Education

Chicago’s preschool education policy has important lessons to teach us

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As early childhood researchers, our professional lives have been immersed in a large number of jobs that document the long-term positive impact of quality early care and education on the lives of those who are lucky enough to experience it. The pre-school and socio-emotional skills that children develop in pre-kindergarten—the ability to deal with setbacks, work with peers, seek help, and recover from setbacks and disruptions—lay the foundation for future school and life success.

However, despite all the studies that have proven the benefits of early education for those most in need — and there are many — access to quality preschool programs is still unfair. Generally, access to school depends on the family’s ability to pay and transport children to and from the center’s courses-which may be higher than the tuition fees of public universities in the state-or whether they happen to live in one of the few cities and offer free or State with floating-scale public preschool education programs.In the long run, even before the pandemic, it was just 34% of 4-year-old children and 6% of 3-year-old children Enrolled in a public kindergarten.

The Biden Administration’s American Family Plan aims to change this situation, calling for unprecedented investment in our country’s early learning and care system. The plan faces an uphill battle in Congress. The plan proposes $200 billion in federal investment to provide free, universal pre-school education for all 3 and 4 year olds, and $225 billion to support access to affordable A wide range of inclusive and high-quality learning and childcare opportunities, including childcare centers, family childcare providers and Early/Head Start.

As cities and states explore how to use this unprecedented funding to expand pre-kindergarten policy strategies, early childhood leaders will have great control over who can enter pre-kindergarten through policy decisions that affect which students enter and where to enter. What achievements can be achieved in school. As cities and states implement different strategies, one of the questions that will arise is: Which policies will best create pathways to better results, especially for children from resource-poor communities?

Chicago may be adopting an effective strategy.

For many years, the students enrolled in the limited number of full-time preschool classrooms in Chicago public schools came mainly from white families living in the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods. But recognizing this imbalance, the City of Chicago introduced major policy reforms in 2013 to create a fairer preschool enrollment rate.

Policy changes brought about by this work include increasing the number of full-time preschool classrooms, reallocating classrooms to build a stronger presence in “high priority” communities, and launching grassroots awareness campaigns for the families of children who have not yet participated in preschool. -K. The goal is to recruit more students from “high priority” groups—in other words, students of color and students living in communities with lower incomes and higher unemployment rates—to help them better serve in kindergarten Be prepared for success in the future.

As a researcher at Start Early, a non-profit public-private partnership based in Chicago, we have a long history of collaboration with Chicago public schools and policymakers in the City of Chicago. Therefore, when our colleagues started asking their administrative data to tell them what happened when these policy changes were introduced, we were eager to help them find out.

Working with our partners at the University of Chicago’s NORC and the University of Chicago School Research Alliance, our research It was found that these policy changes resulted in fairer enrollment and enrollment in the city’s full-time preschool.

It is worth noting that in the first three years of the policy change, the number of black students and students from the city’s lowest-income neighborhood has tripled. Full-time preschool seats are concentrated in Chicago’s West and South Districts. Children in these communities have historically had insufficient preschool enrollment rates and insufficient urban early education systems.

We are more excited to find that by expanding enrollment and enrollment rates, children are more likely to enter kindergarten with higher skills and eventually achieve better academic performance in the second grade. Some high-priority student groups have the largest increase in average second-grade math and reading test scores and academic performance. The post-policy difference in academic performance of black children is equivalent to an increase of nearly 0.10 on the four-point scale. In contrast, the academic performance of white students has not changed, while the performance of students in the highest income group is only about half.

The research is clear again: high-quality early learning and care is one of the best ways to balance the competitive environment. If millions of children living in resource-poor communities have access to quality early learning and care programs, they are more likely to thrive in school and life.

From a policy perspective, the research provides consistent and important evidence that a series of preschool policy changes made at the system level-deliberately targeting high-priority student groups-enabled Chicago to achieve its goal of providing better Fair admissions and academic results. The first three years of implementation.

Therefore, as leaders of the early childhood education system begin to plan to respond to the American family plan and develop policies to expand preschools (hopefully putting fairness first), our research suggests that they might consider following Chicago’s approach.

This means monitoring patterns in their own data, such as changes in preschool enrollment and enrollment rates of different student groups, and primary school performance, and participating in research partnerships (such as ours) to explore why these patterns exist and how to integrate them Change to achieve local goals. This may also mean having difficult conversations and acknowledging the disturbing facts about the existing system, but it is necessary if we hope to provide all children in the country with truly equitable and high-quality early education opportunities through universal pre-school education.

Of course, mere access to school-based full-time preschools will not eliminate the long-standing systemic inequality in our community. States and cities must consider other key policies to address inequality in students’ early academic achievement, such as policies that support adjustments in teaching from pre-kindergarten to third grade, family-to-family partnerships, restorative or inclusive school discipline policies, And reduce poverty and violence.

As we emerge from the pandemic, preschools and other quality programs that serve preschool children will become a key part of establishing an early childhood system that prioritizes and supports families when it matters most. Through collaboration, researchers, policy makers, and system leaders can identify the most appropriate policies for children and families, and help ensure that every child has a good early learning experience.

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