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.