High-quality preschool seats on the rise in Central

High-quality preschool seats on the rise in Central

PRE4CLE has helped to increase the number of Cleveland children enrolled in high-quality preschool by 50 percent since the provider network was founded in 2014, according to the organization’s annual report. In the Promise Neighborhood, high-quality seats have increased from 412 seats in 2013 to 603 high-quality seats in 2017 – an increase of 191 seats available.

The PRE4CLE network, a partnership between CMSD and private operators, seeks to give all of the city’s 3- and 4-year-olds access to high-quality preschool. The goal is to prepare them for kindergarten and success in school.

As of December, 4,277 Cleveland children were enrolled in high-quality preschools, defined as those earning at least three of the possible five stars on the state’s voluntary Step Up to Quality rating system. Promise Neighborhood, part of Cleveland’s Ward 5 that runs from Euclid Ave. to Woodland Ave. and from East 22nd street to East 55th street, has seen the number of high-quality preschool and childcare centers more than double since 2013. Promise Neighborhood currently has more high-quality Step Up to Quality rated early learning centers than any other neighborhood in Cleveland.

PromiseNeighborhood4The number of children attending high-quality sites represented 60 percent of those in preschool in the city but totaled only 36 percent of the preschool-age population.

“It’s a big leap from where we started, but we still have a long way to go,” said Katie Kelly, PRE4CLE’s executive director.

PRE4CLE markets high-quality preschool to families and works with providers to help them earn high ratings. CMSD is a key part of the network, accounting for 61 of the 111 preschool sites.

The network has created 2,358 high-quality preschool seats in its first two years, including 1,361 existing seats that earned the required ratings. The other seats are new.

The additions were partially offset by the closing of seven high-quality preschools and the loss of more than 250 seats, mostly because of problems with aging facilities.

Also, 335 federally funded Head Start seats were converted from half-day to full day, so one child now occupies a slot formerly shared by two. Despite the net decrease, Kelly praised the shift to a full-day program.

Kelly said PRE4CLE is proud of the progress reflected in the report.

For example, sampling during the year found that nearly half of children in high-quality preschool had demonstrated meaningful progress on school readiness assessments.

And the supply of high-quality preschool seats has increased in 22 of 33 Cleveland neighborhoods since the network was formed. Sixteen neighborhoods can serve at least half of their children, up from 11 in 2014.

“There’s expansion across the city, real deep expansion in several neighborhoods,” Kelly said. “Parents no longer have to travel miles to get to a quality preschool.”

PRE4CLE hopes to raise the number of children enrolled in high-quality preschool to 40 percent by next June, 45 percent by June 2019 and 50 percent by June 2020. The network is trying to accelerate the addition of high-quality seats by providing preschools with intensive training, technical assistance and help in purchasing curriculum and other materials. Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood early learning navigator Tatiana Wells works with Starting Point and PRE4CLE to support preschool staff in increasing quality ratings.

For its first three years, the network secured $8.7 million in public funding and $2.2 million from philanthropy.

The report calls for finding a sustainable source of revenue. Kelly said the network also wants to enlist public and private partners to help renovate and build space for preschools.

Expanding access to high-quality preschool is one of the many initiatives spelled out in The Cleveland Plan, a customized blueprint for education reform in the city.

KinderKits help Central children prepare for kindergarten

KinderKits help Central children prepare for kindergarten

Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood is helping Central children prepare for kindergarten by providing KinderKits to 100 Pre-K students who will be entering kindergarten in Fall of 2017. Pre-K students at George Washington Carver Elementary and Marion-Sterling Elementary will have the summer to explore and learn using their KinderKits, a child development tool meant to help children learn basic concepts ahead of entering kindergarten.

Supporting families throughout their journey from cradle-to-career is the core mission of Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. KinderKits are an accessible, easy-to-use resource that supports a fundamental skill such as reading and can impact the future of a child’s academic future.

“By distributing KinderKits, we are empowering families to transform their homes into an extension of the classroom,” said Richaun Bunton, education performance manager, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. “The KinderKits allow both parent and child to reinforce the skills learned in Pre-K to hopefully deter summer learning loss so that children aren’t starting Kindergarten with a deficit.”

In 2015, when 26 kindergartners walked into Benjamin Colas’ classroom for their first day of school at Alfred A. Benesch, Colas was surprised to learn that only one of them knew the alphabet. Two of the students recognized numbers, and many had never held a pencil before.

KinderKits are stocked with household items that families can use for learning.
KinderKits are stocked with household items that families can use for learning.

This meant that instead of preparing the students for first grade, Colas had to spend months trying to help catch students up on basic concepts like counting and categorizing.

As the school year went on, he came up with an idea to create a child development tool families could use at home to help make incoming kindergartners more likely to succeed at school. So Colas developed a kit that comes in a drawstring bag and consists of everyday items — like shaving cream, cereal and beans — that most families have around the house.

KinderKits are designed to empower parents and caregivers to take an active role in their children’s education. Each KinderKit comes with instructions for parents and caregivers on how to use the items for educational activities. One activity instructs them to smear shaving cream on a surface and help children use their fingers to draw numbers and letters. There’s also Play-Doh and a mat with different shapes, which children can use to mold the Play-Doh, and start to recognize and identify shapes. Parents and caregivers can use Froot Loops to help children sort by color, count how many pieces are in a pile, and calculate how many are left after the child eats some of the cereal.

Colas noticed that even though his students didn’t seem prepared, it wasn’t because their parents and caregivers weren’t concerned. He said one mother told him she wished she had known the expectations for her child upon entering kindergarten.

Colas is working with Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood partner Starting Point, a childcare and early childhood education nonprofit to distribute the kits to families as well. Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood early learning navigator Tatiana Wells said the kits have the potential to give incoming kindergartners the boost they need to keep up with their peers.

KinderKits come in a drawstring bag that can also serve as a first book bag.
KinderKits come in a drawstring bag that can also serve as a first book bag.

“If they are failing in kindergarten, they are not going to be able to succeed in other grades, and it could hurt their chance of success throughout their academic career,” Wells said.

In 2016, Starting Point helped Colas distribute about 250 kits to childcare centers and families in Central. The long-term plan is to distribute Kinder Kits to the families of every incoming kindergartner in Cleveland.