How to educate students and evaluate their teachers is an ongoing conversation — one that is taking place not just in New York City and the rest of the Empire State but across the country. Beyond — or rather, before — standardized tests and grading teachers, education experts and officials are looking at early education programs to engage children in the skills of learning before they even start kindergarten.
In two vastly different parts of New York, innovative strategies are being tested that will prepare children for school before they are even of school age. In Chemung County, on the Pennsylvania border near Binghamton, the county is spending $400 per birth on early childhood education. In New York City, officials are have announced two early education initiatives to take effect in the 2013-14 school year.
WMHT’s news magazine New York Now reports on an innovative program in Chemung County that helped increase the number of children deemed “school ready” from 48 percent to 69 percent over the past five years.
New York City is opening the first Educare school in Brownsville, Brooklyn, for children between 6 weeks and 5 years old. Though not opening until next fall, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made an announcement about Educare on Monday at the New York Public Library.
“More and more research points to the importance of early education in closing the achievement gap and helping children of all backgrounds achieve academically, and we are prioritizing the services that will help our students reach their full potential,” said the mayor in a press release.
In Educare programs, children are exposed to “linguistics to foster cognitive development, and their interaction will help build social development,” The New York Times reported.
“The very first way that children learn is through contact with adults in supportive, strong relationships where children are being attended to when they think about something, and when they look out the window somebody points out what they’re looking at,” Diana Mendley Rauner, the president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, an early-learning advocacy organization, told the Times. “That’s the foundation of literacy, but it’s also the foundation of curiosity, self-confidence, self-control and the ability to persist in hard tasks in school.”
Bloomberg and Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott also announced that next fall 4,000 half-day pre-kindergarten seats will be made into full-day ones in poor areas of the city.
Upstate in Chemung County, the School Readiness Program has produced some impressive results. In the five years since the program began, the number of children deemed school ready rose from 48 to 69 percent. Parents are asked to sign up for the early childhood education prep at the hospital when their child is born.
“It [the program] uses several early intervention techniques to make sure children are academically and emotionally ready for that first day of kindergarten, starting from their first few weeks right up until they are five years old,” says Matt Ryan in the New York Now segment. “It also includes training for the parents.”