Seattle continues to take thoughtful steps toward Preschool for All. Last September we adopted Resolution 31478 which calls for affordable, voluntary, high-quality preschool for all three- and four-year olds in Seattle. Since that time, we have accomplished the following:
- Examined the newest research which confirms high-quality preschool is a wise investment.
- Completed a Gap Analysis showing high-quality preschool can benefit kids throughout Seattle.
- Assembled a strong team of local and national experts in early learning initiatives.
- Launched robust outreach and engagement - connecting with parents, teachers, and child care providers - that will continue for the next several months.
We enjoyed a packed house last week as councilmembers heard more compelling evidence from national experts on the immediate and long-term benefits for children and society when cities invest in high-quality preschool:
- For each $1 invested in high-quality preschool, society can reap $5 in return.
- Children make larger gains when the quality of instruction is higher and includes:
- A variety of evidence-based curricula proven to produce social-emotional and learning gains
- Warm, responsive, and thoughtful teacher-child interactions
- Both low-income and middle-income children benefit with school readiness and longer-term outcomes.
On February 5, 2014, the Council received the Gap Analysis it commissioned. Seattle is home for more than 12,000 children who are three and four years of age. Using two data sources, our consultants estimated that at least 25% (between 3,300 and 4,500) are not enrolled in any formal care. More frustrating is that there is little information available on the quality of programs for the children attending preschool.
In transmitting the Gap Analysis to the Council, Mayor Ed Murray wrote, "This report reinforces my concern, a concern I know you share, that there is much work to do to make affordable quality preschool available for all . . . This data should motivate us to do better."
A Strong Team
The City's Office for Education (OFE) selected a strong team to lead the design of a high-quality, universal preschool program:
- Sonja Griffin is OFE's Early Learning Manager and well known in the early learning field in Seattle.
- Dr. Erica Johnson is the Project Manager for Seattle's Preschool for All effort. She earned her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked in schools as a kindergarten teacher, reading tutor, and researcher.
- Rachel Schulkin, the Outreach/Engagement Manager, has experience as a public school teacher and most recently worked at a Seattle provider of early learning programs where she supported teachers, staff, and families living and working with young children with disabilities.
- Christa Valles is key policy analyst on the City Council's Central Staff.
- BERK Consulting is the coordinating consultant for designing the program and based here in Seattle.
- John Bancroft and Tracey Yee worked on the quality standards published by the State of Washington in 2011 and have experience with financial modeling of early learning programs.
- Dr. Ellen Frede implemented high-quality, universal preschool in numerous districts throughout New Jersey, advised on the structure of the recently enacted universal preschool in San Antonio, TX, and has direct experience braiding federal, state, and local early learning programs.
- Dr. Steven Barnett is Director of the National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University and a national expert on best practices throughout the United States.
Outreach and Engagement
OFE is launching a robust outreach and engagement that will continue for the next several months. In addition to engagement with diverse communities and stakeholders, it will include a rigorous, multi-lingual survey of parents throughout Seattle. OFE presented its draft plan and outreach material February 5 to my Education and Governance Committee.
Sign up to receive ongoing information from OFE by clicking here or visiting OFE's website where you can connect with OFE's Community Outreach Manager.
As always, more information about all of these topics and the latest media coverage on this issue can be found at the City Council's website on Preschool for All.