Preschool Expansion Grants (PEG grants) have been generating a lot of action. As we blogged last week, researchers have found that communities are successfully using the federal funding to expand preschool offerings, and offer high-quality, effective programs that meet the needs of children and families.
We decided to chronicle some of these efforts in two recently released community stories.
One story focuses on Springfield where Dan Warwick, superintendent of the city’s public schools, was determined to create more opportunities for young children. The city bought a building at 15 Catharine Street and turned it into a busy hub of preschool activity.
“That’s one of the best programs in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Warwick says in the story. “Three private providers and the public schools in the same building, same coaches, same curriculum, really working together very well.”
The city’s PEG grant funding created 195 new preschool slots for poor and low-income children.
This community story also shares many of the lessons that Springfield educators learned as they built this program, for example:
• involve all stakeholders, including families, public schools, private providers, and community organizations
• meet families’ needs
• have a point person who can provide instructional support
• prioritize professional development, and
• plan for the future
“We were building the ship as we were sailing it,” Laura Mendes says of Springfield’s work. Mendes is the director of Pre-K–3rd Grade Curriculum Instruction and Assessment at the Springfield Public Schools. “There was no way to have a Cadillac model in year one.”
But over time, Springfield’s efforts have meant more high-quality learning opportunities for kids.
Our second community story looks at how four towns on Cape Cod — Dennis, Yarmouth, Harwich, and Chatham — used a grant to develop preschool expansion plans.
As this community story explains: “Planning grants require a lot of work, and the final product is only a plan. There is no promise of funding to put that plan into action. So towns can be left hanging—all dressed up with nowhere to go. But Cape educators saw past this limitation. They understood the power of being ready. If more substantial funding came, they would be prepared to use it.”
To do this work: “The towns and the Cape Cod Collaborative, a nonprofit that serves schools, formed a Preschool Expansion Grant (PEG) Planning Committee: more than 22 preschool teachers, administrators, and community partners representing the four towns and their two school districts, the Dennis-Yarmouth and Monomoy Regional School Districts.
“‘It was just the most gratifying, really thrilling experience,’ Jan Rotella, the PEG grant manager, says. Public and private preschool teachers and administrators worked with local service agencies and parents.”
For now, the Cape’s strategy is to get more out of what it already has, ensuring, for example, that professional development opportunities are offered to public preschool teachers and private providers.
The Cape is also preparing to meet the growing needs of children from families where parents are struggling with unemployment, poverty, and other challenges. As the community story explains:
“The Cape’s regional partnership provides a unique model for other areas of the Commonwealth that are not urban, but are seeing increasing needs. Towns with smaller populations will need to band together to advocate for funding, and design and implement a strategy that enables them to better serve families.”
Other communities are also setting important examples. Our “Ready to Go” series has highlighted planning efforts in New Bedford and in Somerville. We’ll be featuring other communities in the coming weeks.
The lessons learned from local planning were used to craft new preschool expansion legislation that was filed in January. Read the bill fact sheet here.
To learn more about the federal preschool expansion grant funding and to see the related report to the Legislature, click here.
And keep encouraging elected officials to expand high-quality pre-K. As more communities grow their preschool programs, more children will have the foundation they need to build a better future for themselves – and for the commonwealth.