Indiana Taking the Right Steps to Improve Quality of Pre-K Programs

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By Andrew Pillow

The much-maligned Indiana Pre-K system is quietly taking the steps it needs to make sure all kids have access to quality Pre-K.

On this very blog, I have criticized Indiana’s lack of universal Pre-K funding. I have also criticized the Pre-K options available for those lucky enough to qualify for the little funding that Indiana has.

In the time since I have levied those criticisms, Indiana has expanded Pre-K to several more counties, sought more funding, and now taken measures to improve the quality of Pre-K options.

Research says that simply attending a preschool is not enough. The preschool also has to maintain a certain level of quality. Some Pre-K programs are nothing more than glorified babysitting centers…some of them shouldn’t even be allowed to call themselves that.

If the spirit of Indiana’s Pre-K push is to be followed through, then we have to make sure the programs kids are going to are quality, which is why the state is now offering more than $4 million to help improve Pre-K programs according to WFYI:

As part of a larger effort to boost the quality of early childhood education, Indiana has announced a new grant to help improve access to preschool by helping providers “level up” their quality rating.

Providers of the state’s On My Way Pre-K program are part of a voluntary rating system. Those at the first level meet basic health and safety needs for children, but preschools with a level three rating and above offer structured learning plans.

The idea is that Pre-K programs will use the funding or be incentivized to level up and improve, or in some cases add a curriculum.

Paths to QUALITY™ is the rating system used to measure quality in most Indiana Pre-K programs. The levels are as follows:

  • Level One: Health and safety needs of children met.
  • Level Two: Environment supports children’s learning.
  • Level Three: Planned curriculum guides child development and school readiness.
  • Level Four: National accreditation (the highest indicator of quality) is achieved.

If you look through the listing of Pre-K providers, you’ll see there are significantly more level one and two programs. It is good that parents in need have a safe place where they can drop their kids off while they work, but if the state is going to be paying for Pre-K, then it should be quality Pre-K and not just a bunch of toddlers sitting around watching Nick Jr.

Because I have been critical of Indiana’s preschool program offerings and plans in the past, I feel an obligation to give them credit when they do something well. This is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, Indiana can continue taking steps on this path.

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Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.