Along with a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the CTA Institute for Teaching has completed a highly successful program to increase teacher awareness and support of universal voluntary preschool (UVP).
Far too many students from low-income and immigrant communities begin their formal schooling cognitively and socially disadvantaged and schools that serve them are often ill-equipped to accommodate their diverse needs. A 2004 policy brief by the Policy Analysis for California Education reported that 90 percent of the gap between Caucasian children and children of color in 8th grade math scores is “already apparent at entry to kindergarten.”
Early childhood education and other school readiness strategies may be critical to their future success, but most school reform models do not include these young boys and girls. Any complete school improvement effort must address the urgent need for preschool in all our communities.
Early in 2006, CTA’s Institute for Teaching held a series of very successful teleconference briefings around the state to inform participants of the lasting effects of preschool education, the importance of getting parents involved and how preschool activities can serve as a catalyst for action. More than 300 teachers, parents, preschool educators, and interested community members participated through the CalREN (California Research and Education Network) which provides “any time, any place” professional development and research support.
Since then, the campaign has gained momentum. Although Prop. 82, a statewide initiative to provide universal preschool, was not passed by the voters in June 2006, it did raise awareness as to the need. Later, in September 2006, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill to give $50 million to improve preschools in poor neighborhoods that have low-performing elementary schools. Funds from the signing of AB 172 were used to hire more teachers, improve staff training and institute literacy and outreach programs.
As it has over the past few years, CTA will continue to raise awareness as to the importance of universal voluntary preschool.
More information is also available at First Five California, a state commission established to improve the lives of children from birth until they enter kindergarten.