- A program for 5-year-olds in Michigan's Ann Arbor Public Schools, a partnership between local preschool providers and kindergarten teachers in Washington’s West Valley School District #208, and Texas's Wichita Falls Independent School District’s work with community organizations to address the needs of young learners are profiled in a new series of case studies from The School Superintendents Association (AASA).
- The case studies discuss a superintendent's role in focusing on young childrens' needs, the responsibilities of other key district officials and some of the decisions that had to be made to help more children be successful once they entered school. The superintendents — Jeanice Kerr Swift in Ann Arbor, Mike Brophy in the Washington district and Michael Kuhrt in Wichita Falls — are also part of AASA’s Early Learning cohort, an effort to help more superintendents strengthen their knowledge and leadership in the area of early childhood..
- The reports also include recommendations from the superintendents, links to documents, research they found helpful and outcomes of their work. “I know that people get excited when students get to high school and start to shine and we are always are so excited about graduation,” Kuhrt said in the Wichita Falls case study. “But I think we could have such an easier time and take our kids so much further if we focused on a proactive early learning approach and got that right first!”
According to a 2017 Gallup poll, 80% of U.S. superintendents who responded said their state doesn’t spend enough money on early care and education programs, and only 16% said every family in their state had access to a high-quality early learning program. Just 16% also said most young children in their state were “prepared to be successful” when they entered kindergarten.
While many superintendents value strong early learning programs, some may not have expertise in working with those in the early childhood field or be as familiar with research and practices in the area. District and school leaders often don’t have degrees or training in early-childhood education. And while there has been a growth in professional development programs, which help principals learn how instruction might differ between early grades and older students, there have not been as many efforts targeting superintendents.
District chiefs, however, might be the more likely individuals to initiate partnerships with other community leaders to develop plans for addressing gaps in services for young children. And how they present early learning initiatives to school board members, other district officials and educators throughout their districts can influence how such efforts are received — especially by principals at the middle and high school levels who might want more intervention and support programs for their students. With more districts directing funds toward preschool programs, superintendents have a growing list of colleagues from whom they can learn.