TO:

EMSC-VESID

FROM:

James A. Kadamus

 

Rebecca H. Cort

 

SUBJECT:

Regents Policy on Early Education for Student Achievement in a Global Community

DATE:

December 21, 2005

STRATEGIC GOAL:

Goals 1 and 2

AUTHORIZATION(S):

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Issue for Discussion

 

Should the Board of Regents approve the revised policy entitled “Early Education for Student Achievement in a Global Community”?

 

Reason(s) for Consideration

 

          Revision of Regents 1992 policy on early childhood education to align with current scientifically-based research, changed demographics, and State and federal initiatives.

 

Proposed Handling

 

The question will come before the EMSC-VESID Committee on January 9, 2006.

 

Procedural History

 

In December 2005, the Board of Regents reviewed and discussed a draft early childhood policy document.  This draft was modified from the July version based on comments from the field and suggestions from members of the Board of Regents.

 


 

 Background Information

 

In December 2005, the Committee discussed the draft policy document and asked that four questions be answered prior to adoption.  Two questions focused on funding for prekindergarten and full-day kindergarten.  These questions will be addressed in the material submitted for the January meeting of the Subcommittee on State Aid.  The remaining two program questions and responses are as follows:

 

1.     What process will be used to exempt a child from the compulsory school age of 5?

 

§       The Regents Early Childhood Policy proposes to change the compulsory age of school attendance from six years-of-age to five years-of-age.  Any child who turns five years-of-age on or before September 1 (currently the date in statute is December 1) will be required to attend school unless a waiver is obtained.

§       The local school superintendent will have the authority to grant approval of waiver requests.

§       Parents or guardians who seek to delay their child’s entrance into school, for one year only, or until the child is six years-of-age by September 1, may submit a Request for a Waiver from the Compulsory School-Age Requirement.

§       The written waiver request should include the child’s name, date of birth and gender, as well as the parental reason for requesting the waiver, and be submitted to the local school superintendent on or before April 30 of the school year immediately preceding the school year for which the waiver request is being made.  

§       The local superintendent would be required to notify the parent or guardian of the acceptance of the waiver request within 60 days of its receipt.  Data on the number of approved waiver requests would be reported to the State Education Department through the Basic Education Data System (BEDS).

 

2.     How will the State Education Department proceed to address the capacity of community-based programs to provide high-quality prekindergarten programs as statewide implementation occurs?

 

§       Expand Capacity

 

-                  Remove existing barriers to expansion, i.e., allow cross-district collaborations, explore the ability of BOCES to provide services, etc.

-                  Conduct a survey of districts on current and projected community-based program needs.  Conduct regional meetings to discuss the survey and gain a regional perspective.

-                  Develop incentives for community-based organization (CBO) expansion in coordination with the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS).  A possible solution might be to use OCFS start-up and expansion grants for areas identified as a need by the survey.

-                  Provide information to USNY partners on becoming licensed settings for the provision of prekindergarten programs.

 

§       Raise Quality

 

-                  Establish a technical assistance system to provide support for programs.

-                  Expand district and CBO joint professional development on providing high-quality prekindergarten programs.

-                  Provide guidance to local educational agencies on contracting with CBOs to ensure adequate funding is available to support high-quality programs.

-                  Establish uniform prekindergarten program performance indicators and student outcomes.

-                  Work with the Schuyler Center for Advocacy and Analysis to implement its Workforce Incentive Initiative to raise the quality of staff working in early childhood programs.

 

Recommendation

 

VOTED:  That the Board of Regents approve the attached Regents Policy Statement on Early Education for Student Achievement in a Global Community and direct staff to develop a plan for implementation of the Policy Statement.

 

Timetable for Implementation

 

          An implementation plan that details a three-year phase-in of the Regents Policy Statement will be developed and submitted to the Board of Regents in March 2006.

 

 


Regents Policy Statement on

Early Education for Student Achievement

in a Global Community

 

 

There is broad-based support for expanding and improving early childhood education opportunities for all children.  Students who have quality prekindergarten and kindergarten educational experiences benefit in terms of reading achievement in later grades.  We also know that students who fall behind in the early grades have great difficulty catching up to their peers.

 

          All of this makes it urgent for the Regents and the educational system to take steps needed to ensure that all students get a good start in school and are proficient in reading by grade 2.  Research and data support this urgency for restructuring early education.  Brain research shows the rapid rate of brain development from birth through age 10.  Children’s reading skills in first grade are reliable predictors of how they read by the end of grade 3.  High percentages of young children are in full-day care prior to kindergarten.  Research points to the economic benefits of investing in the early years as opposed to the increased educational and societal costs associated with students who fall behind.

 

          High-quality early childhood education must ensure that children are prepared for their future.  It is therefore the policy of the Board of Regents that:

 

Early childhood education, for all children from birth through grade four, is an integrated system that ensures each child receives a healthy start and attains the knowledge and social/emotional skills needed for successful learning.    Components of the system are programs that start early and are high quality and developmentally appropriate; standards-based; staffed by highly qualified teachers and administrators; and embracing of the multicultural and diverse communities that they serve.  It is a system that promotes coordination of comprehensive services and successful partnerships among families, community-based organizations and schools.

 

Eleven Components for Implementing the Early Childhood Education Policy

 

The Regents policy for strengthening early childhood education can be accomplished through implementation of the following eleven components:

         

Component 1 – Services for children birth through age 2

 

          High-quality prenatal care, health services, and educational programs must be available to children prior to their entering school to ensure that their needs are met.  Effective school districts understand that healthier children with high-quality experiences are better prepared for school.   School districts work within their communities to ensure that families have access to needed services.  However, expanded outreach and coordination is needed statewide to ensure earlier intervention with children from families at or below poverty level.  The type of outreach and services provided must also include effective communication to families with children who are bilingual, have limited English proficiency or have disabilities.

 

Action Needed:

 

w        No legislative or regulatory action needed at this time.

w        Programmatic action(s) to be included in the Implementation Plan.

 

Component 2 - Statewide Prekindergarten

 

          A prekindergarten program for every three- and four-year-old must be available through a variety of providers across the State.  Implementation of the universal prekindergarten program has demonstrated the importance of school district and community-based collaborations.  The collaborations have been successful in improving coordinated services and raising the quality of instruction across settings.  Instructional programs must be designed to accommodate the developmental needs of each child and ensure attainment of pre-academic and social/emotional skills.  Particular attention must be paid to meeting the diverse needs of children with limited English proficiency, from diverse cultures and with special learning needs.  Increased attention to program quality, explicit instruction and stable funding sources must occur to expand upon initial implementation successes.

 

Action Needed:

 

w        Legislative outreach.

w        Advocacy for funding needed to expand prekindergarten programs in the 2006-070 7 school year.

w        Amend Section 3602-e of Education Law to include eligibility for three-year-olds   by 2008.

 

Component 3 - Compulsory School Age From Six to Five

 

          Most young children attend some type of care or educational program before they reach age five.   Research shows unequivocally that earlier access to high-quality programs enhances successful academic preparedness and takes advantage of rapid brain development in the early years.  Currently, attendance in schools is not required until age six.  In a standards-based environment, it is important that students receive purposeful and explicit instruction, beginning in the early years.  Attendance is equally important.  Lowering the compulsory age to five would both require districts to provide instruction and parents to ensure that children regularly attend.  Parents seeking exemption from this requirement would be able to apply through a process established by the Commissioner.

Action Needed:

 

w        Legislative outreach.

w        Amend Section 3202 of Education Law.

w        Programmatic action(s) to be included in the Implementation Plan.

 

Component 4 – Full-Day Kindergarten

 

          Research findings indicate that children in full-day kindergarten programs make greater gains in reading and math achievement scores than their peers who attend half-day programs or who are not enrolled in kindergarten.  Full-day kindergarten provides more one-to-one instruction, less large group learning and greater time on learning activities than half-day programs.  Kindergarten remains a non-mandated program in New York State, although the majority of public school districts provide full-day programs.  In conjunction with lowering the compulsory school age to five, New York State needs to ensure that children are enrolled in full-day kindergarten programs, in all school districts, to strengthen educational beginnings.  Funding should include costs for start-up and increases to cover instructional, operational and capital expenses.

 

Action Needed:

 

w        Legislative outreach.

w        Amend Section 3602 of Education Law to require districts to provide full-day kindergarten programs.

w        Advocacy to propose increased funding for expanding half-day programs, hiring   additional teachers, and building additional classrooms.

 

Component 5 - Strengthened Prekindergarten – Grade 4 Programs
 
The increased number of prekindergarten and full-day kindergarten programs has impacted the current early childhood education system.  The starting point for learning has shifted and instructional changes must also occur.  The alignment among State standards, curriculum, instruction and assessment must be consistent.  Scientifically-based research must be used to develop instructional programs and classroom practice.  Including instruction in areas such as second language, technology and cultural understanding must be examined to ensure that early education adequately prepares students to become global participants.

 

Strengthened programs must include assessment protocols that inform instruction and improve alignment between standards and curriculum.   Screening tools must be revised to include components that accurately screen for health needs, literacy, language, numeracy and competence in age-appropriate developmental domains.  A system for ongoing progress monitoring and use of outcome assessments must be in place to inform and enable teachers to differentiate classroom instruction.

 

The Department’s individual student tracking system must also be expanded to include children ages three and four.  Currently, statewide data on four-years-olds is minimal and when available is provided by individual LEAs or programs.  Specific data regarding placements in community-based programs is needed as well.

 

Action Needed:

 

w        No legislative or regulatory action needed at this time.

w        Programmatic consideration(s) to be included in the Implementation Plan.

 

Component 6 - Integrated Programs and Services 

 

          Research provides strong evidence that children with disabilities receive significant social, emotional, physical, and cognitive benefits when they are integrated in instructional settings with their non-disabled peers.  Preliminary results of VESID’s Preschool Longitudinal Study strongly suggest that the academic and social achievement of young children with disabilities in elementary school is more consistent with expectations for their non-disabled peers when their special education programs and related services are provided in less restrictive, integrated settings.  School districts must assure that the individualized education programs (IEPs) of preschool students with disabilities are developed collaboratively between early childhood and preschool special education staff to reflect students’ expected achievement of the State’s learning standards.  The need for well-planned integrated programs increases in importance as our young children enter such programs with wide ranges in languages and cultural backgrounds.

 

Action Needed:

 

w        No legislative or regulatory action needed.

w        Programmatic action(s) to be included in the Implementation Plan.

 

Component 7 – Family Partnerships

 

          Local educational agencies, in strong collaboration with their University of the State of New York (USNY) partners, businesses, health providers, and community-based organizations, must ensure that information to parents and caregivers is provided in their primary language and that prekindergarten–grade 4 programs develop strategies to foster high levels of parent/family participation. 

 

          Curriculum-based training for parents and caregivers must be developed and implemented to help them become full partners in educating their children and to increase their understanding of expectations of student performance and ways to support them.  In order to close the achievement gap, parents and caregivers must be able to become active coaches in their child’s education.  School districts must provide more productive opportunities for parents and caregivers to be involved in supporting young students’ learning.  Strengthened outreach to those living in non-traditional settings (homeless shelters, hospitals, and correctional facilities) and from wide ranges of cultures must be made.

 

Action Needed:

 

w        Ensure alignment between the Board of Regents Family Partnerships and Early Childhood Education policies.

w        Programmatic action(s) to be included in the Implementation Plan.

 

Component 8 – Interagency Collaboration

 

          Many agencies and organizations at the State and local levels impact the lives of children from birth through grade 4.  In order to close the achievement gap, there must be more focused commitment from each partner to use their resources to develop an understandable and effective system of early care and education.  A recent statewide blueprint for a coherent system of early care and education entitled New York Action Plan for Young Families and Children, developed under the guidance of the Schuyler Center for Advocacy and Analysis and Child Care Inc., and work undertaken by the Department of Health are excellent examples of accomplishments in this area.  Expanded collaborative efforts are needed to embed essential elements of quality early education programs (pre-academic skills, higher quality settings and expanded services such as health, nutrition and housing) across all settings. 

 

Action Needed:

 

w        Amend Part 117 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.

w        Programmatic action(s) to be included in the Implementation Plan.

 

Component 9 - Professional Preparation

 

Pre-service

 

In 1999, the Regents adopted higher standards for teacher education programs, requiring more research-based, hands-on preparation of teachers.  Candidates began graduating from updated programs in May 2004, so the full effects of the higher standards have not yet become evident. Completion of an appropriate registered program can result in a college recommendation for certification in early childhood education (birth – grade 2).  A key element of the higher standards is the requirement that candidates complete at least 100 clock hours of field experience prior to student teaching and two student teaching experiences of at least 20 days each at the pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and grades 1 and 2 levels.  These experiences involve cooperation between teacher education program and provider faculty members. Another element of the higher standards is a focus on teaching the literacy skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing to both native English speakers and students who are English language learners, including methods of reading enrichment and remediation.  All early childhood teacher education programs include basic language acquisition and literacy development instruction, as well as an additional 6 semester hours of literacy education focused at the early childhood level. Additionally, use of instructional and assistive technology, methods of student assessment, and means to update professional knowledge and skills are among the required topics. Through the required accreditation of teacher education programs, the Department continually assesses whether institutions of higher education are utilizing scientific research in early childhood education to prepare highly effective practitioners.

 

In-service

 

Teachers, teaching assistants, administrators, support staff, and all those working with young children, prekindergarten—grade 4, need ongoing opportunities for professional growth.  These ongoing opportunities are required in Part 100 of the Commissioner’s Regulations as the professional development requirement for holders of professional certificates. Expanded collaborations among districts, USNY partners and community-based organizations will result in more effective use of resources for in-service opportunities.  Increased access to the New York State Virtual Learning System will help to ensure that scientifically-based reading research strategies are used to enhance in-service opportunities.

 

Action Needed:

 

w        No legislative or regulatory action needed.

w        Programmatic action(s) to be included in the Implementation Plan.

 

Component 10 - Resources of USNY

 

          The University of the State of New York (USNY) is a critical resource that is available to support implementation of the revised early childhood education policy.  The USNY Summit in November 2005 focused on the capacity of USNY members to become actively engaged in closing the achievement gap.  USNY resources are available to enrich the learning of those who are challenged by disability, language, poverty, and other barriers to learning and development.  However, in order to empower families, particularly those in high-need categories, to access available programs and services, expanded community outreach must become a priority.  A few examples of USNY programs and services that lay the foundation for learning are:

 

·       Public television provides the pre-literacy experiences young children need in home-based as well as center-based child care programs;

 

·       Libraries have collections of literature and other forms of media that are used to introduce and reinforce conceptual learning that stimulates emergent reading behaviors; and

 

·       Museums offer hands-on materials and experiences to enrich children’s literacy and numeracy skills while building vocabulary, socialization, listening, problem-solving and manipulative skills.

 

Action Needed:

 

w        No legislative or regulatory action needed.

w        Programmatic action(s) to be included in the Implementation Plan.

 

Component 11: Fiscal Support

 

A financial mechanism that supports stable funding for prekindergarten and full-day kindergarten is essential.  A stable approach to funding that recognizes that prekindergarten and full-day kindergarten are integral parts of a prekindergarten—grade 12 educational system is needed.  For prekindergarten programs, every district should receive funds, use the funds specifically for these programs and expand collaborations with community-based organizations.  For the 2006-07 school year, an immediate funding increase to jumpstart the expansion of statewide prekindergarten programs must occur.  In subsequent years, a State aid approach must be developed to stabilize funding.  This approach should examine both the State and local expenditures, as well as additional sources of funding.

 

          For full-day kindergarten, a three-year implementation process should be established.  Funding should include costs for start-up and increases to cover instructional, operational and capital expenses.   

 

Action Needed:

 

w        Budgetary language to merge State-funded prekindergarten programs.

w        Legislative outreach.

w        Amend Education Finance Law to provide a funding formula that allows all school districts to offer statewide prekindergarten.

 

Conclusion and Next Steps

 

          Today’s young children will have new opportunities and face new challenges in a rapidly evolving world.  Technology, information, and world cultures will be highly accessible and integrated differently.  It is imperative that our youngest children are prepared and that each child is considered too valuable to be shortchanged in any way.  A strengthened early education system can make a difference in the world of our children so that they can grow up to make a difference in their future.