Parents searching for high-quality pre-kindergarten options for their children can be overwhelmed trying to find a school they can trust.
On Tuesday, a coalition of nonprofit education advocacy organizations announced it will give parents a huge helping hand.
At the lead of the Philadelphia School Partnership, a new website is allowing parents to easily search and compare high quality pre-K options. It can be accessed through GreatPhillySchools.org, an existing site that evaluates K-12 options.
“High-quality early childhood education is the best strategy to break the cycle of poverty and to help our schools be more successful,” said Sharon Easterling, executive director of the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young People, one of the initiative’s key collaborators.
“Almost 50 years of research shows that children who attend a great preschool are more likely to graduate high school, avoid criminal behavior, earn higher lifetime wages and enjoy better health into their senior years,” she said.
The new site will include only pre-K programs that meet PSP’s quality threshold.
To be eligible, programs must meet one of the following criteria:
Have received a 3 or 4 on the Keystone STARS rating scale
Have been accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the National Association for Family Child Care, Middle States, or the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools.
Participate in income-eligible enhanced programs such as Head Start/Early Head Start, Pennsylvania Pre-K counts, or Bright Futures.
Of Philadelphia’s 2,000 existing pre-K programs, only 300 currently meet these standards. About half of them are operated by the Philadelphia School District.
Using these thresholds, only one-quarter of the city’s youth currently attend one of these high-quality options.
Education advocates hope the new website will spur more early childhood learning centers to improve their programming.
Philadelphia Schools Superintendent William Hite joined that chorus. He said the district’s best students are often those who have attended a high-quality pre-K.
“It’s incumbent on us to increase that number, and these are things we can do,” Hite said. “With all the challenges we have here in Philadelphia, if we could only do one thing to change the trajectory of student outcomes, it is this thing.”
Eva Gladstein, executive director of the mayor’s office of community empowerment and opportunity, pledged the city’s support for the move.
She said the lack of quality options especially affects children from low-income families. In Philadelphia, roughly 40 percent of children are raised in poverty.
The new site does not rely on funding from either the city or the school district.
Rachel Honore, the parent of a son with autism, testified to the tremendous impact that a good pre-K can have on a child’s learning.
She says her son has thrived at the the pre-K program where the event was held: Montgomery Early Learning Center, Families First in West Philadelphia.
“It is extra hard to find great childhood programs on your own,” said Honore. “That’s why I’m so glad to hear about GreatPhillySchools Early Childhood … every family deserves a great place like this for their children.”