Seattle launches its new preschool program this fall, and it’s focused on building high-quality classrooms.
This week, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced the city’s new system will initially serve about 230 students in four programs. The programs were chosen because they are near low-performing schools, serve diverse communities and will engage families, the mayor’s office says.
Seattle joins a growing number of cities that are working toward universal preschool. The city’s rollout, however, will be slower than some, reflecting a focus on creating a system that does not sacrifice quality for broader access, which was an early recommendation. To build a high-quality program, architects toured and studied some of the nation’s most respected preschools in New Jersey, Boston and Washington, DC. Then they created full-day (six-hour) programs that will operate for the academic school year. Research has shown more time in high-quality preschool, known as dosage, supports better outcomes among students.
“It sounds to me like Seattle is starting small with high-quality and has a thoughtful plan to ramp up access,” said Laura Bornfreund, deputy director of New America’s Early Education Initiative.
This thoughtful plan includes adding 25 classrooms and another roughly 500 students in the 2016-17 school year. Within four years, the city’s preschool system is expected to serve 2,000 students. Programs are focused in high-need areas and free for families earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line (or $72,750 for a family of four). After that fees are based on a sliding scale tied to a family’s income.
Quality is also a key to reaching one of the system’s goals: narrowing the achievement gap among Seattle students.
Nearly 90 percent of Caucasian 3rd graders are meeting math and reading standards in this city, compared to approximately half of African-American students. About one-quarter of African American and Latino students do not graduate on time, compared to 8 percent of Caucasian students. – “City selects first classrooms for Seattle Preschool Program.” — Media release, 7/6/15.
The first four programs in Seattle’s preschool program are:
- Causey’s Early Learning Center in the Central District and Beacon Hill neighborhoods
- Community Day School Association programs in Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Delridge and Leschi neighborhoods
- Sound Childcare Solutions programs in downtown Seattle and the Mount Baker neighborhood
- Creative Kids in the Greenwood neighborhood