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.
- 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.