Questions for Discussion
Close to 200 questions were submitted by audience members at the Niemeyer Series panel on April 23, 2014. Included were questions about:
- delivery of sound early childhood pedagogy and practice
- family engagement
- serving children with disabilities
- serving English language learners
- use of appropriate assessments
- equity of services
- consolidation of NYC early childhood programs under one umbrella and its extension to universal 0-3 services.
All questions were forwarded to the panelists — Richard Buery, Regina Gallagher, and Josh Wallack — and the moderator, Sam J. Meisels, Ed.D. We encourage you to use this list of questions as a resource for discussion as you begin to think about universal pre-k with staff members, colleagues, and parents.
Audience Questions by Topic
- How will the UPK classes align with the K-12 classes (that are currently not using developmentally appropriate practice)?
- While play and play-based learning is gaining ground (Forbes recently called play the “key to prosperity”), current education reform policies regarding assessment of both children and teachers (with ties to standardized test scores) mitigate against progressive early childhood education. Will NYC be revamping K-3 and aligning those primary grades with pre-k? How does the city view the assessment of young children? And will there be a philosophical sea change that respects children’s development?
- Could you describe the systems you currently have in place to ensure that small, community-based settings are utilizing developmentally appropriate pedagogy and practice? Same questions re: supporting families in these community-based settings?
- For many children in NYC, early childhood education now focuses on teacher-directed tasks and skill-based checklists, not play and exploration. How can new pre-k teachers be supported in keeping play and exploration at the center of the curriculum?
- Who is planning the UPK curriculum?
- In what way and to what extent will the arts be valued in the UPK program goals?
- Can we hear more about the curriculum UPK plans to adopt? Will there be information to the public in the near future about how children will be learning? How will teachers be teaching?
- Will there be a system whereby specific curricula are approved (for example, High/Scope, Create Curriculum)? Will there be a common assessment system (ex. work sampling system)?
- What “evidence-based curriculum” will be used? Will all programs be required to use the same curriculum?
- What is the plan around parent/family engagement for pre-k families, specifically in programs based in public housing?
- What program or workshops are being developed for parents whose children will be in UPK to engage in a dialogue with educators, to articulate what quality curriculum, inquiry, and play means to their children since the expectations and success of UPK will depend on that clarity?
- In my experience as an educator my students do much better when their parents/caregivers are directly involved in their learning. What are the plans to engage families more fully in the process of creating more pre-k accessibility?
- Parent involvement is essential in pre-k. This is something the DOE does not have a successful history of implementing. What are the plans for this area?
- I have experienced the most striking surge of segregation with the city’s public schools. How will this be addressed in regard to our young learners?
- Just as in the decisions regarding whose streets are snow plowed first (and in what priority), what strategies can you identify that are being implemented regarding what/which areas are being rolled out in 1/1st?
- One of the equity problems is that because the DOE pre-k programs don’t have access to afterschool (3-6) programs, the children in DOE programs are recognizably more middle class than those in CBO’s. Will there be an effort to provide afterschool for pre-k?
- Given limits on resources, should slots be targeted to children most in need?
- Four year olds living in poverty are already at risk. What is the vision for children before four years old?
QUALITY & ASSESSMENT
- How do you define quality?
- How does the DOE define quality UPK pedagogy curriculum and classrooms?
- Many pre-k seats are opening in schools with declining enrollment; some deemed unsafe by teachers on leaving environment surveys. Should parents take a chance? (Is so-so pre-k always better than no pre-k?)
- How are you going to evaluate your collaborative efforts?
- How will you measure the success of the initiative in near future—one to two years?
- Will UPS DOE teachers be evaluated using Danielson/Advance?
- Is there a framework in place to ensure a “high quality” classroom? If so, what does that look like? And what are recruiters looking for in teachers to ensure this “high quality” environment?
- Incremental steps are great. How will you monitor if the UPK initiative and vision is working with high quality programs and teachers as the initiative grows?
- Will the NYC Pre-k roll out include a quality improvement component? Quality Stars NY has been well tested and would be a tremendous asset!
- How will you measure success? Hopefully not with tests?!
ESL LEARNERS/LEARNERS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL VARIATIONS
- How are you planning on accommodating children with disabilities within the system? How are teachers being trained to assist children who are not yet identified?
- With the significant number of young children identified as having special needs in NYC, how is the UPK initiative going to support this population? Are increased numbers of inclusion/integrated settings being considered alongside this?
- Adding pre-k seats means seeing thousands of children with developmental and mental health needs. What is the city’s plan to support interventions that address these needs? This is especially important in the current environment where funding for early childhood special needs and mental health seems deficient.
- In recent years there has been a decrease in services granted and provided to preschool students with disabilities. With an increase in pre-school students will there also be an increase in CPSE funding?
- Do you have a vision of the role of mental health services for children and families?
- What is your plan to support dual language learners and their families?
- Considering the increasing number of English language learners in NYC:
- What initiatives are being planned and implemented to address the needs of such children?
- How do you demonstrate or intend to demonstrate that the present DOE administration values the rich language and culture that children bring from their homes?
- Will UPK classrooms be mostly single teacher classrooms, or will these be general education classrooms with multiple teachers?
- Many of the qualified, well-trained Head Start teachers are applying to central recruiting. What will happen to the staff at Head Start Agency since there is not enough equity?
- What role will Teach for America play in the hiring of high quality educators?
- Re: keeping pre-k classrooms staffed by qualified, experienced teachers, how will the common practice of moving unsuccessful teachers from higher grades to pre-k (which is presumably easier/less important) be eradicated?
- How would you define your ideal candidate for teachers in the new UPK system? Schools attended? Experience teaching? Career changer?
- What about teachers in CBOs that are on study plans and at what point do you replace them with certified teachers (since most have not passed a certification exam)?
- Why do you feel you have to “fast track” teacher training? There are many teachers in the system teaching early childhood who would like to move into pre-k. Will they be allowed to? Then teachers on teacher training programs can complete a full program without fast tracking?
- What is the coach/pre-k classroom ratio going to be? What are the qualifications of coaches?
- Given that the mentors/coaches are critical to program success, what are the qualifications for those mentors?
- I hear much talk of teacher support and coaching. But with ACS now saying they are no longer going to be providing services to 4s, and new word from the DOE that per-pupil rates will actually start at $8,000 and not $10,000, it is difficult to understand how CBOs can afford to hire coaches. At my UPK our DOE early childhood contact has only been on site once. What do you suggest CBOs do without money to hire coaches?
- I am wondering about space—where is this space? What will these spaces look like?
- Geographically where do you see the most need for pre-k seats in NYC? And how do you plan to remedy lack of physical space?
- Where will the programs be located?
- What is the expenditure per pupil for UPK? Is it enough?
- I work in a CBO. I do not get any prep (preparation period) and only a 40-minute lunch break. When will I be able to meet/speak to the other UPK teachers in my school? Currently we have to stay late to meet with no monetary compensation. Will administrators be given funds for this purpose?
- With the economy struggling upward how can you raise teachers’ salaries in pre-k past hourly rates of $14/hr?
- What obstacles do you see in the way of obtaining adequate funding to implement the necessary steps that can make this program a success?
- Where will we “get” pre-k seats when there are not enough seats for “k” students?
- We know that the four-year-old classrooms in the EarlyLearn NYC programs are going to be converted to UPK classrooms. How many seats does this account for since this conversion means that money is actually just being shuffled?
- Once the first year challenges have been overcome, what are the city’s strategies for sustained funding for future years?
GOVERNMENT POLICY AND REPRESENTATION
- There’s a lot of focus on pre-k when the research suggests it is important to invest our precious resources on children birth to 4 and their families. How do we ensure policy follows the research and best practices?
- When will there be a department of early education with its own commissioner who coordinates birth through five?
- What is the best source of information on UPK?
- For Josh and Rich: you wrote a proposal for an early childhood department in NYC. Is this still under discussion or has UPK expansion overwhelmed innovative plans for the birth to three populations?
- Currently many NYC children in kindergarten are deprived of time to play because of pressure on schools to have these 5 year olds achieve academic goals. How can we trust the DOE with four year olds when they’ve turned kindergarten into such a pressure filled experience?
- UPK 4s will be full day—what is going to happen with existing half-day kindergarten programs?
- What are the tangible steps needed to make sure transition to kindergarten, and importantly, integration of pre-k into the k-12 sector optimizes results for children?
- How will pre-k students in public schools be transitioned/admitted into the kindergarten classes? Will they receive preference in that public school when applying?
- What is the proposed approach to discipline in the classroom?
- What is the plan for after school pre-k?
- Why isn’t every elementary school partnering with a program like Reach Out and Read (which provides reading, singing, talking to babies/toddlers for their parents at clinics and hospitals)?