There has been a lot of conflicting information in the local and national press recently about pre-kindergarten. As longtime practitioners of the art of early childhood education, the Maryland Family Network would like to offer some perspective and broaden the conversation.
First, publicly funded pre-K is just one piece of a much larger system of early care and education. This system consists of child care centers, family child care, Head Start and a range of other early learning settings, such as private nursery school.
The Baltimore Sun's recent article on the city's revamped pre-k program brought welcome news of gains in school readiness (cognitive, social and physical skills) for the "graduates" of public pre-K programs. However, revamped pre-K is only one source of improved school readiness, and a negative quotation implying that children just play and don't learn in child care is misleading. (Play is the best way for young children to learn, but that's another discussion.)
The fact is that early care professionals in all settings have stepped up their game. When kindergartners were assessed in the fall of 2012, 83 percent of children who attended Baltimore's publicly funded pre-K were deemed "fully ready," as The Sun noted, an improvement from 77 percent the year before. However, similar gains were reported for kindergartners coming from child care centers in the city: 77 percent fully ready, up from 71 percent the year before. And 76 percent of Baltimore Head Start graduates were assessed as fully ready, up from 70 percent.