officials said.

City officials said they will direct more resources to pre-K programs with low scores on these measures, including extra social workers or more professional development.

They did not offer any specific plans to close struggling pre-K programs based on these observations, though they said that is a possibility in the future. The officials also said they would consider a site’s scores when considering whether to renew providers’ contracts.

For K-12 schools, the city publishes data in annual progress reports for parents. City officials did not say they plan to present pre-K information in a similar way, though all of the data is available on their website.