Brooklyn Daily Eagle
An education commission appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a package of sweeping school reforms on Wednesday that included the creation of statewide full-day pre-kindergarten.
The “New” New York Education Reform Commission’s preliminary recommendations, presented at a cabinet meeting in Albany, also included consolidating schools and districts; restructuring the school day and year; expanding Early College High School programs and establish high tech career programs in every region.
The commission recommended structural changes to align programs from pre-K to college, and also focused on improving teacher and principal quality with recommendations ranging from alternative certification programs to a teacher and principal “bar exam” similar to the bar process in law.
Even though New York State spends more money per student than any other state, students lag behind students nationwide in math and English, underscoring them by four points in reading and five points in math.
Richard D. Parsons, commission chairman, noted a large performance gap between children in affluent communities and those in areas of greatest need. The problem is exacerbated because the current framework acts largely as “disparate systems” that often lack connection to or communication with one another.
“New York’s education system should be viewed as one aligned system, a seamless pipeline that supports a student from the earliest days of pre-kindergarten through college and then career,” Parsons said in a statement.
Of the 2.7 million enrolled K-12 students in New York State, 38 percent – a bit over one million – attend school in New York City. But city kids are needier than students across the state. In New York City, 78 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch; the average in New York State as a whole is 29 percent. According to the U.S. census, 34 percent of New York City children live in poverty, as compared to an average of 8 percent throughout the state. And 12 percent of city kids have limited proficiency in English, versus 3 percent statewide.
The commission placed a strong emphasis on early childhood education, finding that “unpreparedness” in kindergarten permeates through the education pipeline. “These students are often the same ones who cannot read or do math at grade level, who drop out of high school, or who need remediation in college, if they even pursue a college degree,” the commission reported.
The effects of that intervention are diminished if schools do not sustain support through the fourth and eighth grades, high school, and college, the commission found. Many of the recommendations are aimed at making transitions between different parts of the system uninterrupted and making the whole system more efficient.
The Alliance for Quality Education joined with the Ready for Kindergarten, Ready for College Campaign in praising the commission for recommending full-day pre-K.
"Pre-kindergarten is one of the most proven education reforms available and full-day programs are particularly successful," said Billy Easton, Executive Director of Alliance for Quality Education. "Governor Cuomo’s Education Commission deserves recognition for making the expansion of quality Pre-K a centerpiece of their recommendations, targeting this to high need school districts, and recognizing the success of full-day Pre-K programs. "
Expanding pre-K has been a growing priority in New York City. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced in September the addition of 4,000 new full-day pre-kindergarten seats for the 2013-14 school year, most in high-needs areas.
City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn has also pushed to expand full-day pre-kindergarten, saying it is one of the Council’s top priorities. Still, many pre-K seats are only half-day, making it almost impossible for parents to hold full-time jobs.
The city’s Department of Education found that third grade students who had attended universal pre-K were 28 percent more likely to pass the state English exam and 54 percent more likely to pass the state math exam than similar kids who did not attend pre-K.
The commission held public meetings across the state last year seeking input from education officials. Gov. Cumo is expected to address the issue in his State of the State speech Jan. 9 The commission’s final Action Plan will be submitted in September 2013.