Can $10,239 Buy Quality Pre-K?

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 - 04:00 AM

Pre-k students in a class run by the Children's Aid Society plan out how they will spend their time during "free play." (Yasmeen Khan)

Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan to rapidly expand pre-kindergarten in New York City comes with an emphasis on programs that are "high quality." But quality is not cheap.

After the mayor outlined the "new model" of what a high-quality program looks like, SchoolBook went to see one in action. Our visit to a Children's Aid Society pre-k program in East Harlem clarified why quality pre-k is expensive. 

Children's Aid estimated that their annual pre-k costs per child hover around $14,000. The organization, an ally in the mayor's push to expand pre-k, said the cost is comparable to de Blasio's spending proposal of $10,239 per child because the city's model would provide pre-k for about six hours per day, for 180 days per year, whereas they offer longer school days, and year-round programs.

Here's what the money pays for:

  • Small student/teacher ratio. The class has 20 students and three teachers, including one lead teacher and two assistants.
  • Researched-based curriculum. Most of the Children's Aid sites use a curriculum called Tools of the Mind, which emphasizes dramatic play, controlling impulses and planning a set of tasks, like writing "play plans." The curriculum is tied to the Common Core learning standards for pre-k.
  • Student assessments. Teachers are expected to observe and note each child's development. If a child is, say, exhibiting trouble with letters, numbers or motor skills then the teacher is expected to individualize instruction to help students advance.
  • Certified teachers. Lead teachers hold either bachelor's or master's degrees along with certification in early childhood. Children's Aid said it pays teachers with a master's degree around $45,000 per year, depending on experience. 
  • Teacher support. Children's Aid employs education directors that meet with teachers once a week to help them figure out how to give that targeted support to students. Teachers have a professional development day once a month and they attend professional development sessions with the curriculum developers three to four times per year.
  • Family support. Children's Aid hires family workers to address a multitude of needs at home, including referrals to health providers, hooking up with a local food bank or providing financial literacy classes.

Hear our story to get a sense of how these elements play out in a Children's Aid classroom on 101st Street in Manhattan.



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Comments [2]


Took my kid out after 10 months paying 1000 a month for three days a week for day care. Drained my savings account and my child learned nothing except how to get sick. Disappointed in the care. If quality pre k were given it would only benefit the child. But for now I keep my 3 year old home and I teach him myself and save money.

Feb. 05 2014 04:31 PM
landless from Brooklyn

It beats leaving your kid with an untrained care provider in a unlicensed home day care arrangement

Feb. 05 2014 12:20 PM

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