MORE AT FOUR NAMED ONE OF THE NATION'S TOP PRE-K PROGRAMS FOR SIXTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR
Proposed House Budget Cuts Would Risk Successful Program's Future
North Carolina's More at Four pre-K program is one of only five state programs in the nation to score a perfect 10 on benchmarks for quality standards according to The State of Preschool 2010 , a report just released by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). This is the sixth year More at Four has ranked among the top pre-K programs in the country and the third year for which North Carolina's program met all 10 quality benchmarks. On other specific rankings nationwide, North Carolina placed 19th for access to preschool and 13th for state spending per child enrolled in preschool.
"More at Four has helped to close the achievement gap by providing a critical first year of public education for our youngest at-risk learners," said State Superintendent June Atkinson. "Recent budget proposals that would cut the program by 20 percent and transfer it out of the Department of Public Instruction would make it impossible to maintain the critical focus on high quality teachers, access for the most disadvantaged children and the academic curriculum that have helped to create so many success stories for students across our state."
A decade of independent evaluations conducted by the FPG Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill has shown that More at Four is effective in boosting student achievement over the long term. The most recent study completed in 2010 confirmed that economically-disadvantaged children who attended More at Four performed significantly better on statewide third grade reading and math tests than similar children who were not served by the program. The study also found that the gap between average test scores of economically-disadvantaged students who attended More at Four and middle-class students was reduced by between 25 and 40 percent, depending on the test and the year. Previous independent evaluations of More at Four also have consistently shown that children served by the program show growth beyond developmental expectations in language and literacy, math and social skills.
" The State of Preschool 2010 showed North Carolina's program is beginning to decline in its ability to serve the population of children who need it and the state leadership's growing unwillingness to invest in pre-K despite ample evidence that programs of this quality provide a positive return," said W. Steven Barnett, co- director of the National Institute for Early Education Research and author of The State of Preschool 2010 . He said proposals for drastic cuts and the governance change now being considered would sacrifice the progress North Carolina has made in recent years and put the future of pre-K in the state in serious doubt.
The National Institute for Early Education Research reports annual state rankings on enrollment, spending and quality standards for pre-K education. These quality standards are 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. Other key findings in this year's national report show that the 2009-10 school year was the first tracked by NIEER in which total state funding for pre-K fell from the prior year. State spending per child was almost $700 below its 2001-02 level. After adjusting for inflation, state funding per child declined in 19 of 40 states with programs. While only three states increased per-child spending by more than 10 percent, nine states cut per-child spending by more than 10 percent. In North Carolina, funding for More at Four has been cut by $10 million over the past two fiscal years.
North Carolina's More at Four pre-kindergarten programs operate in all 100 counties in North Carolina through public schools, private child care and Head Start agencies. The NCDPI's Office of Early Learning coordinates all state and federal funding for all pre-k initiatives including Title I, Preschool Exceptional Children (IDEA), Even Start and Head Start. For more information about the Office of Early Learning and More at Four, visit www.ncpublicschools.org/earlylearning .
About the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER)
NIEER is a unit of the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. NIEER supports early childhood education policy by providing objective, nonpartisan information based on research and is funded through grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and others. For more information, visit www.nieer.org .
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 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 Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.