We've reached universal Pre-K, now what?
In the District, there has been a much-needed focus in recent years on expanding access to early education – preschool and Pre-K – for all children, a key component of Mayor Gray’s Birth to 24 agenda. While he was chairman of the D.C. Council, Mayor Gray spearheaded legislation mandating universal Pre-K for all three- and four-year- olds by 2014. And shortly after he won the election, he announced that D.C. was the first “state” to achieve this goal – four years ahead of schedule!
So what next? We certainly need to applaud this milestone. But in guest column in the Washington Post this weekend, Executive Director HyeSook Chung asserts that now the real work begins -- we need to go beyond ensuring access to focus on improving the quality of early childhood education in the District. She points to two of our partner organizations who are piloting innovative approaches to boosting quality, the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood scholaship program, which is new to the District, and AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation, which has developed an intriguing assessment tool for early childhood classrooms.
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Last week, HyeSook testified before the D.C. Council at OSSE's performance and oversight hearing. The main takeaway: While unversal Pre-K is a critical program in the continuum of early education, it is only one element of the broader P-3rd grade framework. We need to do more to focus on both access and quality in early care and education for infants and toddlers.