Flagstaff Preschool Expansion Pilot
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How are you selecting the locations for the new classrooms?
We used a mapping process of first identifying the locations of all existing high-quality preschool sites and then overlaying that information with census demographic information obtained through the City of Flagstaff. This revealed the places in the greater Flagstaff area that lack access to high-quality preschool in proximity to single-parent families with children under 5-years of age. We believe that this population demographic will align most closely to our target of reaching 4-year-old children living in families between 101% and 250% of the Federal Poverty Level. With this information, we are currently in the final phases of finalizing the first two, of up to five, classrooms to be opened during the three-year pilot.
What was the process to select the curriculum?
Our process emphasized social-emotional and literacy development (as discussed by LAUNCH groups in the past) to identify the most effective, research-based curricula. After looking at several evaluation studies and works of research, we chose High Scope curriculum and the PATHS curriculum. View a list of research that informed this decision. You are encouraged to visit the curricula publisher’s websites to get more information about what each framework looks like.
How are we including math in the curriculum?
Math is embedded into the High Scope curriculum, as well as the other Arizona Early Learning Standards. High Scope takes an emergent curriculum approach, where learning is child-led and the environment is intentionally set up to support learning. Specific math and science materials are being added to the classroom that align with the ECERS-R (Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale Revised). These materials target counting, comparing quantities, patterns and shapes, and logical math concepts.
What about using the preschool programs we already have?
The collective impact framework leverages existing resources and aligns those efforts to produce results toward a shared goal. The current data show that there are not enough existing spaces in preschool settings to support the need. This means that expanding one site or program over another will not have the desired impact on the children currently not being served. Furthermore, there is an eligibility gap for families needing services. We know that this problem has existed for years and have struggled to improve the situation. So, the solution will require a new approach. Read the report Expanding High Quality Preschool in Flagstaff: A Request to Support a Pilot Solution for the background that is the foundation for the preschool expansion pilot.
What are we doing for children with special needs?
A major intention of the expansion pilot is to fill the gaps where children and families are not being served while we strengthen the work of existing providers. Four spots in each pilot classroom will be reserved for children with identified special needs who fall into the criteria of enrollment (101-250% FPL and not accessing another preschool service other than special education services at FUSD). Current preschool providers will continue to obtain support through professional development who are serving this population of children. We may see others adopt the curriculum and professional development offerings that will support this underserved population.
How will this impact area Head Start programs?
We seek to create a model that is responsive to family needs and ensures that every child has access to high-quality early learning experiences. One component of the preschool expansion pilot is an early childhood education intake process that steers all families to the high-quality program that best serves their child and family situation. This may or may not result in placement in an expansion pilot classroom. Since Head Start is recognized as a high-quality learning environment, some families will be directed to those sites as appropriate. We know there is not enough capacity in the existing preschool sites in Flagstaff, leaving many children unserved. The added classrooms will serve those children not currently attending a preschool site and should have little impact on the Head Start program beyond the positive benefit of elevating the early childhood conversation in the community.
What are the sustainability plans?
The Flagstaff pre-K expansion pilot raises the bar for quality and access to early learning experiences in many ways. In this pilot phase, we aim to prove the effectiveness of the strategies around connecting families to high-quality early learning experiences, provide additional opportunities for high-quality early learning where there are gaps, and enhance our definition of high-quality early learning overall. The blended support from the private, non-profit, and government sectors allows us to develop a diversified system of infrastructure that is community based. We are collecting data and simultaneously running an evaluative study to look at the effectiveness of these components which will help illustrate the value and social return on our investment in the high-quality early education of our children. See our theory of change.
Could existing preschool programs partner and deliver the pilot program too?
Yes. That is the intent! The pilot will serve as a model for identifying what will move the needle for children and families. Through the pilot, we can begin with a blank slate as we build an environment that is the gold-standard for preschool, using the latest research. Existing partners in the early childhood network can use what we learn in the pilot to strengthen their programs in alignment with those sites meeting the gold-standard.
Are professional development opportunities available to all providers?
Professional development will be provided to the educators of the pilot classrooms. Our intent is to provide these opportunities to existing preschool sites as well, so that all children have access to high-quality educators who are trained in a research-based curriculum that is developmentally appropriate. Conversations about how to make this effective (resources, staff commitment time from each preschool) are in process. While we seek to make these opportunities available to all, participation will be voluntary and at the discretion of each preschool operator.
What training opportunities are there for early childhood educators with no bachelor’s degree?
Part of this work will be to strengthen the educational and professional development pipeline for Early Childhood professionals. We are working with Northern Arizona University and Coconino Community College to improve access and opportunities for early childhood educational attainment. This effort elevates the case for the value of a highly-qualified, professional early childhood workforce.