Newark, NJ, December 15, 2009
The New America Foundation recently released a report, “Education Reform Starts Early: Lessons from New Jersey’s PreK-3rd Reform,” in which New Jersey is touted as a “national leader in early education.”
The report, written by Sara Mead, a Senior Research Fellow focusing on state and federal education policy at the New America Foundation, charts the history of the high quality Abbott preschool program from the 1998 NJ Supreme Court decision mandating pre-K for all 3- and 4-year-olds in Abbott districts to the preschool expansion plan proposed under the state’s new school funding formula, known as the SFRA.
The 30-plus page report, which includes profiles of exemplary pre-K programs in Union City, Elizabeth and Red Bank, highlights the educational benefits of the New Jersey program:
“Research confirms that Abbott pre-K programs are producing significant learning gains for the state’s children, and that children are sustaining them into the early elementary years.”
Based on the New Jersey experience, Mead draws a number of conclusions about program, staffing, state support and more, and offers instructions to policymakers in other states for replication of this successful early learning model.
But Mead’s report also raises red flags for New Jersey. She recommends a series of steps to ensure that program gains are consolidated, access is expanded, and pre-K-3rd education is strengthened. The alternative, Mead writes, is a “struggle to maintain the status quo,” with many of the state’s disadvantaged children missing out on “seamless, high quality early learning experiences.”
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