Editorial: Pre-K reform is underway

The herculean task of improving pre-kindergarten education in the state of Louisiana is underway.

Passed by the state Legislature in 2012 and known as Act 3, the campaign’s goal is to standardize pre-k education in the state

and bring accountability to teachers and providers in the process.

Pilot programs are underway in 15

parishes across Louisiana. The goals include using data to improve

teaching methods, giving

teachers training and feedback, identifying centers of excellence

and rewarding those teachers and providers who are performing

well.

The ultimate goal is to prepare pre-k students to be ready to succeed when they enter kindergarten.

“We have a system where too many people are falling through the cracks,” said state Superintendent of Education John White.

The data backs him up.

White said a little more than half of the children who enter kindergarten are able to recognize all the letters of the alphabet

and count to 20.

Heretofore, pre-k providers offered a mishmash of quality. Some provided critical lessons that gave students a solid foundation

on which to start their education careers. Others were little more than baby-sitting services where education fundamentals

might as well have been a foreign language with the expected and disconcerting results in which White alludes.

By the advent of the 2015-2016

school year, the state Department of Education hopes to have in place a

set of standards that

pre-k students should master before entering kindergarten and a

grading system that will tell providers, parents and the state

how the providers measure up.

John Warner Smith, CEO of Education’s Next Horizon and a product of Lake Charles’ education system, said that while the state’s

goals are noble, he worries about how family poverty will play a role in this early childhood education reform.

Melanie Bronfin, director of the policy institute at the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families, notes that some

early childhood program funding ranges from $1,750 to $5,610 per child.

These are but a few of the issues.

Warner has also warned earlier that during this overhaul, the state must

be careful not

to black list too many providers or the resulting disqualification

of early education providers will be counter-productive.

And Tuesday, Warner criticized White and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration for not being more aggressive in seeking a $45

million federal Race to the Top grant to help fund the implementation of Act 3.

Such details provide a series of

hurdles that must be overcome. But the state cannot be deterred from the

most important function

here — adding more regimen and accountability to the early

education process.

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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, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.