by M. Yesenia Summers
(Plain Press, September 2017) “Our vision is that every child in Cleveland will start kindergarten ready to succeed, “says the Pre4CLE website. Pre4CLE is a program to ensure all 3-and 4- year old children in Cleveland have access to a high-quality preschool. I spoke with Katie Kelly, Executive Director of PRE4CLE.
How is the PRE4CLE meeting its’ goals?
“We just released an annual report last month that talked about a set of benchmarks to measure our progress towards all 3-4-year old children having access to quality preschool. One of our biggest benchmarks is how many 3- 4 -year old children are enrolled in a high, quality preschool. We set a goal that by the end of 2016, we would have an additional 2,000 additional children enrolled. We got very close to that goal, we reached 71% of that goal. There are a couple of reasons why we didn’t fully reach that 2,000 but we were still really pleased with the increase that we had in high quality early learning and having a lot of additional children in those high-quality seats.
“We’re also looking at access to preschools by neighborhoods, not just across the whole city, but making sure there is access to preschools in each of our neighborhoods. We saw a big increase the number of neighborhoods, where we are able to serve additional children in the past two years. In those areas we are very pleased, we are making big gains.”
What challenges does the program deal with?
“We are still reaching out, to families to help them connect with the right preschool program for their child. It’s not an obstacle but it’s something we see as a top priority. Early childhood has a lot of different programs. They have different eligibility levels and there’s different ways to enroll in those programs.
“We try to make it easier for families to find the right preschool for their child. We have a website, PRE4CLE.Org that allows families to search all the high-quality programs. It has descriptions of the programs, the ages of children they serve and the quality level. We also connect families to financial resources for the programs. We really try to encourage them to choose a high-quality program that meets their family’s needs, that’s an ongoing priority for the community.
“There are still barriers for families, some of the programs are too costly even if there is financial support. Some families still don’t have access to a high-quality program that is close to them and fits their transportation needs. We are looking to address all of things and make sure every neighborhood has enough seats to serve all the children in those neighborhoods. Also, make sure they are conveniently located for families and they’re affordable.”
What feedback are you receiving from the families presently enrolled in the PRE4CLE program?
“Families are really excited to be in high quality programs. I think families really see the impact on their children. Not only their academic readiness for kindergarten but also social, emotional readiness. Their ability to interact positively in the classroom, pay attention and develop good relationships with their peers.
“So, when we talk to families, we hear their excitement to have their child in a high-quality program and their excitement that their child is ready for kindergarten the following year. We have kindergarten teachers who can really see a difference when kids attend a high-quality preschool. Kids are ready to succeed in their classrooms.”
What is the number of quality seats that are available?
“The number of high quality seats currently available as of May 2017 is 5,389.”
What community partners is PRE4CLE collaborating with?
“It’s a community collaboration between the school district, the city and the county. Also, a wide variety of other partners from the religious community, the early learning programs, unions and libraries…We also have collaborations across the community especially, to reach out to families. So, just a sample of those are the Cleveland Public Library, Metro Health System, Metropolitan Housing Authority and Community Development Corporations. We have a really broad partnership that was created to be a collective impact organization to work together with families.”
Data shows children who have received high-quality preschool perform better when entering preschool than their counterparts. The PRE4CLE helps Cleveland children and their families takes their first steps to success. For more information about Pre4CLE visit pre4CLE.org.