CSG West Annual Meeting Attendees Hear About the Importance of Pre-K Education and the Current Climate of Academic Standards

During the 66th annual meeting of CSG West, the Education Committee held a session on pre-k education and rigorous academic standards and assessment systems, focusing on those practices in the western region. The session featured several representatives from national groups, including the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) and Achieve, an independent, bipartisan, nonprofit education reform organization pushing for college- and career-readiness, as well as representatives from various state departments in the west.

The entire agenda, including a list of speakers, can be found here.

Jim Squires, of NIEER, stresses that kindergarten is too late for many children and that “the investment to provide early education is great; the costs of not doing so are even greater.”

He lists the benefits of quality early education to include:

  • Improved school performance and behaviors
  • Higher graduation rates, this includes college
  • Increased earnings and lower reliance on public assistance
  • Taxpayer savings ($1 spent= $12.90 saved for Perry Preschool; less for others)

States must also deal with a balancing act in their early education programs. The balances must come between access, affordability, and quality. These things will most likely lead to opposite directions but they all must be considered and handled differently for each state. In NIEER’s yearly report on pre-k education, The State of Preschool, the findings showed that total pre-k funding fell more than half a billion dollars (adjusting for inflation), funding per child is now $1,000 less than a decade ago, and state funding decrease in 27 of the 40 states examined. In the west, only Washington and New Mexico increased their per child expenses (Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming do not have state funded programs). Oregon, showing the greatest cut per child, decreased $2,425. The percentage of children, four year-olds, enrolled in the western states was also below the national average.

The session also included presentations on the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Scott Norton, of the CCSSO, presented on the history of the Common Core movement; the Common Core movement began in November of 2007 and was finalized in June of 2010, the process took nearly three years and spanned two presidents. The majority of states have adopted the common core since their creation and are currently in various stages of implementation. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have adopted some or all of the Common Core standards. Those states adopting the Common Core belong to one of two consortia; the SMARTER Balanced, or SBAC, or the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers, or PARCC. Norton argued that two assessments instead of one would fuel innovation, provide options to states, and allow us to determine if one is superior. While the Common Core is for mathematics and English language arts, the Next Generation Science Standards are, as their name would suggest, about science. So far five states-Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Rhode Island and Vermont- have adopted the NGSS. The NGSS would allow “All kids to be scientist,” as Michael Gilligan, of Achieve, informed the audience.

All of the mentioned speakers at the session stressed that there isn’t a single approach that would be best in each state. Currently, states have varying types of programs and that this was the optimal solution. States should also take their time in deciding which approach is best for them. Speakers caution, “Be patient.”

For information about the other speakers, the presentations from speakers at the session can be seen here.