What does learning look like in high-quality preschools?

Last updated: 02-07-2020

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What does learning look like in high-quality preschools?

What does learning look like in high-quality preschools?
7 MIN READ
Tuesday, February 4, 2020, at 12:59 AM
While parents are considering a preschool program, they should visit the classroom to watch the teacher-child interaction, said Kris Meyers, (not photographed) director of quality improvement for the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation.
Credit: Billy Jean Louis/Charlottesville Tomorrow
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The second of an ongoing series on early childhood education.
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Iris Davis, a parent of a 5-year-old in Quaneilia “Shay” Carter-Shifflett’s preschool class, said she enjoys the diversity that the early education program at Woodbrook Elementary School offers.
“My child is learning Spanish and English,” Davis said, adding that the class also goes on field trips and works on family-oriented activities within the classroom.
Davis said her son, Jeremiah Moore, knows his colors and how to count in Spanish. She said he runs out of the door in the morning, and is “simply excited” to go to school.
Carter-Shifflett said another thing she’s teaching her students is organizational skills. Everything in her classroom at the Albemarle County school is labeled. She said she wants the students to be able to organize the toys and put them back where they belong.
Additionally, she said she augments their time to interact and play with each other by engaging with them.
“That way, we can support them and build friendships,” Carter-Shifflett said.
As preschool initiatives become more prevalent, there are statewide plans to create pilot programs to improve access to them for 3-year-olds.
Infogram
“That makes me feel good,” Davis said. “I actually cried tears of joy because, growing up in New Jersey myself, I never had that type of experience, nor did my parents.”
She said the teachers showed her that they care about her son and want her son to learn.
“It’s not just a job, and it shows in their actions,” she said. “It’s family-oriented.”
Even the process to get her son enrolled was seamless, Davis said.
She said she filled out the universal application and was hoping to get Woodbrook. The universal application allows parents to apply to the Head Start Program and city and county preschool programs through one application.
Space, funding and quality are among challenges that pummel early childhood education. The public sector lacks enough space to serve all children, experts have argued, thus these parents are referred to the private sector.
They have the resources to pay thousands of dollars a year, while lower-income families do not have the same opportunities.
Emily Griffey Policy Director of Voices for Virginia’s Children
But those who are able to afford high-quality preschools mostly are affluent. Nearly 55% of high-income families can afford preschools for 3- or 4-year-olds. Only 36% of low-income families can, said Emily Griffey, policy director of Voices for Virginia’s Children, during a January interview.
“They have the resources to pay thousands of dollars a year, while lower-income families do not have the same opportunities,” Griffey said.
Not enough state dollars contributing to preschools impacts communities like Charlottesvillle.
For instance, 52% of the students are economically disadvantaged and are on free or reduced-price lunch. Nearly 83% of students of color who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch live in subsidized housing, according to Charlottesville City Schools.
Carter-Shifflett said that for many of her students, this is their first time leaving their home to be in a school setting. In response, she teaches them problem-solving, like building them up to be independent. They’ve been collecting acts of kindness, she said, whether it’s using words or giving hugs to lift each other up.
“The school is beautiful. I hope that I’m getting the impact that this is providing to our family because my son is coming home with not only excitement. He has friends,” Davis said.
Every moment is a learning opportunity, Carter-Shifflett said. Her students pretend to be meteorologists, for example, measuring how much rain that occurs in a couple of days and then organize the data.
Carter-Shifflett said she incorporates Spanish in the curriculum because there’s a great number of Latino students.
“It’s important for kids to have a piece of them here,” she said. “… [We’re] letting them know that we value their culture, as well.”
But while the teacher-child interactions are important, the interactions cannot happen if the teachers are making low-wages and the maximum ratios are being used, said Slack, of Charlottesville’s Our Neighborhood Child Development Center.
“There are huge equity issues,” she said.
The private sector serves the majority of preschool-age children, Slack said, and the rest is being taken care of in tuition-based programs.
“In a tuition-based program, the more money you have, the better the care you can afford,” Slack said. “The quality of care that people can afford to pay is pretty low.”
Charlottesville Tomorrow will explore the inequities in early childhood education in the next part of this series.
Space, funding and quality are among challenges that pummel early childhood education. The public sector lacks enough space to serve all children, experts have argued, thus these parents are referred to the private sector.
Credit: Billy Jean Louis/Charlottesville Tomorrow
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