Seattle is starting a universal preschool program — and getting implementation advice from Boston.
As the city explains on its website, “On November 4, 2014, Seattle voters approved Proposition 1B (Ordinance 124509), which will fund the four-year demonstration phase of the Seattle Preschool Program, and build toward serving 2,000 children in 100 classrooms by 2018.”
We blogged about it here.
Fourteen classes are expected to start in the fall.
Last year, “a high-level delegation from Seattle, including the mayor, school board members, a representative from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and City Council President Tim Burgess, toured the Boston system,” NPR reported.
“‘They’ve done an amazing job here,’ Burgess said. ‘We want to replicate that in Seattle.’”
This year, “Jason Sachs, the Director of Early Childhood Education with Boston Public Schools, gave a presentation to Seattle City Council’s education committee,” according to public radio station KPLU, which adds: “the City is getting a lot of advice from Boston. That city, which is home to world renowned universities, is also considered a national leader in early childhood education since it launched its preschool program in 2005.”
“Quality, quality, quality, I really think who the teacher is and what the teacher teaches is going to be critical. And how it’s evaluated is also going to be critical,” Sachs said. He added that it’s important to accept that mistakes will happen — and to address them quickly when they do.
To build its program, Seattle has an extensive three-year implementation plan that lays out principles and policies as well as “requirements, application procedures, funding mechanisms, and evaluation criteria…”
The implementation plan adds: “Specific numeric targets will be set each year so that organizations receiving investments clearly understand their goals and how their success will be evaluated.” All preschool programs “will be selected and evaluated using an outcome funding framework. This is a data-driven framework that holds government agencies, and those with whom they contract, accountable for tracking and reporting the results obtained through the investment.”
An article in Education Week notes Seattle’s focus on quality and affordability, saying, “The plan calls for lead teachers who meet the education and certification requirements to be paid on par with K-12 teachers. Assistant teachers and others with lesser qualifications will be paid less. Ongoing professional development is meant to be part of the program.
“Three- and 4-year-old children from families earning at or below $72,750 for a family of four, the equivalent of 300 percent of the federal poverty level, will receive free tuition.” Tuition charges “will be assessed on a sliding scale for 4-year-old children from families earning more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Families earning above 760 percent of the Federal Poverty Level will be limited to a 5 percent tuition credit per child. The program won’t be closed to anyone based on income.”
In addition to developing its preschool program, Seattle has also documented its process on a website, leaving an outline that parents, advocates, and officials in other cities can use for guidance. The website includes background information, materials reviewed by city officials, videos of council discussions, and links to media coverage.
Looking to the future, the website adds: “The good news is that what’s best for our children is good for everyone in the city. With universal, high-quality preschool, all of Seattle’s children will have the opportunity to flourish and we will have a safer city, a smarter workforce, and a brighter future.”