This past March, an audience of nearly 200 gathered to celebrate and reflect on the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking Abbott preschool program, named after 1998 court rulings in the landmark Abbott v. Burke case requiring New Jersey to provide high quality early education for all three-and four-year-olds in the state’s poorest communities.
The highlights of the conference, “Abbott Preschool at 20: Building on Success,” are now available in the most recent edition of “Policy Notes: News from the ETS Policy Information Center.” The conference was sponsored and hosted by Education Testing Service (ETS), along with Advocates for Children of NJ (ACNJ), the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and Education Law Center.
The Policy Notes provide insights on the history of Abbott preschool and how the program, through rigorous implementation, has become a national model for delivering high quality early education in high need communities at scale. The Notes also record important conversations on expanding the program statewide beyond the current enrollment of nearly 50,000 children and ensuing the outcome gains achieved thus far are sustained and strengthened.
The Policy Notes also summarize conference panel discussions. Quotes and photos capture the atmosphere of celebration and dialogue.
A centerpiece of the conference was acknowledging the enormous effort by so many individuals and organizations to launch the Abbott preschool program and then build a mixed delivery system of high quality preschool classrooms in 31 cities. Because of the program’s documented success, expansion to other high poverty communities is now underway, fueled by the Legislature’s approval of $50 million as called for by Governor Phil Murphy.
In his introductory, remarks, ELC Executive Director David Sciarra, who is lead counsel in the Abbott litigation, recognized Abbott preschool as an “amazing accomplishment” of “those who worked so tirelessly to make it happen, so many of whom are with us today.” Mr. Sciarra went on to call for a renewed “commitment to not stop until every New Jersey child has the opportunity for school readiness by attending an Abbott preschool.”
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications