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Editorial: Plan to consolidate prekindergarten programs a smart move

Last Modified: Wednesday, October 03, 2012 7:55 PM

Lost in much of the furor over other reforms to Louisiana education, a move to consolidate all prekindergarten education programs under one umbrella should garner universal support.

The concept is to bring the same sort of accountability that elementary and secondary public schools in the state must adhere to pre-K education providers.

‘‘A lot of the challenges we see in Louisiana is because our kids get so far behind so quickly,’’ state Superintendent of Education John White told the American Press’ editorial board earlier this week.

White said that by third grade, half of the students in the state are below grade level in either math or English language arts.

‘‘These facts are stunning,’’ he said.

And he believes there is a link between those numbers and prekindergarten education in the state. He notes that only half of the students entering kindergarten recognize all 26 letters of the alphabet and are able to count to 20.

Simply put, many of those students who start kindergarten behind their peers never catch up.

White describes the condition of pre-K education in Louisiana as ‘‘fragmented.’’

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reform package, approved by state lawmakers earlier this year, included Act 3, the Louisiana Early Childhood Act. The law seeks to change the way early childhood education and care in the state is governed, delivered, assessed and funded.

White said the act’s goal is to create one system of unified funding, academics and accountability for pre-K education, and for it to be in place by the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. Those recommendations will be made by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to the state Legislature, which will craft laws to put the unified system in place.

White said it will be a real shift for day-care providers and Head Start. He praised the Calcasieu school system for managing the local Head Start program but said that is the exception, not the rule, for other school systems’ oversight of Head Start throughout the state.

The state’s LA4 program has shown particular promise in closing the education gap for at-risk 4-year-olds through the state.

Now Act 3 takes a bigger step in ensuring that all students entering kindergarten in the state of Louisiana are where they should be academically.

If there’s anything to criticize here, it’s that it won’t be implemented until 2014-15. Given how fast other parts of the governor’s education reform package became policy, is it too much to ask to have Act 3 up and running by next August?

•••

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

Posted By: Tammy Lee On: 10/18/2012

Title: Universal Pre -K

Universal Pre-K is working in Washington parish now & has been for many years. No four year old child is turned away because of income ( too high or low), address, ethnicity, or any other reason. They use a variety of funds both federal & state. They are our neighboring parish and I commend them. Every year we work all summer and most of the beginning of the school year to place students. As many as we possibly can with a 10:1 ratio. It's hard. But it's what's best for children!!!

Posted By: Vicky On: 10/4/2012

Title: Let experience early childhood educators develop PreK

Nothing has been well developed in the education department since Cecil Picard was the superintendent. If actual educators, who have experience with early childhood education are in charge of the planning and implementation of Pre-K, it will be successful. There are still many qualified people within the DOE who have that experience, spent many years teaching, are certified, and care about the future of public education. Hopefully they are in charge of developing Act 3 and not Teach for America people from out of state, who care only about privatizing education.

Posted By: deutsch29 On: 10/4/2012

Title: Nothing White Does is in Place Before He Begins

John White NEVER begins a project with careful and transparent planning. He is a "narrative muddier." 2014-15 is NOT too soon for a well-developed pre-K program that has been planned (using those qualified in pre-K education involved in the planning), piloted, examined for potential issus, possible solutions to issues also piloted, program funding issues considered, including the impact of those funding issues.... I could go on and on.

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