R.I. expands children’s access to high-quality early-learning programs

Through wise investments of state and federal funds, Rhode Island has continued expanding access to high-quality early-learning programs and classrooms, in particular for economically disadvantaged children.

 

Since 2011, Rhode Island has:

 

  • more than tripled the number of children with high needs attending high-quality, state-funded preschool programs; and

 

  • tripled the total number of high-quality early learning programs, with 70 programs earning the top ratings under our state quality rating and improvement system, known as BrightStars.

 

In addition, thanks to $1.2 million in new funding for early learning in Governor Gina M. Raimondo’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget, Rhode Island is adding 12 sites this fall to the Rhode Island Pre-kindergarten Program, bringing the total number of sites to 29 and making the 2016-17 pre-kindergarten program the largest ever.

 

“In order to continue to develop the Rhode Island economy, we need to have great schools, and that starts with having high-quality prekindergarten programs that are accessible to all children,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “That’s why we added $1.2 million to our current budget to expand access to pre-kindergarten programs, and we will continue to invest in early learning for all Rhode Island children.”

 

“One of the priorities in our strategic plan for public education is to advance early learning, and I am pleased to see that our efforts are leading to more opportunities for children and families,” said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the Board of Education. “Let’s keep up the good work on behalf of our youngest learners!”

 

“The team at the Rhode Island Department of Education, working with partners in other state agencies and in the early-learning field, has focused on improving the quality of preschools and

child-care programs, and I am pleased to see that this success is being recognized,” said Daniel P. McConaghy, Chair of the Council of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Children need to get off to a great start in prekindergarten to have the best chance for success in the early grades, and we are committed to providing all children with access to high-quality programs for early learning.”

 

“Through our quality-rating system and through the award of program-quality improvement grants, we have provided resources and incentives to help early-learning programs improve the quality of instruction and child care,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “In keeping with the goals of our strategic plan, we need to continue to expand the Rhode Island Pre-kindergarten Program, publicize the availability of high-quality preschool, and form district and community partnerships to promote and invest in high-quality prekindergarten programs – and we will work hard to keep early learning in the forefront.”

 

The information on federal funds comes from the 2015 Progress Update on the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge initiative that the U.S. Department of Education released today (August 1). Rhode Island was one of the initial Early Learning Challenge states, receiving in 2011 a $50-million grant to expand access to high-quality early learning programs.

 

The report notes that, from 2011 through 2015, Rhode Island:

 

  • increased the number of early-learning programs participating in the quality-improvement rating system (BrightStars) from 93 to 739, nearly an eight-fold increase;

 

  • increased the number of preschool programs in the top two tiers of BrightStars ratings from 22 to 70, more than a three-fold increase;

 

  • increased the number of children with high needs served by state-funded preschool programs with top BrightStars ratings from 69 to 259, almost a four-fold increase;

 

  • increased the number of children with high needs served by federally funded (Child Care and Development Fund) preschool programs with top BrightStars ratings from 244 to 759, more than a three-fold increase; and

 

  • more than doubling (from 515 to 1,328) the number of children with high needs in Early Head Start or Head Start programs with top BrightStars ratings.

 

The national report, as well as reports on each state that received an Early Learning Challenge grant, are posted here:

 

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-earlylearningchallenge/performance.html

 

The new Pre-kindergarten Program sites for the coming school year (2016-17) are:

 

Cranston:

The Children’s Workshop

East Providence:

Martin Middle School

Oldham School

 

Johnston:

Graniteville School

 

North Providence:

Tri-Town Community Action Agency

 

Pawtucket:

Pawtucket School Department, Fallon Memorial School

Children’s Friend and Service

 

Providence:

Providence School Department, Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School

Children’s Friend and Service

Imagine Preschool

 

West Warwick:

Academy for Little Children

 

Woonsocket:

YWCA Rhode Island

 

The agencies and organizations administering the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant formed a consortium: Exceed: Rhode Island’s Early Learning Commitment (https//exceed.ri.gov ). In addition to the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE), the partners include the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and the Rhode Island Early Learning Council.