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NEWS RELEASES 2008-09

NEWS RELEASES 2008-09 :: MARCH 8, 2009

MORE AT FOUR RANKED AMONG TOP 2 PRE-K PROGRAMS IN NATION
LEGISLATION WOULD JEOPARDIZE PROGRAM SUCCESS

North Carolina's nationally-recognized More at Four program once again ranks among the top pre-kindergarten programs in the nation, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). NIEER today released its annual survey of state-funded preschool programs, State of Preschool 2008, and for the fourth year, More at Four was one of only two programs in the nation to meet all 10 of the survey's benchmarks on early learning standards, teacher degrees, teacher specialized training, assistant teacher degrees, continuing professional development requirements, maximum class size, staff-child ratios, screening, referral and support services, meals and monitoring procedures.

"We are proud that More at Four continues to be a national model for high quality pre-k education," said State Board of Education Chairman and CEO Bill Harrison. "Yet we are cautious in celebrating this achievement today when the program faces a $40 million cut under the Senate's budget plan. Such a drastic reduction could mean thousands of North Carolina's most vulnerable children would miss out on gaining skills they need to enter school better prepared and ready to succeed."

Education officials agree that recently proposed legislation to cut the award-winning program and a separate bill that would remove More at Four from the Department of Public Instruction and merge it with Smart Start would harm the quality of the academic pre-k experience the program currently provides to more the 32,000 at-risk four-year-olds across the state.

"Such a move would constitute a step back from the high standards that earned More at Four its top ranking in exchange for a small potential cost savings that may never materialize," said Dr. Steven Barnett, co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research and Board of Governors Professor of Education at Rutgers University.

Barnett also cited negative consequences of legislative changes to pre-k program in Massachusetts and Florida. In both states, legislation was supposed to improve efficiency and increase the availability of preschool education by merging education and child care and shifting administration away from the Department of Education. Instead, standards and educational effectiveness were undermined. Barnett said that the administration and support provided by state departments of education and public schools help to ensure that preschool programs are effective, even when those programs are largely operated by private child care providers. Most states use this type of structure, or something similar that provides the same resources. No state currently operates its pre-kindergarten program through a nonprofit organization, which is the operational structure of Smart Start.

"The Department of Public Instruction is in the best position to coordinate and maximize opportunities for pre-k education created by the federal stimulus package and a significant new emphasis on early learning from the U.S. Department of Education," said Harrison. The NCDPI's Office of School Readiness currently coordinates all state and federal funding for all pre-k initiatives including Title I, Preschool Exceptional Children (IDEA), Even Start and Head Start

"In an effort to create a seamless education system, the effect of these proposals would be just the opposite," Harrison said. "We cannot afford to jeopardize the success of More at Four when we know it is the critical entry point to our public education system and has helped lay the foundation for academic success for so many at-risk children across our state."

More at Four programs operate in all 100 counties through public schools, private child care and Head Start agencies. For more information about More at Four, visit www.osr.nc.gov or contact the NCDPI's Communications division at 919.807.3450.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 107 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.


For more information:
NCDPI Communications and Information, 919.807.3450.