- New York City officials have converted thousands of preschool spots from half-day to full-day, added thousands more new seats and hired 2,000 additional teachers in a push for universal pre-K, according to an in-depth piece from The Hechinger Report.
- The scale of the effort and the focus on professionalization of the early childhood teaching force have both provided lessons for other cities and states with similar goals, especially considering the city's diversity.
- Classrooms must comply with Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale standards, teachers and principals have been put through new trainings and given access to district-created curricula, and coaches, evaluators and social workers have offered additional supports to schools.
Advances in research that reveal the critical importance of high-quality early childhood education, while children’s brains are rapidly developing, have done little to impact policy on the ground in many states. The Obama administration has pushed hard for universal pre-K and several cities outside of New York have attempted large-scale expansions, including Boston, where a focus on preschool has improved education in later years, too.
But the quest for high quality is particularly difficult because of cost. A joint report released in June by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services showed a median annual wage for preschool teachers of $28,570. That’s compared to the median for kindergarten teachers, which is $51,640. Unless teachers can be paid more, they have little incentive or opportunity to perfect their craft or come to it with more credentials. Yet without that specialization, preschools cannot hope to greatly improve their offerings.