There are pros and cons to every new education initiative in the United States. Universal PreK in NYC is not an exception. For children who would otherwise not experience preschool opportunities, the short-term benefits include better vocabularies, more regulated social and emotional skills, and motivation to keep learning. Follow up long-term studies show that children are less likely to engage in risky behavior, stay out of the penal system and are able to hold jobs as adults. Children who have the advantage of quality preschool can help lessen the achievement gap.
These wonderful benefits depend on children receiving a high-quality preschool experience. The indicators of high-quality preschool are:
• interesting projects and emerging student-directed curriculum, • children making choices that hold them accountable for their time, • open-ended tasks and play, • children are responsible and respected, • children have time to share their experiences, • opportunities for outside play, • children develop confidence, • social and emotional skill development is emphasized The most important factor in high-quality preschool are the adults, administrators, and teachers who are spending the day with the developing children.
High-quality teaching requires specialized education focused on child development and specific curriculum and instruction for the age of the child. In NYC, the Department of Health (provider of permits for preschool operation) and the New York State Department of Education requires lead teachers to have a New York State Teacher License to teach Birth to Second Grade and a Master’s of Education degree. Teachers with this level of advanced education have knowledge and experience observing children and analyzing and assessing children’s progress. With these skills, teachers can plan a curriculum that meets every child’s needs. There are additional educational methods that go beyond quality to enhance early learning. Montessori, Reggio Emilia, Waldorf are just a few. Teachers working in these certified programs have specialized training above and beyond what the state requires to increase executive function skills in addition to academic skills. The teachers with specialized training meet all of the requirements that a high-quality preschool requires.
Teachers working in Montessori schools have chosen preschool education as a professional career – not just a job.
They are committed to individualized instruction and creating an education environment that enhances all areas of development: • practical living skills – care of self and environment, • learning through senses – visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory and taste, • social-emotional, • executive function skills, • gross motor and fine motor development, • language development – oral and in writing, • mathematical understanding and use, • learning skills and work habits, • grace and courtesy, • empathy and care for others and their community. Parents considering the many options for preschool, whether private, public or UPK, need to consider the full program and the options available at each before making a commitment. After all, studies have shown that preschool is important in developing the adult the child will become. “It is true that we cannot make a genius. We can only give to each child the chance to fulfill his potential possibilities.” ~ Maria Montessori