Program Quality Overview [California Preschool Planning Toolkit, 3ai]

Recent studies suggest that all children benefit from quality preschool. In a study of the universal preschool program in Tulsa, Oklahoma, all socio-economic groups were found to benefit. Children eligible for free lunch scored better on all three sections of the Woodcock-Johnson Achievement Test, and children from more affluent families experienced statistically significant gains on two of the three sections. Quality matters whether “you are rich or poor,” and the influence of quality in early childhood settings on academic and social learning appears to be independent of a child’s home environment. At the same time, studies have shown that low-quality preschool programs may actually undermine child development and school readiness. When programs do not meet quality standards, disappointing outcomes have been found in both private child care and publicly funded preschool programs, such as Head Start and state-funded prekindergarten. Although the quality matters for all children, it is especially important for children from low-income families. Because their “home environments frequently do not strongly support their language and social development, they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of low-quality preschool,” according to Zigler, Gilliam, and Jones (2006, p. 118), “children in poor quality care are more likely to show delays in language, reading, and other cognitive skills and more likely to display aggressive behavior.”

In A Vision for Universal Preschool Education, Zigler, Gilliam, and Jones (2006, p. 125) offer the following recommendations. Preschool programs should:

  1. Be led by a qualified teacher with a bachelor’s degree or higher that includes specialized training in early childhood education, and an assistant teacher who has at least a CDA credential or associate’s degree in early education
  2. Have a system of continuous in-service training for all staff, similar to what is provided for elementary school teachers
  3. Be led by teachers who are compensated at a rate that is competitive with elementary school teachers at the same level of training, experience, and work hours
  4. Have no more than 10 preschoolers per teacher or assistant teacher, and fewer if children with special needs are in the class
  5. Have full-day and two-year program options
  6. Implement a curriculum with empirically demonstrated effectiveness at increasing children’s school readiness
  7. Have clearly articulated plans for parent involvement
  8. Have a monitoring system in place that includes on-site observation for the quality of education and care, with results used for tangible quality-enhancement efforts
  9. Have funding levels adequate to support high-quality programs

This document is part of the California Preschool Planning Toolkit.


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Organization(s):AIR & KHS
Part ofCPPT
SubmitterAriana Sani

Filed under:

National Context, National Studies, Program Elements, Learning Standards